Monday, July 28, 2014

How to Become Indispensable

With the way businesses shift and change, downsizing and rightsizing at will, it is difficult for anyone to feel truly 'safe' with their jobs today.  However, the company has to keep someone during these changes and the ideal situation is for one of them to be you!

When it comes to 'restructuring' situations, most people sit back and cross their fingers, hoping that their good work will be remembered, or the donuts they bring in occasionally are appreciated.  However, it is imperative that you take actions today that truly help you to build the profile of someone that adds true value to the organization, someone that is needed in whatever the future is that they are envisioning, someone that is indispensable to the company.

Although there are clearly no guarantees that I can offer you, I can give you the following tips that you can follow today, which just may prove to be your life-preserver tomorrow.

1.  Consider that every day at work... is an interview for your job.  In an interview you are making an effort to put your best foot forward, ensuring that you are seen in the best possible light.  Don't stop.  Career guru Barbara Moses likens this to the difference between dating and marriage.  When dating you suck in your gut and highlight all of your positive attributes.  When married things may tend to slack off a little.  You no longer are 'selling'.  If you are employed by someone else you must constantly be selling yourself.

2.  Add value.  When it comes to being seen as someone who adds value to the organization and is worth retaining, it helps if you are someone who is truly adding value.  Don't mistake 'busyness' with value.  This is not about just getting 'stuff' done, it is about getting the 'right stuff' done.  If you aren't engaged in activities - every day - that are making a difference to the company's bottom line then go and find some that do.  If you're simply keeping busy pushing paper then, when forced to take cost cutting measures, they will find a cheaper way of pushing that paper around.

3.  Build your Brand and Profile.  When it comes to making the decisions about who to keep and who to cut, your reputation in the company will have a significant influence over which list you hit.  Take the time now to assess what your current perception within the organization is, what your key differentiators are, and start consciously building a brand that highlights your worth.  You must work at building this before you need it, and you must do so both consciously and strategically.  If you don't have the level of self-awareness needed to clearly assess how you are currently viewed then find someone to help you determine this.  You can't build strategies from an inaccurate base of understanding.

4.  Take charge of your career development.  Lamenting that the company failed to train you for the requisite skills of the future does nothing to help you when you are out of work.  Your career is your responsibility, which means that your development is also. Working for a company that will pay for this development is a privilege, not a job requirement.  Although it may be in their best interest to keep your skills current, it is not their responsibility.  If they aren't investing in you... then you need to.  This is how you stay marketable, both internally and externally.  You don't hurt anyone but yourself by taking a back seat in your development.

5.  Build relationships with key Decision Makers.  It is always easier to make decisions to cut employees that are simply names on a sheet of paper.  These kinds of decisions are tough to make at the best of times and are much more difficult when you have an established relationship with the person.  The more that you create visibility with decision makers, helping them to know and understand who you are and what you bring to the table, the easier it will be for them to keep you on board.  The more that they know, like, and respect you and the value you bring, the easier it will be for them to justify keeping you on board.

Although you can't be one hundred percent positive of a company's ongoing need for your services, you can take charge of ensuring that you remain and indispensable to them as possible.  The nice side benefit of course, is that the better you position yourself within your current organization, the more marketable you are to others.  Therefore, ensuring you are indispensable today also serves to make you a top candidate in the job market.  You know... just in case!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Five Secrets to Leadership Success

Everyone has ideas and suggestions for helping you to improve in your life, to become more successful. After all, they have experience in 'what's worked for them' to fall back on.  When it comes to leadership though,it may become more difficult to find those who have had the experience and success you seek to gain wisdom from.

In my practice I work with Leaders in all shapes and sizes, from across multiple industries, and have studied Leadership in its many guises.  The following are 5 key Secrets others have shared with me consistently, that have been instrumental in helping them to lead successfully.

1.  No One Leads Well if they Don't Want to be the Leader.  There are likely more examples in your organization of people in a Leadership role that, in their heart of hearts, really don't want to be leading others. Often they have taken the role for reasons other that truly wanting to lead...

  • Some may have felt that they 'had' to take the role 
  • Some because it was the 'next step' and is part of the career ladder we're all supposed to be climbing
  • Some because they would feel like a 'failure' if they didn't
  • Some because they wanted the money, the title and/or the office
  • Some because they didn't want to report to the person who would get the role if they didn't take it
The result, of course, is that if you took the role for anything other than wanting to lead, you likely aren't going to find that your 'reason' results in your being a particularly good leader.  It is those few who lead because they truly like leading, the good and the bad of it, that are the remarkable leaders.  People talk about the need to find your 'why' in life, that if your why is strong enough it will provide the motivation you need to succeed at whatever you put in front of yourself.  This is true of leadership.  Examine your why.

2.  Learn to Listen.  A bigger title means that more people will feel compelled to listen to you.  However, there is much to learn by listening to others; their ideas, dreams and wants.  You can't know all there is to know about a situation unless you listen to the insights of others.  Show respect for those around you and listen fully and intentfully to what they have to share.

3.  Always be Fair in your Treatment of Others.  Note that I am not necessarily talking about treating people equally.  People are unique and have uniquely varying needs.  Providing equal treatment and time to each person may not address their needs, but treating their needs fairly might.  Providing equal day care to all would fail to address employees that no longer have a need for day care but would welcome assistance with the elder care issues they struggle with.  Although people may speak about the desire for equality in all things, it is actually a base of equality with a judicial application of fairness on top that creates a stand out leader.  

4.  Lead Through the Strengths of Others.  Job descriptions are deceptive, leading us to delegate according to what others 'should' be doing and not according to the strengths they bring to the table or to their potential. However, assessing the strengths of each team member, and ascertaining their undeveloped potential in other areas, gives you a better clue as to what to delegate to whom.  Assigning work according to strengths and potential not only gets better work done sooner but does more to develop your team than forcing someone to become mediocre at something they will never be great at, simply because it's on a job description.  

5.  Your Thinking Time is Critical Time.  Schedule time to 'think' or you will get caught up putting out fires all of the time.  This will feel important, but it will do nothing for moving you, your team or your organization forward.  If you want improvements, want to avoid stagnation, want to grow... then you need time to think about the situation and to actively seek out solutions.  Thinking time IS working time.  Make time for it.

My sincerest hope is that these Leadership Secrets help you to strengthen your leadership skills and potential.  However, bear in mind that I listed the first secret first because it is the key to your Leadership Success and is foundational to everything.  If you truly don't want to lead... don't be surprised by not being held up as the prime example of a Great Leader.  As with all things, we get what we want.  If you truly don't want to lead you're probably not going to be the best at it.  That said though, rekindle your interest in leading by taking time to explore what you DO like about it and use those small moments to jump start your interest.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Top 5 Tips for Improving your Emotional Intelligence

I am a student of success.  I believe that my clients, regardless of the presenting reasons they provide for hiring me as a coach, are all looking for greater success in their lives and careers.  This means that the more I learn about success factors the more I have to share with others.  My recent book is testimony to my ongoing fascination with the subject, providing you with 365 quick, actionable tips for success.

Despite my commitment to and fascination with learning, 'book' smarts are not enough to be successful.  You also need 'street' smarts to succeed, which is where Emotional Intelligence kicks in.  Studies are now showing just how critical Emotional Intelligence is to the success equation.  In fact, recent studies have found that 90% of top performers, within the organizations reviewed, are all high on the Emotional Intelligence scale.  These and other findings have led top Business Schools such as Yale to begin looking at Emotional Intelligence scores, along with high academic scores, to bolster their admittance criteria.  Their focus means it should also be your focus!

Consider Emotional Intelligence to be two key skill areas:
  • the ability to express and control our emotions
  • coupled with the ability to understand, interpret and respond appropriately to the emotions of others
Despite some ongoing debate on whether Emotional Intelligence is innate or can be learned, I believe strongly in the ability of each of us to improve whatever natural skills we were born with.  Indeed, much of my coaching practice enhances skills that relate to Emotional Intelligence, despite that not being the primary intent.  In order to help you to strengthen your skills and thereby heighten your success, I have pulled together what I feel are the Top 5 tips that will help you to develop your Emotional Intelligence.

  1. Increase your Self Awareness.  You can't change or improve what you don't know needs changing or improvement.  If you do not regularly receive constructive feedback from others (360's are great tools for this) then you might want to explore some options for gaining some unbiased feedback regarding how others perceive you, how you interact with others, etc.  If your company doesn't offer tools such as this for their employees, or for your level, consider investing in it yourself.  Great leaders seek out the truth in how they come across to others in order to improve.  You need to do the same.
  2. Strengthen and Practice your Communication Skills.  We know that our words have power but we often overlook the fact that 50 - 93% of our messages are conveyed through non-verbal channels.  The more that you strengthen your non-verbals skills, and your ability to read those of others, the greater your emotional intelligence quotient will be.
  3. Develop your Listening Skills.  Yes, I know that technically Listening is part of the Communication process but in reality most people are either speaking or waiting to speak.  There is very little listening taking place.  Listening is usually an under-developed communication skill and deserves to be highlighted.  Everyone wants to be heard.  Your learning to listen more intentionally and purposefully helps you to receive more information from your dialogues with others.  Additionally, it develops the focus needed to help you recognise many of the messages coming from secondary messaging streams (like through non-verbals)
  4. Show Interest in Others.  The more that you understand about the others you interact with the greater your ability to engage them positively.  Consider how valuable it would prove if you knew their interests, family situation, values, motivations.  Paying attention to others and showing interest in them, beyond what they can do for you, helps them to feel connected and valued which, in turn, makes them want to do more for you!
  5. Learn to Recognise your Stress Triggers & Cues.  Let's face it, when we're stressed out we are likely to be more emotional, have a shorter fuse and be paying more attention to ourselves than to others.  In short, we tend to exercise less emotional intelligence in these stressed moments.  Improving our ability to recognise stressful moments (so we see 'em coming!) helps us to put more structure and support systems in place.  We therefore navigate the situation better, thereby reducing our stress level and leaving ourselves better able to manage our emotional response to it.  Sometimes though, stress sneaks up on us and we don't have the luxury of recognising it and planning for it.  It is therefore also useful to learn to recognise our stress cues, understanding how stress tends to manifest itself within us. For example, you may feel stress in your head primarily, resulting in your sleeping poorly, experiencing difficulty in concentrating, feeling the need to create to-do lists of your to-do lists.  If you learn to identify where you feel stress and how it typically manifests then you can use any of those cues as your early warning system, knowing that when they show up you are likely not in the best emotional state, highlighting the need to manage your emotional responses more consciously until you are under control again.
Like any muscle, you need to use a skill to strengthen it.  The 5 tips above will help you to grow and strengthen your Emotional Intelligence helping you to not only become more adept in managing and regulating your emotional responses but in perceiving and understanding the emotional cues of others.  Not only proving to be a tremendous asset in building your Success but skills that epitomize truly great Leaders.

(for more information on Emotional Intelligence you might want to check out Daniel Goleman's books below, which should be a part of any business and success library)


Monday, July 7, 2014

Networking No-No's

We've all been there.  We attend a networking event in the hopes of making a positive connection with others but wind up meeting people  we find it hard to like much less feel any connection to. Although networking is a useful tool if we are looking to grow our business, our skill base or our contact list, it can end up feeling like an endless parade of posers. Before we get too caught up into the cycle of blaming others for their lack of engagement, we should spend time exploring our networking habits and ensure that we are not a source of some of the issues we are experiencing!

The following are the top list of Networking No-No's... those behaviours to avoid if you want to be successful in making useful and positive connections.

Focusing only on what you want and need from an exchange.  It is great to enter into networking situations with a specific goal or need, some skill or service that you need to access, but if you're only focused on yourself and not on what you have to give you will turn people off and have them turning away.  Focusing only on your needs will not make you a positive connection for others, despite how important the contact may be for you.  Always be clear about finding ways to make yourself valuable to others.  Focusing on giving before getting will serve to establish you as someone worth keeping in their contact list, not deleting.

Being a Know-It-All.  People can sometimes go over-board trying to appear 'useful' to others by highlighting knowledge they seemingly have about 'everything'.  Using big words to sound impressive and intelligent, attempting to appear to be an expert at everything, simply to bump up your perceived profile, will turn more potential contacts off than on.  Be clear about what areas your expertise truly lie in and highlight those, allowing your connections to shine in others.  Using your familiarity with their field to boost their profile, rather than yours, will make them far more favourably disposed to you, and increases the likelihood of their reciprocating, supporting you in turn.

Pre-setting your station to... The 'You' Tube.  If your conversation is skewed to your talking about You - continuously - then you will not only leave your audience turned off but looking for a way to turn you off as well!  We all get that you have done interesting things in your life but you need to balance your sharing with some seeking behaviours.  Ask others about their experiences, their lives, their businesses, their skills.  Showing interest in others will make you appear more interesting.  Connecting with others involves an exchange, hard to do if you are the only one talking.

Looking for the 'next' connection.  When you are speaking with someone you need to be looking at them, not over their shoulder scouting out the 'next' person you want to nab and pass your card to.  The art of networking is based in the formation of connections.  To do that you need to be present to the moment and paying attention to the person in front of you.  If you are more focused on the 'next' person to meet, than in truly meeting and connecting with the person you are conversing with, you might want to consider staying home... it will net you the same results.

Playing the one-up game.  Don't get caught up in listening to someone's story with the intent to top it with one of your own.  This is not an open exchange but rather a subtle competition designed to highlight who is 'best'.  This says more about your insecurity than about your content and will do more to decrease your perceived value than increase it.  I know that people get caught up in one-upsmanship games in an attempt to make themselves appear better, smarter, or more valuable than others but it leaves a bad taste in others' mouths.  If you have to make yourself look good by making someone else look bad you will find yourself on the losing end.

Networking events can be a tremendous resource for your growing business and career, if used correctly.  Avoiding these 5 Networking No-No's will help you to be more successful in getting the return you need from your networking efforts.