Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Why we find it difficult to self-promote and tips to overcome

Most Australians shy away from self-promotion – and with good reason. The iconic Australian is humble and self-deprecating, not given to gloating or “big-noting”. Unlike in the United States, self-promotion doesn’t sit well in our culture.
However knowing how to skilfully talk about your accomplishments is vital to advancing your career. If you can’t communicate and market yourself, you will often be off the radar for new opportunities.
Here are some simple steps to develop a clear, authentic message and confidently deliver it to those who can support you in managing your career.
1. Understand your brand
Know your strengths and know what others say about you. You will be surprised at how others see you and in most cases this will in far better light than you thought. This can be as easy as asking people how they see you in terms of strengths and personality, right through to doing a 360 reputation/brand tool (see this free version fromReach USA). This self-awareness will also help increase your confidence as you can quote what others say about you.
2. Be authentic
When trying to build a network of people who can support your ideas and help you find career opportunities, it can be easy to give yourself more credit than is due. Don’t make the mistake of pretending to be someone you’re not. Pay close attention to the message you want to send out, and be ready to answer for it.
3. Understand Your Audience
Be mindful of who your audience is and whether or not what you have to share is relevant to them. Be strategic in what you share, with whom you share it and how you communicate your experience.
You need to decide what specific accomplishments or stories are most relevant to your audience.
4. Promote Your Value, Not Yourself
You won’t get noticed, let alone hired, if you don’t talk about your achievements, no matter how uncomfortable that is for you. Talk about specific projects you’ve worked on and the value you’ve delivered to an organisation.
Remember to quantify your results. It’s really important that you talk about key success metrics of your projects and how you’ve delivered against them. Talk about how you’ve saved costs, made or saved the company money or saved time.
5. Demonstrate Confidence and Passion
Confidence is so important, whether you’re in interviews or business meetings. When you transition into a new role or company, you need to show your superiors you have confidence in yourself and know you’ll be successful in the job. Have some success stories well practiced and ready for delivery.
6. Get Recommendations
Third-party recommendations can help you get a job or grow your business. If you don’t have them already, ask your previous colleagues or bosses to write a recommendation for you on LinkedIn. For business owners, ensure you have testimonials on your website.

To most us confidence to talk about ourselves and our accomplishments comes from preparation and practice. Self-promotion is something that you need to practice every single day. In fact, you need to practice it to the point where you don’t even feel like you’re doing it anymore. Once you’re comfortable with talking about your achievements, it will be easier to network and succeed in job interviews.

If you would like to discuss developing your Personal Brand in more detail then contact me today on richard@pointahead.com.au

Monday, May 2, 2016

Is the art of good conversation missing from your brand?

In this modern age, increasing amounts of our daily communication is shifting away from face to conversations and being replaced by short and sharp online exchanges.

Communication is increasingly becoming a one way process. Today we’re often communicating our thoughts, decisions and instructions without the intention of receiving feedback or discussion.
Email, SMS and Twitter has reduced us to rapid fire snippet communication rather than a commitment to better understand the person and the message.

From a personal branding perspective most of my clients state they are good communicators, but few have ever branded themselves as great conversationalists.

A great conversationalist is a unique brand attribute that defines someone as having more than just communication skills, but also emotional intelligence and a strong networking ability.

Here are some simple steps you can take to improve your communication and conversational skills.

Pick up the phone rather than email or SMS. Rather than sending an email, pick up the phone and have a conversation. Have a clear expectation of the outcomes. If it’s just a general catchup conversation make sure the other party is free and if not schedule a time to connect.

Increase your face to face connections both internally and external to the organisation.  Make a point to meet with colleagues, and those outside of the organisation on a regular basis. Face to face conversations are still the best way to connect, reach agreements and build stronger networks. Set yourself a simple goal to have x number of conversations per week and break them down into three categories.

Colleague conversations – Take the time to find out more about your colleagues, their interests, their challenges and their aspirations. Be empathetic and offer support.
Strategic conversations – Networking conversations – seeking and giving information and making others aware of your brand, skills and aspirations.
Family and Friends conversations – Most executives I have coached admit to not spending enough quality time with family and friends. Setting up regular conversations is a great way to address this.

Here’s a few pointers to further enhance your conversation skills

  • Lead with a compliment.Compliments are the best way to begin a conversation. Not only do they provide a perfect opening line and a possible door for discussion, they also make the person feel good about themselves. Just remember, the more specific your compliment is, the better. Commenting on something you have recently read about them or their organisation is a great place to start so do your research beforehand.

  • Embrace small talk. Small talk is taboo to some people, as it may be seen as fluffy but for most people it is both functional and necessary. Small talk leads to deeper conversation, and eases both parties into opening up about more uncomfortable subjects.

  • Ask lots of questions.If you want to move from small talk to real conversation, you have to look for any opportunity that leads you to change the subject. Don’t try to abruptly change gears and talk about something deep or substantial; instead, patiently wait for the opportunity to present itself. You should be scouting the entire conversation for “tell me more” opportunities. Keep potential questions in the back of your mind.

  • Let the other person do most of the talking.  If you go into a conversation and immediately begin dominating it the other person is going to become disinterested. A good rule is to talk no more than 40%.

  • Keep it positive.Try to keep the conversation positive. If you immediately start complaining about your job or talking about what’s wrong with your life, people will want to avoid you.

  • Be friendly. This should be obvious, but don’t neglect it. Walk into the conversation with a big smile and open body language. Keep yourself open and receptive. Watch your body language, try not to cross your arms, appear distracted or let your eyes wander.

To improve your conversational skills, you need to practice and then practice some more. The art of conversation, like any skill, takes practice. Don’t expect to be adept after your first few attempts. It will take practice as well as exposure to an array of different social situations.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Leadership – the fear of failure and your risk culture = the risk to brand and growth.

I attended an Executive Accelerators business roundtable meeting last week where the subject was entrepreneurial decision making, risk taking and failure as a natural part of doing business. The group was made up of experienced executives most of whom have suffered failure to various extent in their careers to date and some of the interesting themes that emerged were around:

  • The culture of risk taking
  • The fear of failure and the consequences of that failure
  • The need to clearly articulate what success is, and
  • The spectrum of reasons for failure.

 Embracing failure is a cliché of the business world. ‘People should be open about their mistakes and tolerant of others’; this is the route to improvement, goes the thinking. But in practice a “stigmatising attitude towards error” pervades everyday life and a lot of this is cultural especially in the boomer generation. This has big implications and we seeing the results of this today as revelations come up about corporate maleficence and poor corporate culture. Success brings its own rewards, but the world comes down hard on those who are deemed failures. The desire to avoid such scorn prompts people to cover up mistakes both theirs and others and this can lead to increased risk taking or non-compliance for as long as they get away with it.

While it was agreed that most executives have a propensity for risk this is dependant to a large degree on the consequence of failure which can range from loss of bonus, loss of job, loss of reputation to major loss of personal investment. Think about your decision making if it was your house on the line verses the investment by shareholders – would you act any different?

It was also agreed that success for some was failure for others again based on what success was defined as. A new start up may not make a profit for years and be seen as successful due to increasing client signups whereas a different business may go to the wall if profit is not generated to replace capital invested and to grow the business.

The fear of failure is a component of all business people and while this may stop most from making rash decisions it also can inhibit us from taking the business risks necessary to do something different or expand the business quickly enough to beat the competitors. So it is important to understand risk and to manage it in ways that are acceptable to self, the shareholders, staff and the community in general. This means understanding the risk culture that should be in play not what is necessarily in play which we all know may be quite different. A good definition of culture is one from the Institute of International Finance who see it as:

‘The norms and traditions of behaviour of individuals and groups within an organisation that determine the way in which they identify, understand, discuss and act on the risks the organisation confronts and the risks it takes”
While most executives have experienced failure (or should have) the need to both understand the reasons for it and move on are even more important today with increasing pressure on business to innovate and compete on a more global scale. There are few safe options left so understanding risk taking, your tolerance for it, the expectation for it by investors and the like and the culture you need to build to both encourage and manage it are all important.

Making mistakes in business is the norm and in most cases we learn from them and move on. To create the right cultural environment that encourages the right type of risk taking one must clearly articulate that not all failures are created equal. Although an infinite number of things can go wrong in organisations, mistakes fall into three broad categories: preventable, complexity related, and intelligent. The first you need to avoid as they are considered bad and can be overcome with process, training and support, the second requires process review and constant improvement, while the third should be encouraged to help the organisation leap ahead of the completion and ensure future growth. To better understand the strategies for learning from failure this HBR paper from 2011 is a good place to start.

When it comes to managing risk we all know that risk is compounded by organisation’s risk-management models, which can be influenced around a long period of success, unrealistic growth forecasts or generous bonus systems all of which can increase their exposure to risk instead of limiting it and can render the system more fragile than ever. This was seen in the Banking sector in the lead up to the GFC and the question is “can it happen again?”. A HBR article covers the 6 mistakes executives make in risk management which they quote as:

  1. We think we can manage risk by predicting extreme events.
  2. We are convinced that studying the past will help us manage risk.
  3. We don’t listen to advice about what we shouldn’t do.
  4. We assume that risk can be measured by standard deviation.
  5. We don’t appreciate that what’s mathematically equivalent isn’t psychologically so.
  6. We are taught that efficiency and maximizing shareholder value don’t tolerate redundancy.

Risk, and the fear of failure, will always be with us and we need to see both the positive and negative of them to ensure we use both for the power of good and not mediocrity or evil. When was the last time you reviewed the risk culture within your organisation or reviewed the fear factor (fear of making mistakes) that prevails?

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

How to future proof your career at 60

Like the rest of the developed world, Australia’s population is aging.

Fifteen per cent of the population is now over 65 and that’s predicted to increase to 20 per cent over the next 20 years.

Despite this trend employers are still looking for young executives, with a perception that they bring both energy, fresh ideas and provide succession for the future.

So where does that leave you if you’re over 60 and still looking for career success?

How can you market yourself as someone who still has vital skills and experience to remain an integral part of your organisation?

Build your networks
It is well accepted that up to 80% of roles are found in the non-advertised market. You need to build a stronger network ASAP. Ask yourself who would take your call if you phoned for a network meeting and are they positioned in roles that could offer information and further contacts. Use LinkedIn for this as it’s the best networking platform for business. Set yourself the goal of having more than 300 contacts by the end of the year.

Aim to have at least six network meetings a month to re-establish and grow your network. These are about giving as much as receiving. (see some Professional Networking articles). Look to join associations, attend events and workshops. Building your network is a career requirement today no matter your age. You will have many jobs in your career and your network will support you finding most of them.

Build your Brand
If you ask people who know you to describe you in a few words what would they say? This is your current brand and you need to develop and communicate this to support your career going forward. Be known for a few things and not a lot and be known to your target market/ audience not everyone. Be seen for what you can deliver and for the unique way in which you do it.
For more on Personal Branding -  see the Personal BrandingBlog site

Look at peer to peer structures
Australia like most of the world is going through a structural shift in labour supply (CSIRO report -Tomorrow’s Digitally Enabled Workforce) and the growth of peer-to peer platforms is evidence of this. Some of you may see this as a way to supply contract services to employers throughout the world especially if your service is suited for the online world. This would suit those looking to work from home or from rural communities where high speed internet is hopefully coming soon under the NBN

Look to portfolio careers
I have coached a number of executives over the years who have moved into portfolio careers, which means working for more than one employer or having a number of contracts on the go at any time. This may mean two contracts or a number of Board/ Committee appointments. This is a great way for organisations to get the skills and experience they need at a lower price and cover duties that do not require 40 hours per week. As long as the two roles do not cause a conflict of interest most organisations would consider such a proposal. 

If wishing to become a Company Director then look to get training (AICD) and get some early experience on small boards or Non Profits.

Look to part time careers
For those with healthy Super balances you may decide to kick back a bit and reduce the days from five to three for example. Like the portfolio career this can offer an employer great benefits without the risk and high cost. Look to what you would expect for a three-day contract for 1, 2 or 3 years say and then negotiate a deal that you can live with.

The first place to look is with your current or past employer as they already know your value proposition and cultural fit.

Keep yourself Healthy and Fit
A common misconception about the older worker is that they lack energy and get sick more often. Look to a fitness program and look to diet to keep your energy high and to maintain your good looks. Remember in employment first impressions count.

While it can be hard for those over 60 to remain in their ideal role it is possible to continue working until 70 and over as this has been proven to improve mental and physical health and well as saving the Super balance until you really need it. To a large extent it is within your control and it just takes some preplanning and action in building the Network and Brand.

I hope this has given you a few ideas on how you can control your later stage career and feel free to contact me if I can provide further information.