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Career Success

The Canary in Your Coalmine

Are you a sensitive person? Do you work with any sensitive people? Then caution and celebration are required! You see, human sensitivity represents danger (when we ignore it or overplay it) and opportunity (when we engage with it properly) ...

Recently a good friend was having a relapse of depression. Instead of being his usual bright, cheerful, active and healthy self, he looked exhausted, uptight and sad. Nothing wrong with these very human feelings (most of us will experience them at times). They only become a problem when we start spiraling downwards, believing that our recovery and happiness are both unlikely and undeserved.

Be Careful. They're watching you ...

Do you know what your personal brand is?

Whether or not you think much about it, you definitely have one!

As Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, put it:
"Your brand is what people say about you when you're not in the room."

Of course, these days many of the conversations about people are not just happening face to face. The exponential growth of web-based communication has led to more and more conversations happening anywhere, at any time.

Social media is a powerful way of passing information around more widely and more quickly. You can reach more people with the words and images that you want to share.

This opportunity is paired with a danger.

Do You Have Passion for Your Profession?

I remember the exact moment when I realised I was in the wrong profession. I was 23 years old and sitting on a bus on my way to work in the city of Adelaide. It happened after I suddenly tuned into a conversation behind me. That moment was to ultimately trigger a major career change for me.

Some teenagers were talking about a new programming language. That was significant to me because writing software was my profession.

I immediately realised two things.

Firstly, I would have to keep updating my skills, or one of these kids would take my job one day. (Well, that was hardly surprising in a field where things were changing so fast!)

However, it was the second realisation that most concerned me: I had no desire to learn a new programming language!

I had lost the passion for my profession and I quickly saw I would be in trouble if nothing changed.

Four Lessons from Four Apprentices

Last week, the final of “The Apprentice” was watched by 10 million viewers, Alan Sugar selected inventor Tom Pellereau as the winner of the £250,000 investment.

Before the finalists disappear from our awareness, let’s just consider some simple lessons that can help point the way to success and failure in the corporate world.

Now, I’m well aware that what we see on TV isn’t the whole truth about the individuals, their personal qualities and behaviours. However, what we did see can be used to illustrate certain points.

Lesson 1. Fancy talk is not enough

Go Slow to Go Fast!

Today in London I had coffee with a fellow Australian who holds non-executive chairman roles and has held some very senior executive positions in his distinguished career. I was keen to learn his views on what emerging leaders need to know and do to ensure their career success.

Having committed myself to accelerating the development of the next generation of leaders, I find it helpful to either reinforce or extend my existing knowledge on the subject.

His comments did both.

We agreed that some things have changed since his days as a young leader stepping up into big roles in his 20's and 30's, compared to today's new generation of leaders. These include:

  • There used to be more middle management roles to enable progression
  • Career path choices were more simple and straight forward

Are Men Really More Confident?

Yesterday, I was talking with friend about the "imposter syndrome" (see my March 14 blog). She suggested that men and women tend to take a different approach. For example, in considering a new job opportunity, a man will go for the role, even if he only has 5 of the 10 criteria, whereas a woman may not go for it even if she has 9 of the 10 criteria!

There may be some truth in this broad generalisation.

If we look at cultural/social conditioning, men tend to be socialised to appear strong, confident and in control. It is considered more acceptable for a woman to question herself, whether it is around professional competency or physical attractiveness.

How to Kick the Imposter Syndrome

On Saturday, I gave a talk about the "imposter syndrome."

It is not uncommon for emerging leaders to experience the imposter syndrome when they step up into a much bigger role at a relatively young age. Excitement about the opportunity is often mixed with some fear of failure.

Here is a simple approach that will help you get the balance right and build your confidence.

We can experience the imposter syndrome when we find ourselves in a situation and then start to question whether we're actually good enough to be there, and whether we'll cope with any challenges. There is a little voice inside our head telling us that we may fail because we are trying to do something we've not done before. We can feel like a fraud, waiting to be found out!

How we relate with that little voice makes all the difference.

Here are 3 different ways (illustrated by examples from my own life):

Example 1.

If you don't ask ...

Last week, my eldest son, James turned 16. Just six days later he got his first paid job. How? Well let me first tell you how he nearly DIDN'T get it.

If you have teenage children you know that they can start to get more expensive.

We were keen to see James start doing some part time work. Not just to give him some extra money but to help him: (1) gain experience working with others to create value in exchange for payment (2) appreciate the value of money (3) build confidence in his capacity to go out to work.

James was interested in getting some part time work (especially as some of his friends have started part time jobs while they study) but was perhaps a little fearful of the unknown and/or rejection, like many of us are.

What is Your Hidden Legacy?

Today over lunch a former client reminded me how he had negotiated a better pay package using an approach I taught him several years ago. Then he recounted how he recently negotiated a better business deal using the same principles.

After lunch, I caught up with another former client I'd not seen since last year. She had a rather more painful story to share regarding the recent breakdown of her marriage. What was remarkable in her case was how well she was coping with a very challenging set of circumstances that were not of her choosing. She shared that her own personal development during my work with her was enabling her to handle this crisis much more effectively than she would otherwise have done.

Career Success for Future Leaders

Today I spent two hours with students of the NEA (National Enterprise Academy) founded by Peter Jones, star of TV's Dragons Den. These future leaders, aged from 16 to 19 have elected to take a BTEC course teaching them enterprise and entrepreneurship.

In preparing to speak to this particular audience, I needed to remember that they don't have the same reference points as the leaders and business people I normally speak to.

Nevertheless, I wanted to give them the opportunity to avoid some of the classic mistakes made by emerging leaders.

Early in the session, I asked how many people wanted to be successful. Not surprisingly, everyone said yes. I then asked them to think about what success meant for them and wrote their responses on the flip chart. It was also not surprising to see words such as wealth, freedom, happiness, satisfaction, and goal achievement. There was also mention of obtaining possessions such as fast motorbikes, cars and private jets!