Coach Yourself………Easy Right?

How many self help books about coaching yourself are there? All promise a bright new future or a happier life, there must be millions. In fact having just searched Google for “coach yourself” revealed 13,500,000 results in just 0.36 seconds. So it seems there are a great deal of people ahead of me in this queue. However learning to coach yourself, well its all about balance.

Now all this depends upon where you are in your life or career. The rhetorical wise words and the range of self help books can be both a pleasure and a curse. The pleasure being there are a number of guru’s ready to give you instant answers to life’s imponderables. The curse being having to read & make sense of them all. Though how easy is it to coach yourself so you can make sense of where you are and most all feel good about ourselves?

Cognitive Coaching

I am going to pin my colours to the mast and suggest we start to look at coaching yourself with a model that is tried and tested.  Cognitive behavioural coaching or CBC. You have probably heard of CBT, well the model is from the same stable. Though more about moving forward by making sense of how things are and how you want them to be.

As Simple as ABC

One very simple and straightforward coaching model is the ABC Model. It is perhaps the most famous cognitive behavioural format for analysing your thoughts, behaviour, emotions and the consequences of it all. Cognitive behavioural therapy/coaching works on the assumption that your beliefs and thinking about yourself and situations influence how you feel. Subsequently altered thinking changes the beliefs about ourselves that can alter behaviour, emotions and feelings etc. How many times do we feel things are going wrong we reach for a swift glass of wine or a comforting sweet treat? A good example of altered thinking/feeling and an altered behaviour. By identifying and addressing problematic and automatic thinking we can start to change behaviour and view experiences for the better.

The ABC Model

The ABC Model asks you to record a sequence of events in terms of:

A – Activating Event (also sometimes described as a ‘Trigger’ or “Hot Button”)

B – Beliefs (for example, the automatic thoughts that occur to you when the activating event happens)

C – Consequences – how you feel and behave when you have those beliefs (consequences may be divided into two parts: your emotions and your actions)

So let’s have a quick example on how this might work. You are at work and your boss stops you and says “have you got a minute”. Now if you are anything like me my immediate thought is “what have I done now!” (says more about me than what the manager said). So the trigger for me is negative. As it is my belief that I am in trouble yet again. As a result, I feel nervous, anxious, might need a strong coffee (won’t help the anxiety), might feel nauseous and generally a heightened sense of doom.

Balanced Thinking

Ladies and gentlemen let me introduce to you a choice – a balancing thought. If I had used a balancing thought I would have seen the thing differently, as my boss is probably going to discuss something completely different. Could be a pay rise, promotion, a new opportunity or just about anything but the impending doom laden thinking. The point is is to suspend the negative thinking until there is more evidence to work on than a “have you got a minute” phrase from the line manager.

Of course we can make associations with how things panned out in the past, or there may also be any number of things happening to us outside of work that are impacting on how we think in work. The only way we can try to feel better about these events or situations is to balance the thinking and challenge how we think. So perhaps in the example of the manager asking you for a minute just balance the negative thought about self with hearing what the line manager wants to talk about.

One of the approaches of CBC would be to ask you to reflect on whether the beliefs of the activating event are justified, rational or based on an assumption of an error of initial thought. If on reflection you consider that those beliefs about yourself are not justified you might think of some more realistic balancing statements, that you can remind you of when the activating event occurs to help keep what is happening in perspective.

Lastly………

So stop and think about those activating events in your life that kick off a whole body experience of something bad is going to happen. Ask yourself what evidence have you got for this thought and altered feelings about the situation? You can probably cast your mind back to an event in the past that has framed and strengthened the associations between a situation and a negative outcome.  If its not relevant to this situation then change it, think differently about the event. Thinking about the event differently will change the way you feel and behave. Sounds simple but it is a tried and tested method to help bring a sense of perspective into your work & life.

Give it a go. It is sometimes hard work, as you have to engage in some meta thinking or thinking about thinking. Plus examining the way that the thoughts can make you feel and behave.  Think about the events that give you the collywobbles and ask is there a different or a more proactive way of approaching it. I bet you can and I bet it changes how you feel and behave. So coaching yourself can be a straightforward process that no wise guru can help you with. As you are the expert on how you think and feel about stuff and situations. You have the answers, trust yourself, turn off the auto pilot for a while and balance your thinking.

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Brexit – the Five Stages of Grief

So there we are the deed is done, the majority of the UK public has voted to leave the European Union. The Parliamentary system is in tatters, both of the major political parties are searching for leaders to lead us country through this quite revolutionary landscape. No vision, no plan, no hope, no nothing to give us any certainty of our collective futures. Us Brits like to do things slowly, deliberately and with some degree of certainty. Therefore it’s easy to see how cataclysmic this result is for the nation.

For the 48% who voted to remain in the EU the result has provoked all manner of wailing and gnashing of teeth. There is an appetite to mobilise against this injustice that has been foisted upon them. However, from my recent discussions with clients, friends and colleagues, there is a profound sense of loss for a country, values & culture we all felt we knew? Have we lost our belief that the UK is an outward looking, inclusive and progressive European country?

Collective Grief of the 48%

My own reflections from recent events are that many of us (plus some that voted leave and are regretting their choice) are experiencing a profound feeling of grief? In other words a loss, bereavement and grief for what we once had. We know that the events of the past 10 days mean that things will never be the same again, maybe like the loss of a close friend or loved one? It may also be a future that you feel powerless to change and did not vote for? Indeed I have witnessed these comparisons to my previous counselling work and my time at the Samaritans and Victim Support. Supporting many people going through a profound sense of anger and shock or “why me, I don’t deserve this”. Even the loss of a smartphone or cherished childs toy can promote this feeling of profound sadness and grief at the loss of something dear and irreplaceable.

To take that hypothesis further we can use the Grief Cycle model developed and first discussed by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in the 1969 book “On Death & Dying” (in On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief Through the Five Stages of Loss – 2014). The model promotes a simple five stages that may well help to put some context around how some may be experiencing recent events. Moreover within the contexts of the five stages of grief.

Five Stages of Grief

  • Denial  Denial perhaps best described conscious or nonconscious refusal to accept facts, information or reality, etc., that are relating to the situation concerned. In this instance the UK EU Referendum. Denial is a normal reaction to rationalise overwhelming emotions that can go some way to protect us against uncertainty. It is a defense mechanism that buffers the immediate shock of the event/loss. We block out the words and hide from the facts of the effects of the decision and perhaps any negative outcomes. We can easily become fixated upon stage when dealing with the sense of loss. We see the aftershocks of the referendum results still reverberating on social media and in the press. The events of the referendum are not easy to avoid or evade, as there is knowledge that things will never be the same again here in the UK.
  • Anger –  Anger can manifest in many different ways. In the case of the referendum, arguments, protest marches, blame, petitions, a second referendum etc etc. The people who voted to remain are now having to deal with the emotional fallout from the referendum, they may be angry with themselves, with others and especially those close. We have read about inter-family/community conflict as a result of groups voting one way or another. Of course knowing this can help keep detached and non-judgemental when experiencing the anger of someone who is very upset. However, with these highly charged emotions around, this result can make rational debate seem a distant fantasy. This anger may be aimed at inanimate objects, complete strangers, friends or family. We can feel guilty for being angry, needless to say, this makes us more angry at an outcomes that “we did not vote for this”
  • Bargaining – Traditionally the bargaining stage for people facing this level of social & economic change can involve attempting to bargain with whoever they can. We have heard about a group of business people banding together to ensure that Parliament change the legislation to make triggering article 50 possible (mechanism that starts leaving the EU).  This can  buy “reflection” time as a strong bargaining chip. Perhaps that there are many of us that feel we can bargain or seek to negotiate a compromise? For example “how can the leave and remain voters work together to unify the country?” when facing this magnitude of break-up of the political and social order of the country. Bargaining rarely provides a sustainable solution, especially if it’s a matter of life or death. Perhaps this is the weakest line of defense to protect us from the painful reality of the vote of the referendum.
  • Depression –  Sometimes referred to as preparatory grieving, the dress rehearsal or the practice run for the aftermath of leaving the EU. Needless to say, this means different things to different people. This stage maybe best described as a form of acceptance with some emotional attachment. It is perfectly natural to feel sadness, regret, fear, uncertainty, etc at what may be ahead of the country we thought we knew and could rely on. This stage may show that the person has at least begun to accept the reality of the situation. Sadness and regret of the fact we will no longer be a part of the European Union predominate a sense of depression in the case. We worry about the costs to us, our jobs, our families and our communities. We worry that, in our grief, we have spent less time with others that depend on us. This phase may be eased by simple clarification and reassurance. We may need a bit of helpful cooperation and a few kind words or more to the point a clear vision, strategy and plan for how we are going to move forward as a unified country.
  • Acceptance – Lastly, this stage can vary according to the people involved and the person’s situation. Although broadly it is an indication that there is some emotional detachment and objectivity. We will hope to enter this stage and must pass through their own individual stages of dealing with the grief at the events. Coping with this collective sense of loss is ultimately a deeply personal and singular experience. However, in this case it may well be beholden to our politicians & leaders to help the country focus upon helping the remain voters see the future as being different and in a positive light. The continual political infighting, uncertainty and sense of inertia will only will prolong the natural process of healing.

I hope that this simple but effective model helps put those difficult emotions that the 48% may well be feeling presently. Of course many will not feel like this at all and have shrugged the whole matter off and moved on. However, the collective conversations had over the recent past suggest that many are experiencing one or at least some of those debilitating stages of grief and bereavement.

Lastly………

Whilst writing this post last week there has been some acknowledgment by Boris Johnson (of all people) that the country seems to be in a state of “contagious mourning”for the referendum results. Perhaps then the people of this country need to feel that there is hope to be able to move through these five stages successfully. Without a vision and a plan we may well be stuck in a place that is bad for people, business, communities and the economy as a whole.

It is this acknowledgement that the 48% may be feeling a collective sense of grief for a country and culture the once knew, that may help us move forward in due course. However, the current malaise and political vacuum will only exacerbate the anger, fear and frustration of the sense of bereavement experienced by many. So for all those people who voted remain, give yourself some slack and acknowledge the stages you may be going through as a natural progression. Its part of a process of moving forward and making it a landscape and country we will all feel collectively proud of once more.

David Dean is a principle work and coaching psychologist focussing on creating clarity & the vision for careers, business and professional development. Helping to make your career a nicer place to be. Check out Bright Sparks Coaching for more information and contact details.

References

E. Kübler-Ross, D, Kessler (2014) “On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief Through the Five Stages of Loss” Simon & Schuster UK

Groupthink = FIFA Fail

images (16)So dear old Mr Sepp Blatter (or Stepp Ladder as one wag put it) has won the FIFA president election for a fifth-term. Needless to say, the decision by FIFA was met with almost universal condemnation by commentators and people in the know. So why is it the case? What is it about the apparent morally out of kilter executive & Mr Blatter’s style of leadership that has created this outpouring of disapproval and disgust? We know that FBI have a huge dossier on FIFA executives and have arrested a number of people for financial wrongdoing; so why do FIFA top brass feel immune from criticism? Well the hoary of theory of Groupthink may have one or two clues.

The theory of Groupthink from Janis (1971 & 1982) has been with us since the 1970’s and has been attached to all manner of historical events where group dynamics has impacted upon decision making. Notable studies include the Bay of Pigs, Chernobyl and the lack of preparedness by the United States services for the Pearl Harbour attacks during WW2. Though applying the theory to FIFA & Mr Blatter may become a little clearer after looking at the main characteristics of groupthink as described by Janis:

  • The illusion of invulnerability – group of people can become over optimistic about events around them & will take unjustifiable risks
  • Belief in the rectitude of the group – Group members think that actions they take are morally correct.
  • Negative views of the opposition –  Can become disparaging about leaders and people from the opposite side of the situation.
  • Illusion of unanimity – A group presents a perception that everyone has been in agreement with decisions, when clearly they may not be.
  • Constructing a protective shield – the group will vehemently defend itself from the views and perspectives of those on the outside.

There are of course many more dimensions to Groupthink.  However you the reader will begin the see patterns and links to what we know about the FIFA executive and leadership behaviours. Clearly, the wheels are now coming off the FIFA gravy train but Mr Blatter’s denial of wrongdoing continues apace. Again perhaps a symptom of Groupthink from the leader. Although the Groupthink theory is not without it’s detractors and criticisms, though there seems to be many parallels in the case of FIFA executive team and leadership.

So utilising this theory how can FIFA start to rebuild with transparency and credibility. I am sure we all have our own views, however, Janis suggests a number of ways groups can avoid the issues and pitfalls of Groupthink.

  • Encourage open criticism of the group and leadership team to evaluate decision making process
  • The leader does not express any personal preferences on the solutions to the problems until the debate has run its course
  • Create a “devil’s advocate” within the group to deliberately challenge the group’s decision.
  • Include people from outside the group to critique the decision making process and ultimate decisions of the group.

Again there are many more, however, creating an open and transparent system of decision making so there is no opportunity for Groupthink or criminal activity may help to rebuild trust in the FIFA board. Though the group has a long way to go before the maelstrom of recent events subside and a new way of doing business can emerge. FIFA may need a revolution before the evolution in their leadership team will have any credibility, though perhaps incorporating a few remedies from Janis and others may well start the open dialogue with World football once more. Remember Mr Blatter “Denial is not a long river in Egypt” so action on stopping Groupthink may well be a good place to start.

References

Janis, Irving L. (1972). Victims of groupthink; a psychological study of foreign-policy decisions and fiascoes. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin.

Janis, Irving L. (1982). Groupthink: psychological studies of policy decisions and fiascoes. Boston: Houghton Mifflin


Read more blogs on this and many other career and work related subjects like this at Bright Sparks Coaching

David Dean is an award winning independent Work, Career & Coaching Psychologist, blog writer, work psychology tutor & speaker on areas of psychology that make your career and workplace a better place to be.

A Question of Culture – bullying or just banter?

indexFor us here in the UK we have been reading and discussing an incident on a television program “I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here”, where a contestant was believed to verbally bullied another member of the group. Now in his defence the person doing the alleged bullying stated it was just banter and that it was accepted between both parties that it was just that a bit of fun. However, the watching audience saw the incident differently. The cry of “bully” and abuse rang around the corridors of the media for at least 36 hours until another minor incident subsumed the short attention span. Though the incident raised an issue in the contemporary workplace between groups and individuals of what does constitutes abuse & bullying and what is just consigned to being banter. What is the cut off point between verbal jousting and causing offence? Hopefully exploring this cultural issue can shed some light on the moral maze we all seem to encounter at work and within organisations.

Having experienced may different working environments banter and joking can be fun, reduce stress and raise morale within the group but it can be difficult to recognise when harmless fun becomes bullying, victimisation or even discrimination. Personal jokes and banter, friendly insults and quips are often how we interact in the workplace, at social gatherings or when we meet up with our friends and family. Sometimes closer friendships and the degree of familiarity allow for insults or name calling to be exchanged, with lasting effects of feelings or upset. Clearly everyone is comfortable and shares the laughter and enjoyment.

The darker side of the banter questions can happen when a person is singled out to be the butt of repeated personal attention and cutting comments and then the banter can become harmful to the person concerned. It is clearly no longer fun and the line between banter and bullying or discrimination has been crossed. However, what is the tipping point pushing banter over into abuse and discrimination and subsequent personal isolation and upset.

It is difficult for employees to know and comprehend when the line is about to be crossed and have the confidence to tell colleagues that enough is enough.  Factory life (mainly male dominated) can be tough for the thin skinned. Sometimes personal differences will be highlighted with a nick name or term that describes the person that clearly identifies them to the group. Its usually not overly complementary so can be hard to come to terms with. Usually the shift team are bonded as a group and the ribald banter is part and parcel of your working life.  This environment is similar to male dominated dressing rooms in sport, it is this culture that the alleged celebrity bully comes from. Perhaps then exhibits a different tolerance to the banter than other groups?  There is a hierarchy and men occupy roles within the group. The banter is part of the motivation and bonding process to suggest although we can have some fun at each others expense we are a team. Its easy to make some lazy hypothesis to suggest its men that allow banter, experience in female dominated environments suggests otherwise.  The banter is there but in a different more subtle form. Perhaps more passive aggressive, less obvious but nevertheless still present within the group. Of course this is a generalisation and there always exceptions to the rule.

So In principle the bullying or banter question is about context and culture within the group and the organisation. When cultures collide i.e. a factory or dressing room toward families sitting in their armchairs at home & media hacks, then perceptions on the interaction change.  We formally accept different rules and expectations within different environments. Psychologically called attributions. A attribution is the process by which individuals explain the causes of behavior and events. So home life is different than being at work, out with friends or in the dressing room. Behaviour and language adapt to the different environment and cultural expectations. I am sure you speak to your friends differently to your line manager to your family? So the term bully is very difficult to define or attribute from a distance unless we understand that the people concerned consent to the interaction rule of engagement.

Tbe bullying and banter question is a moral maze. Measuring it by external standards through a politically correct lens will no doubt always veer toward bullying as these robust interactions do not appear polite or appropriate from a distance.  However we may need to take time to understand the different cultures we exist within and what rules apply and to whom before we make snap judgements. Understanding how we attribute events and behaviours with different groups will no doubt help us look behind the smoke and mirrors of society, social interactions and groups. Bulling cannot be tolerated but where do we draw the line for wholesome and group bonding banter? A question for us all to cogitate.

 

Managing The “Talent”

images (41)So what is talent? Its a tricky question as definitions of talent and career management vary widely yet the terminology can easily be interchanged. Though for our purposes I will stick to the term talent to avoid confusion (mainly mine). Definitions vary as do the talent management programmes across many industries and businesses. Some good and not so good and some non-existent. So to drill a little deeper l will try to identify some key characteristics of what talent management is and how it can work.

Managing talent in an organisation could be defined as being focussed upon particular people in the business, a set of characteristics or more toward a statement of identified needs for the future. Some organisations see talent as the ability to go on toward leadership & CEO status, or as McCartney & Garrow (2006) suggest as “employees that have a disproportionate impact upon the bottom line, or have the potential to do so” However the CIPD (2006) defines talent management as ‘the systematic attraction, identification, development, engagement/retention and deployment of those individuals with high potential who are of particular value to an organisation’. So how do organisations identify a talent pool or groups of individuals that will have significant effect upon the business and most interesting what do they do with the group when they have been identified?

Toxic Talent Management

Having witnessed unfettered and undefined talent programmes in a large organisation here in the UK, where graduates (mainly young men) were employed on-mass, as being educated therefore talented, that over time created a significantthem and us divisions. The talent management plan was undefined and none of the non-participants of the programme were informed of the plan (or lack of them) to help them understand it and potentially rise to the levels of the talent pool. Thus raising performance expectations for all employees instead of the few. Without this information people easily saw the initiative as being unfair, it effected motivation and job performance.

The chosen few in the talent pool soon became overly competitive, boorish and unmanaged because they could. Young men with little in the way of people skills were promoted way beyond their capabilities and began to struggle with the burden of expectation. They were offered no coaching or mentoring or development workshops just expected to slug it out toward survival of the fittest. Not a healthy state of play and gives rise to the suggestion that managing talent is certainly not easy and not easily defined.

Talent Management Planning

Clearly the management of talent has many areas of focus. Any program will need careful planning to fit in with organisational culture, form appropriate measurement of the high performers and equity within the organisation. Moreover, no one size fits all, as many HR organisations do not see managing talent as a priority. Of course this is perfectly understandable in the current business climate. These programmes need time and commitment from all facets of the business to work and can be expensive. Though there is considerable evidence to show that the business that engage in talent management make significant returns of their investment. Profitability up by between 15.4% to shareholders to 1,289% returns to shareholders over ten years data from http://www.greatplacetowork.co.uk/. So lets move on toward positive talent & leadership development here are a few discussion points to get the ball rolling

Draft Plan

  • Have a clear agreement as to what high potential staff or talent is for your organisation. Is it to lead, manage, sell, or develop products etc that effect profit or what exactly?
  • Define the job roles for this process
  • Are the people inside or outside the organisation for the talent programme?
  • Will performance management programmes be rigorously applied i.e. fit to focus?
  • Have you identified a clear system of identifying the talent potential?
  • Are organisations expectations realistic?
  • Is their an open and honest organisational culture and able to give and receive constructive criticism? Does this programme fit your cuture of operations?
  • Non-participants encouraged to understand the talent programme and aspire to the standards expected.
  • Development centres/workshops to encourage group working, deal with poor performance, taking stock of career progress, personal performance coaching and most of all reflection time for learning and PDP.
  • Ensure development has clear purpose

Managing talent is tough to get right. As to some extents it is counter intuitive in a very lean and competitive business world. Clearly these initiatives are expensive and time consuming as mentioned earlier and need progressive commitment from the organisation to work. However, having key people in key positions leave the business as a result of a lack of career development can be expensive. Both in terms of loss of revenue and recruiting the right type of person to the role. So managing talent could be seen as perhaps inoculating your organisation to potential high performers leaving and succeeding elsewhere. As the old adage goes and adapted for this purpose – train your talent so that they can leave, but treat so well that the don’t want to.

Having a clear focus upon the talent needs of the business demands a framework and expectations clearly defined at the outset. Equally important to the organisation is the ability to engage the whole group in developing a ‘talent mindset’ and to help everyone engage and have the same opportunities. Moreover, encouraging the whole team to strive toward pre-defined objectives for those that can achieve will no doubt lift motivation, productivity and sense of purpose & career direction.

The introduction of talent management can viewed as a highly positive response to a changing business environments. However, talent management programmes will need the commitment from leadership teams, management, coaches and mentors to ensure success. Thus signalling a shift to a more proactive culture of people development and performance management for the whole business. However, committing to the talent management plan and setting out goals and objective is a great start.

References

McCartney C, Garrow V (2006), The Talent Management Journey, Horsham:
Roffey Park Institute

CIPD (2006), Reflections on Talent Management, Change Agenda, London: CIPD

The Natural Selection of Business & Careers

download (3)Now I am sure we all know the Darwinian model of natural selection & the five theories contained within. If you need a short reminder have a quick look at this very informative web site run by Christ’s College in Cambridge http://darwin200.christs.cam.ac.uk/pages/ (accessed 3/11/2014). So the question is how can these theories be applied to shedding an alternative light upon how businesses evolve and how your career “fits” the environment, the shifting sands of time, skills and your ability to “mutate” into a new job or career path.

Coupled Darwin’s theory and the term “survival of the fittest” developed by Herbert Spencer to help explain his understanding of natural selection, we arrive at everyday terms to describe how life and for that matter business & careers can (in theory) develop. Needless to say these theories have been hijacked to fit may different ideologies and moral standpoints to sometimes disastrous effect. Such as Social Darwinism that is thought to be responsible for laissez-faire attitudes to war, economics & racism.

The Business of Natural Selection

By this time I am sure your imagination is starting to make the connections between natural selection, survival of the fittest and how businesses & careers are born, develop and sometimes die. Businesses have to compete for resources, evolve through small but distinct stages and that some variants or mutations may help them adapt better to their environment. Apple is a good example of a variation that produce many products that are internally similar to other technology companies (Mp3 players, PC’s, laptops, etc) they just do things differently with distinct styling and pretty boxes. Thus have mutated into a distinct species within the landscape. Its a high wire act and difficult to maintain, as if the mutation looses its distinct adaptation to the environment then they become generalists.

The generalists are other technology companies struggling for resources (profit). These generalists are all fighting for the same slice of the market so have to be nimble, agile and smart to fit products to business opportunities that arise. Products are not generally high value items such as Apple products but more standard offerings that will be less expensive but high volume to make the margins. Similar to species of birds, mammals & rodents – all fighting for the same meagre resources to survive in changing environments. Its hard for both generalists & specialists to survive as there has one eye on changing climates and barriers to their success. Competition is tough for businesses as with species of animals & plants are after the same resources unless they can evolve to adapt before others or sadly die out. I am sure as you are reading this you can apply similar stories to businesses & market sectors that you know? Of course there is nothing more compelling than a good theory – just reality gets in the way!

How does your Career “Fit”

The term “fit & fitness” can of course mean many things but in terms of your career we can use the theory to overlay your skills, abilities, knowledge of your job and how your career trajectory fits into the changing landscape of work. I wager you job or work is not the same as it was a few years ago and that you and your work is evolving steadily. Your job may have been made redundant in the past and had to make significant adaptations of your skills and abilities through re-training or re-branding yourself into a distinctly new career species? There are many ways that your evolution and you may have been naturally selected to give your career and working life an advantage.

The big question is now – does your skill set and career fit with where you need to be? Do you perhaps take a risk and mutate into a new career path or do you find new and novel adaptations to re-invent yourself to help maintain your competitive edge? To that aim I have put together a list of actions to help consider your evaluation career options and interested to hear what else your would add?

  • Identify what works well for you that gives you a competitive edge. May be a skill, an ability, an easy way of doing things others find hard, or even just a different way of thinking. Is it truly an advantage? Does it give really you an edge? Can you repeat it and give you that competitive edge?
  • Now that you have found it – cultivate it deliberately. Refine it, add to it & focus on it. Move on from those things you don’t do so well, build that competitive advantage and not trying to catch up with what others find easier than you do.
  • Now you have found and developed one great career adaptation, find another and keep repeating the process. Create as many natural advantages as you can. See what works and go with it, regardless of whether it’s what you expected or not.
  • Always spend time doing what you do best. Don’t forget your positive attributes, skills and knowledge, ignore them are your peril. By identifying development areas you are aiming to support your strengths enabling you to evolve positively.

Hopefully the short list will help with the adaptations as no species has ever thrived by working on its weaknesses and forgetting about its natural strengths. Don’t try to go against the way that natural selection works with careers and business – go with it and prosper. Creating your competitive edge, overcoming barriers, exploiting your natural attributes and planning for your future will no doubt help you (or your business) see environmental changes as a challenge so you can adapt and manage change effectively. So don’t be a Panda eeking out an existence on bamboo alone – be more…………………………….you fill in the gap!

Lord Alan “Widow Twankey” Sugar and the Pantomime Ugly Sisters?

images40So the panto season has started early this year in the UK with the BBC 1 program Apprentice.  Now for the uninitiated a pantomime is

Pantomime (informally panto), is a type of musical comedy stage production, designed for family entertainment. It was developed in England and is generally performed during the Christmas and New Year season.

As with all English panto’s we have a number of characters such as the ugly sisters as the constants and Lord Alan Sugar as the Widow Twankey presiding over the “he’s behind you” knock about fun. Though through it all a Cinderella emerged in the form of Lindsey Booth who had the resolute dignity to admit that the adversarial and clawing environment was not something she was comfortable with. Its just a pity that she did not resign from the program rather than wait for Lord Widow Twankey’s chubby little digit to pronounce “Your Fired”!

Lindsey Booth runs a very successful and thriving business teaching children to swim and just does business in a quiet unassuming way that relies upon reputation and honest to goodness great service. Lindsey uses her life experiences to tell a very compelling and engaging story of a slow but purposeful business growth whilst being a full-time mother. None of the sell, sell, sell, more, more. Lindsey moves beyond that toward “we teach babies to swim and are proud of it”. Who could argue with that.

For me the Apprentice is a bit like rubber necking a car crash from across the other side of the road, you know you shouldn’t but sometimes its difficult to resist. Sitting in front of the television grumbling that business is just not like this, and these odious panic stricken business people are nothing like the great people I have met and continue to meet. So how does a program bring the noisy pip squeak out of serious business people?

I am sure the contestants are nothing like there ugly sister persona in their day jobs. Its inconceivable that the contestants would be working let a lone successful in their own right. I can’t imagine that they would work in a team or be management or leadership material with the attitudes that they exhibit. Perhaps bringing in psychologist Robert Hare to conduct some psychopath profiling as in his great book Snakes in Suits would reveal a nest of psychotic executive vipers? Of course I am exaggerating as the contestants are probably whipped up to a frenzy by the production company to exhibit all of the worse excesses of the blind self absorbed banking exec of 2008.

So where does the program leave the representation of young executives in 2014? Whilst working at Business School a couple of years ago the attitudes from young business students did suggest that they saw the Apprentice as a template for business success. This from a group of people still using Comic Sans to write business plans and customer invoices for example. Spelling was in text speak with no concern for the complication of working with people. People get in the way of making a profit don’t you know! By the time we had finished working together there was a more realistic view of business, with people at the centre of their success.

So the Apprentice is of course a comic representation of business with heroes and villains, profit and loss and is just television. However, I am wondering if some young people going into business see the Apprentice as a template or just knock about panto fun? Hopefully it is the latter and there are more Lindsey Booth’s out there to make a business that has value as well as profit.