These days, the traditional idea of careers (i.e. job for life, linear progress in a large corporate company) is on the slide. Therefore, it might even be time to question what ‘career’ actually means. In fact, Google serves up two definitions:
The careers these days are somewhere between the two. So how do we get the best of both worlds? The way to do that is by placing your life at the centre of your career decisions.
Are you at a crossroads when it comes to your career? Do you feel trapped or stuck in your current role? If so, these top tips for navigating the chaotic confusion of careers today could be valuable.
1. Work out your true north
So firstly, you need to work out your true north, your anchor point, your next destination, which almost always relates to your purpose. Now that purpose is almost certainly going to relate to your values. So this isn’t necessarily about picking a career path or type of job or industry, it’s working out the kind of stuff that you really enjoy, that you’re good at (or could become good at) and how you can point those strengths and skills and values towards something valuable in the world that will give you gainful employment.
2. Take control
You might expect your organisation or your boss to look after you, to provide you with a clear career path, to give you those opportunities that will ensure your next promotion. But that rarely happens, if ever. What’s far better is to take control of your career, and your life, by knowing how to communicate what it is you want to do to the people who will make those decisions and then put yourself in the best possible place for those opportunities to come to you. Demand them! Speak to all the right people, make it your mission to run your career rather than have others [not] run it for you.
3. Choose life
Pose yourself the question: ‘What do I want my life to be like?’ If you want to work a three day week because you have other important stuff to do in the other two days, why not? If you want to work a 6 month year because you want to spend the other 6 months on a new business idea, do consider it. Think realistically about what you want from your life, work it out logistically and financially, and if it stacks up, do it. There will be compromises if you don’t work full time but for many people, these are compromises that they are more than happy to make in pursuit of the life they want.
4. Face your fears
You have to be prepared to face into your fears and overcome them. One common fear is not feeling you can try different careers or industries or roles because you don’t have the skills or experience; check if this is actually true – can you get re-trained? Have you really thought about the skills and experience you DO have and how those might be valued in a different context? Another common fear is rejection and this often stops people from following a new path. But what if, at the interview, they laugh me out of the room? If you are clear on your strengths, your skills, how you want your life to be, people won’t laugh. They may not be able to accommodate you, but that’s you rejecting them as much as the other way around. The third fear is feeling alone or isolated in carving out a new career and life. Therefore, make sure you have a good support group around you, giving you advice, sanity checking, giving you support and encouragement and input before interviews.
Stronger teams in 5 simple steps? Yes, please!
1. Know your purpose
The most effective teams I know operate the ‘gold medal’ strategy – what is the one overriding goal that the team needs to focus on in order for it to be a standout success? Of course, it’s true that sporting teams should find this more straightforward, as they may well be literally aiming towards a ‘gold medal’ goal. However, the same pinpoint approach can be used by all teams. Ask yourself, what is the one goal or single overriding purpose for your team that outweighs all others?
2. Find your strengths
Teams need to understand the strengths, skills and most importantly, the contribution that individuals can make to a team. So you could use a strengths assessment tool – such as Strengthscope® – this will help people in the team identify what they love the most and where they can make the greatest impact. It is also important to know how the strengths of individual team members combine to ‘define’ a team’s brand – this will often be a blind spot for teams until they gain an understanding of how their strengths can combine most effectively to deliver on goals.
3. Use them well
Knowing your strengths doesn’t necessarily equate to using them effectively. At the individual level, team members can benefit from reflecting on how they can use their strengths most effectively to help the team achieve its goals, particularly where they have a strength in short supply within the team. At the team level, gaining an understanding of ‘what great looks like’ for majority strengths comes through powerful conversations. For example, using strengths of Empathy and Collaboration to adopt a ‘one team’ approach in practice to deliver on important project goals. Having powerful conversations can help teams find more examples of strengths at their best to help build awareness both inside and outside the team. This builds confidence and belief in the team that it can become and stay high performing.
4. Manage the risks
The most productive teams are prepared to be honest and open about risk areas. Individuals can call on other team members for feedback and support in areas where they feel weaker. At a team level, possible blind spots should be identified due to strengths in overdrive or weaker areas. Consider shared Resilience and Courage strengths which if you don’t pay attention to them could lead a team to take risky decisions without a clear benefit. Or a lack of Relational strengths, which may mean the team becomes inward-looking and isolated, losing support from the wider organisation. Actively managing these risks is essential if a team is to maintain high performance under pressure.
5. Build team rituals
Without strong processes and disciplines to support their strengths, a team will probably do ok but won’t get to brilliant. Planning, delivery, reviewing and learning all require time and focus to be done well and create a sense of belief in what the team can achieve at its best. Teams which have built these rituals over time are more likely to get to brilliant status because everyone knows what the team is for, how they contribute to that purpose, people work together, deal with change and learn from experience.
is that your brain is wired to help you build new habits. We all have a stack of an insulating agent called myelin available to us which enables us to speed the effectiveness of new neural pathways in the brain – this allows messages to get from A to B quicker and it’s how habits, all habits are formed. When we’re young, we have a ton of myelin available to get messages through the brain quicker because we’re in rampant skill acquisition when we’re small. When we’re older, there’s still more than enough myelin to help us create new ways of being, thinking and doing. And, with focus, consistency and determination and a will to succeed, new habits can be created in around 30 days to form.
THE BAD NEWS…
is that it hurts to create new habits – right in the brain. So anything new can be picked up as a threat by the brain, particularly anything which risks us looking stupid, because we don’t like social embarrassment as a species. So one learning model talks about going from unconscious incompetence – when we don’t know how rubbish we are at something, through conscious incompetence, when we realise we are rubbish, to conscious competence, when we become less rubbish, to unconscious competence, when the thing we were bad at and have got better at finally becomes something we are good at, so much so that we don’t really have to think about it anymore. So the thing to know here is that the first 30 days plus will be the hardest and most effortful of all, but it will typically get easier after this.
Also, it’s worth mentioning pain to gain ratio i.e. effort in to return back, is stacked against us for the first half of that month where we’re trying to build the new habit – we have to be conscious, we have to practice, we have to be prepared to fail (a lot) and so the effort is massive and we’re actually getting little in terms of positive feedback because we’re very rubbish at that stage. The trick is to keep going because the second half sees incremental decreases in effort and increasing payback in terms of feedback and skill acquisition.
Make it past 30 days and you have a good chance that the habit will stick and will become far less effortful over the following months.
To get the most from your brain if you want to build new habits, here are my 3 tips:
Want is always more powerful than should.
We seem to be surrounded by devices, books, ideas and apps to help us get as much done in as short a time as possible. Many of these approaches have merit and (sometimes) we do seem to get more done in a day than was ever possible even a few years ago. However, at times we might be forgetting about some old school approaches that can also bring lots of benefits, such as complimentary partnering. And if you wonder what this is: this is where you partner with people who have different strengths and skills to you and with whom you can get through so much more and have more fun with, than if you rely solely on the ‘DIY’, app-powered method.
So do you want to try complimentary partnering? Here’s our ‘how to’ guide to developing strong partnerships at work and in life:
1. Know your strengths and limitations
We can’t be good at everything. We have some strengths and we have some weaknesses. So start by nailing yours – ask for a feedback on what others value most about you (your greatest strengths) and where they see you as needing more support (potential weaker areas). Once you have full understanding of these, make sure you own it and act on it.
2. Understand other’s strengths and skills
Often, we can hold up others as having great strengths and few weaknesses (compared to ourselves anyway). But the truth is that others too have areas where they excel and areas where they struggle. Observe the strengths and weaknesses in those closest to you and start to consider ways you could work together.
3. Show vulnerability – ask for help
This step may be the hardest of all. Publicly accepting that you’re not the perfect all-rounder and that you might need to depend on others, can sometimes be a hard pill to swallow. However, if you’re going to build stronger relationships, and get more done, with more fun, you’ve got to be prepared to be vulnerable. So ask those closest to you for help on something where they stand out and you fall down. You might be a poor planner or finisher, you might struggle to reach out to build new connections, miss points of detail, lack the conviction to speak up for what is right. But find the right person to support you and they will be delighted to help – why? Because they get their strengths recognised and they also get to use them, which they love to do!
4. Show courage – offer support
Offer help to others, ask them to draw on your areas of strengths and skills. To do this, you might need to ‘take the risk’ of exposing weaker areas in others so that you can offer help and support. But if you do this sensitively and frame it as something you would love to help them with as you really enjoy that kind of thing, they are more than likely to take up your offer.
5. Beware strengths tsunamis
Sometimes, working with others who have the same or similar strengths and skills to us, can lead to a potential ‘strength tsunami’, where the energy you generate between you is so great that it risks overwhelming the partnership and others around you. For example, two people who are persuasive and decisive may make decisions too quickly and then try to persuade others of the merits of their position. They may be better bringing in others who have a more strategic or common sense view to sanity check their decision. Or just remember to step back and think it through before pushing ahead too quickly.
6. Strengths deserts
At other times, we may become too reliant on one or two particularly important relationships to us and gain great confidence that we can get all we need from these VIPs (Very Important Partnerships). But in doing this, we may miss the emergence of ‘strengths deserts’, where neither partner has the strengths or skills to deal with certain challenges and where we should bring in others to help. So a partnership that is great at generating new ideas and strategies may not be good at planning or communicating this to other. Use others to help with these important areas, to ensure that a new idea has the best chance of fulfilling its potential.
7. Stick with it
This last point is maybe the most important of all. We all know how hard it can be to develop new habits and behaviour.
Strong partnerships take time to develop and you will experience challenges and setbacks along the way. But when you stick with it, the rewards are great – happier friends and colleagues who feel more valued, and getting so much more done without having to do it all ourselves. Remember too to build out a range of complementary partnerships – knowing who to go to for what rather than leaning too heavily on one or two VIPs.