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Confidence Archives | Underwood Executive | Executive Search & Talent Management

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 I saw this as opportunity – away from the traditional (and somewhat outdated) service offering and the same old faces.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.

Is your job draining your spirit? 4 ways to see the light

By | Career, Recruitment

light“I hate my job”, “My boss is a control freak”, “I don’t feel valued”, “The moment I see my perfect job advertised, I’m out of here”……

The start of a new year can be an emotional time …. There has been the pressure of getting end of year work finished, the obligation and expectation of Christmas and families and then the burden of setting new goals and getting revved up for the year ahead. I find through our coaching practice, that January is actually one of the hardest months of the year for people to get their mojo back and feel inspired to make changes. It is usually easier to have a whinge, stay stuck in a rut and leave things the way they are.

So far, this year has been no different. We’ve had people in tears describing how much they hate their jobs and their boss, the frustration of there being limited opportunities in the market and we’ve heard every excuse under the sun of why this year will be no different!

Let me ask you this – are you unhappy in your job? Did you get emotional at the very thought of going to work today? Or does the concept of working for your boss for another 12 months make you want to crawl under a large boulder? Yes? Okay here’s the good news – you don’t have a problem. You have an opportunity.

You can A. stay and play the victim, continue to not take responsibility for your unfavourable employment situation and continue to bitch and complain to any person willing to listen or B. you can take charge and do something about it.

Step 1:  What’s really wrong?

Get crystal clear on what is really upsetting you. What is it specifically you don’t like? What are three examples in the past month where you haven’t got the outcome you were wanting at work? Did your boss or colleague rob you of an opportunity? Did you encounter a challenging conflict? Were you unsupported or feel like you your values were compromised? Until you can be really specific about the situations where you felt frustrated, angry or helpless, it is going to be difficult to work out a plan of attack.

Step 2:  Are you prepared to do something about it?

In my experience, the difference between successful people and those who just coast through with complacency is action. Successful people are prepared to take action and know the price – being uncomfortable. This week, I said to a coachee who is extremely unhappy in her job – “do you want this situation to change?”. “Of course!”, she pleaded. “But are you prepared to be outside your comfort zone to get there?”. She got clarity that the responsibility is hers and her’s alone and the journey of change is going to be uncomfortable and certainly at times difficult and emotional.

Step 3:  Knowing what it will take

Once you have accepted the challenge and ditched the ‘victim’ mentality, you will need a specific strategy on what you are going to do. Will you give your boss constructive feedback? Are you going to communicate directly and more effectively when you are feeling unhappy or unsupported? Will you brave enough to ask for what you want? Will you put a plan in place to get your desired outcome?

Step 4:  Action junkie

Just do it! Don’t over-think things, don’t make it harder that it needs to be, don’t get bogged down in the “what if’s”. Day in day out, give yourself the permission and commitment to do something about it. Wise words were once given to me that propelled me into action – life is too short to work with dickheads!

You only have one life! If you are consistently having those days where you are unfilled and wondering what you are doing, that you are not learning or growing in your current work situation or you find yourself dreading every interaction with your leader – it’s a sign that things could be better. When you’re brave enough to make that step, you will not only inspire yourself, but others around you to follow your lead and not accept the status quo. Sometimes it’s just time to move on – go on, do something about it, no-one else will do it for you!

 

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.

Fear, Lies & Leadership….How to have honest conversations

By | Communication, Leadership

UntitledWouldn’t leadership be easy if you could just have a frank conversation? Just say what you think and not worry too much about the delivery or consequences? Here it is – this is what I think – take it or leave it.

I met with a new business owner this week who reflected on a culture he had created in the early 90’s where candid conversations were the norm – none of this skirting around the issues and constant worry about upsetting people or legal consequences.  He reflected on the types of conversations that he’d had, “James, it’s just not working out. Not for you. Not for me. We can go through performance plans and recording these conversations or we can just agree it isn’t a fit for either of us”. He saw this as refreshing, effortless and talking straight.

This frankness and boldness is not the norm in what I observe in most organisations today.  I see many leaders through our coaching programs avoiding difficult conversations, making them harder than they need to be or avoiding the real issues, so  team members walk away feeling more confused and unsure about what they need to do to keep the boss happy.  The answer? Leaders need to let go of the lies and embrace the fear of having an honest and direct conversation.

I did this today, as I had to tell a candidate they were unsuccessful for a Chief Executive role. I could have said the other candidate had more experience, that you performed well, but you were just pipped at the post. I could have softened the blow to make them feel better and avoid upsetting their feelings. But in this case, it wouldn’t have been honest or direct. And it certainly wouldn’t have helped that person move forward and achieve their career goals. Instead, I told the candidate where they performed well and was straight in explaining it was his limited examples demonstrating strategic thinking and developing teams, which let him down in the process. Yes he was disappointed, but he was thankful for the feedback to improve his interview performance for next time.

In my experience, when leaders think they are being clear, often the team member hears a completely different message. Why? Because the manager is trying to ‘soften’ the blow, rather than being straight. I’m sure you have seen it, tried it or been on the receiving end of it.

If you really care about your people and want them to perform, succeed and grow, you owe it to them to deliver feedback (no matter how difficult) in a straight manner. Most people can handle constructive criticism as long as it is honest, delivered straight and comes from a place of good intent.

Tackling tough conversations is one of the most feared things to deal with by many leaders. At a recent CEO panel interview, we asked a candidate to discuss one of the most difficult negotiations he had been involved in. We didn’t hear about a contract negotiation, a legal dispute or a financial matter – it was the ‘people stuff’ that he admitted to still getting ‘butterflies’ in his stomach when addressing difficult situations. It’s not easy, but these conversations are critical to ensure that you are on the same page and communication is clear and direct.

Quick reminders to deliver honest conversations effectively:

  1. Good intent – you are doing the right thing by an individual to share constructive feedback that will assist them to improve, grow and perform.
  2. Direct communication – be straight and don’t ‘soften’ or confuse your message with more words and dialogue than is necessary. Deliver your message and then stop. Don’t be afraid of the pause.
  3. Avoid personalisation and emotion – this is not about someone’s personality or traits, this is about behaviours.
  4. Be specific – use real and immediate observations, not what you’ve heard second-hand on the grapevine.
  5. Action – what is the behaviour you want to see, or a system put in place, to ensure the desired behaviour is implemented going forward?

One of the greatest things I have learnt as a leader and as a coach is to have open, straight, frank and often difficult conversations face to face. It is never easy when dealing with people and their emotions – but you can really change someone’s experience and perspective in a positive way when you deliver your message succinctly and with good intent.

Be tough on performance, never on the person and don’t hang on to things – openness and honesty is the basis for long-term leadership success.

 

nicoleunderwood pty ltd is an executive search and consulting firm with a holistic approach to talent management. We deliver executive coaching programs where we work one on one with leaders and leadership teams to further improve leadership and communication skills. You can find out more here.

 

How to deal with job-hunting rejection

By | Career, Confidence, Recruitment

Last week my article “3 ways to nail a job interview” was published by Women’s Agenda.

24 hours later I received an email from a frustrated job seeker who after being made redundant is struggling with the rejection of job seeking.  She is finding it increasingly difficult to stay confident and positive.

She writes:

“It’s starting to get pretty tough to persevere. I’m confident in my ability, I know why my skills outweigh my limitations and I bring personality in spades, but the reality is that job hunting is darn hard work and rejection is difficult to endure. Let’s talk about that.”

I have no doubt that “Samantha” isn’t alone. Finding a new job, let alone your perfect job, is hard. It is a full time commitment that requires research, preparation, networking, building relationships, investment, time and fortitude. It also often means rejection, frustration and disappointment.

When you are struggling to stay positive, how do you keep on going?

  1. Focus – do you have a clear career plan? Make sure you reflect on what you enjoy doing, what you are good at as well as aspects of previous jobs and cultures you haven’t enjoyed. Getting clear on your desire and creating a vision of where you ultimately want to be in your career will keep you focused and inspired when the going gets tough. Look at all your options realistically, what’s required and what action you can take right now to get one step closer.
  2. Optimism – the proverb ‘this too shall pass’ might sound flippant right now when you are constantly receiving “thanks, but no thanks” letters.  However, this is a moment in time that you can find positives in.  Who have you met on this journey? What extra time has this created in your schedule to do the things you love, that when working a 5 day week you couldn’t seem to fit in? There are always silver linings – you just need to be looking for them.
  3. Get comfortable being uncomfortable – this is one of the biggest discoveries that set successful people apart.  When you are uncomfortable you are learning and doing something different is more likely to generate a different result. If you keep doing what you have always done you will always get what you have always got. Try different things! If you are just applying for jobs on Seek, try something else – update your LinkedIn profile, connect with new people or ask someone who is doing the job you want out for a coffee.
  4. Feedback – gaining real and honest feedback about why you didn’t win a job is extremely helpful.  Most of the time you are simply told, “there was a more experienced candidate” or “we went with someone else” – nothing that is going to help your interview performance next time around that’s for sure. Asking for feedback is tricky. It requires you to be gracious and open to constructive criticism. The golden rule is never get defensive. This will ensure an automatic shut down from the other person and there goes your chances of finding out honest and real information that will help next time around. Be courageous, ask the question and make the other person feel comfortable and safe to give you this information honestly.
  5. Call in an expert – still getting nowhere? Just like professional athletes have coaches to help achieve their ultimate goals, consider paying an expert to help achieve yours. An expert in this area can assess your resume, critique your cover letter or role-play an interview with you. When you are paying someone for a service you can expect to get the honest answers you are seeking.
  6. Persistence – the ability to press on when you feel like quitting will set you apart in a competitive market. You could be just one more application away from winning your next job. “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”. Getting the result you are after means taking action. More action. Consistently. If you don’t – nothing will change. Keep your focus on the overall plan and what you want – this will help keep you on track.

Finding a new job can be “terrifying” and sometimes all the research, preparation plus your new outfit and positive attitude still won’t get you across the line. Try not to take it personally and don’t let rejection get the better of you. Keep going! See the opportunity to practice, learn and improve. The right opportunity is out there for you. Keep focused on your ultimate goal and remember these experiences build character!

3 ways to nail a job interview

By | Recruitment

Nail the job interviewThe holidays are over, the phone is ringing and the LinkedIn requests are coming in thick and fast as many individuals put the wheels in motion to achieve their New Year resolution to find a new job. It happens every year without fail that January and February become a peak period for candidate activity – conversations, resumes and interviews with those determined to find their dream job in 2014.

Actually winning a job interview is hard enough with the volume of applications received, providing significant competition for roles across the majority of sectors.  Even some of the most qualified candidates on paper, still struggle at the interview stage due to lack of preparation, and not providing specific  examples.

Here are 3 things you can take on board right now to help put your best foot forward:

1.    Don’t be a robot, be yourself

I know what you’re thinking – that’s it? I don’t need to prepare for being me. I’ll just rock up and be myself and that will be enough. Wrong! The majority of people attending an interview are nervous (understandably) and have actually over-rehearsed so much that they end up presenting as a cookie cut-out of themselves  – robotic in facial expressions and stiff in their conversational style.  Relax! Beyond ensuring you have the actual competencies to do the role, interviewers often hire people they like the most.  So while being polished and professional is important, you need to demonstrate warmth, build rapport, find that common ground and always be genuine.  If you are going to be hired, remember you need to fit the culture ie: we like you enough to spend a 40-hour week with you! A candidate I interviewed last year, arrived out of breath, covered in sweat and had just split his pants on the way to the interview. It was a great conversation starter and he used the situation to demonstrate his humour and candid nature!

2. Ooze assurance, lose the ego

Confidence is a sure-fire way to leave a lasting impression – when it is delivered with humility, not arrogance.  Over the years, I have lost count of the number of people waltzing into an interview with their nose in the air, believing they don’t need to answer these ‘ridiculous’ questions because of their experience, status or who they might be. We aren’t interested. Really.

Employers want to hire people who can positively influence others, who are confident in their skills and abilities, demonstrate values based behaviour and who are positive to be around. An arrogant, pretentious or superior demeanour have no place in an interview situation.

To the guy who claimed to be personal friends with Gina Reinhardt while interviewing for a role in the mining sector – it didn’t impress, was of zero relevance and didn’t demonstrate actual competency to perform the role.

If you are good enough to do the role, use real examples and tell specific stories that demonstrate your achievements.  We want to know what was the situation, what did you do and what was the outcome?  Keep your answers succinct based on facts and figures….your referees will back up your claims and will tell us how wonderful you are.

3. Your truth & buzz

Don’t lie and tell me what you think I want to hear.  I want to know about you, your story, your drivers, what makes you leap out of bed in the morning and enables you to thrive?

This process involves easily being able to articulate why you want this role and why you want to work for this organisation, including why I should employ you. Inspire me! Tell me about jobs you have loved, leaders that have brought out the best in you, where you have felt stifled and what factors would make you want to flee.  Motivation is at the core of everything. When your rational and emotional motivators are satisfied, you will perform, feel ultimate job satisfaction and stay!

The interview is a two-way street where you need to be true to yourself and recognise what you need out of the employment relationship.  It’s just as important that you find the right job, culture and leader for you.  Being steadfast on ‘winning’ the interview rather than really listening and conversing to find out if this is the right move, could see you succeeding in the process, but ultimately losing sight of your bigger picture career goals and job satisfaction.

Leave the robotics and exaggerated self at home, breathe, smile and come in feeling positive, let’s get to know each other and discover whether this is a true match for all parties.

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”.

 

Is the business suit dead?……what to wear to a job interview

By | Recruitment

Since when is it okay to wear blue jeans to a job interview?

This was the question posed by a client this week as he shook his head in disbelief that a candidate could think that this was in some way acceptable attire for a first job interview. Especially for a senior role paying in the vicinity of $150K….I had to agree.

I’ve come a long way from working at Recruitment Solutions in the late 90’s when women were “not allowed” to wear pants, only skirts and my Nazi dress code of years gone by, where my female staff had to wear pantyhose with skirts…BUT blue jeans? Really? At what point, when you are standing in front of your wardrobe did you think, “wow these are my going out jeans and they are sure to win the client over”?

Now – don’t be fooled into thinking that clients aren’t assessing your dress choices.  Don’t think that it’s only your skills and experience that will speak for themselves and win you the job.  It’s the whole package – were you on time, did you have a firm handshake, was your body language confident and did you smile? Trust me when I say these are all things that are discussed with a client after you leave your interview and sometimes in great detail!

Nearly 15 years ago when I started in the recruitment industry, it was part of our standard spiel that all candidates were asked to wear a matching suit to a client interview – both females and males. Regardless of what type of role, level or industry it was just standard procedure to tell candidates this was our expectation.  It was remarkable the lengths some candidates went to, in order to meet this brief and create a great first impression.

Other standard protocols include not putting your wallet, keys, mobile phone etc on the table in front of the interviewer, always shake the interviewers hand, sit up straight in your chair, turn your phone off, maintain eye contact etc …..it’s all just common sense isn’t it?

Well, sadly, no it isn’t.

It seems that today is no different than 15 years ago …… dress to impress people! When I said this to a candidate last month after she came to my interview more casually dressed in a flowing top and tight pants – I thought she would understand.  My assumption that she earns close to $200K and works in a corporate environment, she would interpret “dress to impress” the way I would. It turns out a new Sass & Bide trendy top and blue jeans were her interpretation of impressive. So, it begs the question, is wearing a matching business suit to a job interview dead?

I took a quick survey of the last 20 candidates I have interviewed and only 1 male wore a full matching suit and tie and no females at all wore a matching suit.

So it seems, wearing a full matching business suit is a dying trend. It’s not a pre-requisite for a job interview regardless of industry, position or level.  BUT – and this is a big BUT, you still need to be presentable, neat, tidy, professional and take care in your presentation choices.  The evidence suggests that men are choosing suit pants and open neck shirts and women are wearing tailored dresses or corporate outfits with a modern edge rather than a conservative black matching suit.

Bottom line – first impressions count and what you wear is an opportunity to stand out from the crowd.

I’m curious….what would you wear to a job interview? Or what are some of the worst outfit choices you have seen?

“Let’s connect” – the new way to network

By | Communication, Confidence

Last week I spoke at the UNSW (The University of New South Wales) AGSM (Australian Graduate School of Management) MBA networking evening “Let’s Connect” on the importance of networking.  I don’t know about you… but surely this topic has been done to death? We all know how to work a room and meet new people don’t we? Hmmm….apparently not and it’s clear that professionals still want to know how to do it effectively.

Networking is becoming a redundant term in this modern era of social media where “connecting” is the buzzword.  Every time I open my email there is a new invitation to connect with someone on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google + etc. Never before have we had so many channels and forums to meet new people, discover new opportunities, join groups and discuss and debate with other like-minded individuals.

This connecting is really at the heart of what life is all about. Regardless of whether we are in business, sport, families, friends or community groups, our experiences are enhanced when meeting new people and forming new relationships.  This in essence is what connecting is all about.

These relationships, the connections, the networks you have created and built over your lifetime give you access to information and knowledge that we need to generate business deals, job opportunities, new relationships and long-term success.  It is also these connections in your direct network that have a direct influence and impact on your life.  In fact, master wealth creator Jim Rohn discovered that your “income is generally the average of the 7 people you spend most time with”. Time to change friends perhaps!?!

Let me give you an example, at my daughter’s school I met two parents who have immigrated from the UK and they have been on the verge of being deported as they have been unable to gain employment and therefore the right visas. They have strong knowledge, skills and experience in their relevant fields, both present well, have great communication skills…yet going through the normal channels of finding a job, they couldn’t even snag an interview.  But they’re determined and have been great at connecting! Through the school network, they have been to the school ballet concert, art show, every child’s birthday party, school assembly, drop off and pick up – and instead of standing in the corner, they have taken every opportunity to meet other parents, ask questions and show an interest in getting to know new people.  It’s paid off – they both have new jobs and here’s the thing – it wasn’t through a Recruiter (sadly for me) or a job ad, or via the Internets thousand of vacancies – no it was through good old fashion networking.

Quick tips for effective ‘connecting’: 

1)    Be interested and curious in people – don’t be like the Adelaide businesswoman I met years ago that was looking straight past me when I was talking to her to see who else was more important in the room.

2)    Don’t focus on what somebody’s position, title or label is – people’s influence goes way beyond what’s on their business card.

3)    Describe what you do, don’t just hand over a business card – it opens up the conversation and gets the dialogue moving 

4)    Have something interesting to say – not the weather please! 

5)    Don’t expect an instant return every time real connecting is about building long term relationships, not about an immediate sale or what can this person help me achieve right now?

6)    Follow up on social mediaafter the AGSM event, nearly everyone I met that night has been followed up on LinkedIn or Twitter to stay connected

I think overall the best advice is to think about networking strategically. That is, not what’s in it for me today, but having an open mind of whom can I meet and what can I learn?

Being open to the results is essential, after all this could be a new client, a new job, a new friend or perhaps a new relationship! Connecting is at the heart of what we do – it’s a life skill. Approach networking as an opportunity to learn and meet new people without expectations – you will be pleasantly surprised by the results.

 The most valuable asset of any business is your relationships. Without them, you have nothing. See people you meet today as relationships you can build on as these are the most valuable things you have”

John McGrath