Category Archives: motivation

HELP! I hate my job!

I HATE my job!

What to do when you HATE your job with a passion!
I spent time last week coaching a young professional who hated his job in a small, family run organisation. In fact he hated it so badly that the things he claimed he would rather be doing instead, covered all manner of unspeakable things, too awful to mention involving finger nails, dentists and Kabul. You get the picture.

Stress
He hated the work, he hated his bosses, he hated his colleagues. He vented for a while, but when we got into specifics, mostly he hated the way he was treated and spoken to, but above all he hated the chaos and the stress. He outlined some of the issues that especially caused him grief and truthfully those practices at best would be considered bad management, and at worst, workplace bullying. Attempts to self advocate had been unceremoniously dismissed and there was no HR function.

Leopards and spots
I have worked in this type of family run, small business and know the environment well. The words leopards and spots, blood and water come to mind. It is unlikely that any employee will be able to make a dent in that can of worms and undo not just decades of working habits, but also family culture, when normal business protocols generally don’t apply. In a small organization, transferring to another department or changing job functions are not options, so for this young man there seemed to be 2 choices – stay or go.

Hating your job isn’t good. We spend 2000 hours a year in the workplace at least, so it’s hard to pitch up at the office to do something you passionately dislike. Usually if you hate your job everyone can tell and will interact accordingly. Being desperately unhappy will also affect performance and added stress leads to mistakes, creating a vicious cycle of poor interaction, escalating tension and mis- managed expectations.

Why
There are many of reasons people end up in jobs they hate: inadequate hiring processes and poor candidate decisions to name but two. During the recession many people took jobs that weren’t ideal simply to pay their bills. Jobs and situations also change after the start date creating unanticipated circumstances.

Work on you

In any situation the only person you can change is yourself.

Manage your emotions. Don’t resign in a fit of desperation. Pique doesn’t pay the bills, you do and they will not go away. It is also easier to get a job from a job.
Do some inner work. Time to review your life and professional goals and complete a C.A.R.S. analysis (Challenges, Actions, Results , Skills). Make sure you know what you’re good at and what you goals are.
Make a list of what you like about the jobs – there will always be something.
Change your attitude. If you go into the office looking down, are detached, act dejected and withdrawn, your colleagues will feed off that and respond accordingly.
Check your work. Stress impacts accuracy and you are more likely to make careless mistakes. Create a “To do” list every night for the following day, making sure you schedule the work you hate the most first or at your period of highest energy. Feeling that you have achieved something, even when you loathe doing it will make you feel better.
Find a mentor – someone who can guide you. Even in a small company there has to be one person you can ask for advice.
Silence is golden – don’t post your dislike of your work situation on Facebook or Twitter. Bosses use social media too.
Monitor your health – stress impacts everyone in different ways. Exercise, see friends, eat healthily, have enough sleep and make time for you. If you find you are struggling with anything seek professional help.
Start your job search discreetly and reach into your network. Let search and recruitment contacts know that you are open for a move.
Prepare your interview story. Don’t bad mouth your company. A skilled interviewer will be able to interpret what you don’t say if you focus on your future requirements.
Resign correctly – give the appropriate amount of notice and leave your desk and workload in mint handover condition.
Leave graciously – you may not realise it yet but you have had a substantial learning experience and developed many key skills: resilience, diligence, commitment, focus. If your colleagues behave badly you will always know that you did the right thing.

But above all , you will make better choices next time!

Grown up gap years: avoiding burn out

Mid career breaks. How to stay sane and avoid burn out
Just before Christmas I had an email from Thailand from an ex business associate. He was in between jobs and had negotiated a six month career gap. At 45 he had been working his socks and body parts off for over 20 years and needed a time-out to re-charge the flagging batteries. It was the best thing he’d ever done he claimed, wished he’d done it earlier and felt it should be mandatory for all executives. “You don’t know how tired and under performing you are until you actually stop. I also realised how worn out many of my team and peers were too, especially after the last 2 to 3 years fighting for survival during the recession. It’s not good for concentration, impacts the effectiveness of both the team and decision-making process and ultimately impacts the bottom line.”

Voluntourism
Another colleague is about to take off on a gap period to do some “Voluntoursim” a relatively new concept where individuals combine voluntary work with travel. One site describes this experience as .. “The conscious, seamlessly integrated combination of voluntary service to a destination and the best, traditional elements of travel — arts, culture, geography, history and recreation — in that destination

He had no specific job lined up for his return, but his employer had agreed to keep a position open for him “Yes “ he said ” there’s some risk, there are no guarantees that any openings will be in line with my expectations, but I wanted to do something different, give back and travel. This seems ideal. I’ll take my lap top and i-phone with me, keep in touch, but I just need to clear my head. I also want to do this while I’m physically fit and intend to come back refreshed and ready to go! Savvy organisations will realise that this can only help them be more profitable

No longer retirees
When I looked on Google there are literally dozens of organisations, companies and blogs set up to cater for this new trend of older people taking career breaks and going to destinations as diverse as India, Ecuador and the Arctic Circle. These trips of a lifetime were frequently associated with post retirement plans ( or even post graduation), but as those days are being bumped further into the future by economic and social change and retirement may now not start until employees are in their late 60s, many want to take those trips while they can. My own father, sadly, was diagnosed with cancer the week before he retired and was never able to fulfill his dreams. Today, many are not prepared to wait and take a chance.

Flexible working
A new study (“Flexible Work Models: How to bring sustainability in a 24/7 world”) of 3,300 professional men and women published by Bain & Company on the adoption and effectiveness of flexible work models finds that a lack of availability of these programs, as well as their poor utilization, can dramatically increase the likelihood that employees stay with their current company and more effective implementation can improve retention of women by up to 40% and up to 25% for men.

Despite the fact that flex models are one of the hottest recruiting and retention tools, they aren’t sufficiently used at many organizations,” said Julie Coffman, a Bain partner and study author. “Companies can no longer get away with just offering cookie cutter options; they must tailor them to their employees and also provide adequate levels of support and resources to ensure better cultural acceptance.”

10 Steps to burn out
So what would cause an executive or any other employee to start internet researching and reach for their credit card, when to the outside world they have great careers. According to the Bain report, a combination of 5 of any of the criteria mentioned below, identify the hallmarks of a challenging work situation, which could lead to a need for a break:
§ Unpredictable work flow;
§ Fast-paced work under tight deadlines;
§ Inordinate scope of responsibility that amounts to more than one job;
§ Work-related events outside regular work hours;
§ Expected to be available to clients or customers 24/7;
§ Responsibility for profit and loss;
§ Responsibility for mentoring and recruiting;
§ Large amount of travel;
§ Large number of direct reports;
§ Physical presence at workplace at least 10 hours a day

When employees work in excess of 50 hours per week, that can also contribute to a feeling of burnout. This is of course without factoring in any of the usual domestic pressures or any other specific difficulties, which routinely crop up in most people’s lives and contribute to overall life stress. Not surprisingly, by mid – career many wish they could take a break. Seemingly, those that can, are actively trying to make that happen in ever-increasing numbers.

Organisational view
One HR Director I spoke to said ” At one time it was mainly women who wanted flexi-time arrangements or sabbaticals to extend their maternity leave, so that they could stay at home with their children. Now, leave of absence requests are becoming increasingly common from both men and women of all ages, as employees seek not just challenging careers, but opportunities to take breaks and recharge their batteries. Our top executives are entitled to extended leave periods every 5 years. For both younger and older non-executives sabbaticals tend be the best-fit flexible work option. They very often choose to travel or do voluntary or project work. Others use a break for child or parental care, or even to pursue further education. Some organisations are also offering employees the opportunity to buy additional holidays, which effectively means that they take a salary cut in exchange for additional time off. In some functions this can be easily arranged. In other more operational areas it can be more difficult.”

As all Gen Y research has indicated, Millenials will demand greater flexibility from their organisations in the future. So flexi-time options previously associated with supporting women to take care of their children, will move further into mainstream cross gender HR policy. This will mean organisations will be pressed to consider the provision of a full menu of flexi-time options including parental leave, flexible hours or remote working as well as extended leave of absence.

I’m already looking at the map!

So how about you? Would you like to take a mid career break?

 

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.

Women who make it happen

Start up success stories

Last week  in my piece  ” Ladies – it’s never too late to start up”  I wrote about a growing trend towards self employment  amongst  Baby Boomers and  the business success of the “grey economy”    However,  in Europe less than 30% of new businesses are established by women,  compared to 70% by their American counterparts . Yet I have talked to and coached many women who have done exactly that and found incredible satisfaction and success.

I’m not talking about super women who set up something on their kitchen tables  20 years ago and are now teetering around in power stilettos,  sporting designer suits and running massive empires from their iPhones .   No, the women I know are just regular women,  like you or I,  who for one reason or another  at a “certain age “,  when other people are thinking about retiring, decided they wanted to be self employed and made  it happen. They created their dream.  Besides, power stilettos kill their feet .

Backgrounds

Some had given up work to raise their kids and wanted to return to the work place,  others had been made redundant  after years of service.   Others  wanted to  leave the corporate world and do something different  that they felt passionate about and which gave them flexibility.  Some just simply wanted to change , but weren’t sure what to do.  Yet another group had retired,  but had an itch to do something more with their lives than go for lunch.  Some had concerns about long term financial security issues , and as pension funds lie in tatters, property prices plummet and divorce rates rise, this is completely valid.  

Themes

It seemed to be that the common threads from talking to them  all were: flexibility, control, purpose, passion,  financial security, commitment, personal development  and increased confidence.

Carol O’Donoghue, Jacksonville,  Florida, set up her own real estate company at the age of 47,  having just gone through a divorce.  She was a high school principal before she moved to Europe to support her now ex husband’s career.   Returning to the Jacksonville to be near her family, she was looking for something  more flexible  that she could do longer term.  Now she says “I am able to work from many different locations with the advances in technology, so I can go skiing in Colorado and sell 2 houses while I am gone!” 

 The start up process involved re –  training on the technical side  of real estate management ,  obtaining the required licenses and investing in some basic equipment and publicity material. 

Carol suggests that the greatest challenges were finding a work life balance and dealing with her own perfectionist tendencies!   “ I worked 7 days a week and often until 2am… I felt like I completely lost my personal life for the first few years.  ”

She then decided to relinquish some control and hire extra help, with immediate benefits.   Plans for the future? Carol just says ”  I want to enjoy the life I have left.  I am 55 this year and that has always been my goal …………I will  refer all of my business to another firm (for a fee)”

Meicki Schick, Brussels, Belgium, speaks 3 languages,  and at 48, is  as glamorous as any super model and has twice the energy of a woman half  her age. She is a walking bill board for her new business  as a Pilates Coach

 She decided to pursue this change of direction  because  she says   ” I had a constant feeling that to be only mother, house wife, taxi driver for my kids…was not enough to fill up my life.  “

 Meicki had originally trained as a pharmacist in Germany and had  considered going back into her old profession  but told me  “ an opportunity came last summer, when I saw the folder of a local academy that  carries out Pilates teacher trainings. My own Pilates coach  encouraged  me to follow this training and suggested I give lessons at her studio, especially she needed a French speaking coach for her Belgian clients. It took me one night to sleep over this proposition and than I decided to go for it.”

 After completing the training programme she started teaching her own classes and the excellent feedback she received motivated her even further.   She now has the flexibility to organise her own schedule and be active every day “  Sport  has always been part of my favorite activities. Now I get paid for it ! ”

  Her dream is to complete further training and eventually open her own Pilates Studio. She loves “working and  being active” and says this has helped her overall confidence.    

Jane W from the UK was musically trained,  but  fell into a marketing and communication role in her early career almost by chance. Even though she followed her husband’s career across 3 continents , wherever she was in the world she made sure she found a job.  “ I realised that I needed to do something for me, it helped me adapt to the change and kept me in touch with the business community. Very often I was involved in organising corporate events and also  volunteered at my kid’s school.   We had always entertained a lot at home and as I love food I decided to take a Cordon Bleu cookery course  ”      

Jane’s divorce left her economically vulnerable,  so it was imperative that she find something to protect her long term financial situation. “ I began helping  organise events, weddings , dinners and parties  in addition to doing the catering.  Before long I  was  involved professionally,  coordinating other freelancers.  I then moved  on to conferences, launches,  openings and so on.”

The future? “  I have one son still in school and as soon as he is finished I intend to expand. In the meantime I am doing some on-line marketing courses and am training as a florist.  For the moment I’m happy to stay small,  getting up in the morning knowing I’m going to be doing something I love

Her message?  “Never stop learning – you never know what’s around the corner”.

 Sacha Otten, from the Netherlands  set up her own company abovePAR last year ,  marketing  virtual assistant services.  Her mantra  echoes William McFee The world belongs to the enthusiast who keeps cool!  But at  at the start of the recession,  it was a little risky to branch out on her own,  so she also combined this with holding down an 80% time job ,  on top of acquiring  skills and certification in internet research.  She felt that this would give her greater control over her own destiny and make her less vulnerable in the market place. Speaking 5 languages,  she offers project management, administration and research services internationally.  When Sacha heard recently that  her job was being cut as a result of the downturn  she was glad that she had this additional string to her bow. 

 “ When you own your own company, your age seems to matter a lot less than when you seek permanent employment. It can even be a huge advantage when you have reached a certain maturity and can also be very flexible in your work hours. I tend to think it is an asset rather than a handicap.  Clients seem to like this when they decide to outsource their work.’

Her greatest challenge was  the sales/marketing element .  “ Selling yourself and breaking into a market is  not a very easy thing to do. A lot depends on your personality.  Setting up your own company is definitely not for everyone. Your commitment needs to be high.”

So if you have passion, drive, energy and are looking for purpose,   want control of your own destiny,  financial situation and schedule    –  what is stopping you?

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Career reflection: Could you get your own job?

What would happen if you had to apply for your own job?
In the past year I have been conscious of , and written extensively about,  the pace of change in my particular  field which seems to be greater than ever before. It’s hard to keep up!  Every time I learn something new, I have to get to grips with something  even newer.  I cannot imagine I am alone in this position!  I also coach people in transition in various professions and sectors and advise them always of the need to stay up dated in their fields.  But what about  people not looking for jobs or directly at risk in any way?

Could they successfully apply for their own jobs?

Could you?

One of the cruellest spin offs of any organisational re-structuring is that sometimes employees are invited to re-apply for their own jobs, frequently when they have been in post for many years and have considerable seniority and  experience. But does this mean that they are necessarily the best candidate for the job as it exists now in the current environment and climate? Regrettably not always.

There are a number of counter arguments to this thesis.

Organisational responsibility
Many will say it’s the  responsibility of the organisation to ensure than their employees are trained and up to date in any developments in their field and are performing to the best of their abilities. To  some extent this could be true.

Any switched-on company committed to employee development  will do this,  seeing  peak employee performance and talent management  as  intrinsic to bottom line success.  But in times of economic stringency and turbulence,  when training budgets have been slashed, updating employees  and keeping them up to speed may not be their top priority.  This is set against a background of quite often incomplete , inadequate, and irregular performance appraisal  which limits meaningful feedback from any manager to  his/her reports. Essentially many employees have no real idea of how they are actually doing, or where their strengths and weaknesses lie on the ideal candidate spectrum.

Avoid complacency
Many of you will also say that it’s no way to live,  or work,  in a state of permanent insecurity always worrying about someone coming in to take over your job. That’s also true.  But complacency isn’t a good state either. One of the things we have all learned in this current economic crisis is that there are no certainties in life. So perhaps  it would be foolish to sit and wait for someone else to take responsibility for your career  and ultimately your life. Many people who are moved sideways, demoted, have promotion disappointments or who get fired,  very often don’t see it coming.   Many of  us are wedded to our tried and trusted ways of operating. Even though we might acknowledge a need to do things  differently at one level (mainly intellectual),  we still struggle to implement  practical change. It doesn’t matter if it’s C-suite level of Fortune 500 companies  or middle managers in SMEs, taking that step to honestly and brutally self appraise is never easy.

It’s also not just about the arrogance of captains of industry such as Fred “The Shred” Goodwin,   or the senior executives of General Motors or Lehman Brothers who failed miserably to understand the limitations of their own performance, until of course it was too late. It’s important for us all to  consciously examine our own roles in relation to the market and be aware and take care of any short fall.

So  maybe start asking  yourself the following questions:

  •  How qualified  am I for this position,  not necessarily always  in  terms of educational certificates,  but in experience?
  • Is my knowledge current?
  • What improvements could/should I make to may own skill set and performance to achieve better results?
  • What other changes would I make ?
  • What is my mission statement?
  • Can my contribution be measured?
  • Do I look for ,  process and act on constructive feedback?
  • What value do I add?
  • Do I know my own worth? Do my bosses, peers, and reports?
  • Who could replace me?

So… would you hire …you?

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.

Benefits
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.

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.

Confidence
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.

Pro-active
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.

Goals
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?