Who am I? This is probably one of the oldest and most frequently asked questions, but it has been answered in many different ways over the centuries. It is certainly a very popular question today, given how often the ‘authentic self’ and authenticity get mentioned. So is there an authentic self, an immutable identity? What makes you You?
One of the interesting observations we have made in many contexts, not just in the workplace, is that others fail to recognise when a person changes their behaviour. More often than not this is a contributing factor if the behaviour change doesn’t stick. Changing your own behaviour is already hard enough, then being confronted with a complete absence of supportive feedback and ignorance about the changes you have made is often quite devastating. So why does this happen and what can you do about it?
One of our grievances as coaches is how few managers and leaders are prepared to have difficult conversations with staff about behaviour or performance. We initially suspected it was about lack of skill in having these conversations, but even as many organisations have rolled out training programs in recent years, the rate at which managers have difficult conversations does not appear to have increased from what we see. So we had to delve deeper to understand why having courageous conversations is such a big problem for most managers.
Professional networking should be something all of us do as a matter of routine. It is not just a great way to keep valuable relationships current, it is also your ticket to inside information about upcoming opportunities which you might want to position yourself for as a candidate.
I am not talking about being and posting on LinkedIn here, this is about the old fashioned, face-to-face version of networking. Not to get sales, but to cultivate relationships that may come in handy one day. Again, this is not about going to conferences or networking events, this is about having coffee or lunch with people you would like to stay in touch with and who should know about your current work and your future plans in terms of your next career move.
Personal branding is all the rage at the moment, with articles on the topic being posted on LinkedIn almost daily. So is it a fad or should you really pay attention to your personal brand? And how does it relate to the whole idea of being your authentic self, which is the other fad getting a lot of airtime?
The best way to think about this is to look past the buzzwords and what ideas lie behind the talk about personal branding and authenticity. For a while now many professionals have expressed the desire for ‘humanised workplaces’, where employees can ‘bring their authentic self’ to work. This reflects the desire for autonomy and integrity – the ability to make decisions about how you do your work and the belief that you shouldn’t have to comprise your personal values and beliefs to be successful at work.
Humans are creatures of habit. Pretty much everything we do each day we do ‘on autopilot’, meaning it has become a habit. Habits are a great way for the brain to save on processing power and thus conserve energy. You can probably recall the time when you first learned something new (like driving a car or creating a spreadsheet) and how much effort that took. Today, you can do it ‘with your eyes closed’. It has become a habit, a routine.
As psychologists have discovered in recent years, the shortcuts our brain take are often a double-edged sword. Habits are very efficient and create the spare mental capacity to say, drive and talk at the same time. Just imagine how difficult your day would be if you had to think about everything you do – from brushing your teeth to cooking dinner. So there is clearly a huge benefit to running on autopilot. On […]
This was the title of an article that appeared in the New York Times recently. The surprising, or perhaps unsurprising, thing was that it stayed the ‘most emailed article’ for over a week and is still the second most emailed article in the last 30 days. The article covers research and anecdotal evidence which mirrors our coaching experience over the last 5 years – the way work in white collar industries is organised is simply no longer working. There is too much work, too many distractions, too many meetings and not enough engagement, recognition and meaningful work. If you read the article, bear in mind that the research was based on US companies where employee engagement is much higher at 30%, whereas in Australia it is only 18% (Gallup research).
We all want to be successful in life, but what we mean by success differs a lot between individuals. The prevailing norm in society today is to equate success with wealth. Of course wealth is not absolute and what constitutes wealth is subject to ever increasing upward corrections as its distribution gets skewed further in favour of the top 1%. So if you are not going to make it into the top 1% or don’t want to, what might success be for you?
As it turns out, there are a number of different needs that we can turn into success measures. Primarily these are:
- Achievement / Status
- Comfort / Safety
- Meaning / Purpose
- Competence / Mastery
Our brain is designed to look for simple cause-effect relationships. Along the lines of ‘When I did this, that’s what happened’. It helps us make sense of the world and gives us immediate closure, so we can stop wasting precious energy on thinking. That’s probably what evolution selected for, it makes us efficient. The brain was never ‘designed’ to make sense of the full complexity of the world, it evolved to help us survive and thrive as a species. Given the complexity of the world we have created now, our brain is struggling. We are struggling to accept random events (like accidents or random illness) and we are also struggling with multi-causal effects. This means we have a preferences for simplistic solutions, even if they demonstrably don’t work. Just look at the standard fare politicians roll out – There’s too much crime, let’s have more prisons and harsher sentencing. Never mind that […]
Twenty years after the start of the leadership craze in the early 90s, it should now be abundantly clear to anyone following this topic that it has very little to show for all the investment that has been made. Yes, we have gained a much better understanding of what makes a great leader, but I would venture that the overall quality of leadership in organisations has not improved. The Gallup surveys on employee engagement have hardly moved over that time frame and other studies have similarly failed to see an improvement in employees’ satisfaction with their managers. It’s time to ask why and what needs to be done, as employee expectations of their leaders continue to increase and Gen Y and Millenials are seeking a completely different style of management.