Category Archives: goal setting

New year and new decade. Plunging into a crowded talent pool

Employed during the recession but ready to make a move?
The last 2 years have seen dramatic changes in the job search market characterised by massive job reductions and a significant discrepancy between the number of job seekers and jobs created. Those that were fortunate to remain employed during that period, kept their heads down, quite often tolerating salary freezes, increased workloads, longer hours and reduced teams. Frequently, these same people were involved in laying off colleagues, but as they were still employed there was very little sympathy left for them and they were just left to get on with it.

Recovery on the horizon
Now with small glimmers of economic recovery on the distant horizon this demographic is looking for change. A new year and new decade might be the catalyst that many need to get them started. In a recent report from Manpower 84% of employees polled in the United States indicated an intention to change jobs in 2011. Elsewhere, research shows that 60-65% of individuals expressed a desire to leave their jobs as soon as more solid signs of economic recovery appear. Although they have honed their workplace survivor skills, as job seekers they are still debutantes and much has changed in the last 2-3 years on today’s job market as we know. From a search and recruitment point of view, we will have a wonderfully high level of top talent open for discussion, creating great choice for hiring companies. For the job seeker , the talent pool will now have become very crowded and competition for open positions will be more fierce than ever.

So if you have spent the recession simply keeping your head above water, but are now ready to take the plunge into an unfamiliar and busy space, what do you need to do to make sure you are counted in those numbers?

Check if you have what has become known as a personal brand.
While you have been working like crazy, your ex-colleagues after an initial crisis, have been coming to terms with the job market in the 21st century. The savyy ones will have created and extended their personal brand. Do you have an updated modern CV and a well maintained professional online profile, both reflecting your career achievements and highlighting what you can offer any potential employer? Do you even know what I’m talking about? If any of this sounds like a foreign language, seek professional help.

Evaluate your life and career goals Create a strong mission statement with a clear job seeking strategy within a specified timeframe. Establish a plan A, B and even C if necessary.

Check your on-line visibility How easily identifiable and contactable are you? Can head hunters, recruiters and sourcers find you and easily reach you?

Network While you were keeping your head out of firing range how active were you at networking? If you are one of those who wonders why all these people from LinkedIn are contacting you, now is the time to pick up the pace. Make it actual and virtual. Attend professional conferences or any other networking events and if possible find a mentor, someone who perhaps has recent experience of changing their careers.

Invest in some personal development If the last 2 years have been spent keeping things ticking over this is a good moment to make yourself a priority. Make a commitment to personal development and learning. Take a workshop or course, extend your reading list, renew a subscription to a business magazine or blog and supplement your career goals with some dedicated research or study. The competition for any job is going to be tough, so it will be essential to stand out from the crowd.

Don’t burn bridges So now you have committed to making that change, tempting though it will be to slacken off slightly, don’t. It’s still important to maintain 100% motivation. This is the only job you have and will require the same energy levels as before. It could be months before you write that letter of resignation. Your ex-colleagues know well that the length of time an average job seeker takes to land that great job is at least 6 months or even longer.

The job seekers who hit the market during the last 2 years by now should have a modern and creative approach to the job seeking process. Many will have the heads-up on the employment market as it exists today. In a demand driven economy, sophisticated and strategic preparation will be necessary not just to get in the game, but to stay in it too.

Is coaching elitist?

Why I don’t think so

Over the past  few months,  I have received a number of emails from individuals who believe that coaches in general (and that includes me)  are aiming the content of their blogs, articles and programmes at people who are already successful , but are somehow just temporarily,  and somewhat inconveniently, experiencing a little glitch on the golden conveyor to the dizzy heights of their professional pyramid.  They feel that these ideas don’t reach or apply to the average person stuck in their jobs,  the ones  who feel that they are living in “quiet desperation”  to quote Thoreau. They see coaching as an elitist option.


 Janie B,  says “ Dorothy,  I love your blog it is filled with humor and  good tips and really accessible. But I think you are talking about high-flying,  talented people who can afford coaches. What do ordinary people like me do who can’t?  I’m stuck in a job I hate…. I don’t excel at anything  and there’s no way out.” 

 I have to consider those comments seriously. What Janie B  and others are suggesting is that coaching principles cannot be equally applied and are therefore undemocratic.

How green is your grass?

Let’s give this a global perspective.  We should take into account that the message writers (including Janie B)  are literate, highly educated  and clearly have internet access ( 80% of Americans have broadband access,  Japanese 75%), then they are  probably already in global terms,  better positioned than  a large percentage of the  world population, who do not.  Nigeria for example has  7.4%   internet penetration.  So to that extent, some modern coaching channels  blogs,  web sites,  webinars etc) can appear to be elitist and focus on people living in advanced industrial economies who can tap into modern communication methods. Janie and the other message writers, despite what they think,  are already in a global elite. That is something often forgotten when examining other people’s grass. 

But real coaching is not related to modern technology, or for a select, wealthy  few. Some of the greatest philosophers and thinkers from Seneca, Plato to  Gandhi and Einstein not just in our time, but throughout history, have eschewed material goods on their path to personal development and spiritual enlightenment. Neither did they have internet connections. Nor were they on Twitter or YouTube. Would they have in different times used these media?  Strong possibility  – they were all communicators. However, their legacy is time-honoured thoughts,  that are applicable in all our lives and have nothing to do with  technological advancement and superficial successes ,whether economically or professionally. In fact many  certainly rejected the latter.

So although working with a coach can be hugely beneficial,  do I  think that most coaching techniques are democratic and can be  universally applied  and available, regardless of where we are  financially, professionally, in our relationships or lives?

Yes I do.

 “If you think the grass is greener on the other side,  try watering your lawn” 

 When people feel trapped in their jobs,  there is a tendency to offer  bumper sticker type solutions. But no plastering your office wall  or refrigerator with ‘post its’  or magnets containing the latest positive thoughts will help make your grass greener long term. They are of limited short-term value,  like tending your lawn with a  water pistol.  I’m not suggesting a water cannon would do – but just  more of a garden sprinkler type of activity.  Timely, systematic and measured.

So what can you do if you have the privilege of living in an advanced economy and feel stuck in your job or your life?  How do you achieve something  you feel passionate about – for free?

  Here are just a very few suggestions:

  • Check out your life and professional goals. Are they aligned?  Usually I have found that this is the root of the problem.  If you could change your life what would it look like? How do you look?  Is it really the job that bothers you or something else? Be honest, tough if you have to.
  • Manage your negative thoughts
  • List the challenges you’ve had in your life. What skills did you use to deal with them? What were your success stories? These are your transferable skills .
  • What don’t you like about your job? Why? Is there anything about your job you like?  List those points. What skills do the good points require?
  • Make a mission statement. You know from a previous post   that even CEOs struggle with this. 
  • Set yourself some goals and objectives. They need to be  specific, measurable,  achievable,  realistic and time bound ( SMART)
  •  Take courses: on-line, night school,  open university, start a blog , join Twitter or LinkedIn. There are so many ways these days to add to your personal development  and they cost very little. If you don’t have  internet access  go to your local public library.
  • Volunteer. There are  also different ways to achieve goals outside a professional arena.
  • Set up a job search or life plan with lots of small  incremental steps to achievement.  Reward yourself when you succeed.
  • Cherish yourself  and those near to you!  Ask for their support and feedback
  •  Look after your health and exercise. Walk every day.

 Cost to date….  ZERO.

Who can add to the list?

Changing sectors or function? You need to walk the talk!

Career Changer?

50% of my coaching clients aspire to move out of their existing sectors, some perhaps that have been hard hit by the recession (automotive, logistics, manufacturing, financial services) and into hot  predicted growth areas for 2010 such as  Clean Tech, IT, renewable energy, healthcare, personal development education and re-cycling. Many job seekers complain bitterly of the struggle they go through, as recruiters and companies alike take little or no account of what they believe to be their highly valuable transferrable skills. This can be true. Employers frequently want new hires to be immediately effective and  “copy and paste”  executive search and recruiting techniques are often applied to meet this demand.  “Just give me what I had before and do it fast”  is the line management and HR  mantra.

Many others would love to change function, simply just for a change or to meet some longer term professional goals: purchasing into sales,  finance into SCM or HR into marketing. Others decide to invest in an MBA,  a common route for a career changer. However, whichever sector or function you decide you want to move into, it’s not enough to fire off a standard CV and hope that the person reading it will have a deeply mystical experience and miraculously be able to see your future potential. You have to walk the talk  and convince them that not only do you have what it takes to make the move, but provide substantial evidence that you are also highly committed. I am a dedicated recycler, but does this mean I could pursue a career in that sector? I seriously doubt it.

 How do you do that?

  • Establish your vision, passion and goals and develop a clear career plan:  identify the sector,  location, function,  the  type of company, the role you envisage and the market it serves.
  • Examine the fit: This is when a SWOT analysis is useful: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats. What skills do you need to acquire?
  • Consider your salary package. Sometimes when switching sectors or function,  it might be necessary to revise your salary expectations.
  • How low will you go? Some companies might expect you to completely re-train and work your way up from the bottom. I had the pleasure of meeting Krish Krishnan  CEO of Green Ventures  at the end of last year,  who  told me that his company has an in-house academy in Mumbai where all new recruits follow an intensive two year training programme.  There,   traditional thinking learned outside the sector is stripped away and replaced by a new “green” approach.   Being prepared to go through this  process requires self insight and an understanding of what you are prepared to do to get into your newly chosen profession or function. I switched to sales from a  Corporate HR role in my early thirties.  This involved moving from a management position to a junior   “feet on the street” sales function.  This did little for my feet, but proved invaluable to everything I’ve done subsequently.
  • Research the chosen area thoroughly and study developing trends. Become familiar with the major players and their activities.
  • Subscribe to relevant web sites, journals, news feeds , blogs
  • Learn the language of your potential new career. Become familiar with the buzz words, jargon and acronyms.
  • Network  in person –  attend conferences, workshops, whatever is available, Join professional bodies and perhaps look for social groups active in the sector – this is very easy for example  in the  Green Sector , where there are a myriad  of opportunities to contribute or volunteer.
  • Network online. Join relevant LinkedIn  or other online network groups, start building up your contact base. Ask and answer questions. Post discussions. Comment on blog posts. Demonstrate an active interest. Start a blog , join Twitter, look for other organisations on Facebook. Show you mean business.
  •  Draft a new CV  incorporating sector keywords where possible. Leverage your functional expertise. Identify your transferrable skills. Some recruiters advise the use of a wholly  functional CV –  I would strongly caution you against doing that , limiting that to the mission statement only. There is no faster way to hit the reject pile than  recruiters scratching their heads and having no clue where and when you worked and what you did when you were there!
  • Tweak your elevator sound bites incorporate your new goals  and vision into easily an digestible pitch
  • Can  you volunteer for a  relevant, related  and useful project in your current job that could give credence to your commitment ?
  • Can you re-train by attending online or night classes? For some sectors or activities it might involve going back to full-time education.
  • Find a mentor – who can help and sponsor you?
  • Identify the HR or hiring  contacts  – your current company might offer opportunities to transfer into a new function otherwise consider moving. You might be able to find contact names via LinkedIn,  on the company their website,  or simply call and ask!

What else can you do ?

I posted a question on LinkedIn to see what other  people  already working in the Alternative Energy sector or who were also aspiring  to join  it could share. Their responses were all of the above!  The message across the board  is to educate yourself  ( to acquire  as much knowledge as you can from outside your target  sector or function)  implement what you have learned and above all…..  network,  network, network!

So – Good luck!

For additional information regarding specific job trends and projections in forthcoming years, see Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Ladies – It’s never too late to start up

I saw a  statistic last week that suggested that more than half the women of pensionable age in the UK are choosing to work beyond retirement. Whether this is because they want to work, have to work  or simply because  men are incapacitated/rich/lazy or dead wasn’t clear.   The one thing  we can deduce from this statement is that for whatever reasons,   even the older age range of  lady Boomers,  are in the workplace in some shape or form in a third career.

This isn’t surprising .  It is the most highly educated, economically powerful,  healthiest and physically active  of this  generation of women –  ever.  But with the risk of unemployment increasing, permanent job opportunities shrinking  and divorce rates rising – what other possibilities can you ladies consider to protect yourselves financially or give your lives purpose in your golden years? 

Self employment!

Prime Initiative  a UK charity that helps people over 50 ( “olderpreneuers”)  set up new businesses,   estimates that about 20% of  the over  50s are self-employed, and actually achieve  higher  business survival rates than younger people. Research carried out by  the Kauffman Institute indicates that the older entrepreneur will be at the forefront of the post recession upturn. According to Professor E. Litan ”  Contrary to popularly held assumptions, it turns out that over the past decade or so, the highest rate of entrepreneurial activity belongs to the 55-64 age group.” The grey economy seems to be full of potential. 

Stephanie Holland ,  Executive Creative Director of  Holland + Holland in  She-conomy  ,  tells us that in the US   70% of new businesses are set up by women. Meanwhile back in Europe the figure hovers at just under  30% . Recognising that  the female entrepreneur is an untapped resource , the EU  has set up the ‘European Network of Female Entrepreneurship Ambassadors’ to encourage women  into entrepreneurial activities. 

We know that  60 % of all European graduates are women  – so it’s not lack of brain power or talent. We know that more and more of us are staying in the work place longer,  so clearly have the energy and drive. So what  is holding us back?

Here are some of  the major factors cited to me as a coach   for not becoming entrepreneurs :

  •  Lack of security:  one of the lessons of the past 15 months is that we all have to adjust our ideas on job security.  But the 50 somethings  group is the hardest hit demographic in terms of unemployment  – so the traditional workplace  is no longer the guarantee of security that it used to be.
  • Lack of confidence :  This is covered by the  most common objections:  I don’t know what I want to do / I’m not good at anything/ I can’t or won’t sell. Any career transition coach can support you in this process of identifying your transferrable skills, where and how you can re-train and helping you formulate some goals. There are many organisations which will support budding entrepeneurs and learning new skills. Employees  are  now the new breed of entrepreneur. You have to sell yourself to get a job anyway. You are only changing the product.
  • Fear of failure:  Whether your transition is into the workplace,  into an entrepreneurial sphere or even voluntary work, it is normal to  feel insecure and full of doubt when you are moving out of your comfort zone.  Taking action helps!  Identify your strengths and transferrable skills and take care of your skill deficit. With a strong personal and professional plan,  goals can be achieved in small incremental steps. This will become a great confidence booster. Sign up for courses, seek out a coach, attend workshops or add to your skill set on an ongoing basis.  Feeling in control  leads to increased confidence.   
  • Fear of rejection  :  You are the boss.  In setting up your own business you are avoiding the glass ceiling. The Harvard Business Review cites only one  female   CEO  in their top 100 Best CEOs list.  Realistically there’s only one show you stand a chance of running  now and guess what?  It’s  your own!   

I started my own business in a very typical way, as means of staying in the business community  while I supported  my family, following a second international move.  Executive search was an avenue where my transferrable skills gained in HR and sales and marketing could be successfully combined.  My thinking was that I could work from anywhere with a telephone line and internet connection,  near an airport, I could be self scheduling, it was a sector where being experienced was actually an advantage,  plus I could work as  long as I wanted to. I have never looked back. In terms of risk,  the recession obviously had an impact on business and it was a period of acute anxiety. Ibprofen   became one of my major food groups,  as I chained myself to my computer to cope with the challenge ( tendonitis… don’t worry being dealt with non – chemically now). However,  I’m sure it would have been just as stressful being employed , feeling constantly at risk or possibly being on the job market having  been made redundant. 

I  talked to  some other  women  of a “certain age” who decided to set up their own businesses  at a time in their lives when many are  planning retirement. These women  are just a small sample  from my group of  friends – not even my business network.  Their success stories  have been so inspiring and they have responded to my questions with such passion and insight, that I couldn’t bring myself to edit them. My next  post will be dedicated exclusively to them. They are not rags to riches,  or zero to hero stories,  just ordinary women responding to transition and changing circumstances in their own lives, within their families and in the economy – in a positive way.

  • Carol  from the US –  trained as a  teacher,  turned stay at home Mum, turned realtor 
  • Jane   from the UK  – trained as Communications Manager, turned trailing spouse, turned event manager and caterer  
  • Meicki  from Germany:    trained as a  pharmacist, turned stay at home Mum,  turned Pilates coach 
  • Sacha from the Netherlands:  trained as dentist:  turned stay at home Mum,  turned Virtual Assistant and Project Manager

So what are you waiting for?

New Year Resolutions? Forget ’em

Try the 3 ” S’s” instead
At the risk of seeming heretical  at this time of the year, I’m not really a fan of  New Year’s resolutions. To bring myself further into a tin-hat zone,  I  also wonder if the resolution process if for people who don’t make goals.

In one year … out the other. Why New Year’s resolutions are useless

My experience is that if I vow  before Christmas to lose 5 pounds after the party season is over, by January 1st the weight loss requirement has hit double digits. Next week I can say with certainty that my gym will be so rammed there’ll be no space in the car park, but can also say with equal certainty  that by mid February I’ll be able to slip into a space  right next to the door.  We all make painfully superficial lists of  minor things to work on or let go at this time of the year,   but in the full knowledge  that if we back slide it’s not that big of a deal.

The Babylonians were early practitioners of SMART goal setting at new year to win favour with the gods,  believing that failure to achieve their new year resolutions would  bring bad luck.  They therefore chose wisely: something realistic and achievable.  It was also the time they returned borrowed equipment  – thus making good old debts.  They  celebrated their new year on the first new moon after the Vernal (Spring ) equinox, which without appearing too reactionary, seems to make a lot more sense to me  some 4000 years later,  conjuring up as it does images of growth, re-birth and optimism.

Flexible Timing
The beginning of a new year has for  thousands of years been a time when people have  made commitments to review the past and make changes for the future.  But historically the timing of this festival  has been flexible and quite arbitrary, having been been moved around over the centuries, mainly for political  or religious convenience .   The Chinese New Year  based on a  lunar calendar,  can be any time from mid  January to mid February.  The Romans originally celebrated New Year  on March 1st, moved it again to March 25th,   but  in 46 BC  Julius Caesar  then saw fit reform the calendar to better reflect the seasons,   shifting it again to  January 1st.  At the same time he honoured the  two-faced god Janus,  the god of doors and entrances,  who could look backward into the old year and forward into the new,  which has become the modern metaphor for endings and beginnings.  There was no astrological or agricultural significance for this.

During the Middle Ages,  Christian powers attempted to remove pagan Roman traditions from the calendar  and new year and  Christmas traditions became blurred until the sixteenth century, when Pope Gregory XIII revised the Julian calendar and the new year was once again celebrated on January 1st.

I’m tempted to think that our  ancient ancestors who thought up the concept of  new year resolutions would have had a greater chance of success with  spring resolutions, or even  summer solstice resolutions.   They’re just  simply sunnier, brighter months.   January for me is not actually a great time. In my part of the world it’s cold, dark and  faintly miserable,  which is perhaps why celebrations  at this time have been associated with driving out  metaphoric demons ( modern-day bad habits?)  with fireworks and cymbals. Or perhaps I’m just a Babylonian or ancient Roman at heart.

Make it meaningful
But basically, whatever the time of the year,  we all know that if a goal  has any real meaning  it shouldn’t be postponed until some conveniently notional cut off  point  at the beginning of the year, only to  feel temporarily wracked with guilt before we predictably relapse into our comfort zone some time at the end of January.

No substitute for now
I never exhort anyone to implement any special job search strategies specifically to start on January 1st.  Why?  Goal setting should be ongoing .   You wouldn’t need to start anything  on 01.01 because you probably shouldn’t have stopped in the first place!  If you need  to change those goals on February 14th (Chinese New Year 2010 )  or the Spring equinox –  it  is not going to make the slightest bit of difference.  There  is no need  either to wait 11 months until 2011 to review the situation.  We all know that. We also know that the best time is not then,  but  now.

Positive focus
Yet to follow our ancestors  it’s always a good idea to generate some positive energy at any time, but with no built-in guilt trip for failing to implement, especially during the dark month of January,  when there is not a cymbal in sight to ward off those demons . So here’s what I suggest:

The 3 “S’s”

  • SMILE  in the spirit of Burn’s “cup of kindness”., at one total stranger, at least , a day  ( without appearing weird and risking arrest of course). Do you ever notice when you’re walking down busy streets how few people  make eye contact,  let alone smile.  Smiling makes us all feel good, especially in January .
  • SUCCESS  –  record your successes. We are very often our own harshest critics. So when you have  achievements no matter how small – write  them down somewhere  in a  little Success Book and look at them from time to time. Appreciate yourself , the people around you and what you already have and do well. Instead of focusing on our demons ( bad habits) –  accentuate the positive.
  • SET  and review your goals regularly.  Give yourself a timeframe.  Reflect on what has  gone on.  Don’t worry about  special dates  – they don’t matter. What matters is they are ongoing and you are active in the process not tomorrow, next month or next week … but today.

As the old joke goes  “don’t let your new year be the new start for old habits”.

Coaching: The Susan Boyle Effect

Susan Boyle’s audition on  the show “Britain’s Got Talent”  is apparently the most watched with 280 million hits in the first 6 weeks. We’ve all seen it – some of us multiple times ( .. me !).

We rejoiced and delighted at so many myths and stereotypes being debunked in just a few minutes right in front of our eyes.  Ageism, look-ism ( is that a word?), economic demographics, personality types, educational backgrounds, academic ability. This wasn’t some bo-toxed, surgically enhanced, pelvis gyrating, cleavage heaving, teenage fashionista making it  – but  someone we could all relate to. A neighbour, an aunt,  a friend… our mothers . Despite the slick editing and the clever stage management of the event  ( the producers had  to know surely of the potential talent), we all felt the sheer joy of the establishment having the wind taken out of its  smug, self important, arrogant sails. Someone unexpectedly was defying all odds and achieving their dream right there on our HD  flat screen or lap tops. And ironically of course, that was the name of the song.

Core talent 

But there was one thing that was very different about Susan Boyle. She really could sing. I believe wholeheartedly that we are all good at something. Does this mean overnight  stardom or success is guaranteed,  no matter how hard we work or try?  Regrettably – no  it doesn’t!

The celebrity obsession

We live in an era where  for many, being famous or a celebrity  has now become a goal in itself .  According to USA Today 51% of 18- 24 year olds want to be famous  – but they are not quite sure how or why. This culture of celebrity envy and worship changes our expectations. But the reality is that most of us every day people have to content ourselves with what Napoleon Hill sums up: “ If you can’t do great things, do small things in a great way

Keep it real

As coaches we support clients in identifying their passions and pursuing their dreams. But at the same  time we also have to introduce a  reality check.  It’s not easy to fly in the face of the culture of wholesale, bumper sticker type positive thinking slogans.  Although I love the fairy story element of success stories such as Susan Boyle’s,  or anyone else fulfilling life long dreams – goals need to be as realistic and achievable as possible.  Otherwise we are set up to fail.

Keep it achievable

I know this is  going to be percieved  in some circles as more of an equatorial downpour  than rain on the general parade.  But sorry,  if  you don’t have a good voice – you will probably never be a great singer. But that doesn’t mean to say you can’t still enjoy singing or improve.   In the words of Albert Einstein, somewhat cleverer than myself, “ Try not to become a man of success. Rather become a man of value.”

Look at other avenues

There is also no law that says all personal satisfaction and recognition should come from your job or pursuing a career. There are lots of other avenues for personal development that can be equally rewarding.  If you like working with numbers you can  volunteer as Treasurer for your church, a local club or your kid’s school.  If you have a good, but not amazing voice , you can join a choir or attend Karaoke events.

Don’t forget the hard yards

So if your current job is blue-collar or staff level the chances of you becoming CFO any time soon are pretty slim,  unless you take steps to make that happen.  You will have to graduate from high school , go to university and take  professional qualifications. Like Susan Boyle or any other amazing success story their achievements  may seem instantaneous,  but there are  usually many years  of hard yards behind the scenes.

If you have dreams of being an Olympic athlete but need to lose 20 pounds and smoke a pack a  day,  then that too will remain a fantasy.  Kriss Akabusi , author of  “Success comes in Cans” and  himself a recod breaking athlete makes the following comment  ” Yes , the overnight success syndrome is a real misnomer.  It took me 15 yrs to become European Champion. Of course it is appealing to just show up, be accepted for a gushing testimonial and people’s good feel factor, but in reality lasting success comes with determination, discipline, dedication to a course over time where one hews success out of failure and the core talent is sculptured from inside out”.

I can’t add to that !

Does your career need a health check?

Fortunately, despite the events of the past couple of years, career coaching isn’t just about  crisis, redundancies and  panic job search. Transition coaching can happily be more  routine and measured:   brainstorming for the next stage, setting some goals, making a plan.  So with any executive working on this career management phase,  we always start with  a gentle chat about themselves and what they’re looking for.  Essentially and almost imperceptibly, what we’re doing  is a  career health check.

Self- insight
This process establishes where they’ve been,  what’s going on right now and  where they’re headed.  What I call the “know thyself spectrum”. Then I  ask them to draft a short  mission statement.   Not a  big deal you would have thought for rising captains of business and industry. But many are astonishingly resistant and some in fact even struggle.  They don’t see this as necessary to the process.  They have a great  job already and don’t need  to produce what they perceive  be part of a new CV . They’re completely fine.  Just need a bit of fine tuning. Still I insist!

Avoidance strategies
The range of excuses I hear to get out of this  exercise warrant  an “A” for creativity.   Kids –   listen  and learn from the best!

    • It’s on my office computer, not on my lap top ( ooooh….and vice versa!)
    • Backberry/iphone/ other  electronic gizzmo is down/crashed
    • Meetings: Wall to wall / Back to back
    • Deadlines : Year end /Q end/weekly/daily
    • Flight / trip:  delayed / bought forward
    • 3 kids: that one came from an executive with a stay at home wife
    •  Crisis: Personal/ family/professional/ national/ economic /global

Trust me – there is nothing I haven’t heard before!   There is seemingly a whole breed of executives  who don’t  have the following words in their vocabulary:  beer mat, pen, 15 minutes, plane, airport lounge, taxi – plus some other obvious ones.   This  type of inventive procrastination comes even from people who on the surface of things are  leaders in their sector,  perhaps in the top percentile of their professional and academic fields,  or have achieved significant business successes and are outwardly brimming with confidence. But despite this,  there is  something holding them back  from putting a name  to these  signficant achievements and the skills they needed to call on to facilitate such great results.

There is a reason why we all need to do career health checks on a regular basis.

Personal insight,  knowing your strengths, weaknesses  and achievements  and being able to articulate those to yourself ,  is important for managers to excel in their current  roles.  It is not just those executives  who find themselves  unexpectedly on the job market.   A high percentage of executives I coach,  who have been “let go” admit to being unhappy in their jobs before the redundancy was made.  They also  suspect  that their bosses were possibly aware of it.  Harsh though it may seem,   companies generally  find a way to retain high performing, motivated managers, no matter what sort of crisis  they’re in.

So why is it important to understand and  articulate  these skills and achievements,  to know well how we have dealt with  any challenges in the past and be relaxed about any future ones?  It gives us all a sense of control.

Feeling in control,  having that unshakeable self-belief  that we have the resources to successfully deal with anything that comes our way, generates self – confidence.    Self confidence is that indefinable , intangible quality that effective managers possess in spades.  It’s not a flashy showman leading from the top  or an over bearing arrogance that won’t listen or consult. It is something else all together.

Confident managers know what they’re doing  and their teams can see that.  This is highly motivating and leads to better results.  Because confident managers have recognised their own successes and achievements,  they have no problem endorsing the success of their peers or reports.  They instinctively set in place recognition systems to foster and support self belief in those around them. This inspires greater team effort and even greater success.  People gravitate towards them. Success breeds success.

Confident managers are great mentors and don’t feel threatened by new talent. They generously encourage and develop.

Strengths and weaknesses
Because they know what they do well and  how they do it,  they also understand where and when  they don’t do so well.  Confident managers  are happy to  consult and  are comfortable looking for opinions, advice and support.   They are open to unsolicited input. Astonishingly,  true confidence can even admit lack of confidence  and  say ” I really have no clue what I’m doing,  but I’m going to find out.  ”   And they do. They process criticism positively.

Truly confident managers know that it’s important to get it done,  rather than get it right and will motivate and support calculated risk taking.  They rise to new challenges.  They get out of the way.  They give themselves and their teams permission to fail,  but still  keep a watchful eye on the score card. They support,  not blame,  during the failing process and takes steps to manage any  fallout if that’s what needs doing.  They see mistakes as part of  a learning  process. They take steps to avoid repeated bad habits.

Confident managers are  positive thinkers, solution driven and not problem focused. The first thing they want to know  “How can we get that done?”  not what the barriers are. Confident managers have goals and if they are off target they realise that they have to change … so  they sit down,  re-assesss and make new goals.

Sometimes on beer mats in airport lounges. They don’t need a perfect time, environment or location. They just get it done.

So when was the last time you gave your career a health check?