Tag

Inspiration Archives | Underwood Executive | Executive Search & Talent Management

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.

 

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

By | Change, Results, Work Life Balance

Stress 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

IMG_6814

My Villa, Bagus Jati, Bali

IMG_6888

New Friends, Fresh Perspectives

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to get the X factor of presence

By | Confidence, Success

At the end of last term, it was my daughter’s turn to be the VIP for the week in her reception class.  This is a confidence building strategy which involves the girls being interviewed by the Principal at the front of the class being asked about her family, favorite things, hobbies etc. Parents are invited along, the session is completely documented and then a full wall display including photos and quotes from the VIP is put up in the classroom.  It is truly impressive.

There were two things that really stood out for me.  The first was the process, where everyone, (her teacher, classmates, Principal and us as parents) was asked to contribute by saying what they admire about Charlie.  It was amazing to hear the perceptive things girls at the age of five were contributing. Quite frankly, it floored me. I can only imagine what this does for their self-esteem and confidence. The second thing was what the Principal said about Charlie …… she has presence.  Of all the beautiful things she said, she mentioned ‘presence’ three or four times.  She said that every time she sees or interacts with her, she is struck by the mere presence that she commands in a room or situation.

It got me thinking about this intangible presence and how to get it.

I like to think of it as charisma, the x factor, that something you can’t quite put your finger on.  That feeling when someone who has presence walks into a room and you feel their energy. Put simply, it is that unknown factor or the unexplainable thing, which adds a certain value to that person where you are drawn to listen to what they have to say.

I believe having this presence goes a long way to making a successful Recruiter.  I have seen those who ‘have it’ and those who have had to develop it and the difference in their success can be significant.

When trying to define it with Consultants in the past we have discussed public speakers, sales people, celebrities and people in our own lives to help us get clear on what this presence is and how to develop it.  I think some people are just born with it – and maybe this is already Charlie (think of me when she’s about 15!) and others can develop it and fine-tune it to assist in business meetings, presentations and winning new work.  There is just something about it that makes us want to be around these people and hear what they have to offer.

After a brainstorming session with Consultants on presence and how to get it, a range of ideas came flooding forward and the five main themes included:

  1. Body language – stand tall, look confident, carry yourself in a way that attracts attention. One Consultant mentioned that image is still really important in making a great first impression.
  2. Communication – speak with conviction; be concise and sharp in delivery.  It is rare to be engaged by a waffler!
  3. Listening skills – ability to make everyone feel important and heard.  I’ll never forget my interaction with a particular speaker some years ago. After her talk I went to speak to her, and while I was talking to her, she kept looking right past me to see who was more important in the room that she could be talking to.
  4. Know what you want – be able to lead and control a conversation to stay on track and gain an outcome.  Being clear on your message and what you stand for.
  5. Demonstrate with stories and real examples – people with presence have the experience to back up the theory.  They can easily share a story or re-count examples to demonstrate their point, making it easy to connect with them.

People who have presence inspire, engage and more often than not, educate others in a way that stimulates our thinking and questions the status quo.  As a Recruiter, you need to stand out from the crowd just to be given an opportunity to deliver your presentation.  Presence can be a significant competitive advantage.

Who do you know that has presence and what advantage do you think this gives them?

 

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!

Women in leadership – can we “have it all”?

By | Leadership, Women in Leadership, Work Life Balance

I recently met an incredibly motivated and driven female leader.  She is dedicated, loves the company she works for, thrives on feedback to improve and wants to achieve top performance status every year at her annual review.  In discussing her career and future plans – she stopped mid sentence and admitted that having a baby was on the horizon and having a family as well as a career was very important to her. “Can’t I have it all?” She looked at me desperate to hear of course you can! But can we?

Managing an all-female business for the majority of my career, this is a topic I have observed, managed and lived myself. It is a topic that is constantly debated and depending on what publication you read, this week women can have it all, last week we couldn’t and the week before that we can as long as we don’t have more than two children! Even the box office is cashing in on the topic with Sarah Jessica Parker staring in I Just Don’t Know How She Does It. I haven’t seen the film (yet!), but I’m pretty sure it is a similar account of what I have already observed over the years.

In my opinion, yes you can have both BUT three things. One – what are your expectations? Two – how will you logistically blend the worlds of career and kids? And three – the balance will constantly change and evolve as you do; your career progresses and the children grow up.

I’ve been blending the worlds for 7 years and even this week I said to my husband I just want it all – I always have.  My first role model of being able to achieve both was my mum, who had a teaching career combined with that of a homemaker.  I didn’t see a skewed approach to either career or being a stay at home mum. What I saw was that being able to have the whole package was certainly within my reach and my control.

Wanting it all isn’t being selfish, greedy or unrealistic – it is purely an attempt to gain satisfaction from different facets of life. So having it all is certainly a challenge and not something that just happens because you want it to. It requires a planned approach, with realistic expectations combined with the right mindset and flexibility.

Quick tips to make it work:

  1. Expectations – in my experience if you think that you will be able to do the same job, the same way, with the same level of intensity, you are probably setting yourself up to fail.  The truth is that once there is a little person in your world, it becomes nearly impossible to physically operate at the same capacity.  Those 12 hours days with a networking breakfast in the morning and a client dinner that night is not only impossible to sustain, but you probably won’t have the same desire either with your thoughts elsewhere. Being realistic about what you can take on and how you manage your time becomes an essential priority.
  2.  Accept change – you will potentially see things differently after having children.  When I was pregnant with my first child, I remember my boss saying to me “don’t worry your personality won’t change, but you will become softer”.  As a driven type A personality, I couldn’t see how it would make me softer in business and I saw this as potential negative.  However, having children has made me ‘softer’ in the sense of being more aware and not so reactive to situations and people.  Children can actually help by holding up a mirror………monkey see monkey do! It’s okay to change, to see things differently and learn from experiences – it can actually assist business decisions and career plans.
  3. Support networks – juggling work life and family life in my experience means there is always one parent who is the “fallback”.  This is the person, who carries the extra load with the family when things get busy, or the kids get sick or the official childcare arrangements fall through. In an executive role in the corporate world, I do think this is extremely challenging and nearly impossible to be both.  In most circumstances, women in senior leadership roles have great partners, families, and nannies behind the scenes supporting their careers. In my case, my husband is the glue that keeps everything together even when I feel that it might all be falling apart! I certainly would not have been able to achieve what I have in the business world without this support from him.
  4. An employer who gets it – an employer who actively supports flexibility, blending of the worlds and genuinely believes it is possible, is critical to achieve success for all involved.  Just recently, a female executive went to an interview and when she asked about leaving early a couple of days per week for school pick ups, the potential employer said sure, because you’ll come back to the office straight after that won’t you? At that point, of course she knew it was never going to be match because there just wasn’t the level of understanding to make it work without it becoming a major issue.
  5. Remember me? In blending the worlds, there is little time left over for women as individuals.  The all-important time to yourself is critical to continue being able to perform at work and at home.  I learnt this lesson the hard way and wrote about it here (Health 1st, Family 2nd & Work 3rd….What’s your order?). Planning this time and booking it in like you would a business meeting is a necessary commitment.

To give yourself the best chance of “having it all”, be realistic and understand that life is going to be different.  Your priorities will change and some people will understand and support you, while others will frown upon your choices and from time to time you will feel the turmoil of “mummy guilt”.

Being a successful corporate woman with a thriving business career as well as an engaged, active and present mother is possible.  The systems, support networks and your personal approach are what make it possible to achieve in both worlds.

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!

Staff mojo… how to plant the seeds of motivation

By | Empowerment, Results

This week one of my top performers was having a downday….she’d lost her mojo, was feeling ‘flat’ and told me she was struggling with motivation. “How do you keep motivated and inspired?” she asked me. As a leader, my stomach sank.  There is nothing scarier than a top performer who is feeling worn out…..as Leaders we get scared that if we don’t quickly ‘motivate’ them, they might drop their performance, burn out or dare I say it….leave. The pressure! I wanted to give her an answer, not any answer, a great answer that would make her feel valued, inspired,motivated and happy.  But the fact is there isn’t just ‘an answer’.

Can you really motivate someone? Especially in a 30 minute weekly meeting! Truth is it can’t be done. You can’t physically motivate another person. It is not something I can give to someone else to make them feel good again to conquer the world.  However, I can certainly influence them, share my experiences and ask them questions that may help them find their own internal motivation.

Firstly, what’s not working? What is it specifically that is making them feel disheartened, disinterested or demotivated? Is it just a once-off incident of something going wrong with a client, an internal disagreement or something bigger? Or is it an accumulation of things that have been niggling at them, with something that has made them snap that perhaps in isolation would not have been a big deal but now seems huge. Getting to the crux of their de-motivation is really important because once this is solved; that can often be the end of their bad patch and they return to a positive frame of mind.

In this circumstance, nothing was specifically going wrong with my Consultant. There wasn’t anything in particular that she was unhappy about. So it comes down to desire…..

Whatever job you do, you need to be clear on why you are doing it. What’s in it for you? What are the goals you are aiming for and the benefits you receive from doing what you do? I’ve always been a visual person and it might sound corny, but really having something in front of me to focus on gives me inspiration on days that perhaps aren’t perfect or going 100% my way.  Early in my career, working as a Recruitment Consultant, I had picture of a convertible at my desk – I was determined to have a sports car.  Those days when I didn’t want to pick up the phone and make a cold call or tell a candidate they didn’t get the job or it was 7pm at night and I was screening even more CV’s, I would look at that picture and find my inspiration and that extra mojo I needed to achieve success. As years went on the visuals changed – but there has always been pictures of something (holidays, houses, travel) or someone (family) to inspire me. And it works. I got that silver MG convertible at age 21 – the insurance was a killer! The moment you take your eyes off the goal, you can lose focus, ambition and drive.

So with a demotivated staff member – be clear on what their goals are. What is this person motivated by? Do they have visuals around them? Everybody aspires to something – as the leader we need to show the connection between what they do and how they can go about achieving it in their day to day work.

If this doesn’t work, the flip side is cost. I don’t like to use this method as much – it doesn’t have a nice warm and fuzzy attached to it like the benefit method does.  For example, I have had Consultants tell me in the past they aren’t motivated by money or they don’t aspire to a new house or an overseas holiday. They are happy as they are. Great. Really, that is great.  But you’re telling me you’re de-motivated, you have lost inspiration and are feeling flat – what is the cost to you, your career and your results if you continue this way? Perhaps things won’t be that great anymore.  It is getting them very clear that if they don’t make the calls, see the clients, fill the jobs, generate the results, then actually you won’t be in top performance and then they may not be in such a great place. The ultimate cost here is their job.  This can be the make or break conversation that either gets them back on track or a realisation that change is on the horizon.

Day to day, I have found several things that work as quick “motivation injections”:

  1. Have a conversation with someone who makes you feel good
  2. Read an inspiring article, quote or surf social media for new ideas and excitement
  3. Write down at least 1 new quantifiable goal that you really want to achieve
  4. Take 30 minutes to write a dream list – anything you ever wanted to achieve/have/own and there is no restrictions (dream big!)
  5. Put up a new visual for inspiration – photo/screen saver/picture
  6. Take action – do something that makes you feel uncomfortable (as this often generates big results eg: a new client)
  7. Write a love & loathe list (to re-focus on what you are good at)
  8. Plan a holiday & enjoy the research
  9. Buy a new book on-line
  10. Have a coffee, go shopping or plan a day off to “re-charge”

So for me – how do I keep motivated and inspired? My husband laughs as I’m telling him what I’m writing about – he says it’s the mortgage and my love for shopping that keeps me motivated! There is of course some truth to this – visual goals remember! But I do believe inspiration comes from around us as well as finding inspiration from within ourselves – it is not something someone else can give us or make us feel. I am certainly inspired by other people’s success or by a conversation or a presentation, movie or book.  But real inspiration, the type of inspiration that drives me to succeed and achieve, comes from within.

What tips and tricks do you use to stay motivated and re-focus when feeling flat?

Belief Critical to Business Success

By | Results, Success

This week I had a new business owner track me down on Linkedin and ask if they could buy me a coffee to pick my brain about how I’ve “grown the business so successfully”. Apart from the fact that I’ve recently given up coffee (my adrenal glands are running over-time!) – I have agreed, because I know in my own experience learning from others can sometimes be the most inspiring way to take an idea or business to the next level.

This happened for me late 2001 when I was working at another recruitment firm where things were going really well from the outside.  I had a great team, a group of repeat-purchase clients and revenue targets were being overachieved.  However, on the inside, it was a different story.  We had a new CEO, who was less than inspiring and had zero recruitment experience, the culture was changing significantly, staff were being treated like second class citizens and I was becoming disengaged.

I was reading Richard Branson’s “Loosing my Virginity” autobiography at the time and I was inspired by his road to success and his theories about growing business. His beliefs included small is beautiful, look after staff first, clients second and shareholder interests last.  He stressed that your key asset is your people and you must give them every opportunity to work at their best.  As I looked around I could see that the opposite was happening in this national recruitment firm – it was very much about the share price, winning volume tenders, cutting costs and reaching the number one position in the market.

Coincidently, I was headhunted at the same time by well known Adelaide businessman, Mark Hender to join his consulting firm.  Although highly prestigious and reputable in the executive space, I was reluctant to move into a sole consulting role again since I was thriving in leading a team of people.  That is when he offered me the opportunity to set up a new business.  A very exciting proposition that I didn’t refuse.

There I was, all of 23 being offered the chance to develop something from inception, put in place everything I had learnt and make the people the focus instead of just the profits.

The recipe for success was clear.  I had something to believe in – a new business where people and quality were going to be the differentiator, I had someone who believed in me and was prepared to take the risk with me and finally I had the confidence and belief in myself to get it off the ground.

The results were generating revenues of $3 million in our first year of business and creating a new recruitment system where clients paid for part of our service upfront and where candidates were king – treated with honesty and respect and very much just as important as the paying client.

I celebrate my 10th year at Entrée Recruitment  this year and as I reflect on what I will say to this business owner over coffee next week – it is very clear that belief is a critical ingredient to business success. You need to believe in yourself, you need others who believe in you and finally you need a business idea that you believe in.

Why is confidence still an issue for women at work?

By | Confidence, Results, Retention

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

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

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

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

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

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