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Performance Archives | Underwood Executive | Executive Search & Talent Management

Underwood Executive takes out 9 medals & named Australia’s Executive Recruiter of The Year 2020

By | Leadership, Performance, Recruitment, Results, Success

At Underwood Executive we are delighted to announce that we have been named Executive Recruiter of the Year 2020 by HRD Magazine for the third year in a row. We have won a total of nine medals in Australia’s Top Recruiter Awards in the following categories:

  • Executive Recruitment – Gold Medal
  • Professional Services– Gold Medal
  • Banking & Financial Services – Gold medal
  • Sales & Marketing – Gold medal
  • Overall Recruiter of the Year – Silver medal
  • Healthcare – Silver medal
  • Human Resources – Silver medal
  • Construction & Engineering – Bronze medal
  • IT, Technology & Digital – Bronze medal

We are very proud to be acknowledged in these national awards. Most importantly, these awards are recognised by our clients and represent the service they receive, the results we generate and the relationships we build. It’s a genuine recognition of these peer relationships we invest in and value in our consulting practice that mirror our own ethos around culture, leadership and high performance. Awards like these are so important to our team, as they give us an opportunity to reflect and celebrate our point of difference and appreciate the impact we are having on businesses, people and their careers.

Now in our ninth year of business, Underwood Executive is consistently dedicated to the executive search market and winning gold in this category is an absolute thrill and a very proud moment for us. In the past 12 months, we have been accredited with the AESC (Association of Executive Search Consultants), which is an exclusive global industry profession that sets the highest quality standards in executive search and leadership consulting worldwide.

As the only recruitment firm in Adelaide with this membership, it further reinforces our commitment to providing the highest quality standards in executive search and recruitment. The executive search market demands that we become a trusted advisor to our client’s business and we work hard to find them the highest performing talent in the market – talent that they couldn’t otherwise access. We acknowledge the responsibility we have in representing our client’s businesses and how we contribute to their overall success by finding them their most important assets – their people. We are absolutely committed to the fundamental principles of search and are consistently advising our clients on the benefits of this approach – these awards reinforce that our client’s value this approach and the return on investment.

Founder & Managing Director Nicole Underwood says “With dedication, discipline and consistency. The team at UE are united, with team goals, aligned values and a high care factor about what they deliver. We are very clear about who we will and won’t do business with – there has to be an alignment in terms of people, culture and leadership. We choose to work with organisations who are dedicated to getting this formula right. When you know what you stand for, it makes it much easier to say no. From day one, I have held an unwavering dedication to building this business with that mindset; with the discipline to consistently have a ‘high touch’ relationship service with C-suite level decision makers.”

Underwood Executive is an exclusive executive search and talent management consultancy based in Adelaide specialising in sourcing C-suite, leadership and hard to fill positions. Please contact us here.

 

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.

Caution! Why you shouldn’t hand over your referees before interview

By | Recruitment

Reference Checking A natural step in the recruitment process is for employers to verify your employment history and job performance in previous roles before making you a formal offer of employment. Nothing new here.

However, there are things that you should strongly consider before casually handing over your referee details.

Talking to an executive this week about his current job search, I learnt about his staggering experience with sharing his referees with a local Recruiter before meeting with the client/employer. Typically at an executive level, reference checks are not completed until much later in the process, when the candidate and client have met and decided they are both keen to progress the recruitment process. In this instance the candidate completed full psychometric testing and reference checking prior to any formal interview or meeting.

Presumably because the candidate had his referees listed on his resume, the Recruiter proceeded to speak to them without seeking permission first.

The first the candidate knew about it was when one of the referees called and told him that not only had he been drilled about his job performance and working relationship, but then the Recruiter had proceeded to canvas the referee for the job in question. So much so, the referee was then invited in for interview for the same job! The candidate was clearly gob smacked. He had potentially just done himself out of a job by providing competition for the opportunity, albeit unintentionally. He was absolutely floored that this could happen and questioned the integrity of the Recruiter.

Some of you may argue – so what? What is wrong with that? The referee might be a better match for the job in question and the Recruiter needs to act in the best interest of their client. I would argue that there is due process, common decency and respectful communication in question here.

With this example in mind, I recommend that all executive candidates do not include a referee list on their resume, unless of course it is explicitly requested as part of the process and you have informed your referees of the role you are being considered for. If you progress past first round interview and there is genuine interest where both you and the employer feel there is a match, then, and only then, should you discuss your referees.

Referees are busy and a thorough reference check will take at least 20 – 30 minutes to get a detailed understanding of not only roles and responsibilities, but KPI’s, outcomes, job performance, areas of strength, development areas, leadership style and communication skills. A hectic executive is not going to appreciate being called every few weeks by another potential employer or recruiter to have the same conversation. The risk also is that it potentially reflects badly on you, as your referee might be feeling ‘over it’ and thinking ‘not another reference’ and if these feelings are coming out in their tone, it could overshadow their true assessment and reflection of your job performance in the past. It is better that your referee is only interrupted and called for a role that you are very close to securing and will accept if offered. Don’t waste their time or yours for roles you aren’t 100% serious about or when you are in the early stages of a process and unsure of how close you are to winning the job.

Other quick tips:

1. Always ring your referee before they are contacted and ensure they are still happy to act as a referee for you. Quickly explain your current situation and the type of role you are going for – this will help give them some context before receiving a call and it also helps frame their reference to match the type of role you are going for.

2. Tell the referee who will be calling. You could always text the person’s phone number for them to save in their phone, so that when the number comes up, they know who it is. It’s all about taking responsibility and making it as easy as possible for all parties involved.

3. Find out the best number to reach them on and when is the best time to call and communicate this back to the person who will be ringing.

4. Make reference checking easy for your recruiter – text or email the exact referee details including current employer, exact title, best numbers to call on, email and even a link to their LinkedIn profile. The more prepared everyone is for these conversations, the more meaningful the exchange and information obtained – all of which helps your case and increases your chances of being offered the role.

There are certainly many examples out there relating to where reference checking can go wrong for different parties involved. Even last week, after I conducted a glowing reference check for my candidate, she rang to say “Hey, I heard you spoke to Chris (the referee), he didn’t realise I was on the job market and offered me a job with his new employer”. Now, lucky for me, she didn’t take it and won the role with my client – but it is a clear reminder that as a candidate on the job market, you need to take responsibility and be on the front foot when it comes to providing referees and having conversations upfront, where you set expectations and create the most favorable set of circumstances for all involved.

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.

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!

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.