Archive for the ‘Authenticity at Work’ Category

To Be Your Best? Or The Best?

May 21, 2009

Success. Is it about being the best or your best? Ask Kris Allen. He just won the title of 2009 American Idol, beating out Adam Lambert who was the judges’  favorite.

Kris Allen and Adam Lambert

No one was likely more surprised than Allen himself. He literally stuttered out that “Adam deserves this”.

Kris Allen never set out to win this competition. He set out to simply earn his way into being in (and staying in) the competition. Each week he focused on doing his best and he took advantage of the opportunity. Over the season, he grew leaps and bounds and literally found his voice!  He was considered the ‘dark horse’ and with each week, he continued to be shocked when invited to stay in the game. As the season neared finale, it became clear that if he didn’t win, he’d succeed anyways….with record labels and other opportunities likely lining up at his door. 

Is there a morale to this story? What do you think???!!!

Focusing on being your best without worrying about what the competition is up to can often pay off. Each week, Allen was rewarded for being authentic and as Paula Abdul and the other judges regularly noted – he never lost sight of who he was. He played to his strengths and stayed true to himself.

There are many other stories about how authenticity and focusing on being your best can pay off. This, in fact, was the winning strategy for John Wooden, former head coach for the UCLA basketball dynasty. He brought UCLA to win 10 NCAA national championships in 12 years…and many other notable accomplishments.

His secret to success?

“Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to become the best which you are capable….don’t worry about whether you’re better than somebody else, but never cease trying to be the best you can become” (as  quoted in ‘Wooden on Leadership’).

What about you? Where are you focusing on being your best — and where can you leave behind concerns about the competition?  What of your strengths are you leveraging? What opportunities are coming your way — or are you creating — that you can leverage to grow yourself ? Where did you not earn ‘top spot’ – yet found success anyways because of the effort you made? 

For me…well, this coming weekend I am running a half marathon. I’m as slow as heck and I don’t give a damn. I’ve been running for 30 years…some years ‘ploddier’ than others. I’m proud of it all. I’m too slow to win any medals. But my father (a very accomplished marathoner with more than 70 marathons under his belt) taught me many years ago that every participant is a winner if they bring their best to the race that day.  So this Sunday, I will start out with thousands of other runners. I will focus only on doing what I can do that day – and I will bring my best.

To each of us out there….may you have peace knowing you are bringing your best self to your life each day.

UPDATE (posted June 9): For those inquiring minds – yes, I completed the half marathon! I was extremely happy with the overall experience and what I accomplished that day. I did my best for sure for that particular run. For those in the ‘marathon-know’, I completed my second half-split faster than the first…and finished strong (within my capacity). Now I’m setting my sights on a fall possibility:)

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Before You Re-invent Yourself: Remember Who You Already Are!

April 29, 2009

One of the upsides of being downsized (see last post) is that you have the opportunity to re-evaluate your career aspirations. For many people it’s a chance to take a hard look at what they really want to do – rather than try to sleepwalk into what they have always been doing. That may mean setting a new career direction, retooling or retraining  – or even re-branding yourself.

But before you re-invent yourself, make sure you remember who you already are! What I mean is rather than looking externally at all the shiny new career possibilities, make sure you also look internally to ensure the right fit and to bring forth the best of you as you move forward.

A look inside  — The inner game reflection encompasses a bunch of stuff. Here are two lenses to consider:

1) Mine Your Strengths: You have acquired job-specific strengths and talents, and you also have a whole bunch of other strengths that intrinsic to your character that may or not be associated with your past role and career.  Conduct a self audit and list as many as you can.  Also ask friends, family, former colleagues, clients, bosses for their input (like a 360…you can even use some of the free online 360 tools).  If coming up with strengths is challenging for you, then start with your accomplishments. List those far and wide (work and personal) then step back and ask: what strengths of mine lent themselves to those achievements?  You can also go to www.viacharacter.org and do the online assessment for VIA Signature Strengths which will help you identify some of your top ‘character strengths’.

There are many angles to take when reflecting on your strengths. It  should not be a quick task – take your time, revisit it, build the list and stay in that reflection. You will use that knowledge as you explore career possibilities — as well as in your personal marketing (i.e your resume, letters/emails, your conversations in interviews and networking, etc….perhaps more to come in another blog post sometime soon) .

2) Articulate Your Core Values: Core values are the building blocks of who you are and not necessarily attributes you feel you should have. They may be linked to your morals but they aren’t your morals. They simply are part of your character ‘dna’ and what is most important for you to feel fulfilled, alive and authentic. Most people I start coaching relationships with can’t articulate their core values off-hand –that is until we’ve spent some time together. Knowing your core values is like having a compass to help you choose meaningful work and life decisions. Examples: I have a value for freedom. In my interpretation that means I need freedom in how I work and live. I can’t be pidgeon-holed. It doesn’t mean I can’t work in traditional employment (have for many years successfully and loved it!) but the environment and culture to some extent has to honour this value for me to perform my best. I also have a value for learning. I wilt when I stop learning. There’s more. But the key is to find your own and declare and own them to yourself.

How? You can either hire a coach to help you discover your values or you can reflect on your own. Pick a few moments in your work and life experience (from both would be great) that you would define as ‘peak’. That’s when ‘all was well’ and you felt most alive or at least authentic and fulfilled. Describe those moments and reflect on what about them was meaningful to you. Ideally, have someone to partner with and have them listen for themes, etc. Step away and see if you can identify themes that may represent values for you. Start with a rough list of possibilities (themes or actual words that represent a value). Test them out by considering other moments/experiences in your life. In the positive moments, what of those themes were present? In the negative ones, which one’s were compromised? This should be a good starting point – but like strengths, stay in the reflection and let yourself further evolve your clarity and recognition of your values.

APPLICATION:  Once you’ve created a starting list of your strengths and values, make sure you pay attention to them until they become an intrinsic part of your self awareness. As you explore career opportunities, evaluate their potential for fulfillment and success as measured against your strengths and values.

ASK: To what extent will this job or career path align with my values? to what extent will it draw on my strengths? Which of my values might be compromised and can I live with that (note: not all values will always be honoured so know what your non-negotiable, highest priorities are)? What do I need to further explore and/or ask/research to assess whether this career path would be a good fit with my values and strengths?

MORE on Strengths: Here’s another post you may enjoy that illustrates how Signature Strengths can be integral to our overall ‘mojo’ (joie de vie)….life success and fulfilment. It relays a story about a lizard who…..well, you can read it HERE.

There’s more of course, but hopefully these two ideas will be a good start.  Now over to you, your strengths and values — here’s to creating your next TGIM Work-life!

Eileen

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It’s All About the People….

July 20, 2008

A client of mine (on the communications/PR side of my biz) recently retired from her role as VP Communications of the organization she’s worked with for the past 10 years.  I’ve had the privilege of working with her these past 6 years (I provide communications counsel) and have come to know her quite well.  In the days leading up to her farewell party – and at the party itself — I’d heard her reminisce about her career and repeatedly say: “It’s all about the people.” In her parting words, she counseled her younger staff to remember how important and valuable relationships are in one’s work-life – in many cases, even more important than the actual work!

“It’s all about the people”.  I couldn’t agree more. To read more -><> (more…)

Now Where Was I Again…..?

July 7, 2008

Hello again! Remember me? I know, it’s been a while since I’ve last posted. I confess, I’ve been MIA (missing in action). I haven’t been much in the blog writing mode these days because I’ve been in the major “DOING” mode. Busy, busy…..espousing/talking/working….TGIM work-life in a variety of workshops/retreats/webinars.  It’s all been great fun — with a lot of work — but lots at once, so a little less time to blog (sorry folks!).

In any case, I thought I’d share a quick snapshot of where I’ve been recently wrt to workshops, presentations, etc. :

Ministry of the Environment: I delivered a 1/2 day workshop: “Strategies for a TGIM Work-life” — Tips and strategies for engagement. See here for testimonials.

Centennial College: Lead a two and a half day retreat for the college’s most senior leaders: “Reflective Leadership Forum” — exploring strategies to build reflective practice in one’s daily work and life. See here to read what they had to say.

Project World / Business Analyst Conference: Lead a two day workshop for project managers and business analysts: Coaching Skills for Leaders.  See here to read what they had to say.

Upper Canada Law Society: Participated in a panel discussion on Work-life balance at their 3rd annual Solo and Small Firm Conference. Great feedback – soon to upload.

Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants (CICA): Presented a Webinar :“Assertiveness at Work” (which I’ve written about in previous posts – and am in process of planning a follow-up teleclass – details to be announced but likely in the fall).  If you’d like to listen to the archive – click here. And to read some of the great feedack – see here.

Financial Planners Standards Council (FPSC): Presented a Webinar: “Asking the Right Questions for Career Success”. Testimonial.

AND ALONG THE WAY…and in between I had all my other work — I’m not complaining, actually I’m quite grateful for all my clients and the terrific work opportunities I’ve had. But (yeah, there’s a ‘but’)….it has been BUSY so I’ve been time-challenged these days,

Now that summer’s here….I hope to slow down just a bit for a little while. Time to reflect on all that ‘doing’ and the learning along the way. I’ll be back….will write about the experiences, learnings, insights, etc.

But for now….I’m honouring my TGIM work-life needs and catching my breath.

To a TGIM Work-life!

Eileen

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New! Teleclass Series: “Assertiveness at Work” for January 2009

May 19, 2008

UPDATE – as of DECEMBER 2, 2008:

More than 700 people registered for my  CICA-hosted Webinar “Assertiveness at Work” this past spring (May). That’s a lot of interest! Leaders of all levels find themselves stretched as the stakes of work and life keep getting higher. Competent and talented — they recognize that assertiveness is not an all or none proposition. Fuency in assertiveness skills is personal and for many of us, can be further developed over time. Part of the emotional intellegence skillset, assertiveness plays a role in the degree that we are fulfilled, how effectively we perform — and generally how much we get of what we want and need in work and life.

Does this resonate with you? If so, please take notice….Drumroll please…..(darn I’m buring the lead in this post:)

INTRODUCING: the  Big Cheese Coaching Lab© — with the first offering focusing on a Teleclass series on: “Assertiveness at Work”.

 I am offering a six-week group coaching teleclass series (weekly)- starting this January 2009. The proposed starting date is: January 13th at 7pm Eastern Standard Time. However, if there is enough interest for an additional time I may add a second group.

I would like to keep the group size small (up to about 10 or so people) so first come first serve. If interested, pls contact me and we can schedule a brief phone chat to see if this is a fit for you.  I will have a promo developed shortly with additional info (topics; fees; etc.) and would be happy to email to those who express interest.

There is still time to share some of your own input! In the spirit of the Big Cheese Coaching Lab©No obligation but if you would like: You can TAKE A COUPLE MOMENTS TO COMPLETE A SHORT SURVEY HERE. 

Please assert yourself and make your voice heard!:)

Additional articles: See my CICA “Ask a Coach” article on assertiveness here.

And check back soon for more details!

Till then, here’s to a TGIM worklife!

Eileen

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Webinar: Assertiveness at Work

May 7, 2008

I’ll be presenting a Webinar called “Assertiveness at Work” on May 21st for the CICA (Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants). If you are interested in this topic, email me – I might be able to arrange some access for a few more people.

Here’s the Webinar promo description:

Do you occasionally (or often) feel held back in your career because you haven’t appropriately asserted yourself? Do you find it challenging to promote yourself, your views and your opinions?

Do you feel uncomfortable and/or hesitate to speak up — especially on issues that might involve some conflict? Do you find yourself frequently saying yes — when you’d rather say no?

….. Whether you have an outgoing or shy disposition, there are assertiveness skills you can develop to help you more effectively and authentically express yourself in a variety of work and life situations……

If interested in developing assertiveness – either for yourself and/or others in your work-life, contact me to learn more/explore coaching and/or workshop possibiliites. Assertiveness is part of the emotional intelligence spectrum and is increasingly becoming an area of focus for me in my practice. 

Hey did you notice how I just asserted myself in that previous paragraph…..well, gotta practice what I preach!:)

To being authentic, self-expressed and getting more of what you want! Sounds like a TGIM work-life!

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Survey says: Balanced Workers Are More Engaged

January 22, 2008

The research is in. It’s been proven (yet again). Work-life balance is good for business…

 (Photo courtesy of rexanders on Flickr)

According to a survey released last month by Sirota Survey Intelligence, employees who experience reasonable balance between their personal and professional lives have positive views about their work, are more engaged and are more apt to feel pride in the companies they work at. They are also more likely to recommend thier employers to others.

The press release issued by the company highlighted the following:

* Of the 73% of employees that said they felt overall positive about their work-life balance, 89% rated a favorable satisfaction with their companies. This compares to only 58% satisfaction levels (with their companies) among those who had negative views about their work-life balance

* 88% of that same group (positive about work-life balance) would recommend their employers as a place to work vs. only 64% of those negative about work-life balance.

Interestingly, the survey also pointed out that not having enough work can be more of an issue than too much work.

* Only 44% of those who say they have too little work are satisfied with their jobs compared with 69% who said they have too much.

Douglas Klein, President of Sirota Survey Intelligence, says “Work-life balance is almost an afterthought to people who feel their employers are meeting their end of the deal by being fair, providing interesting and meaningful work, and recognition or rewards for a job well done.”

Well said….I say. The balance issue is definitely something that must be achieved with efforts and commitment from both employer and employee. Companies that take work-life balance seriously will be rewarded with more engaged people, a reputation that attracts talent and better retention.

Not a bad deal, eh? Attact the keepers and keep the keepers.

But ‘taking it seriously’ means walking the talk….so ensuring there are policies, programs and a supportive culture aligned with work-life balance and other related values.

 Do I hear flex time anyone? Opportunities for progressive career paths? Opportunities for career and work-life coaching (for high potentials/high performers)?

No doubt there are complexities on both sides of the ‘work-life balance bargain’ (employers/employees). But the most important thing is to set the intention – authentically.

Soooo, how are you navigating and keeping up your end of the ‘work-life balance bargain’? Would love to hear from you whether you are on the employee or employer side.

And if interested, I wrote an article on similar topic…you can find it here: “Keeping the Keepers“.

Till next time….and to a TGIM work-life:)

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Ask the Coach: Assertiveness at Work

January 21, 2008

Here’s one of my latest “Ask a Coach” columns published in CA Source – the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants  (CICA) online newsletter. It’s about a theme that I encounter a lot……the issue of assertiveness at work.  Perhaps this will resonate with you or someone you know. In any case, if you have a question of your own….bring it on (see “Coaches Corner” on this site).

Q. I just had my annual review and had hopes of being promoted. Unfortunately I was bypassed — yet again. My boss said I have a lot of potential but need to work on some leadership abilities. He said my functional skills were great but I should focus on becoming more assertive if I wanted to move into a leadership role. I’ve never been a particularly aggressive person and can’t envision changing my whole personality. But I don’t want to stand still in my career either. Any advice?

A. I’m sorry about your disappointment in not being promoted. The good news, however, is that assertiveness can actually be developed — with some practice, self awareness and a dose of courage. I’m sure you’ve heard the expression, “the squeaky wheel gets the grease”. Well, sometimes that’s true in life too. Those that assert themselves have a better chance of getting more of what they want at work and in life. The key, however, is to “squeak” appropriately. Assertiveness is not about being aggressive — nor does it require you to change your personality. Rather, it’s more about being authentic, self-expressed and standing up for yourself when it’s called for.

Defining assertiveness

Assertiveness is a core competency within the spectrum of emotional intelligence (EQ).  According to one definition,* assertiveness can be described as: the ability to express feelings, beliefs and thoughts and defend one’s rights in a non-destructive manner. It’s comprised of three elements: 1) the ability to accept and express feelings; 2) the ability to express beliefs and thoughts openly even when it is emotionally difficult to do so (I call those courageous conversations!); 3) the ability to stand up for personal rights without being aggressive or abusive.

To better understand how your own level of assertiveness might be factoring into your career experience, here are some questions to reflect on:

* Can you identify specific instances in your work where you felt held back because you haven’t asserted yourself? What was the cost of not asserting yourself in those situations?

* Generally, when you have an opinion and/or feelings that differ from others, do you tend to shy away from voicing these opinions or do you take a stand and articulate what is important?

* How do you feel about speaking up on issues that might involve some conflict?  Does that give you anxiety? Do you worry that others may think less of you?

* Are you able to set and enforce boundaries for yourself in terms of how you want to be treated and respected?

* When you need or want something that is important to you, do you proactively and directly make requests for it?

* Do you find yourself frequently saying yes — when you’d rather say no?

* How do you validate your own feelings and views? Do you acknowledge them or tend to dismiss them and instead defer to other people’s views?

Developing new habits of assertiveness involves courage, self awareness and various communication skills. For some people, these skills come naturally; others have to work at it. Here are some steps you can take to develop your own assertiveness.

1. Tune into your inner game by owning and acknowledging your feelings, ideas, beliefs One of the key elements of assertiveness is having the ability to acknowledge and accept your own feelings and beliefs. Without validating your own perspectives with yourself — how could you confidently express them to others? Start paying attention to those moments when you have an opportunity to assert yourself — perhaps you have an opinion, idea or challenge that either differs from others or isn’t yet on the radar. Take a few minutes to reflect on why this matters; what it’s about; what’s at stake if you don’t express it. The idea is to check in with yourself first to clarify and own your beliefs so that you can more confidently express them to others.

2. Identify any limiting beliefs that might be preventing you from being self-expressed
If in those moments of opportunity you find yourself hesitating, take a moment to explore what’s really holding you back. Often it’s our internal voices of self-doubt and limiting beliefs that keep us stuck.  Perhaps you have a belief that if you speak up something negative will happen. Do you have an inner critic that says:  “Don’t rock the boat!” or “Who are you to speak up?” or “You don’t have the credibility.” We all have our inner critics — the key is to acknowledge and manage them.If the voice of the inner critic is holding you back, try on a different perspective.  Instead, listen more closely to your own empowering voice of reason and wisdom. Remember, you just explored that in step #1.

3. Before speaking up, think about how you want to show up in the conversation.  Remember, being assertive might involve voicing your opinion — but in a way that doesn’t violate others.  This is where execution counts.

Here are a few tips:

* Choose your words wisely: Assertive communication involves being direct and open — but not brash. Choose your words carefully before you communicate.

* Tone is as important as words: Of course, it’s not just what you say, but how you say it. Pay attention to your tone which includes language, voice and body language if communicating face to face.

* Speak directly and with clarity: Don’t beat around the bush. Say what you need to say but do so sensitively and diplomatically. It’s important to speak with clarity. Being vague, hinting, or just implying — can be counterproductive.  It can also sometimes appear manipulative.

* Communicate empathetically: Even if your views differ from the other person(s), show understanding and compassion for their viewpoint and/or situation, e.g. “I know you worked hard on this and put a lot of thought into it and I appreciate that. But I have another perspective that I feel strongly about that I’d like to share.”

* Practise, Practise, Practise…Developing habits of assertiveness takes practice and ongoing reflection. Situation by situation, moment by moment — each will give you an opportunity to practise, learn, reflect and adapt accordingly.Developing assertiveness not only calls upon courage — it builds courage!  Stretching yourself to be a little more assertive will increase your self confidence over time.  

* Enlist support:
There are a lot of ways to enlist support to help you develop yourself in this area.  Hire a coach who is skilled to work with you; take a course or enrol in groups such as Toastmasters; actively get involved in pursuits that will stretch and challenge you to step out of your comfort zone and/or provide you with leadership opportunities (e.g., perhaps within a volunteer endeavour).It’s an ongoing journey, but it’s worth the effort. Remember, appropriately assertive people get more of what they want in work and life; it helps them to feel more authentic and self-expressed.

*Assertiveness as defined by the BarON EQi system and Connective Intelligence.

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To give, or not, at the office? In the news today…

December 12, 2007

Is the  holiday season bringing you workplace ‘gift angst’? Not sure what to get the boss or your colleagues? Stuck on what to get for the guy/gal you barely know from down the hall but drew their name in the company’s Secret Santa exchange?

Check out today’s Globe and Mail article “To give, or not, at the office“, written by Randi Chapnik Myers. Randi interviewed a few work/career coaches (including myself) so you’ll find various perspectives and tips. 

I’d like to reinforce that when it comes to gift-giving in the workplace, the spirit of giving is more important than the actual “gifting”: use your judgment, be sensitive and appropriate. Generosity comes in many forms.

Cookies anyone?

Note: see “In the News” section for more news articles featuring Big Cheese Coaching. 

Navigating Career Success With Emotional Intelligence…

November 27, 2007

Last Thursday I spoke to a group of post-graduate students in the Corporate Communications and PR program at Centennial College’s Centre for Creative Communications.  I was invited to share some insights from my 18+ years experience as a communications/PR consultant (both traditionally employed and self employed) — as well as from my current perspective as an executive/career coach.

My talk was titled: “Navigating Career Success with Emotional Intelligence“. Well an hour goes by quickly….and I had lots to share. And the students shared their perspectives and experiences too. It was a great time and particularly nice to be at the college because I had, in fact, taught the media relations course in this very program just a few years back. I also did a lot of PR for the college several years ago when I just started out on my own in the communications biz. Finally and most importantly, I found many from the group to be engaging – with a lot of smarts and enthusiasm….two essential ingredients for success. 

In any case, I thought I’d share some of the tips, random musings and lessons learned that I spoke about. Although this talk was geared to a particular group of students, I think many of these ideas and themes can apply to many of us at various stages of career and life.

So here goes…

1) Be a life-long learner. School may soon be over (for now) but the learning has just begun.

2) Be responsible for your own learning. You are accountable for your own success and fulfillment.

3) Happiness/fulfillment  (in work and life) doesn’t just ‘happen’. You must create it. And pay attention and adapt as things change. 

4) Technical skills related to your profession (and craft) are and will always be important. But on their own they are not enough. Emotional Intelligence is equally important and where it’s at these days when it comes to your success and fulfillment.

5) Things change faster than ever before. Stay abreast or find yourself side-lined faster than you can say ‘outta work’.

6) Developing yourself as a person will be as important as continually honing your ‘craft’ and skills. Do both.

7) You are more than your job description. Know who you are and remember who you are. When life and work gets busy and ‘tough’ it’s easy to forget.

8) No such thing as ‘job for life’. You will likely have many plots and chapters in your work story. Navigating change will take a lot of emotional intelligence — not just a good resume.

9) You can’t sell yourself if you don’t know yourself. Get to know — and stay in touch with your values, strengths, aspirations. And recognize your gaps so you can address them.

10) People hire people they like, trust, respect — and feel they can count on to deliver the promise they make in their ‘pitch’.

11) Burnt bridges are hard to cross. The community (in Toronto or elsewhere) is large but it can also be small. Navigate/tread well.

12) If you know it all already – why bother to wake up? Curiousity and a value for lifelong learning can’t be underestimated. They are essential in your ‘toolbox’ for success.

13) Every job – good or bad — brings opportunities in some way. Find the gift in each situation. Even in the ones that hurt.

14) Stay in the kinds of questons that keep you growing…..the answers may change over time.

15)…for instance:

– What is it to love your work and your life?

– How do you want to express your unique talents, values, aspirations in your worklife?

– What are  your learning edges? Where are you growing?

…..as always, much more to say about each of these ideas and more. And as always would so very like to hear your comments and ideas. Bring them on!

Till then, to a TGIM worklife!

Eileen

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