Category

Change

Stress drowning you out? What I learnt in 7 days of silence ……

By | Change, Results, Work Life Balance

449854baad05e50f85d103d6ed02cb3aStress is an epidemic in our 21st century – most of us have experienced it or watched those around us suffer with it. It has become part of our modern lives with expectations of work, family, juggling social commitments and the pursuit of “when I get there…I’ll be happy” philosophy.

I see it working with stressed clients – those that have lost their energy and their desire. They have forgotten why they do what they do and seem a little sad and a little lost in their journey for happiness and fulfillment. I attended a client’s board meeting a few weeks ago and the Chairman admitted that their CEO had lost some of his “mojo”. They want to help him get it back. To see him stop, relax, reflect and refocus on the bigger picture of ‘what’s the point’ in all of this. It was a good reminder, that the leader sets the tone – so this personal clarity and realignment is critical when you are the one steering the ship and setting the example.

To walk my talk, I checked out last week. I left the country and headed for the mountains of Bali where I embarked on a journey of just that – silence, reflection and time to just stop. To remove all daily activity, stimulation and to rejuvenate. There was no wi-fi, no laptop, no iPhone, no contact with family, friends or clients, no email, no twitter, no Facebook …. there was nothing. I was apprehensive that I wouldn’t cope! But in reality it took less than 24 hours to switch off from the “outside” world and it was blissful. I really didn’t miss my daily ‘crutches’ or distractions!

I gave up my control freak, let go of my to do list and forgot the constant multi-tasking. This was a retreat to focus inwards. It certainly wasn’t what I would call a ‘normal’ holiday. No cocktails by the pool, eating whatever I want and long lazy sleep in’s. Now before you think I ran away to a “happy clappy” cult where we all sat around chanting, it was actually a profound reminder of the benefits of switching off.

In our group of 25, there wasn’t a dreadlock or nose-ring in sight; this certainly wasn’t a hippy commune in Nimbin. There were people from all over the world – successful entrepreneurs, a real estate agent, a builder, an advertising executive, HR manager, board director, retail manager, martial arts guru and even an ex AFL coach. However, it wasn’t about any of these labels or how we define ourselves in our lives back home. First and foremost, we were just individuals having some much-needed time out from our busy lives to give attention to the person we least give it to – ourselves.

A full detox from alcohol, caffeine, processed foods, media, technology and our daily addictions, we found ourselves experiencing the lows and highs of de-stressing our bodies, de-cluttering our minds, re-energising, being creative, feeling free and experiencing the magic of simplicity. I learnt the ability to switch off, I made new friends, I listened to different perspectives and concluded that perfection doesn’t exist – being in the present moment right here and now, is the most important thing of all.

Sometimes life can deliver an opportunity that puts us outside our comfort zone, as this certainly was for me. It is in these moments, when you’re least expecting it – you can learn the most profound lessons, see the most obvious with clarity and generate new and creative ideas that honestly just wouldn’t be possible in our normal day-to-day lives.

I left a lot of stress, stories about the past and worries for the future in those Bali mountains. I’ve returned grounded, refreshed, light and free….ready to paint a blank canvas.

Feeling like you need a re-start button? Visit www.oneliferetreats.net

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My Villa, Bagus Jati, Bali

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New Friends, Fresh Perspectives

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

People leave leaders…..the uncomfortable truth

By | Change, Empowerment, Leadership

Last week I went to a Women in Leadership lunch hosted by CEDA.  One of the speakers (Jane Caro) said, “we only change when it is too uncomfortable to stay the same”.  It really struck a chord with me.  It reminded me of several stages in my career, where this was the final straw and my catalyst for change.

One was a reminder, when this week, 12 months ago, I left my corporate role to start my own business.  The other was highlighted when one of my clients’ celebrated her 5th birthday in business this week.  In our session, I was genuinely excited for her. What a fabulous milestone! As a high achiever, she is still focused on being better and reaching her goals.

In that discussion, she asked me what were the major points for me in growing my last business that turned it from being a good business to that breakthrough moment when things were easier and it “just happens”.

I said there were 4 key things in my experience:

  1. Business Culture
  2. Empowering Leadership
  3. Retaining Key People
  4. Consistency of Service

BUT it was only when things were too uncomfortable to stay the same that things changed.

I remember that point like it was yesterday. I wrote two pages of frustrations (which I still have!) and all the concerns I had in the business at the time.  I felt completely overwhelmed looking at that list thinking where do I start?

One of the biggest issues that were causing emotional and financial pain was the turnover of staff. I have mentioned this before in previous posts, that in the recruitment industry this can be up to 45% and new Recruiters only last 8 months on average! I was certainly experiencing my fair share of turnover in the first few years and it was agonizing.

The impact to the bottom line is significant in terms of re-recruitment, re-training, lost revenue etc, but for me it was also the emotional cost. I remember sitting down with the owner and he said to me “Nicole, people leave leaders, not jobs”.  It was cutting.  It hurt my ego more than anything. My internal story went something like I’m a good leader, I believe in my people, I want the best for them – I just have high expectations.”  So, I decided to put together a spreadsheet of all the people who had left and look at the reasons they gave.  Now of course, some people never tell you the REAL reason for leaving so I decided to be really honest with myself and acknowledge what deep down I already knew to be true.  There was a combination of culture and leadership reasons – that was consistent.

It was at that point, I realised it was too uncomfortable to continue as things were.  Things needed to change, and fast.

Business culture – to change a culture overnight is impossible.  To move from a traditional recruitment culture of “client is king”, “core hours are 8am – 6pm”, “you are available 24/7”, “you always eat lunch at your desk (if at all)” and “taking calls before and after work is normal” was going be a big shift.  It required small steps starting from the top including a shift in mindset.  I remember when I first started coming in late on Friday morning so I could attend a pilates class, how uncomfortable it felt. I would creep back in the office hoping no one would notice.  Ridiculous in hindsight – I should have been promoting it.  This was my in-built belief that hours = work ethic.  I learnt to accept that my commitment and dedication wouldn’t be any less just because my actual number of hours were less. This was a big mindset shift that had to start at the top and was slowly filtered through. (I will be presenting at the RCSA conference in Fiji in 2 weeks on how I implemented this).

Empowering leadership – the statistics prove the theory that people leave leaders.  Not all the time, but it is certainly a contributing factor in a lot of cases and it was in mine.  I engaged a business coach and learnt that people’s perception of my leadership style and their experience of working for me was reality, not what I thought I was doing.  I had to embrace their reality and move to an empowering leadership style where my fundamental values and principles were still the same around performance, expectations and outcomes, but my delivery become more cohesive, consultative and empowering.

These two changes had significant positive impact on bottom line results and other performance indicators. But just as importantly (or more importantly) the effect on my job satisfaction, the enjoyment for the team, the transparency of our communication and a re-invigorated approach.  This allowed us to achieve two things that I often find companies struggle to accomplish.  We achieved employee’s desire for flexibility, work/life blend and career satisfaction with the company’s objective of a high performing team, revenue results and profitability.

We proved that flexible arrangements and productivity can co-exist and don’t have to be at the cost of the other. It was one of the biggest lessons in becoming a high performing and profitable firm where people wanted to work and stayed long-term.

To achieve this requires being uncomfortable and only then are we truly learning and becoming better than we currently are.

*My next post will discuss the other two areas of retaining key people and consistency of service. 

South Australia – the market, the future & the opportunity

By | Change, Results, Success

I attended the AMCHAM luncheon last week featuring Raymond Spencer, the Chair of the Economic Development Board in South Australia. I was curious to hear his view and outlook as clients and candidates have consistently been telling me over the past few months – it’s tough.  In 24 hours I had a job offer recalled due to ‘cash flow’ and ‘revenue concerns’ and another candidate told me he had his interview cancelled due to the company deciding to “not proceed for now”.  Let me just mention – both of these examples are in the apparently ‘booming’ resources sector. It demonstrates the current feeling of caution by businesses in Adelaide and this mentality of “let’s wait and see”.

Raymond certainly wasn’t backward in coming forward and was quite open in his observations and thoughts of the Adelaide business community.  I found his opinions to be refreshingly honest. In short, some of his comments included:

  • SA businesses aren’t aggressive enough – it’s just not part of our DNA and in general we have a glass half empty approach – being too quick to see what’s wrong vs. what’s right
  • We are very very lucky, there is a real opportunity here in SA right now – we just don’t realise how good we have it
  • Not enough attention is paid to organisational culture and embedding the right values and behaviours that deliver successful outcomes
  • We don’t support risk with the possibility of failure here vs. the US where innovation and risk are supported and expected
  • “People are our most important asset” – everyone says this, but how do you transfer this to your bottom line? It must come back to your culture and be entrenched in everything you do

I certainly felt he illustrated the conservatism in the Adelaide business community that “newbies” to our city usually describe and perhaps our definite lean towards pessimism not optimism. What they really mean is that we generally don’t like change and there is a fear factor about doing something different, taking a risk, considering alternatives or developing new relationships.  Doing things the way we have always done them tends to be our auto pilot strategy.

The bigger picture here of course is what Raymond highlighted  – that we are potentially missing a much larger opportunity.  This could pass us all by if we don’t come together as a business community and support each other, consider new alternatives such as joint ventures to win bigger business and be open to change.

His over-riding theme and certainly based on his own business success, was clear and not linked to the economy, market conditions or political landscape – it was this: business success still comes back to people, culture and leadership. Without these key elements at your business core, the rest is pointless.

Let’s agree – Adelaide is a great place to do business. We have growth industries, we have talented people, we have the lifestyle and the cost of living, so we should all be open to new ideas and ways of doing things and embrace the opportunities before us by taking action with an attitude of positivity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Fortunetellers wheel of fortune…..what does success mean to you?

By | Change, Results, Success

Last week I was flying to Brisbane to run a workshop with an up and coming HR Consultancy. To kick start the first session I opened with the topic of success and what it means to their business and the individuals within it.  Before getting into the nitty gritty of achieving top performance and putting action steps in place, I felt it was a pre-requisite to know what success means to those making the contribution.

I find through my coaching that success ultimately is very different for everyone and it can be quite a personal definition.  Mainstream success usually equates to financial wealth, asset generation, career climbing and social status. But is that your definition?  I like Christopher Morley’s “there is only one success – to be able to spend your life in your own way”.  That is, what you want it to be and what you’re striving for.

It has propelled me to reflect on my own journey as it has been 8 months since I decided to leave my executive role to start my own business (Quit while your ahead….10 tips for going out on top).  I know from the outside, it appeared like I had ‘everything’, but on the inside I wanted to contribute more in my own way and create something unique, that not only I could call my own, but live and breathe my offering that genuinely makes a difference to others.

Chris Savage’s blog post got me thinking last week (you can read it here) about success and living life authentically with no regrets.  He talks about ‘people on their deathbed living with no regrets’. I can honestly say I haven’t been that in touch my ‘spiritual’ side – always choosing to invest in my health, family, career and personal development as a priority.  However, I have to admit that a month before I actually made the decision to go it alone, I was at a corporate function – a fundraiser for the Julian Burton Burns Trust when I experienced something quite unusual.  There was a tarot card reader there and my team thought it would be fun to have our ‘futures told’.  I didn’t think twice – a bit of fun!

My cards read that I had an amazing opportunity, something that I had wanted to try for some time and that I should trust it.  This spinning wheel of opportunity was going to affect other areas of my life (family, finances etc) initially, but it would ultimately be successful.  Now, for you skeptics, yes this could have been referring to anything and been a “generic” reading, but does it matter? Sometimes we need a push and even if it comes from an unusual source, perhaps we should be more in tune with the messages the universe sends us! Of course I didn’t make my decision based on a fortuneteller, but it certainly gave me some added inspiration to propel me into action.

I realised I was in my comfort zone and it was a nice place to be (Are you green and growing or ripe and rotten?) but someone once said to me “sometimes being safe just means we live in the shadows of how great we can actually be”.  That being said, success to me means driving forward for my own purpose, living authentically with the intention of positively contributing to others.

It took some time, but I feel immense satisfaction that I took the plunge and like Chris Savage says, I have no regrets!  Sometimes we spend so much time focused on building the success of what others want or the image of what others think success is, that we forget about actually doing and achieving those the things that are important to us and actually make us happy.

Set your own agenda, define your own success and then enjoy the journey of making it happen!

Empty the cup…are there benefits of time-out?

By | Change, Strategy, Success

Empty the cupLast week I left my job after 10 years (see quit while your ahead…10 tips for going out on top) and since I announced the decision I have had lots of well wishes, feedback, new business offers and advice.  My head has been swimming to say the least.  Then one clever person said to me stop! You need to empty your cup.  My blank look obviously prompted him further…his philosophy is that good ideas, innovative thoughts and break through moments can only happen once you are clear and have emptied all your thoughts, emotions etc that are tied up with your current/last situation.  In my case, 10 years of “stuff” to un-learn and let go of.  Hmmm easier said than done!

So day 3 of my ‘time out’ – I’m struggling. I have cleaned out my office, re-organised files, had meetings with a web designer, accountant, photographer, business mentor, attended a committee meeting and updated my social media profiles. Did I mention a journalist rang, I’ve been invited to enough coffee meetings to last the next few months, I’ve given advice on an execs resume, signed my business registration docs and applied for a range of insurances? There is no time to empty my cup!

Or is there? If I do “nothing” for the next 2 – 3 weeks, what will happen? I’m sure I won’t evaporate or my networks will forget me? Worst case? I miss a few opportunities.  And that’s it. I can’t honestly think of anything worse.  On the flip side, what are the benefits? I take the opportunity to refresh and recharge.  I might be lucky enough to spark some new ideas, gain a different perspective or clarify my business plans.

So that being said, I am going to attempt to ‘empty the cup’. I have committed myself to a week away and I am looking forward to the opportunity to re-assess my goals and see what comes up for me. Wish me luck!

Have you ever taken time out to empty your cup? What benefits did you receive?

Quit while you’re ahead…10 tips for going out on top

By | Change, Leadership, Results
Entree Recruitment Super Stars!

Entree Super Stars!

4 weeks ago, I made a BIG decision. I decided to leave my job. 10 years after founding Entrée Recruitment and leading the company to it’s most successful year on record, I felt it was time …. and what better time to do it than when the business is at its peak? My decision has been met with a range of reactions – congratulations! Why? Well done! About time! Really? Are you sure? Hmmmm that’s a big risk, are you crazy?

Funny isn’t it….but setting up Entrée all those years ago was a risk too.  It was late 2001 and the market was going through an interesting time with Sept 11, the HIH disaster, Ansett had collapsed and many big spending Adelaide corporates such as Fauldings were moving interstate.  It was a turbulent time that did see several recruitment companies go out of business.  Meanwhile, at 23 I was relishing the opportunity to start up a business from scratch with not a care in the world about the market, the economy or my competitors.  I wanted to do things differently and I had a vision – the rest seemed irrelevant in the greater scheme of things.

As I have cleaned out my office this week, going through 10 years of “stuff” – I have reminisced on my journey and the highs and lows. Many lessons have been learnt, many relationships formed and many successes enjoyed.  On reflection, I would summarise my 10 biggest lessons in 10 years as:

  1. I can’t do it all – in the early years, I subconsciously thought I could do it all.  I would try and solve every problem, take on every task, talk to every client and I wanted to know everything that was going on.  The result? I was close to burnout and I became a control freak. Letting go, learning to empower others and take a big picture perspective saved my leadership, long-term business success and my sanity!
  2. Health must be a priority – working long hours, drinking copious amounts of coffee, eating poorly and irregular exercise left my system running on empty.   An adrenalin junkie going full throttle is what I thought would deliver the results I wanted. I learnt putting health 1st, family 2nd and work 3rd actually delivered better results for all three areas.
  3. Recruit for culture – in the early days, I had relatively high staff turnover.  It would drive me crazy that I had spent so much money recruiting and then months training only for newbies to leave. I had to have a good hard look at where I was going wrong.  I was recruiting on skills and experience and not on culture (see previous post who’s hot and who’s not….what the perfect resume won’t tell you). As soon as I changed this focus, my hit rate dramatically improved. I learnt that there are 5 competencies that people must demonstrate to join the Entrée team (coachability, achievement drive, negotiation, persistence and decision making).  No matter how great their years of experience in recruitment, I would not hire them if they couldn’t meet these criteria.
  4. Goals = results – every year the team and I have set personal and business goals at an individual level that would then link to business’ overall goals.  This discipline ensured that every year our results improved and people knew how they were contributing to the big picture.  Without a target, people don’t know what to aim for.
  5. Coach on behavior, not the person – have you ever wondered why people end up in tears in your office or you think oops that didn’t come out the right way?  It would happen to me and I realised the issue was in my delivery – not my intent. As soon as I change my communication to focus on observed behaviours, rather than what I thought, things changed dramatically! Suddenly performance increased, staff were motivated and driven and I wasn’t carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders.
  6. Set expectations early – why is this staff member texting me that they are sick and not coming in? Why is she wearing that to work? I learnt that you should never assume. People don’t know what you want or the way you want them to do things unless you tell them.  I set expectations right from the interview stage – “this is what we expect here at Entrée…” This way there is always something to go back to if behviour goes off track (see blog how to get what you expect).
  7. Leadership = retention – do you want people to stay? Become a better leader. Simple.  My retention rate went through the roof the moment I started investing in my leadership skills.  This peaked at an average rate of 6 years for consulting staff – a rate the smashes the industry average.
  8. Staff are number 1 – one of the first business books I read that had an instant effect on me was Richard Branson’s “loosing my virginity”.  It taught me many things – the most profound being that staff must come first. When staff come first, clients get great service and the profits look after themselves.  This mantra has proven true year on year in my business.
  9. Feedback & coaching – giving people feedback consistently is imperative to keep them learning, interested and performing.  This delivered immediately with good intention tells them that you have a genuine interest and belief in their personal success.  This regular coaching has easily doubled the profitability of the business. See previous post show me the money, 9 tips to profitable growth.
  10.  Ongoing learning – the leader sets the tone.  Lesson number 10 is imperative to keep the business at the cutting edge of new information, tools and technologies.  If the Leader isn’t learning anything new, then neither is the business.  Doing the same thing actually means the business is going backwards.  I have always maintained continuous learning through coaches, mentors, conferences, business books, blogs and the like.  Up to date knowledge is not only smart business, it actually makes us more inspiring and interesting to be around.

Today, 10 years later, I feel inspired with a similar energy, a new vision, and still a desire to do things differently and better. I want to work with people like me – who are driven to succeed through developing their people and leadership skills.  An entrepreneur at heart, I have taken what some see as a ‘risk’, but what I see as an exciting next chapter to modernize the way things are currently done to recruit, retain and achieve optimum results through people.

My sincere gratitude to Mark Hender, the person who took the chance on me all the years ago, his belief in me was the linchpin that made the journey possible. Lastly, to all the folks who have worked with me over the years, I say a big thank you! Thank you for being patient, open, determined and loyal to me and the vision that we have achieved. It’s been quite a ride!

Are you green and growing or ripe and rotten?

By | Change, Retention

Green and ripe or rottenEarlier this year I attended a 2-day conference with Dale Beaumont in  Melbourne. Apart from an inspiring couple of days that made me think of at least 100 new business ideas – there was one phrase that really struck a chord with me.  He asked “Are you green and growing or are you ripe and rotten?” It was those words that made me sit up and listen. Intently. He continued saying that in life some things are certain – death, taxes and change.  Some people like to live comfortably and accept the daily rhythm of routines and knowing what’s ahead by doing the same thing day in, day out. Others like to flick the switch, take action and move forward with fresh ideas to feel continually inspired while growing and learning.

I immediately made the link to retaining top talent and why some companies struggle to keep high performing staff.  It’s easy to assume with top performers that all is fine and dandy. They are achieving, secure; earning good money, have work/life balance – why would they leave?

Consider though the nature of the beast – top performers like to be constantly challenged and learning new things.  They tend to dislike comfort and become unmotivated with the same tasks, routines and the status quo.

A client told me last week they have identified 30 high potentials in their organisation – great – but now they don’t know what to do with them. They are stretched with resources and there is no capacity for HR to take them on, nor their immediate leaders to coach, mentor and challenge them to greater levels of performance and job satisfaction. This is a major risk – without continually challenging and rewarding these people – they will either become bored, fed up, comfortable or disillusioned. Ultimately they will look elsewhere or they will be head hunted – not for more money, but for greater challenges and opportunities to stretch themselves to be “green and growing”.

A leading engineering firm recently told me one of their engineers who is also a partner, was feeling unfulfilled and considering leaving the firm.  Not wanting to lose this person, but still wanting the best result for him professionally and personally, they engaged a business coach to assist him work through his thoughts.  The result was very surprising to the HR Director and other partners – he was actually craving challenging work.   He could do his job inside out, back to front and upside down – but missed the hands on aspects of design and working with clients on complex projects. Problem solved – he has gone back to taking on 1- 2 major projects and is re-living the ‘buzz’ of what made him love his job in the first place.  And in the process – they have retained him.

Sounds simple enough doesn’t it? But how many times do we just float along and go about our everyday tasks and wake up years later wondering why we aren’t satisfied?  Whereas to an outsider looking in it may be perceived “we have it all”.

Going back to your core and working out what gives you the buzz, the butterflies, the energy that makes you think “I love my job!” and “I had a great day today!” may involve re-assessing your strengths and what you love to do most vs. what you have just ended up doing through promotion, circumstance or business needs.

To truly perform, feel satisfied and achieve success, may actually mean putting yourself out there again, making a change and getting outside your comfort zone.  So what are you going to do? Stay on the vine or push yourself onward and upward?