Tuesday, 31 December 2013

When Good Things Happen (Confidence is an OUTCOME gained through H.O.P.E.)

Back in the 17 August blog entry I focused on Optimism and how when bad things happen, you can turn a Pessimistic response into an Optimistic response.  This is done by changing your thinking about the bad event from the 3 P's (Pervasive, Personal, and Permanent) into a SIT (Specific, Impersonal, and Temporary) response.  (Credit to Martin Seligman.)  What about when a good thing happens?

This post is part 4 in my series Confidence is an OUTCOME gained through H.O.P.E.  (Happiness, Optimism, Purpose, and Energy)

When good things happen to us, it is equally important to maintain a healthy manner of thinking about these events.   And it is quite easy to do now you are already alert to the 3 P's and the SIT response.

You reverse the thinking.  

While Pessimists in response to a BAD event blame themselves (make it Personal) and expect misfortune to become a Pervasive and Permanent state, Optimists in response to a GOOD event credit themselves (make it Personal) and

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Purposeful Selfishness: What It Is and How to Get It

Early autumn is always the busiest time, with everyone back from summer holidays, thinking about what we need to achieve by year end.  This is true for me as well, and so this blog has unfortunately had to wait in the wings until now.  For those readers who have been waiting for the next installment, apologies.

My clients tend to come from financial services, engineering/manufacturing, or the public and third sector.  Now well-launched into that final quarter push to year end, all the meetings activity since the summer has given me cause to reflect on how it is that we each get things done.  Most of us will achieve our business objectives and hit our targets, but what are we doing for ourselves that would make the biggest difference in the long term?

Without a singularity of purpose and drive, a purposeful selfishness¸ we risk having the year slip past without having achieved the one thing that would most satisfy us.  

Who gets ahead at work?  

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Optimism Increases Your Resilience (Confidence is an OUTCOME gained through H.O.P.E.)

This post is part 3 in my series Confidence is an OUTCOME gained through H.O.P.E.  The "O" in H.O.P.E. stands for Optimism.

Say the word "Optimism" to a lot of people post-2008 and they sneer knowingly and wonder just how in touch with reality you are.  Yet speak of Resilience and an ability to keep moving forward after a setback, and you are likely to be admired.  "What's your secret?" people want to know.  In a word, it is Optimism.

Optimistic people believe that they will rise above life's challenges 
and are able to keep calm in tough situations.

Because of this, Optimists are less distracted by their own thoughts and more observant of the situation they are in and the external world.  They therefore are able to see opportunities that others may overlook.  And with the ability to put things in perspective, bounce back after setbacks, and generally be resilient, a strong Confidence emerges.

Friday, 26 July 2013

Why change? Staying stuck is more productive.

In the past couple weeks, I've been reflecting on how many people I know at present who are feeling stuck. They face big dilemmas and and are unsure of the way forward. For some it is being out of work and trying to plan the next direction, for others it is coping with grief after the death of someone close, and for many it is the daily demands of a job that leaves them overwhelmed and unhappy.

The impetus to plan a change is the logical response
when we believe we can control our own destiny.

The impetus to plan a change, or a response to the change that is happening to us,  is the logical response when we believe we can control our own destiny. At this point in the dilemma a lot of "shoulds" emerge--"I should figure out what I really want to do," "I should make more of an effort to meet people," I should update my profile on Linked In at least!"

Or should you?

Saturday, 13 July 2013

What's your Happiness balance? (Confidence is an OUTCOME gained through H.O.P.E.)

A couple weeks ago I blogged the first in my series on Confidence is an OUTCOME that is gained through H.O.P.E.  This is part 2.  The "H" of H.O.P.E. stands for Happiness.

As an executive coach, I often hear tales of some pretty horrid things. Companies restructure without adequate communication, the new strategy isn't working, a new boss comes in who is a tyrant, the struggle to be heard or to influence in a tide of bad decisions--these are all part of organisational life at one time or another.  And in coaching we work through these things and the individual's leadership during these trials.

So when I write about Happiness, I'm NOT going to espouse the power of positive thinking or "keep your chin up and smile" or any other such nonsense.  Life at work can be really hard sometimes, and when we also suffer from low confidence, we are prone to feel the knocks a bit too much.

It is important, therefore, to be able
take care of ourselves psychologically on a daily basis.  

It is important to focus on our Happiness balance, and on how we can be self-determined in creating happiness for ourselves, despite what is going on around us. 

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Exec Mums Advice on Managing Perceptions When Returning to Work from Maternity Leave

Last time the Exec Mums Forum met, we had a new member join us who is just about to return to work after the birth of her (first!) baby.  We had a really productive co-coaching session.  It is always hard to coach someone who is facing a challenge we ourselves have already faced.  It is even harder to coach someone who presents a problem we identify with in the present!  But coaching is about helping the client to work through their challenges themselves; the client is more likely to succeed in implementation.

Be clear about what matters to you 
and the value you bring to the organisation. 

We therefore contracted with our new Exec Mum that we would together help her work through her concerns about returning to work, recognising that the situation is slightly different for each of us, depending on our ambitions for career, our family, and the environment at work.  The result was a rich co-coaching discussion in which our new Exec Mum discovered what she wanted for herself, how she would involve her husband, and how she would approach her boss and her company.

We also contracted with our new Exec Mum that after the discussion, each of us would give her top piece of advice on what has worked for her personally.  Here it is...

On Managing Perceptions When Returning to Work After Maternity Leave:

Friday, 21 June 2013

Confidence is an OUTCOME that is gained through H.O.P.E.

Some people may SEEM confident, and others may actually BE confident, but most of us want to be MORE confident.  How do we get there?

If we set ourselves the target of being more confident, it can seem a dauntingly impossible task.  Some of us cite a lack of self-confidence as a reason we can't or aren't able to do something.  We treat our lack of confidence as a hurdle that we know will trip us up every time.  But it is actually the fact that we don't try or take a risk that exacerbates a lack of confidence.

'Why can't some of us own our achievements
and feel a boost to the self-esteem?'

On the other hand, there are plenty of us who do take risks, even big risks, and still, painfully, feel a lack of confidence.  Many leaders reach senior level but remain caught in this cycle.

Thursday, 6 June 2013

How do you motivate staff? Actually, you can't...

There has been a lot written about how to motivate staff.  In fact, one of my favourite articles that I have shared with dozens of clients is called "How Do You Motivate Employees?" by Frederick (Godfather-of-Motivation) Herzberg.  Then in 2009, I heard Richard Ryan of the University of Rochester speak at the BPS conference.  He talked about his research with Edward Deci, their Self-Determination Theory, and the three motivators common across all cultures.  THIS made real sense to me.  Their theories were then popularized by Daniel H. Pink in his book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.  Oh how I loved this. I recommended it to clients, and in particular I recommended the YouTube video that describes Pink's book in 10 minutes.  But lately, as my clients struggle with staff who feel disaffected, concerned about the future, and let's face it, unhopeful, I've started to wonder if any of us can actually motivate someone else?  I think the answer is, "No, we can't."  But I do believe we can focus on motivating ourselves and creating the environment for motivation in our teams.  Heck, as employees we've already taken over the management of our careers rather than look to the company to do it.  Why don't we now take over our own motivation, too?

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

The Imposter Syndrome

In the first few pages of Sheryl Sandberg's hit book, Lean In: Women, Work, and The Will to Lead she shares her personal experience with the Imposter Syndrome--"the phenomenon of capable people being plagued by self-doubt."  (And throughout the book she adeptly blends her personal experience with the rigor of research, all wrapped up in an engaging narrative as if she were right there beside you having a cup of coffee.  Way to go, Sheryl Sandberg!)

When I think of the Imposter Syndrome, I recall my professor W. Warner Burke at Columbia University Teacher's College.  On Day 1 of my first course in my Masters in Organizational Psychology, he remarked to a lecture hall of about 70 students that he knew a lot of us wondered if we were up to the challenge of graduate school.  A lot of heads nodded thoughtfully, including my own.  He then went on to tell us that some

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Can You Be a Debater and a Leader?

If you value sharing opinions and open discussion of disagreement, it is possible that you also expect others to be fairly tough-minded in withstanding a rigorous debate, particularly if you think they are wrong or less-informed than you. Very few people enable their colleagues to share differing opinions well. Many people even at senior level (and especially in financial services) are fearful of being exposed for being less clever than they aspire to be. As a result, they shy away from debates that would show them as not having thought through everything.

Friday, 3 May 2013

Do We Lead by the Situation or Through Our Values?

One of the great debates in leadership theory: Is Leadership Situational or Normative? That is, should we as leaders adapt our style to suit the situation, as Goleman suggests (see the post Directive or Authoritative?), or should we be consistent in our approach? Those who argue for the Normative, espouse that leading through one’s values and consistently striving to align our behaviour with our values is the most effective way to lead. But it starts with thoroughly considering your values.

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Not Your Style to Be Directive? Try an Authoritative Approach

For leaders who struggle with being more directive of staff and achieving deadlines (and yes, this does happen at very senior levels in organisations), two readings may be of help. Leadership That Gets Results (Goleman), and Why Should Anyone Be Led by You? (Goffee & Jones). Goleman, the grandfather of Emotional Intelligence outlines 4 leadership styles that get results, and argues for the use of them situationally. In particular for those struggling with targets, the Authoritative style can be quite useful.

On Self-Criticism and the Drive to Achieve

A theme for many clients is pervasive self-criticism and how this affects one’s perception of what has been achieved. Rather than give ourselves credit for what we have completed, we instead focus on what we have not yet done, or even, having now completed something, how we would like to take this further but still have not done so. Perfectionism rears its head here and exacerbates the situation. But perhaps the thing to do is to ask frequently, “What have I learned?”

In my work with successful executives, I often see ambition and a hyper self-critical tendency in a dissatisfying linkage. It takes various forms. Some of us wonder if life would be easier by being less ambitious. Then we wouldn't feel we fall short of our expectations for ourselves so often. For those of us in this camp, self-criticism and ambition are almost correlated. A particular experience in early life which resulted in authority figures expecting us not to demonstrate our ambition and our unique talents so blatantly can result in checked ambition and the lifelong struggle to prove ourselves to ourselves without ever fully allowing ourselves to enjoy our success.

Learning from Yourself as a Leader: Confidence, Feedback, and Changing Behaviours

'If you defer to me and to my knowledge of leadership, you are limiting what you can learn and discover about your leadership to whatever it is that I understand. Discovery of yourself and your abilities as a leader is a much richer and wider topic.'

I said this to a client not too long ago.  Sometimes when clients have achieved some success in coaching they are tempted to view the coach as their greatest resource in leadership learning.  However, much of what we know as leaders comes from knowing ourselves, more than knowing the theories. If coach and client work together in a relationship of equal (non-hierarchical) status, the leader is best-positioned to learn about what is most effective for him- or herself as a leader.   There is no limit to what the leader can learn or be once the desire to strengthen leadership takes root.

Friday, 26 April 2013

Executive Mums Forum: And sometimes, we have to be willing to see if we can break the rules.

One of us was worried that during maternity leave absence, her male colleagues might try to take over her job.  “So I asked to come back from maternity leave after 3 months, instead of 6, and then use the extra 3 months spread out over the next several months, taking 1-2 days off a week.  My boss said yes, but it was against HR policy.  It worked really well.  I was happy, my boss was happy, and at the end when I resumed regular hours, I was ready to do it.  My boss asked me to tell HR about how well it worked."

Executive Mums Forum: A word from your sponsor: Time for women to stop being shrinking violets at work

Victoria shared with the group some highlights from a survey that was featured in the Economist on the low numbers of women with a sponsor in their companies.  The article links lack of sponsorship to lack of female promotion to senior roles.  Specifically:

Executive Mums Forum: What can companies do to best support and develop executive mothers?

What can companies do to best support and develop executive mothers?

This question started with a discussion about talking with your manager.  The group agreed that as hard as it may be to start to do it, it is important to discuss your wants and aims with your manager.

Executive Mums Forum: Why I started it

When I was 32 and working in Manhattan, I was invited to a women’s dinner.  It was my first women’s event ever—dinner at a sushi restaurant.  We all had to sit on cushions on the floor and I was the only one wearing a skirt!  I was also about 15-20 years younger than everyone else, some of whom had been some real crusaders for women’s lib.  Did I owe these women a huge debt of thanks, I wondered?  But as the evening wore on I became uncomfortable.  I felt I didn't belong.  At the end, the facilitator exhorted all in attendance to help other women when asked.  I bit my lip, thinking if anybody asked, male or female, I would help them.  I wouldn't discriminate against men.  We then each had to share our views at the end, going around in the circle.  I couldn't think of anything else, so I asked my question, "If I'm asked for help by anyone, I’d help them, why would I particularly need to help women?”  Needless to say, my question was not positively received! Nor was it answered.

The Executive Mums Forum: An introduction

The mission of The Executive Mums Forum is to build high impact, mutually supportive, co-coaching relationships for executive women.

The Executive Mums Forum is a discussion group of 8 people from different companies who meet 6 times a year.  They coach each other and gain greater insight collectively and collaboratively. From career moves to childcare, all topics are open territory.  Discussion themes and resources are shared in a follow-up communication. 
In 2012, Victoria Hall developed the Executive Mums Forum in response to themes she saw when working with women executives.  Successful executive mothers typically do not know other mothers with the same level of career responsibilities. They are highly capable, used to carrying a heavy load, and feel isolated. They want to connect with others, but doing so could upset the fine-tuned efficiency that rules every day, and may not be worth the effort.  Consequently, they tend not to prioritise networking. Through the supportive network of Executive Mums, members share, coach each other, learn, and conquer their challenges.

The Forum method of learning is widely applicable.  Other Talent Futures Forums are developing, including the Emerging Leaders Forum for middle managers.  To learn more, please contact Victoria.

Victoria Hall, Executive Coach
Founder of Talent Futures