A Masterclass and the Power of Words

imagesI was at a Masterclass at the Theatre Royal Haymarket in which the Actor Mark Strong shared his experience of the industry and his career before hosting a Q and A. One of the questions Mark was asked was how he gets into a character – to understand the essence of their being. His reply was that’s its in the writing and he gets everything he needs from the words, he spoke in particular about his role as Eddie in the play “A View from the Bridge” by Arthur Miller.

It was a very simple yet powerful answer, because words have the power to change the world. Think of the four words, “I have a dream”. The moment they enter your mind, you know who said them and why. They are a call to action, and a call to find the best part of ourselves, because words have the power to arouse every emotion.

Words are fundamental in our lives and the medium through which we communicate who we are and what we stand for. Just as Mark used the words written to understand who Eddie is, the people we interact with come to understand our beliefs, values and dreams though the words we use to communicate. Because as people its what we can make with words – ideas, images, hopes, theories, fears, plans, understanding, expectations, a past and a future, culture, ways of seeing …. the list is endless and the power is simply ‘powerful’.

Whenever we communicate there is much at stake, and perhaps even more so in our working environment. When you’re preparing your next presentation or key note speech, to help your process, consider the following techniques actors in training develop to hone their skills in understanding the words, that will allow them to deliver them with the greatest impact:

They are encouraged to read play after play after play because script analysis is the nuts and bolts in the literal fleshing out to bring characters to life. Every line of dialogue, every movement, every action and reaction gives an understanding of a character’s motivations and objectives, emotions and desires and allows the actor to step in and become the character.

You can apply this technique by following the ‘Thought Leaders’ in your industry: study them as the actor does to gain valuable insights into their characters and stories. Use the same approach to understand what’s happening outside of your industry and sector, to recognise successful trends, practices, and behaviours that could make a difference to your world. Harvard and Forbes are good sources for promoting excellent communicators and leaders and people worth reading. Another excellent source is The growth Show from HubSpot, a business podcast for leaders featuring conversations with people who have achieved remarkable growth. The Growth Show from HubSpot

Interestingly writers are often recommended to take an acting course to follow this same process, because particularly in the early stages of developing a concept, they need to get to know their characters inside and out and learning to live in a character’s skin, the same way actors do sharpens their innate ability to substitute and imagine emotionally truthful stories. Maybe its time to take an acting class to develop your voice – technically to develop a great speaking voice and also to develop your unique character voice that will motivate, inspire and impact those listening to you.

In the meantime you can draw on your learnings from your reading, research and analysis to adapt this process to the concept, message, idea you want to communicate, by following these three steps:

1. Begin by understanding the bigger picture in the same way Dr. Martin Luther King did. He had a deep rooted understanding of the world he existed in, the challenges and problems, and the changes that needed to take place to move beyond this. You will need the same understanding of the world/industry/organisation/team you operate in.

2. Dr. King took time to get to know people at grass roots level, to understand their hopes, dreams, fears and challenges, you need to stand in the shoes of your audience to understand your world from different perspectives. These are the first steps in developing your message to communicate your understanding of what others are feeling and thinking and show respect of other’s point of view.

3. Having an understanding of both the big and small picture – the world you operate in and the individuals within that world, provides the backdrop to your story (script, concept, idea, message), as well as an understanding of the fundamental words you need to use that have the power to arouse every emotion, and how to deliver them with the greatest impact that demands a call to action.

Thinking is the Ultimate Human Resource

imagesBecause I help people in career transition, I sometimes get asked by people if I’m always able to tell people what job they should be doing and I have to explain that that’s not what I do. What I actually do is facilitate the process which allows people to come to this realisation themselves, in essence I help people to have clarity in their thinking and as I said in an earlier post if we have a question, problem or situation we also have the answer or solution.

My programmes also support job search, and I get asked if I always get people a job, to which I reply: ‘my role is to support people in getting the job themselves’. This may all sound very cliché but when I’m performing in my role at my very best, I’m merely the facilitator in helping people do things for themselves. I meet with my clients weekly, fortnightly or whatever time-frame which allows them to carry out the objectives agreed on in our session, and I always say to clients that the best work takes place away from the sessions, whether that’s research, networking or marketing themselves, these are the actions that will drive their programme in line with their needs and objectives outlined at the outset of our work together.

I sometimes use the analogy of a sports coach and the world of Career, Leadership and Executive Coaching evolved from the world of sport.  Many of my clients will have worked with a sports coach or personal trainer or will have an understanding of how these people help their clients – individuals or teams get the most from their performance, they don’t go out and play a game or do their fitness programme for them, they do however walk alongside them , supporting their motivation, determination and persistence in achieving their goals, they help them to continuously improve their performance and to be in a position to achieve things for themselves.

Clients will want to achieve the objectives outlined at the beginning of their programme for themselves. This gives them great satisfaction and the skills they gain throughout the process remain with them and indeed help to progress their career to the next level, because of their ability to recognise what’s unique about themselves in terms of their skills, experience, knowledge and attributes. This allows them to be confident in communicating this and effectively marketing themselves, whether in writing – job application, CV, and cover letter, or in person – interviews, or in networking situations. The experience they gain in building their networks in their chosen field also remains with them and gives them the impetuous to continue to develop strong relationships, allowing them to easily navigate and progress their career when the time is right.

I truly believe Thinking is the ultimate human resource and once people are confident in their ability to think for themselves and believe they have the answers they need within them, this instils the belief they can do for themselves. The ultimate satisfaction for me in my work is when my clients are confident in thinking and doing for themselves and creative thinking promotes creative doing.

Create the Next Chapter of Your Career and Life Story

imagesThere have been a few turning points in my life that have caused me to stop and think about what’s important to me and to consider what I want from my work and my life outside of work. Sadly one of those occasions was when my brother died aged just 41. He had lived very much in the present and enjoyed the simple things in life. I remember his wife telling me how in the summer once their four girls were in bed, they’d sit in their garden and watch the sun set.

As well as bringing up four daughters they also gave their time generously to supporting the families who had been impacted by the Chernobyl disaster and every summer they would have children from Chernobyl stay with them. It was important for them to give back or indeed give forward. Thinking about my brother caused me to realise that I needed to live in the present and make everyday worthwhile. I took a step back to evaluate my most important values and consider what needed to change in my work and my life to honour these.

I’d worked in Investment Banking for several years and while I enjoyed the work and worked with great people, it also afforded me a great lifestyle. However the hours were long and I wasn’t spending as much time with my family as I would have liked. I made the decision to leave banking and set up in business myself.

This took time as first I needed to figure out what I wanted to do next and then I needed to retrain. It was quite a juggling act initially: working to bring in much needed income while studying and subsequently gaining practical experience to launch my new business and career. Although tough it was extremely enjoyable and from the outset I was carving a lifestyle in line with my needs and values. Now I both plan for tomorrow and live for today. At times it can be extremely challenging but its also extremely rewarding.

When I begin working with a client who’s considering a career change, quite often it’s because of a particular turning point in their life and they’ve come to realise that life is too short for them not to be living it fully.

In light of the reality that life is short, what are the important elements you need to include in your life to ensure you’re fulfilled and motivated in both your work and your life outside of work? To get started in your thinking take time to reflect on the following questions:

▪ What do you want to accomplish? Contribute? Complete? Create or build?
▪  What legacy or reputation do you want to leave behind?

Perhaps now is the time to create the next chapter of your life story.

Red Shoes, the Good Wife and a Pink Purse

????????????????????????????????????????My mum was born in an era when women always dressed up when leaving the house and that wasn’t for a night on the tiles but for everyday occasions like a trip to the local grocery store. I always remember her looking elegant and she had a penchant for clothes and accessories.

A few years ago when my mum was in her early 80’s she asked me if I could pick her up a piece of costume jewellery, she wanted a necklace. I asked what colour she’d like and I suggested perhaps something in beige, because it would be quite versatile and go with everything, like a pair of beige shoes. My mum gave me a horrified look and said she’d never wore beige shoes in her life, it was such a boring and uninspiring colour and that she always wore red shoes because they were more fun and different. My mum was always full of surprises and on reflection her uniqueness always stood out but in a very subtle way, I admit red shoes might not sound that subtle, they do I think give an insight into the fun element my mum has always brought to life and allowed her personality to shine through.

I’m a fan of the TV series The Good Wife and at the end of the 1st series I watched the interview with Daniel Lawson the costume designer where he spoke about the importance of each actor’s wardrobe in helping them develop their character and their story, He strived to have the wardrobe underscore what each actor was doing to help tell the story. It was important that the wardrobe didn’t upstage or detract in any way.

Then as the characters and their stories developed, he began to make subtle changes: for Alisha Florrick as she settled back into work and became more comfortable with her work environment and the situation she’d been saddled with, he began by having her wear more jewellery, allowing a glimpse into her personality. For Diane Lockhart who does pay attention to her style he had her wearing vintage pins which portray her as the businesswoman she is, chic and elegant. For Kalinda Sharma it was all about the job and she wore very minimal jewellery and wearing the same necklace was her thing. He did the same for the male characters in developing their style to support the development of their character and story.

This is the same for professionals in their work today, they want to look the part and they want to be taken seriously for their work but they also want to allow their personality to shine through and whether that’s a subtle development similar to Alisha once they become comfortable in their role and environment, or more obvious as with Diane to portray their fashion sense and being comfortable with their position of power, or like Kalinda keeping it minimal and making it about being good at  the job.  The people I know do this in a way that allows their personality shine through.

Interestingly I was working with a client recently preparing for the interview stages of a significant progressive career change and when she was selecting the clothes she would wear for the various stages of the process she met with a personal dresser who said she has never failed in dressing a client for success at interviews. The interviews were representative of the very different work environments across the world where my client’s work would take her to, from a multi cultural and community relations perspective. She needed and wanted to be respectful of this, while retaining her own style.

For me its my signature perfume, colourful lipsticks and my wacky pink Ted Baker purse, that has started many a conversation and brings a smile to people’s faces, and I think we all need something that allows our uniqueness, personality and fun side to shine through.

The reviews I write are by way of reflecting on cultural experiences to include performing and visual arts that touched my heart and my mind and making sense of them in the context of learning and development in both community and work-place.

Creating a Fulfilling Career

jumping-out-of-bedCan we really create a career that’s fulfilling, motivating, inspiring that makes us want to jump out of bed in the morning and keeps us sustained throughout the day, week, and month? Well actually yes, and I can say that because that’s exactly what I’ve done for myself and I know quite a few people who have also done it.

Coming from a background in Investment banking, which I actually really enjoyed while I was doing it, which was as much to do with being in a good environment and working with great people as well as the job itself. It did become mundane towards the end as I was doing it for so long and so the time came to move on, but move on to what – that was the million dollar question.

It did take time to discover what that was but eventually I arrived to where I am now, by way of a number of excellent courses, not least my Postgraduate studies in Career Coaching and Career Management with Birbeck University and I know it sounds very cliché but if there was one life changing moment, undertaking this course would be it in terms of where I am now in my career and lifestyle.

My learning and development has always been important to me and now I was in a position where I was working with individuals and organisations on their learning and development programmes. The 121 work came easy but I felt inhibited delivering group work – I suddenly became quite wooden! To overcome this I undertook a foundation year in Drama along with several shorter acting and directing courses and actually a little drawing and painting too!

It was then I had my eureka moment, the techniques, structures and methods of theatre are significant in the world of career learning and development. The unique skills set performing artists have had to develop in their craft brings learning alive. This is ‘learning by doing’ enabling the practice of new skills sets and behaviours in a safe, supportive, challenging and creative environment.

I was now in a position to combine my knowledge and experience of career learning and development with drama-based techniques. This enables the individuals and teams I work with to be more active, spontaneous and flexible, freeing their minds to use their imagination in being inventive and original. The intrinsic nature of this work helps foster creativity, team spirit and emotional intelligence.

This was a double whammy for me, because along with a love of learning and development I am also passionate about performing and visual arts and now I’ve created a career that embodies what’s most important to me. I work with interesting people helping them manage and develop their careers and I work with a team of performing and visual artists in delivering the work – A win/win!

If you’re at a stage in your life where you’re no longer finding your career fulfilling, consider the following:

What are your most important core value? e.g. for me its the importance of learning and development and this is through many mediums – reading, courses, cultural experiences …

What are your best attributes? – e.g. kindness, curiosity, sense of humour …

What are your most unusual characteristics? – e.g. I consider myself to be adventurous – loving new experiences, brave – I’ve taken risks, humble – more behind the scenes kind of person – loving research and development, directing …

What are your best mental abilities? e.g. empathy, the ability to see both the bigger and smaller picture, the ability to think laterally and understand new ideas …

What are your best social skills? e.g. friendly, easy company, interested in people – welcoming, …

What are your best business skills? e.g. relationship building, flexibility and adaptability, communication skills …

And what are your most important interests? e.g. for me its performing and visual arts, travel, discovering new things …

Answering these questions will hopefully help you create a better life/work balance, by ensuring you embrace what’s important to you both in your work and your life outside of work, and if like me, you may want to consider a new career which embodies the things that are important to you, these questions will hopefully provide a good stepping off point to begin exploring your journey to a new and more fulfilling career.

Hiring the Best Person for the Job

imagesIn a Harvard Business Review article Kevin Ryan founder and CEO of Gilt Groupe suggests  going beyond the referees supplied by a candidate and utilising your network to find mutual contacts who can provide candid feedback  and asking the following questions:

▪ Would you hire this person again? If so, why and in what capacity? Of if not, why not?
▪ How would you describe the candidate’s ability to innovate, manage, lead, deal with ambiguity, get things done, and influence others?
▪ What were some of the best things this person accomplished? What could he or she have done better?
▪ In what type of culture, environment and role can you see this person excelling? In what type of role is he or she unlikely to be successful?
▪ Would you describe the candidate as a leader, a strategist, an executor, a collaborator, a thinker, or something else? Can you give me some examples to support your description?
▪ Do people enjoy working with this candidate, and would former co-workers want to work with him or her again?
▪ In what areas does the candidate need to improve?

Perhaps Kevin’s thinking and approach is quite radical, however its congruent with his philosophy that businesses succeed not because of a unique idea and vision but because of the people and its execution that matters, and execution relies on human talent which demands building and maintaining a high calibre team and in order to do this a candidates true potential needs to be understood. The approach described above supports the right decision being made for important hires and of course all hires are important.

What Business Schools can learn from the Medical Profession and the Importance of Work Based Learning

imagesToday’s post was inspired by an article I read in Harvard Business Review in which the author spoke about the advantage medical schools have over business schools because of most medical schools being affiliated with hospitals, allowing students exposure to real-world and real-time situations, in contrast to inserting business students into real-world managerial situations which is more challenging. Now as the author points out while it can be disconcerting for patients to put their lives in the hands of individuals who are still learning their profession, the medical profession supervises its trainees, giving them enough autonomy to learn while minimising the chance they harm their patients.

The author goes on to talk about how Harvard Business School has long used case studies as a method to project students into the role of managers solving problems and while acknowledging case studies as a very effective tool, also recognises the limitation for business students who can only imagine how they’d tackle a problem, whereas medical students are facing real-life health concerns. The author goes on to talk about a curriculum change Harvard is undertaking to close this knowing-doing gap.

This article resonated with me because of a meeting I had recently with a previous colleague who is now working with a leading university on Work Based Learning. The university has pioneered an Institute for Work Based Learning which partners directly with individual learners and organisations to create bespoke programmes from certificate through to doctorate level. Additionally they have partnered with two leading Business Schools by way of collaboration on the delivery of training. This initiative is further supported by the Work Based Learning Research Centre they’ve established allowing real-time understanding of the relationship between work practice and learning within organisations together with development needs in line with UK policy and international demands.

This is an area of further interest for me because many organisations have cut back on their training and development budget as a result of the current economic situation. Many have come to recognise the adverse impact this has had on their corporate growth strategy, particularly as many of these organisations have gone through downsizing and restructuring exercises, and as a result have lost valuable employees, causing intense pressure to the ‘survivors’ to not only steer through everyday challenges and increased workloads but also improve their skills and learning to allow them to perform in line with the needs and demands of their roles and organisational development.

Organisations always say employees are their most valuable asset but slashing training budgets doesn’t convey that message and is incongruent with that philosophy  Surely Work Based Learning is the solution to enable individuals and teams in bridging that knowing-doing gap that would support their organisation in achieving their business strategy.
Check Out http://www.mdx.ac.uk/wbl for further information on their learning programmes.

Your CV Should Tell your Story

this-is-your-life-red-bookClients will often ask me if they should put interests/hobbies on their CV and without hesitation I respond ABSOLUTELY. I believe it’s so important when people are being interviewed that the interviewer/s take time to understand who they are as individuals, what’s unique and different about them over and above their skills, and experience in allowing an understanding of how they will perform in the role and be an ambassador for the organisation.

After all  we spend so much of our time in our job that there is a need to have a holistic view of what makes people tick, what motivates and inspires them and keeps them energised in their work and their life outside of work. Good organisations will want to understand and support this and quite frankly if I was being interviewed by an organisation that showed little interest in me other that my capability to perform on the job, I would make a very quick exit, simply because I need to know that the organisation values my happiness and well-being and in order to do that, they need to have this insight and understanding.

This allows me an understanding to how they value their employees which is important because the core of my work is supporting individuals and teams in being fulfilled in their careers, managing and developing their careers, which in turn impacts the organisation’s vision and business strategy.

Remember an interview is a two-way process, as much as you need to sell yourself to the organisation they need to sell themselves to you too. Good interviewers will give people the chance to tell their story, which in turn allows them to see an individual’s real potential. I’ll share a story about Mary to demonstrate what I mean.

When Mary and I began working together she was ready to move on from her current organisation, which no longer inspired her, it was in a sector that was quite progressive in a commercial sense but wasn’t in line with Mary’s values. Her internal fire for this type of organisation had burnt out and she felt she was putting on the mask of Chief Financial Officer every day whether with her team or at board meetings.

To facilitate her impending career move she began to connect with head hunters, all of whom were eager to represent her, by either putting her forward for a role they were already recruiting for, or to put her forward as a strong candidate to organisations they had a relationship with who might not have been actively recruiting for a specific position but were undergoing some changes that would benefit from having Mary on board, and of course being in a position to put forward a candidate of Mary’s calibre would strengthen the head hunters’ credibility and relationship with the organisation.

However as with many head hunters and recruitment consultants they were considering Mary for organisations similar to the one she wanted to move on from rather than taking the time to understand who she was as an individual to take into account her interests and potential across other industries and sectors. Unfortunately this is a sign of the times and in a competitive market this is how head hunters and recruitment consultants are forced to operate, simply because they have a stronger chance of securing a role for a candidate who is a better fit for the job specification in terms of their current experience.

Among Mary’s passions were a love for English Heritage and a love of animals. She supported charities in both her areas of interests, through donations and she was also a trustee and board member of her chosen charities, she did this in a voluntary capacity. She had also taken a two month sabbatical during which time she lived in a small community in remote Africa and worked alongside the local people offering her financial expertise to support them in developing a sustainable business strategy for the community which allowed them to be self-sufficient in promoting their social enterprise. At the end of the two months the community held a carnival in celebration of Mary’s support and she was even crowned queen of their village!

Along with all of this Mary also has her pilot’s licence and at weekends you’ll find her navigating the skies of Britain along with her husband a fellow enthusiast. Now Mary is quite unassuming and so you’d never really know these things about her and it would be unusual for it to come up in an interview situation, unless of course she has it on her CV and the interviewer is interested in finding out who she really is. Then of course the interviewer would see Mary’s true potential and would understand why she should be considered as a serious candidate for a role in an organisation or sector different to where she’s come from.

And so yes, do include your interests, hobbies on your CV and make your decision about joining an organisation based on how interested they are in understanding who you are as a person both in your work and your life outside of work. I also think by doing this you will demonstrate your attributes and I believe this is an important consideration for employers alongside the skills and experience represented on your CV.

Mary’s story does have a happy ending, she interviewed but was pipped at the post for a role in a charity that provided care for donkeys in developing countries, this may bring a smile to your face but the role of these donkeys is integral to the community and their owners needed to take better care of them to allow them to work at their best and to be taken care of when they could no longer work. Although Mary was disappointed not to secure the role, the experience gave her the belief that she could transition into a sector that has more meaning for her in line with her values and as since secured a role and is working for an organisation within the National Heritage.

*Published with client permission. Name has been changed.

Managing your Career in Turbulent Times

????????????????????????????????????????There’s an old story about two shoe salesmen whose company sends them to a remote village in Africa Upon arrival, one sends home a message saying, “No one here wears shoes; will return shortly.” The other salesman sends this message: “No one here wears shoes; send inventory!” The point of the story, of course, is that your perspective influences your behaviour.  If you consider it’s all doom and gloom, and there’s nothing you can do to change a situation, you act one way. But if you see the world as a series of opportunities, you act differently.

Some time ago I was asked to write an article for Communication Director Magazine http://www.communication-director.eu about what Communications Specialists need to do to be in a position to manage and develop their career in these times of uncertainty. Here’s what I had to say:

If I were to consider what has come out of the great recession to date, I think it would be that individuals at all stages in their career from emerging leaders to executives to members of the board are reconsidering the next steps in their careers.  They are taking control of the planning of their own career management and development ensuring that with a long term career plan, they can refocus their development wisely to make the most effective impact on their career. The recession has forced us all to focus on what matters and to use limited resources wisely to make the greatest impact. The key is to have a mind-set that focuses on the opportunities evolving as a result of the current economic environment as opposed to dwelling on the problems, after all a positive approach could help you sell a lot of shoes!

It’s all too easy to let the urgent demands of the workplace and the ailing economy trample over your need to focus on your own growth and job satisfaction. Yet, especially during lean times, if you don’t manage yourself, no one else will. Taking a step back and acknowledging the environment has shifted and while you may not be doing the work you were expecting to be doing, ask:

‘What can I do in this context to make sure that I’m still growing toward my vision?

You need to come up with a career plan that’s two-fold, both short-term and long-term. A natural tendency for people is to over-estimate what can be achieved in one year and under-estimate what can be achieved in five years. One benefit of keeping a strong focus on your vision is that it makes it easier to find alternate routes when you encounter road-blocks. Map out alternate pathways in advance before there is a road-block.

In the short-term you can advance your learning agenda in this current climate by keeping the vision of where you want to be and take advantage of every opportunity to gain the knowledge and experience that will move you closer to that vision.

Areas where communications currently play a key role and where you the corporate communications professional can make a difference include:

Company Business Strategy

The economic downturn forced organisations to scale back, sometimes quite dramatically but growth will again reappear on the horizon and when it does it will bring a new challenge of how to develop a team in sync with a business that’s operating in a very different environment. A strong business strategy will need to be in place to allow this growth.

But even the most brilliant strategy is worth nothing if it isn’t executed well.  Communications is unilaterally deemed critical to the success of strategic initiatives.  Historically communicators placed their role in an advisory capacity and not beyond, however to support the powerful convergence of strategy, communications should act as an integral and active component of strategy development and execution. There is no strategy without communications.
The strategy needs to be communicated across the organisation. Strategy communications need to be accompanied by metrics to help front-line employees take ownership over their roles in the execution. The message should be two-fold: this is what we are trying to achieve and this is how we will measure if we are achieving it.

To drive your own growth in this current climate you need to seek perpetual education and development and this is not necessarily by going to college but by putting yourself forward for new and perhaps demanding assignments.

▪ Demonstrate that you are willing and able to support business strategy from implementation through to execution
▪  Establish the role of communications as a resource to strategists
▪ Find ways of gaining exposure to new people and ideas by being a participant in the strategic task force
▪ Develop a strong collaborative working relationship with strategic planners and leaders
Understanding the intersection of strategy, leadership and communications by capturing all three of these viewpoints and different perspectives will provide a richer, more complete and holistic approach to your role of corporate communications specialist.

Sustainability and Social Responsibility
How as a corporate communications professional are you taking advantage of the stronger focus on Sustainability and Social Responsibility?
Companies are being more proactive towards the social pressure of protecting the environment, placing an emphasis on good employee relations and human rights as well as the business interest in assuming a leadership role in society and the economy. It is linked to the long-term sustainability for businesses.

▪ The key role of corporate communications is to establish ways of tying sustainability to a brand’s core business to ensure it resonates with customers.  This needs to be authentic by connecting the vision and execution in a credible and meaningful way, for example car brands must focus on making more fuel-efficient, cleaner cars – not saving the rainforest. Honesty and transparency go a long way with consumers. Disclosing what you’re doing well, and what you could be doing better, will instil trust and trust breeds loyalty.

▪ Communications play an important part in supporting your organisation in having a competitive edge when price and quality are equal. Work collaboratively with the team to ensure all sustainability efforts are in place, functioning and measurable before being announced. This will allow you to communicate a message that is credible, has clarity and is engaging – all of which are key to sustainable brand success.

▪ Social media offers great opportunities in supporting communication around CSR and Sustainability and there is clearly potential in digital communication to advance the sustainability dialogue for stakeholder engagement. But before getting on the social media bandwagon and focusing on the technology and the tools/platforms offered (i.e. Twitter, Facebook, Youtube etc.) consider the best practices of social media, which are primarily about conversations and relationship building. Revolving around trust, social media also requires openness, transparency, accountability and two-way engagement with an ability to listen and this is even more important in the field of communications as all of these elements are fundamental principles of CSR and Sustainability strategies.

CSR/Sustainability programs, when appropriately communicated, demonstrate the actualisation of values that are becoming more prominent in society. The emphasis here needs to be on appropriate communication. People tend to know when they are being “played” or when actions simply do not match the messages from to top. It is important then that the messaging around CSR/Sustainability focus on realistic activities and objectives, while celebrating actual successes and activities. An effective, and effectively communicated CSR/Sustainability program can demonstrate improved quality of process and organisational management, and can improve the quality of use of corporate resources.

But you also need to stay focussed on working toward your long-term career goals. Most professionals should be looking three years ahead and thinking about the ways in which they can make their actual day-to-day responsibilities more congruent with their deepest interests. This includes thinking about what kind of culture you want to have around you and how you can do more of the more meaningful aspects of your work. You should try to imagine as deeply as possible your vision for your work reality. Then you should work backwards from that to determine what you need to learn or experience over the next one or two years to be seen as a highly desirable candidate to step into that role.

As organisations prepare for growth a number of key areas that employers will focus on are:
▪ Ensuring an adequate pipeline of future leaders
▪ Retaining high-potential employees and those with critical skills
▪ Understanding the key roles and workforce segments that drive business success
▪ Linking employee performance to business goals
▪ Attracting the right workforce for the right roles

So, as well as  surviving  the current economic climate you also need to take responsibility of your own talent management and find ways of  developing yourself in order to secure that competitive edge that is vital to your long-term success. How can you position yourself within your organisation to ensure you have an opportunity to leverage your skills, talents and motivated abilities?
There are a number of ways in which you can you take control of your career to ensure you are motivated, stretched, inspired and your talents are nurtured through meaningful development opportunities and these include:

▪ Increasing your self awareness – Having clarity about who you are and what you want, empowers you to consciously and actively make those wants a reality
▪ Have focussed one to one coaching – An effective coach will support and challenge you to enable you to achieve what’s important to you
▪ Role model authentic leadership behaviours – Identify people you admire and respect and model their behaviours
▪ Make mentoring work – engage with senior people for career advice
▪ Take responsibility through benchmarking – Benchmarking allows you to compare yourself with others, identify their comparative strengths and weaknesses and learn how to improve
▪ Embrace learning through experience – be open to learning and change, talent needs to be nurtured and developed through the right experiences and this will support meaningful work
▪ Use assignments and secondments creatively – bring your personal insights  and creative abilities to each assignment, this is your opportunity to shine
▪ Demand inspirational leadership – support your manager in being innovative with leadership programmes
▪ Aim to build breadth and personal depth – develop personal mastery through learning, intellectual agility and authenticity

Organisations are finding it tougher to retain their star performers, help them to tailor your job in line with your interests,  take on new responsibilities that enables you to express those interests. Maybe as a communications professional you have an interest in quantitative analysis, ask to take on duties working with market-research analysis or perhaps you want to develop your people management skills, put yourself forward for planning and managing new-hire orientation.
This creates new opportunities for utilising resources within the organisation as the key forces in driving organisational success. You have the opportunity and responsibility to support your organisation in recognising the impact of making sure the most important people stay motivated, happy and productive and that they stay with the company. Now is the time to take responsibility for your own talent management.

Change Management Survivors Syndrome

imagesIn this current economic climate many organisations are forced to go through restructuring processes resulting in considerable downsizing. This can seriously impact morale and bring it to an all-time low. People are struggling to keep their heads above water but they need to somehow come through this and make it work if their organisation (and their roles) are to survive.

‘Survivors Syndrome’ is when the people who have remained in a job are challenged with delivering not only on their original roles/workloads but also stepping in and stepping up to fill the gaps caused by the loss of their colleagues along with their skills, knowledge and experience.

Low morale leads to negativity causing a ‘stuckness’ in people’s thinking. Fresh thinking is needed to be able to move beyond this, to explore ideas that stimulate. A useful technique to help achieve this is to work with archetypes.

Case Study:

Kate as head of Human Recourses is tasked with rebuilding morale within the organisation. She brings in Evolving Careers Players (ECP) to explore ideas that will be stimulating to the project and the team. A pilot team made up of 4 people across 4 functions of the organisation: I.T. , Finance, Sales and Marketing and Research and Development are selected work with the ideas before the project is rolled out to the organisation at large.

To be in a position to understand the 4 team members ECP need to take on their characteristics. Working with the core principles of ECP around the techniques, structures and methods of theatre, together ECP, Kate and the team are able to identify/recognise the team/themselves as the following archetypes:

The Brick Wall: This role specialises in stonewalling, it refuses to make any contribution to the interaction. It is the archetypal ‘no comment’

The Rescuer: This role is about putting the focus on to other people, calling for help to be given to someone else. This way the spotlight on the self is avoided.

The Mouth: This role likes to talk its way out of situations, saying anything at all, even complete rubbish, rather than have the focus of enquiry more meaningfully directed.

Mr Cool: This role likes to take a laid back approach to life, essentially articulating an arrogance that makes a mockery of any challenge.

The first scenario

The ‘big question/problem’ is raised: ‘How do we rebuild morale’ and is answered in a ‘round robin’ way in character.

This is conversational: by way of dialogue the players take on the identity of the 4 team members. This allows the players to gain an understanding of each person: to get under their skin, to feel their pain and to get into their minds to allow them to know how they think.

Kate and her team observe and the scene is filmed to be watched back and discussed. Each team member is asked to say one positive thing about themselves in the interaction, to say what one thing would they change about themselves to allow this to move on. Then the person sitting to their right is asked to say one positive thing about their colleague in the interaction and to make one suggestion to their colleague of a change to be made to move on. They are instructed to keep this positive. Following on from this the second scenario is established. The team take on the role of directing themselves.

The second scenario

The ‘big question/problem’ remains. ‘How do we rebuild morale’

The players in their characters keep the two positive things mentioned and take on the two suggested changes they could do to move things on. The conversation continues, is observed, filmed, watched back and discussed. Each team member again says one positive thing about themselves in the interaction along with one thing they would change about themselves to allow things to move on. The person to their right once again says one positive thing about their colleague in the interaction and one suggestion of a change to be made to move on.

The exercise was repeated as many times as needed for the team to be confident they had a workable action plan which would help rebuild morale that could be rolled out throughout the organisation.