Monthly Archives

March 2011

How I let my inner “control freak”go

By | Leadership, Results

You could say I’m a control freak….ahhh I mean, was a control freak. Typical Type A personality, my way is best, do it like this, do it now, faster, better and have you finished yet? Okay don’t worry, I’ll do it myself.

Funny right? The results were not so funny. After running a business with this way of thinking, things piled up and suddenly I felt the weight of the world on my shoulders. Being interrupted 100 times a day, phone calls, long hours, always correcting things, meetings, performance issues and resignations.  I was at the end of my tether and knew things had to change or I was headed to burn out.

I was drowning and did not want to reach out to anyone fearing it was as a sign of weakness. It’s very easy to whinge about circumstances and not do anything to change it – but I’m a big believer in ongoing learning and improving performance so I got a business coach.

The first session I remember being asked to write down all the things that were worrying me, causing stress and anything I was downright unhappy about. I got two and half pages worth and thought oh dear….I’m in big trouble here, can I turn this around?

Looking in the mirror at my situation and largely my leadership (gulp!) I realised that perhaps I wasn’t all that much fun and probably 25% of the time I was a pain to work for.  In fact, I’m sure some of my staff at that time might have used stronger words than that! All in all, I was pretty hard to please.

The ultimate principles that I learnt and still use today are simple:

  1. People want to perform – they come to work with the intention of doing a good job
  2. Give people the tools to do their job and then get out of the way
  3. Give feedback immediately and be specific about what they did or didn’t do and the subsequent results
  4. High expectations are needed for high performance (just don’t demand it!)
  5. Communication delivery is the difference between a delighted and disappointed staff member
  6. Listen to your gut – if I feel a situation isn’t resolved, the chances are extremely high that the other person feels it isn’t either – go back, regroup and resolve it
  7. Don’t hang on to issues – make decisions
  8. Give people opportunities to take on greater responsibility and coach along the way
  9. Mistakes are essential in learning – that’s part of the journey
  10. Take time to think about situations, don’t react immediately

The change was fundamental. I learnt that controlling everything was detrimental to me, the business and the team.  The results were my team thinking for themselves, making decisions and experiencing increased job satisfaction.  Staff turnover diminished, I learnt to love my job again and work/life balance was achieved.

The best advice I have for control freaks? Empower others, let go, live a little and lose control. Go on, I dare you!

Why is confidence still an issue for women at work?

By | Confidence, Results, Retention

Over the years I would have mentored and coached more than 100 women formally and informally in business. It still puzzles mehow many successful women still suffer from both a lack of confidence and self-belief at work.  Some of these women openly admit this is what is holding them back, while others suffer in silence and it is proven through their behaviour of self- doubting and not believing they can achieve or are worthy of success.  When they achieve a record result or win a new client, it is nearly brushed aside as no big deal or anyone could have done that.

It has been one of my biggest frustrations leading a team of all women.  These women are amazing. They inspire me on a daily basis with what they achieve in the corporate world, at home and outside of work. To be surrounded by such talent and enthusiasm makes it easy to come to work every day.

So how is it that on nearly a weekly basis, a coaching session reverts back ultimately to a lack of self-confidence around a sales pitch, negotiation, making a call to a new contact or giving professional advice? Why do they often doubt their expertise around what they know and have successfully practiced for years and years?

As a Leader, it presents a daily and immediate challenge to coach on. I find myself continually coming up with new techniques and tactics to reinforce what I already think and believe about these women, expecting that they start believing it themselves. These include:

  • Facts – giving them facts and figures about their performance that can’t be argued. For example, you have won 8 new clients this month, you have achieve $30K in revenue for the business, you won 80% of the proposals you submitted and you have a 99% retention rate on all placements you have made. Hard to argue with real data!
  • Give them something to believe in – I have found that women in particular are more effective when they are working towards a greater purpose, to achieve an ultimate goal, other than just making money.  They need to believe in something greater than their individual performance to see they are making a difference in business, themselves and ultimately in the lives of others.
  • Reward and recognition – a verbal recognition at a meeting, a group email praising their achievements or a tangible reward such as a piece of jewellery, a dinner with their partner or clothing seems to generate a greater response than an increase in salary or a  large commission cheque (although that works too!).
  • Expect confidence – treating team members as confident professional and expecting they can do the things they may hesitate to take on. You get what you expect.
  • Being uncomfortable – sometimes I have had the best success asking them to do something that they really don’t want to it and it pushes them way outside their comfort zone.  So much so, they learn the most and their confidence sky rockets.
  • Fake it until you make it – sometimes when you don’t feel 100% confident in a situation, I encourage my team to “fake it until you make it”.  This is not about lying your way through a situation, it’s about exuding confidence, remaining calm and delivering a rational response. I remember being 21 conducting a meeting with a CFO in large blue-chip organisation and being drilled about the current market conditions and salaries.  Instead of being intimidated and bumbling through answers, I was clear and confident and if I wasn’t 100% sure, I said I would find out and get back to him. It won me this client until this day purely because of my confidence.
  • Role models and inspiration – I encourage my team to read books, seek out mentors outside of our business and to learn from others’ success.  The best mentors can be those that have achieved the results you aspire to and follow their recipe for success rather than reinventing the wheel.   Surround yourself with these people and learn as much as you.

Can self-confidence be learnt or re-built? Can we coach to overcome it? In my experience the best we can do is nurture the talent that we have, believe in people and hope to inspire them to things they didn’t even think they were capable of.

How to retain top talent

By | Retention

The recruitment industry is notorious for high staff turnover. Statistics range from 43% (Staff Turnover: A Recruitment Industry Crisis) to the average length of service of a new Recruitment Consultant being 8 months! Ironic for an industry that specialises in recruiting the right staff for their clients to make a buck!

So interesting as I reflect on my recruitment career, that I too left my first recruitment role after exactly 8 months.  I didn’t leave because it was too hard or I wasn’t succeeding, in fact the opposite was true – I was out billing the existing consultants, thriving in a new corporate career and enjoying my interactions with clients and candidates.  I left because of leadership (lack of it) and culture.

I left the industry. I had no other job to go to. I didn’t have a clear idea of what I was going to do. The following year, I was put back on my path to success by two of my mentors Greg Savage and Ross Clennett.  They hired me to assist in the start up of the Adelaide office of Recruitment Solutions and what a refreshing approach! They practiced what they preached; they were only interested in top performance regardless of years of experience or age (I was only 21!). I was treated as an equal member of the team, they believed in me and I delivered what they expected – top performance. The outcome – I loved the culture, was inspired by the leadership and stayed.

Two different examples and two different outcomes based on the same criteria.

Now 9.5 years into leading Entrée Recruitment in Adelaide, I have learnt many of my retention lessons the hard way – through making mistakes in the first place.  I won’t say its fool proof, but I am confident the recipe is working as the average length of service for my consulting team is 5 years.  Some of the key ingredients include:

  1. Recruit the right people – competencies, attitude and culture fit is mandatory.  Forget experience and length of service in a similar role.
  2. Believe in them – assume people want to perform at their best and relate to them as a top performer, don’t expect anything less.
  3. Empower others – being the leader doesn’t mean making all the decisions and that I know best.
  4. Flexibility – give people the tools and freedom to achieve their goals.
  5. Feedback –recognising top performance ensures that it happens again and people learn the most when they are uncomfortable.

How can you retain top talent? It’s not about money and perks such as days off for your birthday and free yoga classes – although nice and staff will appreciate it, it isn’t what gets them to stick around long term. Its 2 things – leadership and culture.

Become a better leader, have great systems and an inspiring culture.  Only then can you attract the top talent that will stay.

Health 1st, Family 2nd & Work 3rd ….What’s Your Order?

By | Results, Work Life Balance

Last week a candidate of mine become ill only 2 weeks into her new permanent job.  She felt terribly guilty about taking any time off believing that she would not be creating a great first impression.  She spoke to her new boss and surprisingly he said to her “take off as many days as you need to get better – health comes first, family second and work third”.  How many bosses take the same approach I wonder? I was certainly impressed.  So, this candidate took 3 days off getting herself better and returned happy, confident and not at all guilty.

I am not sure this case would be overly common in the business world.  As this week, I caught up with another client who complained that “Sally” was off sick yet again – her 5th day in only a matter of months.  He felt that it was disrupting to work flows and she was becoming unreliable.  I enquired if she was really sick and he admitted that she wasn’t well and hadn’t been for several days – ‘isn’t it better that she is at home and doesn’t spread it around to everyone else?’ I enquired. He wasn’t overly convinced and mumbled something in his coffee about ‘yes but….”.

So saying health first, family second and work third – is this just a new employer saying the right thing to impress a new recruit or is it firmly held value and belief that is practiced as well as preached?

I personally can relate to this new order.  After my second child in August 2009, I returned to work in early 2010 with the all the gung-ho spirit and energy to conquer the world.  In reality what was happening was I was struggling to get enough gas in the tank just to get out of bed in the morning.  No amount of coffee, self-talk or sugar-hits could make me physically replicate what I mentally wanted to be – the energiser bunny!   I put it down to being a mother of 2 under five, wife, career woman, the baby waking in the night, not getting enough ‘me’ time etc etc.  Not once did I consider that it was potentially a health problem.

Months and months of “running on empty” with all sorts of self-diagnosis, friendly family advice and incorrect GP conclusions – led me to make health a priority to figure out what exactly was going on.  A long story short was yes in fact I was suffering from hashimoto’s thyroiditis. The results came in a matter of weeks all from changing my priorities to making health number one and it positively impacted on all the other areas of my life.  Suddenly I could read bed time stories without yawning, the business revenues increased and I was able to successfully juggle all the things on my plate.

This breakthrough moment has certainly reinforced to me that health must come first to enable me to make family a priority and only then can I be truly effective and productive as a leader in my business.

What’s your order?