Viewing posts categorised under: Coaching

Thinking of getting a new job? Check to see if the grass is greener…

Many mid-career professionals dream of leaving their job.  Greener pastures can mean a different occupation, or perhaps launching your own business.  For many, the answer is to stay with their current organization and revamp their position.  How do you start being more strategic when it comes to your career? 

Here are some key parts of taking control of your career:

Think carefully about what you have to offer.  Rewriting your resume can be a great way to take stock of your achievements.  Most people just put a description of their duties on their resume.  Instead, explain your accomplishments and what specific results you got.  That really jumps off the page, and positions you as a driver of results.  Thinking in terms of your accomplishments can also point to what type of work interests you. 

Reach out to new people.  This is a fast way to get new insights on what type of work will energize you.  Speak to a person doing a job or project that you think you’d love – you’ll learn about what you need to do to make the transition to that sort of work.  One of my coaching clients arranged to have coffee meetings with several women higher up in her organization – and one of these turned into regular meetings with a mentor. 

Write an action plan.  Whether you’re going back to school to get new credentials, starting a job search, or going after new skills while on the job, it pays to write down your goals and add in timeframes.  Most professionals already know they need to break larger goals down into specific tasks.  Where I see people losing momentum is putting these tasks in their weekly or monthly scheduling and making sure that they are taking action.  It’s the time management part where people stall.  With some coaching clients I’m an accountability partner, so that they stay on track while working toward their career goals.

So, who is in charge of managing your career?  You know that it has to be you.  No one else can take on that role.  Your career path will probably be anything but a straight line.  Being intentional about exploring what you want, getting input from others, scanning for opportunities, and making clear choices that fit into a strategy can make all the difference.  

What do execs work on with a coach? Here are the top areas

Who does the boss turn to for help in overcoming work-related challenges? Most business leaders would be open to working on their leadership skills with a professional coach, according to a recent Stanford University survey of top executives.

Conflict management, team building, mentoring and delegation are among the top areas in which executives are working with coaches.  Here is a graph of some common coaching subjects, as posted on the HBR Blog Network:

The biggest area of concern for CEOs: four in ten in the Stanford study believe they need to learn how to handle conflict better. As an executive coach, I find that leaders may be more likely to have blind spots when it comes to softer skills like navigating conflict. When they get together with a coach, they have a confidential space in which they can work on how they manage disagreements as well as the politics around them.

The biggest gap revealed by the survey: one third of CEOs say their listening and communication skills need developing, yet only two out of ten are actually working on this skill. Many of my executive clients have seen better relations with their teams by becoming more intentional about how they communicate. This is an area in which executives can usually make some quick wins.

The skill that business leaders are most likely to be working on: delegation of tasks. These days, people at all levels of an organization are being asked to do more, making the issue of who does what a top priority.

A theme in the survey that some may find surprising is the willingness of leaders to receive feedback. Yes, it can be ‘lonely at the top’ as the saying goes, but senior executives are recognizing that they have room for growth and that they can benefit from the outside perspective of someone like a coach.

LinkedIn: 5 Ways to Build Relationships, Faster and Better

A well-written, complete LinkedIn profile is a foundation of your online presence. Yet LinkedIn is more than just a place for an online description of your work life. The core of LinkedIn’s value is that it’s a powerful tool for reaching out to people you know, and those who you’d like to know.

Here are five ways to use LinkedIn to connect with professionals and build business relationships.  

1. Use LinkedIn to prepare for a first-time meeting – checking out someone’s profile is a fast way to gather some decent business intelligence. You can see what they look like, discover who you may know in common, and find out a few things to talk about. LinkedIn is also a great way to follow up after networking events. Whenever you’re handed a business card, let the person know that you will connect with them on LinkedIn.

2. Personalize your communications on LinkedIn. Social media is fantastic for reaching a range of people, but let’s face it: canned, formulaic messages fall flat. When reaching out to connect with someone, have a peek at their profile and add a message tailored to their needs that lets them know what you bring to the relationship. Most people don’t do this, and yet it’s an easy way to stand out.

3. Written recommendations are a powerful part of your LinkedIn presence. When asking for a recommendation, tee it up by email in advance. I offer to chat with the person about the recommendation for a few minutes, and let them know that I will jot down their main ideas, and email them a first draft so that they can change it as they see fit. You can then send a formal recommendation request through LinkedIn and it’s much easier for them to complete the process.

4. Follow your LinkedIn contacts regularly. Have a look at your LinkedIn activity feed – a couple minutes a day will do nicely. You’ll learn about what’s happening with your tribe of contacts, including trigger events (such as a job change) that let you know when it may be a good time to reach out to them with a personalized message.

5. Track your contacts with the new LinkedIn Tags feature. You can group existing and potential connections using tags that segment them into subgroups. This can be very useful when planning outreach or marketing campaigns.

How to: Move your cursor over “Network” at the top of your LinkedIn homepage and select “Contacts,” in the left-hand panel, click the “Manage” link to the right of “Tags.” You can add new tags to your list by typing tag names into the box.

In the previous blog post I offered some tips on improving your LinkedIn profile. If you’re wanting to create a more engaging profile and to make the most of LinkedIn, feel free to contact me. I write personalized LinkedIn summary sections for professionals, and advise them on how to use LinkedIn more effectively as they build and maintain key business relationships.


Time to Renovate Your LinkedIn Profile

Whenever I’m chatting to a business person about LinkedIn, if they’re not on it, they are very aware that they need to be. The social media website provides a valuable way for professionals to reach out to new people, stay in touch with industry contacts, and to build their career. Not surprisingly, LinkedIn is the 10th most visited website in Canada, and ranks 14th globally (Alexa Web Information Co.).

Many professionals know that they should be making better use of LinkedIn… yet they still don’t have a personal profile that stands out.

Here are some top tips for giving your LinkedIn profile a shot in the arm:  

1. First: temporarily turn off your activity broadcast. This allows you to quietly make several profile changes in one sitting without having LinkedIn announce it to your contacts each time.

How to: in the upper right-hand corner of your profile, move your mouse over the small icon of your picture; choose “Privacy & Settings”; under “Profile” you should be able to see “Turn on/off your activity broadcasts”. After you’re finished updating, turn the activity feed back on.

2. A complete profile will show up better in search results. Add in information on your past positions, education and any organizations to which you belong. As your complete your profile, LinkedIn will suggest additional sections. Besides, nothing says “newbie” like an unfinished profile.

3. Make good use of the summary section. This is your chance to tell your LinkedIn audience about what makes you one-of-a-kind and what you’re passionate about. Make it unique! Use first-person “I” statements, and keep it conversational. Use bullet points to break up long paragraphs of text.

4. Claim your name. Your LinkedIn profile web address is made up of random alphanumeric characters, but you can edit it so it reads with your name, such as: Available on a first come, first served basis.

How to: Move your cursor over “Profile” at the top of your LinkedIn homepage and select “Edit Profile”; click “Edit” next to the URL under your profile photo; click “Customize your public profile URL”; type the last part of your new custom URL in the text box; click “Set Custom URL”.

5. Use a professional looking photo. Obvious advice, but really crucial – first impressions matter. Avoid group shots or casual party pics. The worst is not having any photo: to many, this implies you don’t care about your professional image.

Oh, and one other thing: make sure you get someone to proofread your entire profile – they can catch errors that you may be missing and it’s always good to get a second opinion.

If you’d like a helping hand as you improve your LinkedIn profile, feel free to contact me. I’ve written personalized LinkedIn summary sections for a wide range of professionals.


The power of silence in communication

Silence – even just a pause that allows for stillness – sounds so inviting. Yet, silence can make a lot of people uncomfortable. Maybe it’s our North American culture that makes us want to rush in and fill any vacuum created when talking stops. Maybe we’ve become used to a hurried speed of life, with instant messaging, texting, and constantly updated 24-hour news in the background.

Silence seems like the opposite of communication. But used strategically, silence can set the stage for extraordinarily effective communication.

Silence opens up space in a conversation. Susan Scott in her seminal work Fierce Conversations advises: “Slow down the conversation, so that insight can occur in the space between words and you can discover what the conversation really wants and needs to be about.” Indeed, Scott talks about letting silence do the heavy lifting in a conversation.

Silence can invite your conversation partner to keep speaking, keep telling their story. This can make the other person know that they are really being listened to, and encourage them to share more openly.

Silence can allow you to consider the impact of what you’re about to say. It can prepare the way for words that are more intentional, more insightful, with more substance.

Bernard Ferrari repurposes the well-known 80/20 rule when he aims for listening 80 percent of the time and talking the other 20 percent when engaged in conversation. In his book Power Listening, Ferrari suggests walking a fine line between keeping quiet and participating in such a way as to advance the conversation.

So, experiment with slowing down and making use of silence – it may get you to insights and mutual understanding a whole lot quicker.


We’re all a work in progress

Software companies often keep a product in a beta test phase long after it’s been introduced. This is to emphasize that their offering is not complete and that the company is continuing to make improvements.

You can also keep your career in “permanent beta” – a key idea in The Start-Up of You by Reid Hoffman, the founder of LinkedIn. Hoffman writes that with this “permanent beta” approach, “each day presents an opportunity to learn more, do more be more, grow more in our lives and careers. Keeping your career in permanent beta forces you to acknowledge that you have bugs, that there’s new development to do on yourself, that you will need to adapt and evolve.” (p. 22)

As a business coach, I will sometimes discuss with my clients how to maintain the mindset of a learner, to stay curious about opportunities. Keeping one’s career in permanent beta is an approach that fits well with a willingness to be intentional about learning, and to make mid-course corrections. Here are some questions to consider:

  • Over the past year, what have I learned that improves my performance?
  • What types of learning can I access in the next year to boost my career?
  • What are my learning goals for the coming year?

Nowadays our world of work is marked by a white-water pace of change. A lifelong commitment to learning and personal growth is a good starting point to making periodic investments in yourself and your career, investments that will set you up for continued success.

Coach vs. consultant: what’s the difference?

When I speak with people about coaching, I am regularly asked something along the lines of: “What’s the difference between what a coach does and what a consultant does?”

Many business people are familiar with hiring consultants. Typically, consultants are brought on as experts who offer advice, knowledge, and solutions. In essence, consultants are paid to offer answers. Trainers and teachers can also perform a similar function. With these approaches, a client is told the knowledge or information, told what information is key, and may be told what they need to do.