Blog Archives

Cure the Sunday afternoon blues

“It generally started about 3pm on Sunday afternoon, irrespective of rain, hail or shine and the activity or people I was with at that time. I’d start thinking of the next day and my shoulders would instantly tense up, I’d start snapping at my kids and/or wife and increasingly become more taciturn and grumpy as the day progressed. This would happen every Sunday and started to have a real impact on my quality of life, family relationships, and started to limit the activities I would do Sunday afternoon and evenings.”

Sound familiar? It’s an unfortunately common situation for highly pressured executives. A candidate once shared this personal story with me, which fortunately became a wake-up call to consider a career change.

I recognise that it’s rare to find individuals who bound out of bed on Monday mornings – naturally most people would prefer to be at leisure than go to work. Of course our level of motivation varies with the demands of our role, our clients or customers, and our employer. However, despite the inevitable peaks and troughs that can affect your job enjoyment, intense and sustained angst about work is not normal. Left unchecked, it can lead to long-term damage to our health, including stress, pressure on relationships with family, friends and colleagues, and a reduced work/life balance.

On the surface this individual seemed to be in the ideal work situation: he was in a key leadership position within a successful global blue chip organisation, earning an impressive wage, on a fast-track path to further success and growth – but it was just not right for him.

I appreciate that it’s not a simple matter to change jobs. Financial considerations, geographical location, time available to job seek, or your personal situation can be constraints.  If this sounds like you, consider these alternative strategies:

  • Speak up. Have an honest discussion with your manager and/or HR about revisiting the aspects of your job that cause you angst. Do these need to be delegated or shared with others in the team? Is your workload achievable within the resources and parameters provided? Do you need further training and mentoring to help you perform your job?
  • A sideways step could be an option if you like your company, but the role or your direct manager is not a good fit. Is there any opportunity to move to another role or division within the company?
  • If your employer and/or company culture does not align, but you enjoy your role, network across your industry through LinkedIn, industry forums and seminars, even former colleagues who have left to join competitors. Make yourself known throughout the sector, whilst maintaining your professionalism and remaining discreet about your intentions. This could lead to a direct approach to you to consider a job should an appropriate role arise.
  • Consider investing in additional training and/or studies that will further your professional development and enhance your employability to other organisations. This is particularly relevant if you are looking to pursue a field outside your current area of expertise. It also serves to demonstrate your commitment to self-improvement and continuous development.
  • Have a confidential discussion with a recruitment firm who specialise in your sector/job of choice. Whilst this should be implicit, emphasise the need for the recruiter to respect your confidentiality and ensure your resume is only sent out to prospective employers with your approval.

Whilst it might be a work in progress, you will find that the simple act of taking control of your work situation can improve your outlook and with this perspective, allow you to enjoy your whole weekend.

As for the candidate mentioned previously? After taking a leap of faith, he did change jobs and has continued to progress his career with another organisation better suited to his style. He has also joined that rare group of individuals who look forward to Mondays.

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Hashtag fear less

We ALL fear change and that’s OK, says Marty Wilson. I was recently lucky enough to hear Marty speak at Mental Health in the Workplace, part of the Melbourne Chamber of Commerce People in Business series. He gave an inspiring talk on change and the fear that comes along with it. It’s a theme that often comes up in the workplace when you are faced with organisational change or are considering a career change, but what I couldn’t help think is how do we learn to embrace change and see it for the good that it can be?

As if we were linked via telepathy, Marty turned to me (I am sure at this point he was speaking DIRECTLY to me) and provided some answers to the questions I was contemplating.

First he looked at the Oxford Dictionary’s definition of the word life:

The condition that distinguishes animals and plants from inorganic matter, including the capacity for growth, reproduction, functional activity, and continual change [my bold] preceding death.

Did you see what I saw? Yep, you guessed it. Continual change is a part of Life.

At this point I was thinking to myself, I’m good with change… right? I realised, not only was Marty talking to me (directly to me, again), he was talking about me. Yep, I’m not afraid to put my hand up and say, “My name is Candice and I FEAR change!”

Recognising your fears are part of the solution, Marty gave me a few tips on how to deal with them:

  1. Life is change
  2. Trust your instincts
  3. Be grateful for tough times
  4. Take more risks
  5. Make more mistakes
  6. Lighten-up

Marty followed-up with this gem:

“Imagine if you could choose to become someone who welcomes change and disruption as a normal and exciting part of business and life.” – Marty Wilson

So here’s what am I going to do: I’m going to stop imagining and start changing, change and innovation will now be my middle names. I am going to let go of the past and take a fresh approach, to work and life in general.

If I’m going to tackle the elephant in the room in my workplace, it’s our database. It’s a pretty large elephant, lives in the cloud, has a few wrinkles… I’m sure most offices have a database/system/process/technology elephant lurking about. It’s that shiny new technology that will help us to work smarter, not harder, but often feels like it’s programmed the other way around. So from now on, in my role as Operations Manager, I’m going to focus on what the technology can do for us, not what it can’t do (although a few magic tricks wouldn’t go astray).

Applying #FearLess in a broader sense, I am going to embrace all of the curve balls life throws at me, which are by dictionary definition, part and parcel with change. I am going to fear less about the doing and dive right into change. I’ll make some mistakes along the way, but that’s OK. I started last week by changing my commute from the 75 to the 48 tram. Big mistake, constantly overcrowded, can never get on, changing back today… Yep, I am all about the change now!

What changes are you going to make?

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6 blogging brainstorming ideas

Recently my colleague said she wanted to write a blog, but she had no ideas for a topic, how she would structure her thoughts and where to even start?

Blogging gets people talking. When we write about what interests us and what we know, we share our thoughts and invite others to engage in the conversation. Social networks are built on two-way communication, so blogging can actively encourage an exchange of ideas.

So how do you write a blog and how do you come up with material that is interesting?

Here are 6 strategies to get you started and help you succeed.

  1. If you are an avid reader, that’s great, pick a topic that interests you! Books, magazines, news articles, discussion groups… in print or online, you’ll find plenty of inspiration.
  2. If you watch current affairs, there’s plenty of material. Take notes and track comments on Twitter.
  3. Never let a good idea pass you by in the middle of the night. I have a notebook and pencil on my bedside table for those lightbulb moments.
  4. Listen to what your customers (clients and candidates for me) are saying, problem solve the issues, then share.
  5. Look at the stats on what other people are writing about. Google Analytics research is excellent for what’s trending, as well as niche topics.
  6. Share your experiences. People love authentic stories.

Encourage people to comment and always respond to the comments (positive and negative) you receive. You may start a thread that leads to another idea for your next blog from those responses.

While I’m giving away ideas, here’s some I’ve already put on my list:

  • How to be a confident public speaker
  • What is it that engages an audience?
  • All about my community
  • What inspires me about technology
  • Are you brave enough to say what needs to be said?
  • What makes a good conversation?
  • Books I want to write
  • What I am passionate about
  • How do I get my big idea funded?

After thinking and deliberating over my blog topic for many days, things have taken shape. OK, now for the blog…

Well, I’m done here, so will have to wait until next time to tackle one of the topics above, but I challenge you to write on any of those topics as well.

If you do write a blog, please comment on this article to let me know. I’d love to hear your point of view.

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Posted in Professional Support, The world @work

Email tsunami: 7 steps to repel the tidal wave

Here’s the thing. We have a prehistoric brain living in a digital age. Our brains are hardwired to be distracted.

Wendy Cole, the iMaster of Productivity in the Age of Distraction, tells us what we can do to overcome email distractions and the lure to multitask. Here are seven killer ways to stay out of your inbox:

  1. Turn off new message alerts. Turning off new message alerts in your email program is the first step to minimising email distractions. If you do nothing else, do this!
  1. Completely close your email program. If your task at hand doesn’t require you to review emails, tasks or calendar – remove all of these distractions by closing your email program. Whilst you are at it, turn your mobile to flight mode, or at least turn it to silent and keep it out of sight.
  1. Work offline. You can still compose and send emails while working in offline mode, however you’ll only receive new mail when you hit the send-receive button. I always turn to offline mode when I process my emails – that way you can empty your inbox before new emails arrive.
  1. Use a to-do list that is NOT your inbox. Don’t leave emails in your inbox as prompts to get things done. Not only are tasks highly difficult to prioritise using this method, the surrounding clutter can be very distracting. If you use Outlook then use its Tasks feature as your to-do list.
  1. OHIO. The ‘only handle it once’ (OHIO) discipline creates the habit of reading each email once and immediately organising what needs to be done with it. The 4Ds of decision making (delete, do it now, delegate or defer) provides a great framework for processing emails.
  1. Process emails at specific times of the day. The optimum daily number of times to process your emails is dependent on the nature of your work, but four times per day works well for most people. Try scheduling this in the morning, just before lunch, mid-afternoon and before finishing for the day.
  1. Keep a log. Email is addictive! Keeping a log to see just how much time I spent looking at my inbox gave me the data to prove that when I checked my email less often and more intentionally, I saved time.

From an evolutionary perspective, being distracted by subtle sights and sounds in our periphery served us well; 10,000 years ago when we were collecting berries in the Savannah, it was imperative to notice the rustles in the bushes, alerting us to a potential threat.

But did you know that once distracted, it can take between 15-25 minutes to return our thinking to where it was before we were interrupted? In the modern working environment your email inbox is one of the most inefficient communication channels because it is distracting, decreases productivity and encourages multitasking. And, once our chain of thought is broken, we are more likely to seek further distraction, such as opening another email and the cycle of being distracted continues…

While our brains are still processing distractions in the same way as our ancient ancestors, now instead of a rustle in the bushes, the distractions are the pings, dings and popups associated with email alerts. Noticing the distractions is no longer saving our lives: it’s breaking our focus, leading to multitasking and creating increased inefficiencies.

To make matters worse, email (like text messages, chat apps and all forms of electronic communication) has an addictive element. Brain scans show that dopamine is released when we notice a new message. Because of the dopamine, our brains actively want to seek out new messages. This explains why when we notice a new email or smartphone alert, we lose focus from the work we were doing and open that new message.

Try the 7 steps to a better email management and find a whole new way of managing your day.

What steps have you implemented to be more productive and less distracted in your world @work?

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A healthy me means a healthy you!

Seriously, without being twee, it’s true. I admit I live a pretty healthy lifestyle: I lift weights, I eat chicken breast, love vegetables, and drink my three litres of water per day. So, when our leadership team sat down to discuss how to better look after our teams, I wasn’t there to preach. The aim wasn’t to run a boot camp and drink protein shakes every day.

How often do we feel almost at one with our desks? Working long hours we’re often tempted by quick fixes: morning coffees that seem to multiply through the day, fast food at lunch if any, afternoon sugar hits… anything we think will help to get more done. In reality, they only make things worse.

Inertia, combined with a lack of fresh air and poor eating habits, creates huge highs and lows in performance. You have probably seen it at work, affecting the mood in your office, filtering through the whole business as well. Encouraging a healthy culture across our organisations for the wellbeing of our people, is not an easy task.

Providing options allows everyone to find their comfort level.

Slade Group has committed to improve the overall wellbeing of our workforce through our Slade Wellness program, which we’ve called Healthy Me, Healthy You.

We’re providing information to allow our people to make informed decisions about their working habits and promoting a work environment that encourages a healthy lifestyle. We believe encouraging a culture of wellbeing will make Slade a better place to work, as well as enhancing our reputation as an employer of choice.

To help us on our journey, we’ve partnered with TWOSIX Wellness, a corporate wellness business who have offered some valuable insights from their past experiences with professional services firms like us. We were also joined by Chris Heddle from Melbourne Myotherapy and Remedial Massage. This week they partnered with us at the program launch, demonstrating good desk posture and stretches, breathing exercises and how to make organic coconut protein balls (which seemed to gain the most traction).

If that sounds like something you’d also like to achieve, you can model our program initiatives below. We’d love to hear about your progress.

 

Healthy Me, Healthy You
Our recipe for improving and maintaining team performance by encouraging a healthy work environment

Ingredients

  • Lots of water – drinking water reduces dehydration
  • Several portions of healthy food – try raw fruit or nuts instead of processed snack foods
  • Fresh air for good measure – go outside at least once during the day
  • 15 to 30 minutes of exercise – organise a walking group, take the stairs instead of using lifts if you can

Method
Combine ingredients with simple messages. Educate the mixture gently, don’t be too prescriptive.

Cooking
Allow ideas to bake slowly over several weeks to allow proving time. You should notice lethargy fall and concentration improving. Results will be increased productivity and happier, healthier people.

 

What wellness initiatives have you implemented in your workplace?

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Your recruiter is a tool

Well, I don’t mean tool in the pejorative! A well forged, fit for purpose tool is a valued accessory. Would you attempt a home renovation with just a hammer? In the job search process, savvy candidates realise recruiters are part of the solution – a tool in their kit rather than their sole strategy to market. Having placed many executives in senior roles over the years, people often ask me what more they could do to improve their prospects for selection. Here are five strategies to consider:

  1. Leverage your networks

It’s easy to underestimate the breadth of your own individual networks, but candidates who take the time to analyse their contacts (which may include previous colleagues and managers, university contacts, neighbours, social networks, etc.) find them a valuable source of information. Whether it’s a new opening or general market information, your chances of obtaining a position improve when you’re already recognised in your industry. For a prospective employer, it’s also less risky to hire someone who is known to be a strong performer.

  1. Select your recruitment partners carefully

While it might be tempting to send your resume to every search firm, be selective about the organisations with whom you’re entrusting confidentiality, particularly if you’re currently employed. Think about the exclusivity of your application rather than applying with every recruiter. Consultants strive to represent unique candidates who have not been overexposed and will proactively market them to our clients. Make sure that’s you.

  1. Take the lead on your job search and partner with your recruiter to bridge any gaps in your networks

Ideally a recruiter should complement, not replace, your job search activity. Manage your applications carefully and partner with recruiters who can present you to companies where you don’t have existing contacts or an established network.

  1. Cull what’s not working

Evaluate your job search progress on a regular basis and refine or ditch any strategies that aren’t working. This includes analysing the performance of your recruitment partner. If they said that they were going to market you to a particular company, ask for a progress report. If you think that they’re not delivering, then re-evaluate whether they are best suited to help you.

  1. Customise your resume

One mistake I often observe is that candidates will customise their covering letter, but fail to adjust their resume accordingly. Review your resume and consider tailoring it to suit each opportunity. The changes could be as simple as emphasising your most relevant experience by reordering your achievements.

If your perception of recruiters in general has been negative to date, try adjusting your engagement strategy by following my advice. I’m confident you’ll get results and be successful.

What advice do you have for executive candidates?

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A boomerang with many happy returns

“For employers, hiring former employees who left on good terms is a no-brainer: They know their past experience and assume they picked up some new skills to bring to the table during their time away.” – Robyn Melhuish, Business Insider.

What brings a former employee back to an organisation? I’m about to rehire a team member who left our business about a year ago. We parted on good terms: She gave appropriate notice, maintained a strong work ethic, designed and delivered a transition plan, which assisted me to replace her with a new hire who is now one of my top performers.

While there will always be a need to source externally and same role/same needs/same company vacancies are relatively unusual, we’ve had a number of people return to Slade Group at various times in their careers, myself included.

As reported in Forbes, people move on for all kinds of reasons: to further their career, to take advantage of an opportunity or to accommodate a change in personal circumstances. That said, there’s nothing wrong with welcoming back someone who left your company after a long period of service simply because they wanted to try something different.

It might surprise you that in a US Workplace Trends Survey of 1800 HR professionals, “While only 15 percent of employees said they had boomeranged back to a former employer, nearly 40 percent said they would consider going back to a company where they previously worked.” And why wouldn’t they if you’ve got a strong employer brand, a clear employee value proposition (EVP) and the culture of the organisation is a good fit?

Here are the key benefits to boomerang hires, as identified by careerrealism.com:

  1. They’re a known entity – boomerang employees have a well-known track record with your company
  2. They’re easier to train – if they’re already familiar with your company’s operations and its unique processes, they can start contributing and producing sooner
  3. Their turnover rate is lower – they know what to expect from you and your company and knowing what else is out there, they chose to come back
  4. They provide a competitive advantage – they may have gained significant insights from their time working at another company in the same industry or a different market sector

If you choose to rehire, career site Monster recommends taking the time to introduce a boomerang employee to your business as if they were a new staff member. Whilst it might take a little while to get re-accustomed to the flow of things, you can counter some of the initial awkwardness on both sides by briefing them on new projects and establishing clear expectations from the start.

I’m looking forward to our ‘new’ starter.

Have you successfully boomeranged someone as a hiring manager? Have you made a successful return to a previous employer?

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