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Success 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.

 

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.

 

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.

2 years, 10 reflections….what I’ve learnt from striking out on my own

By | Business, Leadership, Results

 

8403f4cd7065ebac2b1e75374500b3e2This month I reached the 2-year milestone of running my own business. The day came and went with a team lunch, congratulatory messages and thoughts of wow that went fast. Other than that, it was a normal day and business as usual.

I was made to reflect on this achievement this week when I interviewed an executive who is at a crossroad.  He is deciding between pursuing a leadership career path to CEO or to continue as a sought after expert in the management consulting space.  I made a suggestion of a third choice “you could build your own business empire” and he laughed and said “I respect people who put their own homes on the line to build a business – but that’s not for me!” It hit me in that moment; I was included in that reference. I made that decision 2 years ago to back myself with a vision of creating something great. That optimism in my DNA kicked in and I never considered that it wouldn’t be a success or the depth of risk, if it went pear-shaped. This is not egotistical. It’s encompassed belief, capitalising on opportunities and a desire to make a difference.

Before you jump and put it “all on the line”, here’s 10 things I’ve learnt from taking the leap 2 years ago:

1. It’s up to you – I find being in control and 100% accountable for direction and results thrilling and motivating, but understand that this sort of risk and accountability might scare the bejesus out of you. There is no regular monthly pay, or leave provisions, if you like being the master of your destiny; you can put a tick here.

2. Do what you love – waking up excited about what the day may hold, who I’ll met and be inspired by is a rare commodity for the majority of the population (I know through many interviews!).  You want to be sure that you are dedicating your energy to something you know you are passionate about. You can’t fake a love for what you do.

3. Conservative growth – I read an article in the first month of being on my own that said entrepreneurs should not hire any staff in the first 12 months – only when you are desperate for more hands. I was tempted many times – but only hired my first team member 6 months ago.  The benefit was getting my hands dirty in every aspect of the business, defining the business strategy, knowing the pipeline was full and having clarity about who I wanted to work with day in and day out.

4. Vision – I didn’t take the plunge of starting my own business for a long time because I could not get crystal clear on the vision of what I wanted the business to look like. Let a vision evolve, just start doing because being in action allows the cream to come to the top. Sometimes it’s okay to not know all the details (take note control freaks!).

5. Culture – in my experience, culture drives everything in a business. The type of people who work with you, the type of clients you attract, the business decisions you make and the behaviours you demonstrate.  Know your own values – do a personality profile and don’t try and be something you’re not.

6. Clients – without them, I don’t have a business.  I make developing my connections and relationships a priority. I know at the core, these relationships are everything.  If you don’t have the discipline to “walk the walk” as well as converse with people, building a business is going to be incredibly difficult. In 2 years, it gives me a buzz to be working with some exciting, innovative and generous business people who are like-minded in the quest for finding and keeping executive talent.

7. External support – I was able to identify fairly early on that I wasn’t able to do everything on my own.  Outsourcing, asking for help and paying for expertise has been a great investment.  I have learnt many business lessons from listening to others – ongoing learning is an essential success ingredient.

8. Brand – you don’t have to spend a fortune, but you do need to stand out from the crowd. I met a brand expert recently who told me that your brand could only be world-class in one of three areas – excellence, reliability or innovation. Having this focus means your brand brings something others don’t and then you have to leverage that. The past 2 years I have consistently been told our brand is authentic, relationship focused and progressive.

9. Be healthy! When you run your own business, there is no calling in sick and asking someone else to cover for you. Being top of your game and staying healthy across all aspects of life – physically, mentally, emotionally is critical to staying optimistic in the tough moments!

10. Reward & enjoyment – no point waiting for a rainy day to enjoy the business success – whether that’s an indulgent purchase, time out or just doing the things you love most.  A very clever friend of mine said “pleasure is an absolute necessity for long-term success and it is essential to do things that make you feel delighted, delicious or just plain good.” I’m slowly learning to embrace this!

Since leaving my corporate role 2 years ago, I have consistently been told “you’ll build an empire again”, “it’s who you are”, “it’s in your blood”. I wasn’t so sure, but I can say it’s been a ride and the best is yet to come. I feel like I’m only half way up the mountain and I’m keen to see the view from the top.

 

Someone not playing by the rules? How consistency governs success

By | Results, Strategy

In my blog post “People leave leaders – the uncomfortable truth” I discussed how changing business culture and my leadership style were two contributing factors to increased business results and overall success.  In this journey, there was another significant milestone that made business easier, more enjoyable and more profitable – consistency of service.

Our company had a large banking client who had high expectations, rarely used recruiters and was quite vocal about his frustration with the turnover of Consultants in the recruitment industry.  When we finally won an opportunity to recruit, he developed a relationship with one of the more experienced Consultants on my team.

When she got pregnant and was preparing for maternity leave, I knew her replacement on this account was critical to get right or I would risk losing them.  The new account manager was introduced and not long after, there was another new assignment for her to work on.  At the same time, this client was on the board of another organisation and was dealing with another one of our Consultants on that opportunity.  In the space of several months, he had exposure to three Consultants, plus his existing relationship with me.  I’ll never forget the day he called me to give me some feedback.  I remember thinking “oh no, what’s gone wrong, he doesn’t like that he is dealing with so many different Consultants”.  It was the opposite. He was ringing to tell me how impressed he was with the consistency of our process, our approach, our service and methodology. He said regardless of whether he was dealing with Tom, Dick, Harry or myself it was the same. We had the same vision, the same way of doing things and a real consistency of service delivery.

This was no accident. We filtered this “sameness” through the organisation from the vision and values, to dress code, to being on time, how we answered our phone, our report writing and how we presented at meetings. We wanted every interaction with our company  to represent and reinforce what we stood for. It was a highlight for me to see this being recognised by an external customer who had noticed and was experiencing the benefits.

It wasn’t a walk in the park to get to this point.  It took discipline, persistence and holding people accountable to uphold these standards. Often new Consultants who joined us from other firms didn’t like ‘our way’ and would try to “buck the system”, take a short cut or revert to their old habits.  As a leader, it was tempting to let these behaviours go, especially when they were producing results. Ignoring it never worked. It always backfired. It always turned ugly and became more difficult for me, the team and the Consultant in question.

I remember going out on a client visit with a new, but industry experienced Consultant to observe our service in action.  We got in the car and I asked about the organisation, who we were seeing, what the history was etc. She knew nothing. There was no preparation, no research or knowledge. Gulp! It pretty much went down hill from there including no street directory or directions to get there, making us late, no apology to the client, no setting of the agenda, no use of our presentation folder and no closure or follow-up.  Everything from her training and induction had been thrown out the window. She liked to do it her way and couldn’t see the problem. Doing it her own way wasn’t going to work in our culture. There were two choices – embrace the proven strategies that deliver results and consistency of client service or conclude we weren’t right for each other.

Harsh? Too blunt? Not flexible enough? You could certainly argue that revenue and results from an experienced recruiter is not something to walk away from so quickly.  But what’s the long-term impact? What are the consequences for the brand, culture, team approach, reputation and ultimately the client experience? It was a risk I wasn’t prepared to take. We parted ways and I learnt a very important lesson to stick to what you know works, be consistent in every detail and don’t apologise for reinforcing processes that deliver. Your team members are either on the bus, or they’re not.

Deliver consistently to your customers and you will enjoy consistent success.

Swamped by your workload? 5 ways to get out of the mess!

By | Performance, Productivity

This week I met up with a client who had over 150 emails in their inbox waiting for their attention. Just the thought made me squirm with discomfort!  How can you possibly respond, action, remember or even read that many emails? How can you honestly be productive with that much content staring you in the face?

This situation reminded me of a common problem I would witness with consulting staff time and time again.  A month would not go by without someone in the team getting themselves in a flat spin about the pile of work in front of them. When my Consultants found themselves in this tough situation, stressed, overwhelmed and really not knowing where to start I would do ‘desktime’.  If any old staff member is reading this now, they will probably be having a cold shudder just at the thought. They honestly dreaded it at the time, but loved it afterwards because they came out clear, focused and organised.

In any job, there are often so many tasks to do and all of them can appear urgent.  It is very easy to get lost in the detail of emails, phone calls and ‘stuff’ that distracts you from the bigger picture goals that you are trying to achieve.

Let me start by saying I am not a micro manager.  I am not interested in looking over someone’s shoulder, critiquing and controlling their every move.  Who has time for a start? I learnt that lesson early in my leadership career that carrying everyone else’s problems and being a control freak is a complete waste of time and effort as well as being incredibly ineffective.

However, there have been countless occasions where a senior staff member, and often a top performer, can get inundated with work and can become quite upset in not knowing where to start or how to tackle what seems to be the impossible.

1. Clear the inbox

If you’re like this client and have an overload of emails, start by getting rid of them. Clear the inbox! Being flooded with emails is usually the downward spiral on a slippery slope to disorganisation and feeling out of control.  As a rule, my inbox will only have enough emails to take it to the preview line, let’s say 10 – 12.  This will usually consist of new emails ready to be actioned, or something I need to refer to that day in terms of reference information.  That’s it.  Everything else has either been actioned or deleted.  My motto has been do it, delegate it, delete it, but don’t delay it!

2. Re-prioritise & re-organise

One afternoon in early 2002, one of my consultants was in tears in a complete panic unsure of where to start.  I spent two hours with her at her desk going through papers, trays, resumes, client files, emails and filing systems to see where it was going wrong.  It was a painful exercise.  She was completely disorganised.  I had to bite my tongue and avoid the lecture of how did things get like this in the first place? That wasn’t going to help.  For her, it was difficult as she felt being exposed like this made her incompetent.  We agreed that the purpose of the exercise was to help, with good intent, find a solution to avoid getting herself in this situation again and to re-prioritise.

3. Clean your space

I have always maintained a clean work-desk policy in all my roles.  At the end of every day, I would insist that all Consultants clean their desk.  This included empty inbox, files away, work in trays etc. Apart from just liking things neat and tidy, there is method in my madness.  A clean and organised workspace has the benefit of feeling like you’re on top of things, being clear in what needs to be done and not being distracted by mess.  There are of course obvious benefits like being able to find things, the cleaners could actually do their job and clean as well as the confidentiality of not having candidate’s personal details lying around.

4. Central list

Through these situations, I learnt that sometimes people just need to go back to basics. I strongly recommend one list – a daily to do list (see are you busy or just ineffective?) where every task or action is recorded (avoiding sticky notes and electronic reminders).  This way there is a central point and you don’t need to rely on your memory (which rarely works).  The inbox can be cleared when there is a central list, your in-tray should match the list with anything that needs to be actioned and the rest should be filed and out of sight creating a clear and organised workspace.

5. Time out & clear your thoughts

When things just seem all too much, I am a big believer in getting up from your desk, taking a deep breath and getting some fresh air.  A walk around the block, a trip to the mall or grabbing a coffee can seem a bit trivial, but honestly it can work wonders.  Physically removing yourself from a situation that is causing stress or where you can’t think straight is an easy remedy to get some immediate time out.  I would often take a notebook and pen with me, to be away from the chaos to refresh and rewrite my priorities to re-focus on what I wanted to achieve.

These tactics were consistently successful with Consultants over the years as they found it helpful (and painful at times!) to have someone external to sit with, to talk to and get some clarity around “ok, what are the priorities again”. It got to the point where ‘desktime’ was even requested!

The client with the 150 emails argued with me, telling me that you should keep everything.  It is a record and you never know when you may need to refer back to it.  I don’t disagree completely ….. but hording hundreds of emails in an inbox is a sure fire way to miss something important or a quality service standard.

Instead of feeling swamped by workload and looming deadlines…clear your head, desk and inbox, reorganise and reprioritise so you can take control.

 

Nicole Underwood offers a range of consulting and workshop services to help other businesses implement similar success strategies.  As a previous finalist in the prestigious Telstra Business Women Awards, a business coach and entrepreneur, Nicole partners with organisations to improve their leadership, performance and results. Contact Nicole here.

 


“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

 

 

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.