Category Archives: Leadership skills

Losing your team

7 tells you’re on the brink of losing your team

The stats on the level of engagement in all organizations come out overwhelmingly against the boss. 66% seems to be a standard figure for disengaged employees, so let’s work around that. It starts with the top employee who can bail fastest and more easily than the others. Then it trickles downwards, so that means losing your team will be the next step.

The top performer’s departure can blind side you. They are the best for a reason. Part of that is they are tapped into the market and bring their best selves to every situation. Very often their exit will be discreet and sudden. You can rightly be shocked, although some would say that even that might indicate that you are not in touch as you might be. But for the others, there are a multitude of tells that let you know you are losing your team, they are restless and out there testing the market. This might be as active candidates, or actively passive candidates, driving traffic to themselves and raising their visibility.

Whether you have your head in the sand or the clouds, unless you get on the ball, it will trickle down the ranks, until eventually you will be stuck with a team that will not be top calibre.

Multiple departures is a sign that you have a cultural issue which needs addressing urgently. Becoming tuned into the tell tale signs that you are on the brink of losing your team can help you take pre-emptive action.

So how do you know you are losing your team?

  1. LinkedIn not Facebook activity: Lots of it. Maybe a professional head shot or a pimped profile that’s been written with a career coach or by a resume writer. There will be some sensible updates going out on matters relating to your sector, not “likes” of a mate’s posts or selfies. The smart ones will do this on an on-going basis, but most don’t. So this is tell number one for sure. They will connect with recruiters or contacts in other companies and will have forgotten to adjust their privacy settings. Some companies try to limit social media usage, thinking that is the solution to employee retention. But creating a firewall around your employees, isn’t going to stop them leaving. You have to make them want to stay.
  2. Improved professional image: gone is the faintly rumpled shirt or nondescript trousers which have had only passing contact with an iron. Suddenly the workplace outfits are going up a notch with some statement jewellery and jackets on hangers, instead of a puffa anorak on the back of the chair. Shirts are crisp and starched. Shoes polished and make-up touched up. She is dressed to impress and warning tell… it’s not for you.
  3. Looking for metrics: watch out for a deeper interest in budgets, KPIs, targets and numbers, as he embeds his activities with metrics using the Be FABulous approach to prepare his USP or elevator pitch or soundbites.
  4. Loss of interest in next year: Interest in next years’ activity will fall off.  When there is barely a murmur about the bonus situation or summer party, you know you are in trouble. Your employees have opted out of even medium term thinking. Maybe you will see some passive aggressive behaviour, not meeting deadlines or poor time keeping. These are not necessarily signs that your disengaged employee is checking out the job search market.  This is even worse news – they are so demotivated they can’t or won’t be able to leave.
  5.  Networking: Instead of piling down to the pub, your team will be heading for after work professional drinks and events, clutching newly ordered business cards to pass around the room.
  6. Mysterious calls: taken in lowered voices in hallways or spare conference rooms. They are probably head hunters and recruiters
  7. Absenteeism: You will see an increase in requests for a few hours off, only one day’s vacation or recuperated overtime. The unscrupulous will take sick days.

If you see any or all of these tells, you should wake up and acknowledge you are losing your team. Don’t leave it until you have a high number of open vacancies to understand that you need to do something and fast.

 

 

 

lead by example

Leadership language – why political correctness matters

I am a huge tennis fan as many of you know,  but was disappointed to turn on my television yesterday to see John Inverdale commentating on the Davis Cup match Italy versus Great Britain.  Inverdale ignited a furore last year after the  Wimbledon final  when he suggested to an audience of millions, that because the new champion Marion Bartoli “was never going to be a looker,”  tennis would have been one of her few options as a way forward. She was the one holding the trophy of course and despite some rapid back tracking, he was left with some serious egg on his face and reportedly facing the B.B.C. axe.  However, it would appear he is still doing his job despite all the brouhaha. What message does this send out?

The power of  leadership language

Unconscious bias, whether related  to gender, race, appearance or age, is considered to be one of the most significant “known unknowns” in our cultures today, simply because it is so difficult to measure.  One area where is it very self-evident in language usage. Our leaders whether male or female play a pivotal role in the gender balance and diversity policies of our organisations and wider cultures. It’s therefore important that public figures in whatever domain, lead by example. Their behaviour and language choice will be a key component in influencing public thinking and viewpoints to overcome subconscious bias which can exist in all of us.

“Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.” Albert Schweitzer

Ilene Lang CEO of catalyst talks about benevolent sexism saying  “these benevolent stereotypes hurt women because they maintain inequality. Whether she’s the “little lady” or the “woman behind the man” or the soothing creature who exists simply to make men nicer, woman’s “natural” goodness becomes a rationale for why she should be protected from activities and occupations that require stereotypically “macho” qualities.”

In the workplace, all sexism and any sort of stereotyping whether, unintentional, overt, hostile or benevolent, acts as a barrier to prevent women and others fully contributing. The perpetuation of outdated views about women’s role and place in our current society is a strong factor.

Recruitment processes

In talent management where executive search and coaching contribute to the same degree the example of leaders is vital. After all it’s hard for women be” what they can’t see, read and hear.”  Having open, bias free recruitment processes is a significant driver to achieving the appointment of the best candidates,  whether male or female. It is surely the only way forward and therefore important that all leaders in the search and recruitment field play a role to achieve this.

I am constantly hearing about illegal questioning of women about their family circumstances a direct reflection of unconscious bias. All women want children and are therefore flight and engagement risks, right?  I heard only yesterday how Salma an advertising executive was quizzed about how she would cope with a job and her five month baby. She suggested to the interviewer that the line of questioning was as appropriate as her asking him about his sex life. She was offered the job and turned it down.  Not everyone is unconcerned about jeopardising their job search options. Another contact, a woman with no children in her early 50s, (in the full throes of the menopause to boot) was also asked about her family situation. The interviewer had no idea of her personal background and any extenuating circumstances. She should have registered a complaint, but she didn’t.

The recruitment process is the first experience a candidate has of an employer brand and is vital that everyone involved is correctly trained in today’s legal requirements and expectations which involves being politically correct, defined by Merriman Webster as:

conforming to a belief that language and practices which could offend political sensibilities (as in matters of sex or race) should be eliminated 

Political correctness 

In a recent exchange on Twitter, Greg Savage took me to task for my own ” political correctness” when I queried a post title “Suck it up princess. This as good as it gets”.  I asked him quite mildly to be fair “Why not prince?” He responded thus:

tweet6

Political correctness actually plays an important role. Yes, it can be tiresome to have to focus on changing our speech patterns which will  go on to impact our subsequent thought and action patterns. It means we indeed have to think and let go of our old ways.  This role and adherence to “political correctness” has finally succeeded in outlawing words  like “nigger”, “Paki” and ” faggot”  and a host of other pejorative terms that used to be in the daily common vernacular of most cultures.  These words are now considered to be socially unacceptable and rarely heard in professional circles, or at least the ones I move in.

Language shapes how we feel and react. It’s a key pillar in the culture of change. The number of new words making the Oxford English dictionary every year is phenomenal.  As we embrace the new, so we also easily let go of the old.  It might take a while but people are pretty adaptable in this regard I find.

However the process also needs strong leadership. And leaders, especially those representing their organisation externally, whether in the hiring process any other way, or anyone at all in the public eye do have to ” watch their language.” All of this contributes to unconscious bias.

What do you think – does  leadership language  matter?

April 12th Addendum

In the interests of transparency following comments from Greg Savage (see below), please see the  full Twitter thread. gregsavage4

 

The Guru Factor: Where are the women?

The Guru Factor

Something’s got to give
Earlier this year, somewhat bewildered by our leaders and their actions (or lack thereof) over the previous few years, I wrote a post “Playing without the Queens“. In it I expressed surprise at the notable lack of public reaction as bankers and financial service leaders decimatad our global economies, while the populace merely “whimpered ” from the sidelines. Our medieval forebears would certainly have revolted and literally broken the “banca” in protest. However, only a few months later in the Middle East and North Africa populations took to their streets and now in the U.K. certain sections of the community are doing the same. Unfortunately, I am still just as bewildered.

Change required
In London there is currently a period of crisis management, but I feel sure that before the door has closed on the broom cupboards, the blame game will undoubtedly start. For me there is one overriding message. Tony Robbins words echo loudly

” If you do what you always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten”. Something has to change.

We have seen in recent years “Masters of the Universe ” bankers such as Fabulous Fabrice Tourre in their designer suits, caught, through negligence/ dishonesty/ incompetence or a combination of all three, vandalising global economies to the tune of …billions, getting off pretty much free and easy, with barely a dent to their 7 figure bonuses. According to Sky News the bank bail out will cost the average British tax payer £3500. This week, yobs in hoodies from Hackney, will almost certainly receive custodial sentences for vandalising shops, nicking trainers and mobile phones to the tune of… hundreds. Political figures will take the moral high ground and preach to us, while many, only last year, were even tacitly, part of massive expense scams. Organisations are struggling to keep up with, and adapt, to changes outside the workplace. Unemployment amongst young people is reaching all time highs in many developed economies. Whole countries are bankrupt.

Lost in thought?
Courtesy of Lee Carey I came across this organisation  The Thinkers 50. The 2011 Thinkers 50 will be unveiled on November 14 in London at the first ever Thinkers 50 Summit. Now as you know I’m not crazy about the composition of think tanks in general, but in 2009 there were only 3 women on the list and one of those was part of an INSEAD duo.

There is a reason we say “lost in thought”

This ” definitive global ranking of management thinkers is published every two years. The 2009 winner was CK Prahalad. The ranking is based on voting at the Thinkers 50 website and input from a team of advisers led by Stuart Crainer and Des Dearlove. The Thinkers 50 has ten established criteria by which thinkers are evaluated – originality of ideas; practicality of ideas; presentation style; written communication; loyalty of followers; business sense; international outlook; rigor of research; impact of ideas and the elusive guru factor

No women
The words elusive guru factor caught my eye and surreal images of Simon Cowell type “guru factor judges” and ” guru factor auditions” came into my mind. However, I also wonder if this is the time to stop thinking and start doing. There is a reason for the phrase ” lost in thought”. But mainly we need to do both differently. People clearly want change. Women are not only visibly absent from the financial services leadership group that caused many of the underlying problems, but also from the “thinking” list that was issued when it was all going on. Draw your own conclusions, but it’s not rocket science!

If as one definition of guru is a ” recognised leader in a field”, perhaps we need look no further than a modern-day leader such as the courageous, elderly woman in Hackney who confronted London looters, maybe not in the language of the board room ( be warned, very strong if you do watch) but at least there is a badly needed underlying morality.

What is your career sine? New take on career strategy

What is your career sine?

Career ladder or lattice?
Our society is evolving at a phenomenal pace. Technology has brought about changes that even 15 years ago we could only have dreamed about.

New trends
Think tanks are predicting labour shortages in key sectors, pension plans and a default retirement age are likely to be pipedreams for the next generation. Many will have to work until the age of 70.

Family structures are changing and with almost 50% of marriages ending in divorce, the nuclear family is disappearing as the cornerstone of our industrial culture. The number of highly educated women in the workforce is at its highest level. Whether quotas are voluntary or enforced, there will be an increasing number of professional women at senior levels. With the rise of single parent households and expected extended longevity, pursuing a career will no longer be a question of choice for most women, but a case of economic necessity.

Men are now expected, and want, to play a stronger role in childcare, while single parent fathers with joint custody agreements are no longer as free to assume traditional roles and commit to their careers in terms of availability and mobility.

Burnt out executives are opting for mid-career gap years while they are still healthy.

Gen Y have a different expectations to their parents about what they want from corporate life. Research indicates that they may have as many as 10 different jobs before the age of 40. Large numbers are heading home to Mum and Dad, as the post college traditional rite of passage to start their own lives becomes unaffordable, creating a new group of “Boomerang Kids “. It has been suggested that Millenials might not be fully independent of their parents until their late 20s. With a working life that might end at 70, that still gives a career spanning 40 years.

Work and life are morphing into a single continuum as hi-tech communication allows us to blend the two spheres. Work is no longer another place, or even a fixed and regular time. Now, work is what we do, when we need to, or even when we want to.

Life long learning has become a necessary part of an ongoing process to stay current in our ever-changing world, rather than a night of relaxation in classes to learn a spot of DIY or holiday level language skills, after a hard day at the office.

Job hopping will cease to be a pejorative term associated with an inconsistent and unreliable work ethic, but renamed multi-direction career strategy.

In short, society is changing and the work force has shifting requirements. But is the workplace and our current leadership keeping up fast enough? I do wonder.

New Approach
I was interested to read research and a new approach to career strategy from Deloitte called Mass Career Customisation. They maintain that ” The end of traditional career paths and work patterns is upon us.” And I would agree. Anyone who is tapped into this sector has been aware of this for a while and this might seem to be stating the obvious. But issues assume a different complexion with a big multi national consulting organisation behind them, rather than a few bewildered bloggers at ground zero, scratching their heads in collective wonderment. Not only is there is a name to what we are seeing but there is a solution – also with a name!

What many of us have been observing is that we are entering an era where core elements such as workload allocation, employment location and roles are being reviewed by both employers and potential candidates in trade-off situations. Key to the Deloitte MCC philosophy is the credo that individual priorities change over time and that ” multiple views of success are affirmed through recognition of results and value created … contribution levels ebb and flow along with personal life stages

The end of career ladder?
So are we seeing as the Deloitte approach suggests the end of the traditional vertical career ladder but an ” undulating journey of climbs lateral moves and planned descents” which they call a career lattice? I think so.

I was involved in a recent executive search where the wife of a leading candidate was employed in a senior role tied to a specific geographic location, which made family relocation impossible. Maybe even 3 years ago, his candidacy would have been ruled out as untenable. Today the question is ” We value and need this skill set. How can we make this situation work?”

Companies which are prepared to bring this flexibility of thinking and demonstrate empathy with the driving forces in today’s workplace, which alone would indicate that they are in tune with the shifts in society’s culture in general, will find themselves I believe, one step ahead of the game.

Check out your own career sine. Click here to complete the Deloitte MCC interactive test.

What have you learned?

Trapped! Women and the smiling myth

 

 

A few weeks ago I wrote a post “10 ways women supposedly sabotage their careers“. It sparked some heated discussion. The 10 ways were lifted somewhat unceremoniously by Citibank’s Diversity Department, from the book Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office by Lois Frankel (sales of 27 million) and converted into dubious “bumper sticker” phrases to support women in the organisation (+/- 330.000 employees globally).

One seemed to attract more attention and curiosity than the others – women seemingly sabotage their careers by smiling inappropriately. This I thought merited closer inspection, because that’s a helluva lot of women believing they smile at the wrong time in the workplace. But what constitutes inappropriate? Where does this smiling myth originate?

Some basics
A spontaneous smile is defined as ” a facial expression formed by flexing those muscles most notably near both ends of the mouth. The smile can also be found around the eyes ..” known as the Duchenne Smile. A smile is deep within our primate nature. It depicts positive social relationships and confirms anthropologically that no harm is intended. Combined with eye contact a smile is perceived to be the sign of a confident person, but most importantly, it suggests energy and vibrancy to the recipient. How can that be damaging?

Some research
According to Daniel McNeill, author of The Face: A Natural History, women are genetically built to smile in order to bond with infants. “Smiling is innate and appears in infants almost from birth….The first smiles appear two to twelve hours after birth and seem void of content. Infants simply issue them, and they help parents bond.”

Although women apparently smile more than men, this statistic changes when other variables are factored in: culture, ethnicity, age, or when people think they are being observed, according to the study funded by the National Science Foundation.

It would be interesting for social psychologists and anthropologists to look at these data because the wide cultural, ethnic and other differences suggest that the sex difference is not something that is hard-wired,” said Marianne LaFrance, professor of psychology at Yale and senior author of the study published the journal psychological Bulletin. ” This is not a function of being male or female. Each culture overlays men and women with rules about appropriate behavior for men and women”

Minimal differences
The cultural variables were also interesting, with women in the United States and Canada smiling more than in other parts of the world, (England and Australia) African-American men and women smile equally, while there is indeed a gender difference amongst American Caucasians. They also noted that when occupying similar work, power and social roles, the gender differences in the rate of smiling disappears or is minimal. Here, LaFrance surmises that the sex differences are overridden by smile norms for the position one is in, rather than by gender.

Perceptions
As they rise up the career ladder, the rate at which women smile therefore is line with their male counterparts. This is why Hillary Clinton, Angela Merkel and any other senior professional woman would conduct themselves correctly! The converse then should presumably apply and men working in service roles should be motivated to crank up their own smile levels a notch or two. Speaking from personal experience, I would suggest some French waiters or male railway personnel (Platform 5, East Croydon to London Victoria) might be a good target market for any future books on the appropriateness of the male smile.

Assigned roles
Research also shows that the facial expressions of men when stressed become fearful and angry, while the incidence with women is less. So in male dominated stressful business environments are we just conditioned to expect this type of reaction from our leaders than anything else? Do we simply expect our leaders to look fierce? Perhaps this is the reason why according to Management Today trust in CEOS increases when a woman is in charge in difficult times.

Imprecise vocabulary
What sort of situations would therefore merit accusations of smiling inappropriately, or is it simply poor word choice? Delivering bad or sensitive news with a wide grin perhaps? Smiling when anxious, more accurately called grimacing. A sarcastic smile – known as a smirk? As women are recognised as having superior qualities of empathy, then the same research would suggest that they are actually less likely to react inappropriately. LaFrance says women are more likely to smile to defuse tension doing what she calls “emotion work” – but as creativity tends to go out of the window when tension exists why is this negative?

Trap 1 of the smiling myth
Perhaps the smiling quotient (and herein lies the first trap) is related to the fact that women have traditionally carried out service functions and men have been assigned ” warrior” roles. Their smiles are therefore perceived (no matter what they are achieving) as being an indication of deference , and therefore self sabotaging, in leadership roles. This myth is now even being perpetuated by women themselves.

Trap 2 of the smiling myth
What is even more worrying that countless women now believe that in order to succeed they must modify a key and instinctive part of their behaviour to conform to male norms over and above what they do naturally as their careers progress up the male hierarchy. That will lead to that age-old fall back of course, the second gender trap: accusations of PMS in the corner office.

What do you think?

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10 ways women supposedly sabotage their careers!

Citibank’s career advice for women! ( updated September 15th 2010)

My good friend Silvana Delatte sent me this link from Business Insider about a laminated sheet supposedly issued by the HR department of Citibank on how women sabotage their careers. If this is not a spoof (which I suspect it might be) then it makes interesting, if not incredible (as in unbelievable) reading.

Nowhere does it mention doing a bad job, so perhaps good performance isn’t necessary to advance a career in Citibank! This list would be infinitely less risible if the almost all male board had not been part of a group of testosterone driven mis- managers which brought global economies grinding to a halt. The subsequent government bail out was at great cost to the tax payer and impacted the lives of millions. Perhaps some of that money could be used to invest in constructive gender based management training, clearly sorely needed. I can make any number of excellent recommendations, so please contact me Citibank!

So let’s look at this list and analyse it!

  •  Women tend to speak softly – you are not heard. Anyone speaking softly isn’t heard, especially in the company of people who talk too much and don’t listen! Good managers listen! Being heard is also not about the volume of the voice but the pitch. Women could be advised to reduce the pitch of their voices by half a semi-tone.
  •  Women groom in public – it emphasizes your femininity, de-emphasizes your capability: Grooming in public is a no no – for anyone. That’s why companies have bathrooms!
  • Women sit demurely – the power position when seated at a table is forearms resting on a table and resting forward. Good posture in business meetings accompanied by positive body language and facial expressions, indicating engagement is a given. Nowhere, even in AskMen, have I seen any suggestions that leaning forward and appearing aggressive is a bonus.

Are you sabotaging your career? Look at the career coaching programmes! 

  • Speak last in meetings – early speakers are seen as more assertive and knowledgeable than late speakers. Thinking before speaking and measured contribution is never to be under estimated. This is probably because the people who are making this judgement are poor listeners and have the attention span of pre-schoolers.
  • Women ask permission – children are taught to ask permission. Men don’t ask permission, they inform. I actually agree with this one. However polite deference is not to be confused with approval seeking and definitely preferable to arrogant bamboozling.
  •  Apologize – women apologize for the smallest error which erodes your self-confidence. Men tend to move into problem solving mode. I agree with this one too. Women apologise for even the smallest thing even if it’s not their fault or there is nothing to apologise for.  But having said that for many the word “sorry” is missing from their vocabulary. Problem solving is not the same as admitting a mistake and dealing with it. Problem solving can be aka covering up. and /or reactive management.
  •  Women tend to smile inappropriately when delivering a message, therefore you are not getting taken seriously Well I did some quick research on this little gem and would be interested to see the metrics on that. Women do smile more than men, mainly to soften situations that is true. Smiling would only be inappropriate when delivering extremely bad news. I seriously doubt if a woman would do that unless she really disliked the person. Then she might well do.
  •  Play fair – women tend to be more naive. A women might assume the rules have to be obeyed whereas a man will figure out a way to stretch the rules and not be punished. So is the message here ladies, playing dirty is fine? May I suggest that stretching the rules was what got Citibank into its little pickle. There is surely no substitute for professional integrity. Besides the activities of the mascara mafia have been well documented. Women can and do play dirty, but target mainly other women.
  •  Being invisible – women tend to operate behind the scenes and end up handing credit over to the competitor. This is a fair point – women have to stop waiting for recognition and step up and get out of the support roles. But then whoever is stealing their thunder should have a little more professional integrity (see above). Good managers recognise and reward.
  • Offer a limp handshake – one good pump and a concise greeting combined with solid eye contact will do the trick. Agree with this too except this isn’t an arm wrestling contest. I would suggest that firm contact would be infinitely preferable to “one good pump” which implies a potential dislocated shoulder.

So ladies, what advice would you give the gentlemen of Citibank?

Apart from ” Do try not to bankrupt anyone today, darling.”

Written with a smile! Please see also follow up post “Trapped! Women and the Smiling Myth

September 15th 2010 -Update! An interesting post came across my screen today, which now makes some sense of the aforementioned problem-causing laminated sheet issued by Citibank. It isn’t a spoof , although it seemed that way. I was right to apply some cynicism.

Writing for The Thin Pink Line Blog, Lois Frankel says that this sheet has taken points from her book ” Nice girls don’t get the corner office ” completely out of context  and she tries to set the record straight in her post .

I did read the book some time ago and will have to revisit it. Condensed to bumper-sticker style homilies these points seem dated and Lois was right, taken at face value they don’t make a lot of sense, so they need to be evaluated in context, which I will certainly do. On her own admission the title including the term “nice” was forced upon her by her publisher. Some of the most successful people ( corner office holders) I know have been simply all around “nice” ( male and female).

That sheet certainly aroused a good discussion!

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 you get your own job if you had to apply for it?

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. This happens 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 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?

Could you get your own job?

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?