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Coaching Archives | Underwood Executive | Executive Search & Talent Management

8 tips for an Executive Resume in 2021

By | Coaching, Recruitment, Talent

”Have you got any advice on my CV?” or “What do you think of my resume?” and “How can I improve my CV? are the questions we are asked every day here at Underwood Executive.

The executive resume is a sales tool – it is a preview document with the goal of winning an interview.  The resume is not a document to tell the interviewer everything about you (no DOB, how many kids you have or what you enjoy doing on the weekend).  It’s an appetizer, a taste of what skills and competencies you have to offer as a high performer.

The best resumes are visually appealing, easy to read and have very little narrative and more dot point facts and figures.

Specifically, here are 8 tips to producing an effective executive resume:

  1. Short & sweet– preferably 3 pages (maximum 5) is enough to demonstrate skills, experience, competencies and achievements. Anything longer tends to suggest long narratives, too much waffle or a retyping of a job description. Use a crisp font style and size (please not Times New Roman!), use dot points and short clear sentences. Never use third person or ‘me-centred’ statements with lots of opinion. We want to see white space – not long paragraphs or over indulgent sentences. Always consider readability and not squeezing too much on one page.
  2. Personal details – your name, mobile number, email and LinkedIn URL (make sure you customise this) are best in a header so these details carry across to every page. It is also recommended you use page numbers, so when someone prints your CV it is easy to put in order.
  3. Give yourself a title – the first thing we should be able to see on your resume is what type of executive you are eg: General Manager HR or Chief Financial Officer. Giving yourself a title or several titles makes it easy for the reader to make a connection to the types of positions you are going to be interested in. You can separate titles, just like you can on a LinkedIn profile eg: Group Executive HR | Organisational Development | Change Agent.
  4. Competencies & key words – what are your stand out strengths? Those skills that someone should be hiring you for? What competencies have allowed you to succeed in previous positions? We need to see these skills listed on the front page. Think of these as key words that should be repeated throughout your resume to sell your story and they become the key message to reinforce your strengths.
  5. Career summary– having a table on the front page of your resume that summarises your career history with the company, position title and dates/length of service is a quick reference point for the reader to see your career in an easy snapshot.
  6. Company descriptions– not everyone has worked with well-known brand names like Woolworths or Commonwealth Bank, so we always recommend 2 – 3 sentences saying who the company is, the revenue turnover of the organisation, the industry, number of staff etc. Any information that makes it easy for the reader to make a connection and understand the type, size and complexity of the organisations that you have worked for. Further additions can be hyperlinks to the organisation and the use of logos.
  7. Dates– a resume without specific dates (months and years) is frustrating, as we can’t determine length of service in each role.  Being clear about employment dates and gaps is critical in producing an honest and up to date document. This also includes having dates for when you have completed relevant qualifications. Always check to make sure these dates and descriptions match your LinkedIn profile too.
  8. Career history – always start with your current or most recent position making it very clear your job title and key responsibilities. To give each role size and scale, you can say who you report to eg: CEO and include how many staff report to you eg: 5 Managers, 46 team members, budget responsibility and the role purpose. Including key achievements under each position demonstrates you have performed well, what you have contributed and what success you have achieved. Where possible use as many facts and figures, such as sales results, cost savings, engagement survey results, change management projects etc. Don’t go back any further than 10 years in great detail, as prior experience can be summarised and shows how your career has progressed, but we don’t need the actual key responsibilities for all of these past positions.

Remember that an executive resume is about making yourself and your career stand out through highlighting your most important skills and milestones. You won’t be able to get all of this information in a succinct document, so don’t even try. In this situation, less is more. Too often resumes become versions of war and peace and you lose the reader by confusing them with too much irrelevant data and information that takes away from your core skills, experience and achievements.

If you want your CV noticed, ask yourself what is the most remarkable and significant information as an executive that I want to get across? What skills have I developed to achieve success so far in my career? What makes me more appealing to hire than another executive?  What can I bring to the table that potentially others can’t? What do I want to be known for? It is the answer to these questions that you need to prioritise.

A great executive resume is appealing, concise, informative and relevant with key words and factual information.

Need help? Speak to our consulting team about a career coaching session here.

5 ways to accelerate your career with your personal brand

By | Career, Coaching, Personal Brand

On Thursday the 24th of May, I was invited to speak at the National Wine Centre in Adelaide for the wine industry’s “women in drinks” event on how to build your personal brand and career. With over 100 women in attendance, in an industry where women represent only 22% in senior leadership roles and then less than 2% at the CEO and Board level, they were extremely keen to know what they can do and should be doing to help them stand out from the crowd.

Having a strong personal brand is a valuable career development strategy – it’s about managing your name, image and people’s experience with you. What do they think and say about you? I shared the 5 C’s of how to build a personal brand, which can contribute and open up further career opportunities:

1. Connections and building relationships – one of the most important factors in building my own personal brand, network and business has been based on building networks and connections. I encouraged the women in the room to think about who their target audience is and then the best ways, platforms and avenues to get front and centre with them. The ability to network inside and outside your organisation is critical to stay relevant and to ensure you don’t become insular, which could become career limiting down the track. Relationships don’t have to have an immediate pay off – it’s best to think more broadly about what access to knowledge you can gain, what you might learn or what influence your relationships might give you. Be curious and open – it’s a strategy I invest in every day.

2. Challenges – think about what challenges you will face in building your personal brand. In Australia, there are 6,900 recruitment firms, as an industry we generate $11.2bill in revenue, we employ 92,000 people and fill approx. 15% of all job vacancies in Australia. The gender ratio is 53% female, however when it comes to recruitment owners, only 28% are female. This is a very saturated market, with very few female business owners in a very male orientated owner market. I saw this as opportunity – away from the traditional (and somewhat outdated) service offering and the same old faces. This presented an exciting challenge to determine how to stand out in the market. Always remember where there is a challenge, there is always a greater opportunity.

3. Core message – once you see an opportunity, determining what do you stand for is the next strategy. When people think of you what comes to mind? You can ask people around you. For me, I used the technique of thinking of 3 words and asking myself, what am I qualified to teach others? Recruitment Retention and Results. I wanted to stand out from the crowd by being a thought leader in this space. My core message has always been recruit the best people, retain them and the results and success will follow. My messaging always has this undertone and link back. This core message becomes what you are known for.

4. Communicate – a great branding strategy is to ensure that you have a clear and consistent tone and story and to decide what is the best way to get your message out there. For me, to share my ideas and content publicly, I started a blog back in 2011. I’ve noticed that many people find it hard to talk about accomplishments (even at interview) or to promote themselves directly. I also see in general, that women struggle more so with this than men, as they don’t want to come across as pushy or aggressive. The best way to get around this is to share all learnings – yes this includes wins, but including stuff ups too is a great strategy to resonate with people and demonstrate an authenticity, which isn’t about self-promotion, it’s about sharing. For me, the blog allows me to share my knowledge and real experiences around leadership, culture and how to hire the highest performing talent in the market. This has been one of the best personal branding strategies in my career – it created the platform for my business Underwood Executive and has led me to new clients, new talent, different relationships and ultimately a successful business.

5. Commitment – building a personal brand takes discipline. It’s a long term commitment to yourself and your career. Some people come out all guns blazing with great gusto messaging through social media or blogging just because they think they should be. It looks like a scattergun approach with no real thought given to the strategy or content. This can be more harmful, as your target audience might make an incorrect assumption about your motive or be confused by your agenda. Do things regularly, post your own content, share others content that is consistent with your thinking, argue articles that don’t align with your thinking and build your profile consistently. That’s what will make you memorable. Once you get known for what you stand for, the right opportunities will come to you.

A personal brand is the single most important and powerful thing you can do for your career. Personal branding isn’t an ego play, it’s an increasingly effective way to differentiate yourself, connect with your audience on a human level and grow a valuable network. It takes time, persistence, energy, dedication and focus. Taking this time to invest in building your personal brand will help set you up for future success.

Employees aren’t mind readers – 6 tips for early performance intervention

By | Recruitment, Retention

ic-stock-image-432176378245429887_7392189-300x300A prospective new client told me last week that they may need our services as the person they have recently hired is a “dud” and they may need to let him go. This jolted my curiosity, as after 6 weeks in the role it sounded like they had already made their decision. This must be major. What had he done? Stolen the petty cash, spoken inappropriately to other staff, upset a client, given a false referee?

There were lots of wishy washy comments about him not being ‘strategic’, delivering a report that wasn’t up to standard, he was keeping very much to himself and overall “just not fitting in”. In all honesty, it was a verbal dump – the client was clearly letting off steam and venting frustration because they thought they had hired a star and where was the star performance they expected?

The realist in me kicked in – it’s been 6 weeks! It takes time to learn a new way of doing things. It takes time to get to know people. It takes time to build confidence in a new environment and depending on people’s personalities, it can appear to take even longer. But more than this, it takes a good leader to communicate expectations and give effective feedback.

“So how did he respond when you gave him this feedback?” I enquired, “is he willing to change his behaviour?”. This was received with more woffle and side stepping explaining that he hasn’t had a formal review as yet and what’s the point, we can see that it isn’t working! Agghh! People are not mind readers. People don’t know what you are thinking or feeling, unless you tell him! Bitching and whinging about what you are not getting is not going to change their behaviour or improve their performance. The only chance you have to improve performance is by giving feedback.

In this case, the client appeared resistant to give this feedback, as a lot of people don’t like giving bad news, especially to a new recruit. The flip side of this is actually a worse problem – having to let someone go, telling the team, the impact on morale, the headache of having to re-recruit, the time and emotional investment … the list goes on and on. Instead, having a 20-minute conversation discussing expectations and progress could turn the whole situation around. Imagine feeling clear, delighted and that you are both on the same page after all.

Quick tips for early performance intervention:

  1. Set a regular meeting to review expectations and performance
  2. Give specific examples where behaviour isn’t where you want it to be and be clear about how it needs to look next time
  3. Give specific examples of where things are going well
  4. Ask the employee how they think they are going?
  5. Agree to required actions to review at next meeting
  6. Ask the employee what is their understanding of what is now required (this is a communication check to ensure you have been clear in your expectations)

I rang the client today to see if he needed my services to replace his ‘dud’. Funny thing is that after having a chat, it seems that things are better and he might just work out after all……

Are you worried about someone’s performance? Are you feeling frustrated a leader isn’t delivering to your expectations? Ask yourself, when was the last time you ‘checked in’ and clarified your expectations and gave specific feedback?

 

How to have leadership impact in under a minute

By | Leadership, Retention

I am in the process of coaching an emerging leader in a large service based organisation and this week he had a break through.  Leading a team of people, he has been met with the typical frustrations and challenges of motivating staff, keeping them engaged and reducing their stress levels with workloads at their peak.

One staff member in particular has been noticeably stressed and difficult to manage in terms of keeping her engaged and focused on the big picture – stuck in the detail and showing signs of stress through facial expressions, shortness in communication and working longer hours. Through our coaching we have been discussing the different ways he can tackle this and the one technique that has delivered the biggest result was the easiest to execute. Instead of focusing on everything that was wrong, could be improved or fixed, he put on his “positive glasses” and focused on those things that she was doing well and he wanted her to continue doing.

Giving people praise is the easiest way to let people know they are appreciated.

In my experience, leaders can be very good at saying thank you for a job well done. However, this is not enough to ensure that people stay engaged and continue to produce the same high-level results. For feedback to be effective and to ensure the same effective behaviour continues, it requires a little more than a simple thank you and well done.

In this case, the leader decided to ensure it was on his daily to do list to be giving specific praise and recognition. For example, he observed an overflowing inbox that was cleared and congratulated his team member for being organised and getting on top of this backlog. He explained how it made a difference to the management team to get their deadlines met and they didn’t have to chase the status of the projects. He then asked how she achieved this and reinforced her system in place and thanked her again for a great result.

His technique was this:

  1. Observe a job well done (something effective)
  2. Praise the team member specifically (what did they do)
  3. Explain the impact to the business (how it helps the business)
  4. Reinforce / thank you (keep doing it)

This technique could be executive in less than 1 minute and the impact to the team member, to him and the overall business has been significant. In 3 weeks, he has gone from feeling frustrated to feeling inspiring. The team member has gone from feeling stressed to feeling empowered. The power of this technique is in the specific delivery of what the team member has done and how it impacts and helps the greater business goals and others in the team. If people understand what they do and why they do it, it will help them think for themselves and continue doing these things because they understand the ‘why’.

Want to be a more inspiring leader? Look for a job well done and take 1 minute a day to tell your team how what they do makes a difference. It’s easy, effective and will have everyone more engaged, empowered and energised.

 

7 lessons for work-life blend

By | Success, Work Life Balance

worklifeblendLast month I spoke to an executive networking group about work/life balance. I initially felt some resistance towards the topic.

My thoughts went … really? Are we still talking about this? Are people still wanting to figure this out? Yes. Yes they are. It’s nearly always on the agenda with my executive coaching clients who balance the tightrope of working hard and achieving their definitions of success, whilst managing their own time and personal relationships to ensure ‘balance’.

As I reflected on my own journey over the past 15 yeas, I see that the way I manage time and achieve balance has certainly changed as life and priorities change.

In my early 20’s it was all about building a career, driving and working as hard as I could to achieve work success and results. In my late 20’s it was about having a family, whilst managing an executive career and proving that I can have both and in my 30’s it is very much about building a business and lifestyle where I am doing what I enjoy, I like the people I work with and it doesn’t feel like ‘work’ – it is an all encompassing approach to work and life. In my view, they aren’t separate. The way of the world isn’t like that anymore with technology and accessibility and for me that’s okay; I embrace it and use it to my advantage to thrive. Everyone’s definition of balance is different and how we achieve it is also going to differ from one person to the next.

Along my journey I’ve learnt that to get to my place of harmony requires a combination of practical techniques, mindset and continual learning and reassessment.

 

  1. I’m Accessible – I don’t believe in black and white rules of turning my phone off or no work on the weekends or not checking emails on holidays. I love what I do; I’m engaged with my clients and love achieving results. So this means I can work anywhere, I can take a call at night or answer my emails when I can’t sleep and that’s okay. Being accessible gives me flexibility and balance at all times.
  1. Be present – when you commit to something – a coffee catch up, a networking event, a meeting, a phone call – whatever it is, being present is something I try really hard to do. I imagine I’m in a bubble and there is nothing else there – that there are no deadlines, no problems or worries. The only thing that matters in that moment is the person I am with and the commitment I have made to myself and them, to show up and be my best self. If you feel yourself struggling in this type of situation, then it is an opportunity to reassess what you are saying yes to and realising that saying no in some situations is going to be a better option to achieve your right blend.
  1. Outsource – for me to achieve a greater blend, I have learnt to outsource or invest in those things that someone can do better, faster or cheaper than me. From a marketing newsletter, to housework, to gardening, to helping with children, to debt collection! Whatever is taking your time, giving you a headache or where you are feeling angst – ask yourself “is there someone else better to do this for me?” Don’t feel guilt – life is too short for that – feel joy in doing something else.
  1. Organisation – it goes without saying I know, but without being organised, achieving successful work life blend is going to be difficult. A ‘to do’ list is my go to tool and it hasn’t let me down yet. Planning in advance, a diary that coordinates personal and business appointments, emailing myself reminders, leaving people voicemails that don’t require that they call me back, ringing my own voicemail while driving if I remember something are all little techniques I use to try and stay one step ahead.
  1. Evaluation & learning – like most things in life, if you want to get better at it, you need to reflect and reevaluate is this working? If not, why not? Change it, try something else, ask what others do, google it, read a book – don’t just accept the way things are. There is always a better way.
  1. Avoid W4W – I first leant about work for work’s sake (W4W) reading Tim Ferris book The 4 Hour Work Week. It is common for a lot of us (yes I’m guilty), to turn to email or social media as a habit – it’s just what you do when you don’t know what else to do with yourself. If you can recognise this pattern first and then fill it with another activity to get out of the cycle. Would you believe a lot of our coaching sessions with executives involve them re-discovering hobbies and what gives them joy. I can tell you their answer certainly isn’t Facebook! W4W is an easy trap that can cause you to lose sight of your dreams and where you feel pure joy and happiness.
  1. Self-Responsibility – it is completely up to you as an individual to take responsibility for your work/life blend. That is what it means to you, how you define this success and how you will actually achieve it. You can’t blame your partner, your boss or external factors like where you live, things are too expensive, you don’t earn enough etc. First decide on your definition, realise that it will be different to other people around you and their definition and that’s okay and then get into action. The quickest way to cause any result you want is take responsibility for it right now.

Life is busy. It can be hard at times. But this week I was reminded of Steve Job’s quote that the most important tool he used was to remember that he would be dead soon. This thought alone gave him perspective and helped him make the biggest choices in life. So yes we have demands and juggles, but it’s so crucial to enjoy, don’t take things so seriously and amongst the appointments, meetings, emails and expectations, be inspired and enjoy the present moment with those around you.

X Factor – A lesson in how NOT to deliver feedback

By | Leadership

X FactorA few weeks ago I was horrified to watch the two judges on New Zealand’s X factor supposedly giving feedback to one of the contestants during a live show.

Did you see it?  If not, you can watch it here.

It was a beautiful (and horrific) example of how not to deliver feedback! It was nothing more than a personal attack that could only make the person on the receiving end feel belittled, embarrassed, unworthy and incompetent. Was he incompetent? Was he underperforming? I guess that is a personal opinion in terms of whether he gave a good performance or whether he is a talented singer  – but calling him “cheesy”, “a fraud” or “disgusting” is way out of line. Here in lies the difference of effective vs. ineffective performance feedback. The focus of the feedback was based on personal opinion that involved labeling and personal traits.  There was nothing constructive in the content of the feedback whatsoever.

How receptive do you think the contestant Joe was to this? Was he open to their feedback? I doubt it. It is more likely that he felt overwhelmed, attacked and that he was in an unfair situation – publicly too I might add!

Assessing performance and giving feedback is part of everyday in a leadership role – but if leaders behaved like these two judges, we wouldn’t be left with too many employees or a business for that matter!

So when you observe behaviour that isn’t up to standard or is inconsistent with expectations, don’t shy away from it or hope that it will go away (hope is not a strategy!) and certainly don’t rant and rave and tell someone how ‘bad’ they are. Both are completely ineffective strategies.

To ensure your feedback is heard, remember this – most people can handle feedback if it is immediate, specific and truthful.  Here is a quick checklist you can follow:

  1. Immediately when observed – give feedback as things happen, don’t hold on to things and talk about it days or weeks later. Performance issues are not to be stored up and delivered when things are at breaking point or just when you have the courage to talk about it.
  2. Be specific (behaviours) – being clear on what behaviour was or wasn’t demonstrated in the example moves the conversation away from labels, opinions and personal traits and becomes about the behaviour only – not the person.
  3. How you feel about what’s happened – what impact has the situation had and how do you feel about it? Are you frustrated, angry, concerned? This open communication is important to ensure there is a two-way dialogue about the situation and behaviour.
  4. Remind them you still value them as a person – as per a leadership classic book “The One Minute Manager”, behaviour and worth are not the same thing.
  5. Let it go – if you have been able to discuss the situation and behaviour clearly and you are back on the same page with expectations, then “shake it off”. Thrashing it out, or reminding them again in a few days time doesn’t achieve anything. Be the bigger person and leave the meeting with good intent and belief that your employee wants to perform well in their job.

Giving feedback doesn’t have to be like these so-called ‘expert’ judges on the X-Factor delivered their message. Feedback keeps people motivated and engaged, as it’s a two-fold opportunity, to give praise and to support development – don’t abuse your power, use it wisely.

 

nicoleunderwood pty ltd is a national executive search and consulting practice known for its innovative approach to identifying, engaging and developing the right people for its client base. A successful formula gives their clients a significant competitive advantage – access to the greatest available talent and then a platform to convert that talent into high performing employees in a short period of time.  Contact us here.

Starting a new leadership role? 4 ways to gain respect quickly

By | Leadership

SuperKidI was talking to a leader this week about starting in a new role and how they were winning over their new team. It all sounded like it was going to plan until she explained an exercise where her team were all given a task and a deadline.   The outcome was that only 50% of the team completed the task on time and only one person completed the task successfully and on time. What did you do? I asked. “Oh I just moved the deadline and gave them some extra time to complete the task” she said.  Warning! This is dangerous ground for any leader and especially for a new leader. It speaks volumes about the teams understanding (or lack of) accountability and also could be the beginning of the end, in terms of gaining respect for their leader.

Quickly gaining the respect of a new team is critical to leadership success and very few leaders consistently achieve it through an ultimate desire to please, or reverting to management by fear, or by having unclear boundaries and expectations.

To earn respect and create clear accountability a leader needs to:

  1. Communicate clearly – how have you communicated your requests? Verbally, via email, in a group meeting or one on one? Have you been clear about what the task is, what the outcome looks like and the timeframe you expect? Often employees miss deadlines not because they disrespect their manager, but because the manager has not been clear in communicating the task upfront. A good technique here is to “check back” with your staff – ‘what is your understanding of this request?’. Always walk away being clear that you have the same understanding and agreement about the what, why and when.  This way there can be no excuses or misunderstandings when deadlines aren’t met.
  1. Stick to the original plan – like the new leader I mentioned, how many times have you diverted from an original deadline with your team because it’s just easier to do so? You can’t be bothered having the conversation and hearing the excuses about why they haven’t done what they said they would do. Easier right? Wrong! You are actually making it harder for yourself and creating future problems as you are essentially saying ‘don’t worry, ignore my deadlines as I will just give you an extension and it will be okay”. This response will guarantee that your team won’t ever take your deadlines seriously as they know you won’t hold them to account and are ok for things to slide.
  1. Consequences – are your team clear what happens if they do miss a deadline you have set? What are the consequences? Are there any? You are in very dangerous territory in terms of gaining respect and developing accountability if there isn’t any. Do they need to stay back late, do they miss out on the opportunity to be involved, do you lock the door once a meeting starts? I had a client last month who needed a 1 page contribution from every team member for a presentation. She continued to chase, nag and demand from the one team member who missed the deadline and finally got it the night before, which meant she had to stay up late and collate and modify the presentation to ensure it was included. I challenged her – why did you do this? Why didn’t you just leave his contribution out? She stared at me shocked – I couldn’t do that she said. Why not? Then he would be left out – exactly! A consequence! How would that make him feel I asked? She considered this – embarrassed and left out. Sometimes, people need to feel the consequences and cost of their behavior to change and you as the leader need to be strong enough to enforce it.
  1. Coaching – my preference is to coach people ‘up’ to gain the desired behaviour rather than the big stick approach of when something goes wrong. This means taking the time as a leader to address the situation and behaviour i.e.: deadlines being missed or ignored. Sit down with your employee and really explore, with good intent, the HOW they missed the deadline. This can be a very interesting conversation where you will learn where their system of meeting deadlines is actually ineffective. Did they not understand the original request (a communication check for you)? Did they not know what to do? Did they not have the skills or knowledge to complete the request ie: is it a training issue? Or was it that they aren’t using a to do list to prioritise their workload? In my experience, people don’t miss deadlines on purpose. Ultimately people want to perform and do a good job, so it is an opportunity for you as a leader to help improve their performance and lift the bar of their success. A powerful conversation where you both benefit – they gain a new system to help improve their performance and you are the inspiring leader who is assisting them to get there (added benefit for you is no more nagging!).

There is no easy road to gaining respect – you can’t demand it, and you can’t ask for it.  You can only create it through clear communication, discipline and holding people to account.  This does not make you a nag, nor does it mean you are demanding  – you are simply being clear in your expectations and being consistent with what you say  – a true leader. Don’t miss such a valuable opportunity as when you are starting a new role with a new team – get it right from day one and you will create a team of high achieving and engaged employees who know where they stand.

“Leaders get the team they deserve”

Stop talking! 4 ways to reduce your communication intensity

By | Communication, Leadership

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We are all aware that openness and transparency is on the desirable list for a leader and that employees generally demand even greater communication and honesty in today’s leader.

However………..Are you an over-sharer? Do you talk as you think? Have you got so many thoughts running through your head, that you assume your team must know everything that is going on?

Sometimes there is such a thing as too much when it comes to communication and this of course can be confusing when leaders are constantly told to communicate more often, with greater transparency and in a variety of ways.  Use of social media, targeted emails, company wide communications, tele-conferences, sending a group text, use of company newsletter etc. Aren’t we communicating enough?

I recently conducted some coaching with a leader on the back of some feedback he had received relating to his communication effectiveness.  It turned out he was an over-communicator. Examples included sending emails and demanding action during meetings – where his directive would continue to change through-out the meeting as the emails were ‘pinging’ into inboxes all around the office.  His behaviour would also involve significant verbal communication in the hallway and informal designated ‘catch up’s’ rather than sticking to official one on one meetings.

So what? He likes to communicate – better than no information and a closed-door right?

Here’s the problem. When you over-communicate and overload people with your verbal diarrohea and a barrage of emails, what happens? Your team can feel distracted, micro-managed, overwhelmed, unsure of the direction you want them to take, confused and that you are being authoritarian in your approach. Ultimately, your message is lost – no matter how good your intent.

Here are 4 ways you can positively reduce your communication intensity:

  1. Stop and reflect before you speak – what is it that you want to communicate? Start with your intent or what you want to happen/achieve.  Never leave this to the end of your communication. People will be actively listening when they know what is expected of them upfront and the context of your message.
  1. Delivery – what is the best mode of delivery for this message? Is it verbal? Email? Face to face? Group? If you are giving someone feedback or any piece of communication that could be construed negatively or where the meaning could be misinterpreted, face to face is best. Email is good for instructions or re-confirming deadlines or verbal agreements.
  1. Impact – before you blurt out what is on your mind, consider the other person.  What impact is your message going to have? Consider your delivery – how you are going to say it? You can communicate the same message and meaning without being so direct and blunt that you catch the other person off guard and put them on the defensive.
  1. Pause power – actually pausing, allowing you to take a breath, before you open your mouth, is a real opportunity to get clarity. Maria Shriver said “Sometimes when you pause, you will realise you’re going to have to hold yourself back from acting out on your ego and first impulse”.

I agree that we need honesty in communication – the more transparent we can be, the more we keep things simple and we can learn a lot from ourselves and each other by having these honest conversations.  It’s when our communication is rushed, too frequent and full of loaded emotion that it can become distracting and overwhelming for those around us, especially those who look to us for leadership and direction.

So for the over-communicators out there, I will leave you with this: Consider your message, pause, use delivery with good intent and consider a shorter version in our time-poor lives, as succinctness is the key to more effective communication.

Are you ignoring staff issues? 4 ways to get your head out of the sand

By | Communication, Leadership, Performance

ignoreThis week a friend of mine told me he quit his job after being head hunted for a new opportunity (closer to home, more money, leading a bigger team and better long-term career prospects). I was pleased for him and wondered why he didn’t seem that excited.  “What’s wrong?” I asked. “My current boss hasn’t spoken to me for over a week since I resigned”. Sorry? Your boss is ignoring you? Yep. Pretty much since the meeting where he resigned, his boss has been so ‘disappointed’ that he has decided to give him the “silent treatment”.  Not exactly your classic successful leadership technique!

It appears this “bury your head in the sand” technique is not isolated to just this leader either.

In another example, a client was telling me about a problem employee who despite ongoing feedback, remained unreceptive to improving his performance. Interestingly, he had not yet responded to a meeting request from this employee from a week ago, telling me he couldn’t be bothered and that he was over investing any more time and energy in the situation.

Now, I get it. I do. As a leader you can often spend hours coaching, supporting and providing advice to help develop your team members and there are days it can feel like a thankless job.  However, I challenge you to look at your own behaviour. Are you setting the tone? Are you leading by example? Are you perpetuating the undesired behaviour inadvertently?

4 ways to turn it around:

1.    Don’t bury your head in the stand

Like my client, there are many days where as a leader you probably feel like mimicking my 4-year-old by putting your fingers in your ears saying “I can’t hear you …. La la la”. But ignoring something or pretending that a situation with your staff member is going to improve, disappear or fix itself is just plain stupid.

Ignoring what’s happening will never make a situation better. A real leader will address the situation head on, openly discuss the problem (without blame or emotion) and together encourage a solution.

2.    Make a decision – imagine the perfect scenario

When I was frustrated with employee issues it always became worse or the problem was enhanced when I thought about it, talked about it with others, analysed it, worried about it – but things only ever changed or improved when I actually made a decision.

A great way to obtain clarity is to imagine in 3 months time that the person has improved and the performance problem is solved – how does it make you feel? Positive? Then you can commit to moving things in the right direction. Can’t image that situation or it still feels ‘off’? Chances are you have a cultural mis-alignment and even if the performance improves, this person is not the right match for you and your team.

3.    Manage the performance up or out  

Once you have committed to addressing the problem head on, it’s time for the conversation where you discuss where the employee’s current level of performance is and where you would like it to be.  This discussion should highlight several areas as to where the employee needs to improve and the action steps they are going to take to develop. Ultimately, this should result in someone stepping up or off – either way; it’s a better result than the current situation of non-performance.

4.    Communicate with good intent

To give the employee (and you) the best chance of success, you need to operate and speak with good intent. You can’t fake this. Be authentic. Demonstrate  that you want to see this person succeed in their role and that you are here to support them in reaching the desired behaviours/objectives.  This means showing strong belief and using positive language in your conversations.

Don’t forget as the leader, you are always on show and every interaction – positive, negative or otherwise is being observed and often recreated somewhere else in the business. If you are not feeling “in the zone” or you can’t project the vibe you want to create – best to take some time out, close the door or reschedule that team meeting – people can spot a fake a mile away! Whether you like it or not – the leader sets the tone.

 

 

 

 

Can you give up worry, fill your glass & become an Optimist?

By | Results, Success

Last week I decided to complete a psychological personality profile.  It had been about 10 years and I had asked a leadership team to complete them for a workshop, so thought it was only fair that I participate too.

You know the drill, 190 questions that you must answer truthfully and there is not right or wrong answer, don’t sit on the fence and pick what you are likely to do in the majority of situations. Okay – got it. Then I came across questions like “I feel a bit nervous of wild animals even when they are in strong cages” and “I admire the beauty of a poem more than that of a well-made gun”. Hmmmmm okay, I’ll give it a go and hope for the best! The little voice in my head said ‘yeh right, as if this is going to be an accurate assessment!”

Well, it turned out that I have high extraversion, an independent streak, a strong inner belief, assertiveness, transparency, honesty and confidence. The org psychologist said, “you’re a true optimist by nature”.  Am I? Glass half full? Yes, perhaps I am. I haven’t ever described myself that way. It got me thinking….how did this happen? When did I decide to see the best and not worry about the worst?

In my business career, one of the biggest moments was setting up a new business from scratch in October 2001 after September 11, the Ansett collapse and business confidence was extremely low.  I had people around me saying I was crazy to risk setting up a business in an already saturated market in such a climate. Honestly, I didn’t think about those external factors, they didn’t worry me, I was excited by the prospect of creating something great and I had an inner belief that it would be a success.

It’s this theme of ‘worry’ and ‘what if’; I see a lot of clients struggle with. The constant fear, the sleepless nights, worrying, the inability to take action because “ what if…” Then there’s the negative self-talk “of course this won’t work, it was a fluke, I won’t get that promotion and they’ll soon figure out I’m a fraud”. It goes on in the heads of some very senior and successful people.  It is this worry and perception of situations and what others think, that can cause a glass half empty approach to life. Being able to let go of this, change your thinking and work out that in the scheme of things – it really doesn’t matter what other’s think.

The moment I gave up worrying about what others might think and focused on what I thought and what I wanted to do – is the moment I become a true optimist.  Acting without the worry of what others think. A defining moment for me was creating a culture of flexibility in an industry renowned for long hours and high expectations.  I took on the attitude that said “I don’t care what other’s think”.  I knew it was what the business needed to attract and retain talented high performers long term.  For me to get to this point of feeling okay about flexibility I learnt what was holding me back.  I felt others would judge my work ethic. I had to let go of my belief that if I wasn’t working a traditional 60 + hour week, then I wasn’t demonstrating a strong work ethic. It took me a long time to be okay with that – but as an optimist, I knew it would deliver the right outcome. (My blog “winning respect – 10 ways to give up wanting to be liked” talks about strategies to let go of this worry as a leader).

Wikipedia describes optimism as an attitude that interprets situations as being best and extends to include that of hope. I am often heard saying in recruitment terms “hope is not a strategy”. If you are hoping that you are picking the right candidate or you are hoping that they will perform in the role, you have a real problem – as hope is not strategy. However, hope gives situations attraction, meaning and belief because sometimes no matter how great a strategy, you need positive belief in a situation. This optimism attracts, inspires and ultimately delivers success.

Try being an optimist – act without worry, believe the best outcome will surface and give things a go because as Henry Ford said, “whether you think you can or you can’t – you’re right”.