A to Z of Career Progression

A to Z Career ProgressionThe world of work has evolved and changed significantly in the last 20 years. No longer is a job for life and you need to be in the driving seat when it comes to career progression. When did you last make time to reassess what you want from your career? Maybe today is that day! I thought I’d put this A to Z together to give some tips on where you might focus, what planning you might want to carry out and what action you can take to work on your career.

A – Ambition

I guess you wouldn’t be reading this post at all if you weren’t ambitious and didn’t want to learn more about how to develop yourself, your standard of living or find your next role.

Donald Trump extols the importance of ambition with the following quote:

“Get going. Move forward. Aim High. Plan a take-off. Don’t just sit on the runway and hope someone will come along and push the airplane. It simply won’t happen. Change your attitude and gain some altitude. Believe me, you’ll love it up here.”

Unfortunately, ambition by itself will not get you where you want to go. Ambition must be paired with action and execution to be truly meaningful.

B – Brand You

What is it that you want from life? What’s your vision for your own future? What personal values do you live by? What’s important for you in your life? Where would you like to be in 10 years? How do you want to be perceived by others?

I’ve found a couple of simple ways to get to the bottom of some of these often tough questions.

  1. Imagine that you were told you had 10 years to live, starting today, and you would be completely healthy during that time. How would you spend that time?
  2. Imagine that you’re 100 years old, you’ve lived your life to the full and you know that you only have a minute or so before you leave this world. Your great-granddaughter is sitting by your side and she asks you – ‘From everything you’ve learned from your life, what advice could you give me as to how I get the most from mine?’

Doing these two exercises could have a powerful impact on you. They did with me. Your answers will help you understand your personal brand and brand values and ultimately your OMG – your One Magnificent Goal!

For more information on your personal brand please see a downloadable series of posts – Brand New, Brand You

C – Career Planning

So, you’re ambitious, you understand your personal Vision, Values and what you want from life. That’s more than most people, so you’re off to a good start!

If you’re a regular Think Oak! reader you’ll know what comes next – Goals! Setting Goals for your career path, will help you monitor your progress and give you a plan, that you should revisit at least quarterly, but I would suggest monthly.

Your career plan should have some short, medium and long-term goals. Work back from your One Magnificent Goal, your OMG (if you have one!) and fill in the milestones along the way and more detailed, inch-pebbles in the nearer term.

It’s a good idea to review this with at least one other person on a regular basis to keep you honest and on track.

Download a free Think Oak! Career and Development Template here

D – Discipline

Progressing in your career and working through your personal development plan requires commitment and discipline. One of the main reasons why people fail is that there is no discipline in their action. They give themselves excuses why they cannot consistently follow-up on their plans. You will need to sacrifice some personal time to complete your goals in your career plan and that sacrifice takes discipline. Discipline also ensures that you can be persistent, especially when faced with challenges after challenges in your journey to success.

Entrepreneur, author and motivational speaker, Jim Rohn said:

‘We must all suffer one of two things: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret or disappointment’

Your choice!

E – Elevator Pitch

You’re in an elevator, a corridor or at a party and the CEO of the firm you’ve always wanted to work for, is standing next to you. What do you say?

Elevator pitches are developed to relay just enough information to cause the person you’re speaking to, to ask, “Tell me more.” If you’re lucky, the CEO will say, “If you have a few minutes, I want to hear more.” If you’re even luckier, your prospective boss will ask you to set up an appointment the next day to meet up. All of that from the development, memorising, and tweaking of a few simple yet incredibly powerful words.

Putting your pitch together

1. Who are you? Introduce yourself and your credentials up front. There’s no point in saying anything if the listener has no idea who you are or if you have any credibility.

2. What’s your objective? Get to the point quickly about what you are looking for or how that person can help. Being direct not only grabs attention but helps the listener to put your pitch into context.

3. What can you do for the listener? This is where you explain how recruiting you will meet their need. Your goals and dreams are all well and good but remember in the end what you are offering must benefit them. This is your chance to communicate what makes you someone who your audience should consider helping.  People typically like to help those that they feel will be successful in the process.  There are a few things you should think about when highlighting your qualifications:- industry relevance, leadership, expertise, pedigree, and impact.

4. The close – this is tricky to deliver effectively, but ideally you need an outcome to the conversation. This could be a follow-up meeting with the person you’re pitching to, a name of someone who you need to contact to follow-up, or some advice as to how to reach your goal.

Once you have your personal elevator pitch, practice it in front of the mirror. If possible, try to video or audio tape yourself, and watch it in fast forward. You’ll be amazed at your nervous habits!

F – Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway

In Susan Jeffers’ book ‘Feel the Fear And Do It Anyway’, she gives some great insight and practical tools to help you improve your self-belief and your ability to face even the things that you fear the most.

It’s almost impossible to go through life without experiencing some kind of failure. People who do so probably live so cautiously that they go nowhere. Put simply, they’re not really living at all.

The wonderful thing about failure is that it’s entirely up to us to decide how to look at it.

We can choose to see failure as “the end of the world,” or as proof of just how inadequate we are. Or, we can look at failure as the incredible learning experience that it often is. Every time we fail at something, we can choose to look for the lesson we’re meant to learn. These lessons are very important; they’re how we grow, and how we keep from making that same mistake again. Failures stop us only if we let them.

G – Glass Ceiling and How to Smash It

Despite knowing that you have much more potential, is there a limit for “people like you” in your organisation? If so, you’ve hit what’s known as the “glass ceiling.” This is the point at which you can clearly see the next level of promotion – yet, despite your best efforts, an invisible barrier seems to stop you from getting there.

Historically, the glass ceiling concept was applied to women and some minorities. It was very hard, if not impossible, for them to reach senior management positions. No matter how qualified or experienced, they simply were not given opportunities to further advance their careers. Thankfully today, there are many more women and minorities in powerful positions. However, the glass ceiling is still very real. And it’s not always limited to gender or race.

Below are 5 ways you can help to smash through the glass ceiling:

  • Align your objectives and competencies with senior management
  • Build your internal network and relationships
  • Over-perform in everything you do
  • Find a mentor within senior management
  • Move sideways under a different manager who will support your growth

If all else fails you do have a choice to move from your organisation altogether for your next career move.

H – Hard Work

I don’t know many successful people who have got to where they have without a great deal of hard work. True hard work never goes unnoticed. You will gain a recognition and prominence not only in the organisation that you are working in, but also outside the company in your profession.  This will surely work for you when you are creating your job reputation & professional profile.

I’m not saying you have to work 16 hour days every day, although that might be necessary sometimes. I’m saying that 9-5 no longer exists; a job for life no longer exists; and a ‘God-given’ right to promotion based upon your tenure in an organisation, no longer exists.

I – Intuition

Boosting your intuitive intelligence and using it to “coach” you on the job can be your career’s secret weapon. This was confirmed in a research study at New Jersey Institute of Technology, which tested hundreds of business managers for intuitive ability. Those who demonstrated superior intuitive ability also were better at effective decision-making skills. In a Harvard study, 80 percent of surveyed executives credited their success to intuition. And business luminaries from Conrad Hilton to Bill Gates to Oprah Winfrey have declared it essential for success. Donald Trump said, “I’ve built a multi-billion-dollar empire by using my intuition.”

So, how can we use this valuable skill on the job to become smarter, better employees? You can boost your intuitive intelligence by becoming aware of it, tuning in to what it’s trying to tell you, and heeding its advice. Like any skill, the more you practice it, the easier it becomes.

J – Job Satisfaction

Generally, you can have three fundamental approaches to your work:

Is it your career, your job, or your passion?

Depending on which category of work you put yourself in, the things which offer you satisfaction will vary.

If you feel you are pursuing your career, then chances of promotion and career development opportunities will measure your levels of job satisfaction. Your overall level of satisfaction will be closely associated with your power, status, or position.

If you feel you are doing a job, then it is the salary which will measure your levels of job satisfaction.

If you feel you are pursuing your passion, then work itself will determine your level of satisfaction, no matter what money you are earning or what your position in the organisation is.

In order to attain job satisfaction, first realise what kind of person you are and what gives you happiness. If you are happy, you tend to feel satisfied.

K – Key Performance Indicators

What are your personal KPI’s? Do you have any? Every individual has different goals in different spheres of their lives, whether at work or at home. How do you know when you’re on track or off-track?

By keeping a regular view of what’s important to you in order to advance your career, your relationships, your health or your finances you can begin to understand which areas of your life you need to invest time to improve.

As with any performance indicators, they should have target dates / measures and your should track your progress against them. Where you are falling short, you will need to put remedial action against them. As with your career plan, it is often useful to discuss these with someone you trust to keep you on track.

L – Learn More, Earn More

If you are looking to advance your career, get promoted or even just stay relevant in today’s job market you must be developing new skills all of the time. Many of those skills you will need to develop will be outside of your comfort zone. You need to stretch, take risks and sometimes fail!

Continuous learning is a must for anyone wanting to progress their career. The next few letters within this A to Z will give you some pointers on how to keep your knowledge and learning current and more importantly useful to progressing your career.

M – Mentor

Mentoring is a relationship between two people with the goal of professional and personal development. More professionals these days are actively pursuing mentoring to advance their careers. Whether you’re on the giving or receiving end, these types of partnerships can benefit your career.

A mentoring partnership may be between two people within the same organisation, same industry, same networking organisation or anyone whose professional opinion you value and have a good relationship with. However the partners come together, the relationship should be based on mutual trust and respect, and it typically offers personal and professional advantages for both parties.

A trusted mentor can help you do the following:

• Gain valuable advice – Mentors can offer valuable insight into what it takes to get ahead. They can be your guide and “sounding board” for ideas, helping you decide on the best course of action in difficult situations. You may learn short-cuts that help you work more effectively and avoid “reinventing the wheel.”

• Develop your knowledge and skills – They can help you identify the skills and expertise you need to succeed. They may teach you what you need to know, or advise you on where to go for the information you need.

• Improve your communication skills – Just like your mentor, you may also learn to communicate more effectively, which can further help you at work.

• Learn new perspectives – Again, you can learn new ways of thinking from your mentor, just as your mentor can learn from you.

• Build your network – Your mentor can offer an opportunity to expand your existing network of personal and professional contacts.

• Advance your career – A mentor helps you stay focused and on track in your career through advice, skills development, networking, and so on.

N – Network

Please see previous post on Networking – Business Networking – It’s not ‘what’ you know…

O – Opportunities

Opportunities are all around you, all of the time. So you need to be continually watching out for them. Get into the habit of looking for possible opportunities every day. Keep a notebook or digital recorder with you, or use a smartphone app like Evernote to note down opportunities when you think of them. Write down as many possible opportunities as you can – you can trim your list back to the most relevant opportunities later on.

You also need to make an effort to seek out “hidden” opportunities. These are opportunities like job openings that aren’t advertised, and projects that you can initiate because you have spotted an unfulfilled need within your organisation or industry.

Begin with your organisation. Keep an eye on current internal or upcoming vacancies, and on any plans for the organisation to expand or change direction. Also, think about how you could progress in the organisation from your current position – what paths are available to you?

It might be obvious which opportunity is best for you. If not, it can be useful to do a grid analysis to make a well-balanced decision. This technique works by getting you to list your options as rows on a table, and the factors that are important to you (such as fit with your strengths and interests) as columns.

You then score each option/factor combination, weight this score by the relative importance of the factor, and add these scores up to give an overall score for each option.

P – Politics without the Politics

Please see previous post – Playing Politics without the Politics

Q – Qualifications

Having the right qualifications for your chosen career will very often get you through the door for an interview. Depending on your particular field, and seniority in that field, you may require more or less vocational qualifications.

For any career, keeping your skills current and future-proofed should be an ongoing and important part of your development. In many cases, this may be ‘on the job’ learning and development, but many occupations also demand a level of qualification for you to even be considered to move to the next level. That being said, once you’re working in an organisation, it will very often be your attitude, work-rate, delivery and over-achievement that will count much more than qualifications for progression.

R – Read

According to a Harvard Business Review article last year, the leadership benefits of reading are wide-ranging. Evidence suggests reading can improve intelligence and lead to innovation and insight. Some studies have shown, for example, that reading makes you smarter through “a larger vocabulary and more world knowledge in addition to the abstract reasoning skills.” Reading — whether Wikipedia, Michael Lewis, or Aristotle — is one of the quickest ways to acquire and assimilate new information. Many business people claim that reading across fields is good for creativity. And leaders who can sample insights in other fields, such as sociology, the physical sciences, economics, or psychology, and apply them to their organizations are more likely to innovate and prosper.

Reading can also make you more effective in leading others. Reading increases verbal intelligence, making a leader a more adept and articulate communicator. Reading novels can improve empathy and understanding of social cues, allowing a leader to better work with and understand others — traits that author Anne Kreamer persuasively linked to increased organisational effectiveness, and to pay raises and promotions for the leaders who possessed these qualities. And any business person understands that heightened emotional intelligence will improve his or her leadership and management ability.

Using down-time during your day, you can increase your reading capacity enormously. There are a plethora of ways to access books on the move – Smartphones, tablet devices and audio books. I personally find that using my daily commute to listen to audio books means that I can get through 4 or 5 books per month.

S – Soft Skills

Aside from reading, attaining professional qualifications and ‘on-the-job’ training, it’s also worth investing time, effort and money in honing some of the softer skills, often untaught in schools and universities and expected in senior business positions. This sort of training falls into 2 broad categories, namely Self-Management and People Skills. I’ve listed below some of the skills within these broad headings that you may wish improve upon once you have a good understanding of your Strengths and Areas for Development under letter ‘U’ below.

Self-Management

  • Self-awareness
  • Self-confidence
  • Self-promotion
  • Time Management
  • Strategic Thinking
  • Problem Analysis & Solving
  • Working with others
  • Building Teams
  • Delegation

People Skills

  • Communication Skills
  • Presentation Skills
  • Interviewing techniques
  • Selling & Negotiation
  • People Management
  • Leadership
  • Stakeholder Management
  • Mentoring & Coaching

Getting this sort of training maybe freely available through your organisation, or via training companies or through local colleges. Be sure to get feedback on the course content and quality before you invest your valuable time, effort and money.

T – Treat Everyone with Respect

Albert Einstein said it best, I think:

“I speak to everyone in the same way, whether he is the garbage man or the president of the university.”

Respect is not only about how you talk to people. Human beings crave the respect of others; it’s in our DNA. When we feel like nobody respects us, it’s difficult for us to be positive and productive. When we don’t respect ourselves, we act in ways that our counter to our interests in an attempt to make ourselves feel better.

Cultivating self-respect and earning the respect of others goes a long way toward leading a balanced, healthy, happy life as well as improving your chances of career progression.

The 10 commandments of Respect according to Think Oak! All of which could be encompassed by – ‘Treat others as you would like to be treated’

  1. Act with integrity
  2. Display good manners
  3. Be punctual
  4. Actively listen when someone is talking to you
  5. Follow through on your promises
  6. Understand the impact that you might have on others – your ‘Shadow’
  7. Be compassionate
  8. Value the opinion of others
  9. Be appreciative
  10. Admit when you’re wrong

U – Understand your Strengths & Areas for Development

On the downloadable Think Oak! Career and Development Template, you will find two sections to complete around Strengths and Areas for Development.

Before you complete these sections, I’d like you to do two separate tasks:

  1. Write down all your Strengths and Areas for Development that you can think of. Refine these down to those you will really need to work on to achieve your OMG.
  2. Get some feedback. You may think you know who your are and what you need to do to achieve your goals, but you may find that trusted people in your network can help you tweak or even re-evaluate some of these.

Now, fill in your template.

V – Volunteer

Whether internally or externally, volunteer to do new things, especially if they’re not in your job description! Get involved in initiatives that your organisation is launching or volunteer in your local community. Getting involved in new initiatives or community activity has a number of benefits:

Internal:

Many organisations give people opportunities to get involved in projects that are outside of your job description whether that be Customer Experience Champions, Employee Representatives on committees or sponsors for particular projects. Whilst you shouldn’t allow these opportunities to prevent you from completing your objectives at work, they are a great opportunity for you to build you profile with people from around the organisation, learn new skills and widen your sphere of influence – assuming you do a good job and don’t just use it as an excuse to get away from your day job!

External:

If you’re considering a new or change of career, volunteering can help you get experience in your area of interest and help you meet people in the field. Even if you’re not planning on changing careers, volunteering gives you the opportunity to practice important skills used in the workplace, such as teamwork, communication, problem solving, project planning, task management, and people skills. You might feel more comfortable stretching your wings at work once you’ve honed these skills in a volunteer position first.

Volunteering also offers you the chance to try out a new career without making a long-term commitment. It is also a great way to gain experience in a new field. In some fields, you can volunteer directly at an organisation that does the kind of work you’re interested in. For example, if you’re interested in nursing, you could volunteer at a hospital or a nursing home. Your volunteer work might also expose you to professional organisations or internships that could be of benefit to your career.

Just because volunteer work is unpaid does not mean the skills you learn are basic. Many volunteering opportunities provide extensive training. For example, you could become an experienced crisis counsellor while volunteering at the Samaritans or gain NVQ’s towards teaching qualifications as a support teacher.

Volunteering can also help you build upon skills you already have and use them to benefit the greater community. For instance, if you hold a successful sales position, you raise awareness for your favourite cause as a volunteer advocate, while further developing and improving your public speaking, communication, and marketing skills.

W – Work – Life Balance

This is a tough one for ambitious, driven and career-minded people. It’s actually very easy to get to a point when you’re consistently working 12, 13, 14 or more hour days. For most people, it is physically not sustainable to continue to produce continued quality results working at this level. Something will give – your health, your marriage and family life, your relationships outside of work, your personal time or a combination of any or all of these. It is much better to work on your personal time management skills, your delegation of tasks and understanding what’s critical to your success than to burn yourself out. Believe me, I know from personal experience!

Work smarter, not harder. Don’t get me wrong  – You will need to put in an all-nighter occasionally, you will and should invest in entertaining customers or building your network outside of the 9-5, but you should equally invest time in yourself, your friends and family and for relaxation.

X – 10000 Hours of Mastery

X with a horizontal line above it, is the Roman numeral for 10,000 and Malcolm Gladwell in his great book, Outliers, states that 10,000 hours of practice is required to truly master a field in life, citing The Beatles, Bill Gates and others as examples.

In order to be the best at anything, you do need innate talent, but you also need to practice your craft and practice a great deal!

Hard work alone is not enough, however. Talent, passion and spotting as well as taking opportunities also matter.

Y – You are in charge

Your career progression is no-one else’s responsibility other than your own. You set the pace, you decide when to leave a job that you don’t enjoy, and ultimately you decide how much effort you want to invest in your future. With the right attitude, behaviours, skills, experience and support, you can achieve your goals. Take the next step today!

Z – Zeroes and how to add them to your salary

By acting upon this A to Z, you are already positioning yourself for success in your career. It is essential that you continue to work on your career plan. Review it each month and update your 30, 60 and 90 day plans accordingly. Continually look for opportunities and take seriously any that come your way. Whilst it is often easier to stay in your comfort zone, that isn’t the way to progress your career. You will need to take some risks. Some will pay off, others won’t, but you will learn from them!

I hope you enjoyed the A to Z of Career Progression. As always, would love to hear any feedback or thoughts you may have.

A to Z of Employability

A to Z Employability

I often get asked by teachers, lecturers and students what are the key skills and qualities that businesses are looking for in young people leaving full-time education for a career in business. In this A – Z I’d like to give some pointers on the very important topic of Employability. I would suggest that there are some people already in business, who are looking to progress their career that could also enhance their skills in some of these areas covered in this post.

A – Attitude

A positive attitude is the key foundation for employability – this can be summed up as a ‘can-do’ approach, a readiness to take part and contribute, openness to new ideas and a drive to make those ideas happen.

B – Behaviours

I’ve listed below some of the key behaviours I would expect to see in any of my employees:

Being courteous and having good manners

Being punctual for meetings

Generous listening of others

Honesty – always be up front

C – Commitment

If you commit to something, then follow through with it. If you do what you say you’ll do, and consistently, you will quickly be recognised as someone who can be trusted to get the job done.

D – Digitally Literate

The nature of knowledge is changing and, in this digital age, our definition of basic literacy urgently needs expanding. With an estimated 90% of UK jobs requiring some level of IT competency, the notion of digital literacy – those capabilities that equip an individual for living, learning and working in a digital society – is one that needs to be taken seriously by schools, colleges and universities. In fact, 16 million people in the UK aged 15 and over still don’t have basic on-line Skills.

Examples of Digital Literacy:

  • Understanding how to use web browsers, search engines, email, text, wiki, desktop publishing, and office software such as spreadsheets, word processors, presentation suites and databases.
  • The ability to evaluate on-line resources for accuracy/trustworthiness of information.
  • Understanding of social media and on-line etiquette
  • Ability to use basic hardware such as projectors, electronic whiteboards, printers and so on.

E – Enthusiastic

Whether you are just starting out in the workplace or you are looking to further your career, enthusiasm for work and the organisation you are targeting is hugely important.

Interviewers / hiring managers love enthusiastic people. They love them because they convey a sense that they will go the extra mile to excel in the role. They’ll do everything on the job description and a bit more.

F – Flexible

Flexibility of an employee is very high on my personal list of qualities I am looking for in candidates for any role. Someone who is prepared to roll their sleeves up to help someone meet a deadline or take on extra responsibility for a special project, even if it’s not their job, will get noticed for all the right reasons.  Going the extra mile for internal or external customers and being willing to adapt to change is crucial for many roles and many organisations.

G – Goal Oriented

People who know what they want are always more likely to get it. The most successful people in business are those who have clear goals to aim for. So decide right now what your goals are in terms of income, lifestyle, and so on. When your goals are clear in your own mind, you dramatically increase your chances of reaching them. In other words, you need to be organised, deadline driven, and do NOT always rely on others to give you a task.

H – Helping Others

Whether it’s showing someone how to insert a picture into a presentation or proof-reading a proposal, helping other people is a great way to build relationships, shows a willingness to succeed and increases the likelihood of you receiving help when you need it. We all need help sometimes!

I – Impact

Presenting a strong, competent, positive image to others throughout your career is important. Having the ability to converse confidently one on one and in groups is something the majority of people need to do in their careers. It’s worth investing time and effort in working on you presentation skills early!

J – Judgement

Judgement is needed for any job. The ability to make a sound decision based on the facts and implement a plan can make the difference between failure and success. Assessing the strength of your judgement skills and those of others can help you learn to improve your chances of employment and success.

K – Knowledgeable

Whilst you can learn many things on the job, any role will demand a certain base level of knowledge. The more knowledge you can build up about your chosen career path, the better. Whatever field you are looking to work in, there will be boundless information already published on-line and in periodicals. Get into the habit early of reading around your industry vertical and keep up-to-date. As an employer, you can tell very quickly who is well-read and informed and who isn’t.

L – Learner

Each of us can always learn and learn every day.  You can learn from people in your teams, your customer interactions, a mentor, your business network, podcasts as well as from reading and more formal structured training. Make learning a habit that you never break.

M – Manage Your Time

Time management is the effective use of a range of skills, tools and techniques used to organise or manage time when accomplishing specific tasks, projects and goals. Effective time management is underpinned by a range of additional skills which include planning, allocating, goal setting, delegation, monitoring and analysis of time spent, organising, scheduling and prioritising. In most roles you will be expected to juggle all of your work load and hit deadlines.

N – Numeracy Skills

Numeracy involves an understanding of numerical data, statistics and graphs, it is also part of making decisions and reasoning.  Numeracy skills are very important, irrespective of whether you consider a job to be “working with numbers”. Having competence and being confident in working with numbers is a skill that can be used to your advantage in a wide range of employment settings. For example, knowing how profitable a company is, understanding value for money for purchasing and ordering supplies, following a budget or just calculating your holiday time. Being able to understand and analyse data in different formats is considered an essential skill in many organisations.

O – Organised

Being organised is a requisite for any job that involves other people or working to time frames. Employers will want to know that you can be relied on to deliver projects and information on schedule. It’s largely about being logical and controlled.

P – Professional

It is important to remain professional at all times when engaged in a business environment, whether for an organisation or your own business. Being professional not only lets people know you are a reputable person to work with, but also conveys intelligence and poise regarding your position.

People who are professional are unfailingly polite, courteous and well-spoken, no matter what the situation. Being professional means you keep your cool and remain calm under any circumstances. No matter how upset a co-worker or customer makes you, you don’t react; you deal with the situation rationally and calmly.

Q – Quality of Work

Maintaining a high quality of work is essential in the workplace. People do not expect to have to check grammar and spelling, spreadsheet formulae, formatting of documents or monitor your work rate on an hourly basis. Assuming you have been trained on the task at hand, you are expected to perform your work with minimum intervention.

R – Resourcefulness

With the recession forcing us to make do with what we have, being resourceful is now a necessary skill for today’s generation of leaders AND employees. It is not simply a matter of doing more with less. It’s about being able to find innovative solutions to problems; it’s about thinking about things differently and about calling on creativity and imagination to get better results with limited resource. Being able to demonstrate this skill will push you further in your career faster than many other qualities listed here.

S – Self-Awareness

Self-awareness is the ability to recognise moods, emotions, and drivers of our behaviour and understand their impact on others and your job performance. People with strong self-awareness not only are able to identify their feelings but also understand why those feelings occur. They are also aware of their strengths and weaknesses and are not afraid to talk about them. That awareness also helps them avoid setting themselves for failures due to overpromising or overstretching on tasks.

T – Teamwork

All employers are keen to recruit people who are able to co-operate and work in teams. As less hierarchical organisations have emerged with project teams, self-managed work teams and management teams, so the requirements to ‘Get on well with people’, and to ‘Work with and through others’ become increasingly important.

Teamwork involves working confidently within a group, contributing your own ideas effectively, taking a share of the responsibility, being assertive – rather than passive or aggressive, accepting and learning from constructive criticism and giving positive, constructive feedback to others.

U – Understand the Business

I’m amazed when someone comes to interview and hasn’t researched the company, looked into recent successes or in some cases even clicked around the company website. This tells me that they’re not enthusiastic about joining my team.

Managers expect their team members to be interested in their business, understand the organisation’s vision and values, as well as the key goals and metrics of their department.

V – Verbal Communication

Effective spoken communication requires being able to express your ideas and views clearly, confidently and concisely in speech, tailoring your content and style to the audience.

Be clear and concise – Vary your tone, pace and volume to enhance the communication and encourage questions

Persuading and Negotiating – Arriving at an agreement that is agreeable to both sides: a Win-Win situation. Back up your points with logic. Show tact to those you disagree with.

Making a speech in front of an audience – presenting your message in an interesting way, structuring your presentation, using audio-visual aids effectively and building a rapport with your audience.

Communicating effectively in a team – Giving and receiving feedback, listening to what others are saying and often more importantly, what they’re not saying as well as motivating and supporting others are key skills you can work on.

W – Written Communication

All organisations rely on some form of written communication, so you can increase your employability by developing strong skills related to writing reports, composing concise and effective emails, and courteous, compelling correspondence with suppliers and customers. Employers want to see evidence that potential employees have mastered basic spelling, grammar and business tone in their written communication. Employers want workers who can write simple, direct and effective communications that convey specific messages in keeping with a company’s goals, vision and values. Demonstrate strong written communication skills from the outset by submitting perfectly composed CVs or resumes, cover letters and emails when approaching an organisation for a job.

X – X-Ray Spectacles

What on earth am I talking about? Employees that can see through the noise and get to the heart of an issue, opportunity, or challenge quickly are, in my experience, rare but extremely valuable people to have in any team. The ability to ask probing questions of the right people, research around topics quickly and make informed recommendations or judgements are key skills to practice .

Y – Your Personal Brand

Suffice it to say your Personal Brand is what makes you employable or not. It is a summation of every one of the characteristics, qualities and skills listed in the A-Z of Employability and a whole lot more. I have a whole series of posts on Personal Brand which can be downloaded here –  The Brand New Brand You.

Z – Zealous

You normally hear the word zealous with the word ’over’ before it and then normally a horrendous customer service or HR related story follows. Being zealous is a good thing however! Passion for what you do, for your customers and your colleagues is a great starting place in your career and a great place to finish the A-Z of Employability.

As always, I hope you enjoyed the post and would love to get your feedback.

A to Z of Business Social Media

A to Z Business Social MediaA – Alerts

You can sign up for Google Alerts quickly and easily. Using those keywords and phrases from your preliminary research online, you can elect to have any instance of those keywords and phrases as Google finds them sent straight to your inbox.

Enter the topic you wish to monitor, then click Preview to see the type of results you’ll receive.

Anytime Google indexes any mention in search results of the alerts you’re signed up for, you receive an email notification into your inbox. The notification is a direct hyperlink to the article, website, blog, product review, etc., wherein the keyword or phrase appeared.

B – Blogging

Blogs have been around for over a decade. The word stands for ’web log’ and they’re effectively online diaries. Anyone can set one up, that’s the easy part. Thinking of something interesting to say each time you blog is the tricky bit.

There a number of blogging tools available for free and you don’t need any programming skills to use them. A couple of the more popular are WordPress and Blogger.

C – Crowdsourcing

The term “crowdsourcing” was coined by Jeff Howe back in 2006, in a Wired article which described a new way of sourcing people who are willing to help or work on a project. Enough people with sufficient time can transform into a lot of available manpower. I’ve highlighted below a number of different types of Crowdsourcing

Crowdfunding: Projects are funded by a large group of people. Crowdcube is a great example of an online business in the UK which has raised millions of pounds for all kinds of projects across multiple sectors – with all the funds coming from people interested in supporting the project and not just investment institutions.

Crowdsourced design: Projects are funded for a large group of people to design something, for example, a website.  There have been many successfully crowdsourced designs, one of the most famous ones being the Rally Fighter car, which was designed by the community and built by a company called Local Motors.

Crowdwisdom: Where users ask questions in front of a large pool of people willing to answer, like Yahoo Answers. A more serious form of crowd wisdom can be found at InnoCentive, which is a community where large corporations post technical or scientific problems to people who can help to solve the questions.

D – Digg

Digg is a social news website that can help you share blog posts and web pages. If you find a page you want to share, you can “digg” it by submitting the URL and a brief description of the page through the Digg website. Other Digg users will see your submission and “digg” or “bury” it. Submissions that get a log of “diggs” are displayed on the home page of the Digg website where many people will see them and will be likely to click on them.

In short, if your blog post makes it to the home page of Digg, you can expect a huge bump in traffic. Since most bloggers want more traffic, hitting it big with a post that gets featured on the home page of Digg is like winning the lottery. Unfortunately, making it to the home page of Digg is very difficult.

E – Ecommerce

Social media may not be huge source of traffic to retailers yet, but there are signs that sites such as Facebook are, nonetheless, influencing shoppers. According to research conducted by Sociable Labs last year, nearly two-thirds of consumers say they read product reviews from friends on the social network, with three-quarters of that figure saying that they click through to retailers’ websites afterwards. Once there, 53% claim that they made a purchase, making social recommendations as important a shopping tool as Google search. The statistics are a positive for brands and retailers, highlighting the role social media could play influencing consumers’ online purchasing activities.

F – Facebook

Facebook pages are incredibly useful to businesses as a means to engage consumers. They can be used to grow revenues, support customers, extend marketing campaigns, generate extra web traffic and boost brand awareness. Creating the perfect Facebook page for your business takes time, planning and resources. But judging by some of the success stories, it is worth it.

You can set up a Facebook page for free, but if you want to do things properly it is going to require a budget. It takes time and effort, and potentially people power, if you want to get the best out of Facebook.

G – Google+

With a growing list of new functions, tools and features, Google+ is slowly becoming a front-runner in the social space for businesses looking to increase their market appeal to an online audience. The number of active users on Google+ grew 27 per cent in the last quarter of 2012 to 343 million users.

The first step in creating a Google+ presence should be setting up a business brand page. Ensure relevant information is added to the ‘About’ section, and visually appealing cover image and avatar are used to catch the attention of Google+ users. A number of appropriate links should also be added to the ‘About’ section as these can have a positive effect on the business’s search engine ranking. As with all social media platforms, it’s important to keep your content fresh and engaging.

Google+ Local is a useful tool that allows users to discover and locate businesses that have opted into the service. When a business signs up, it can add information including address, contact information, opening times, photographs and reviews. While Google+ Local is more applicable to SMEs that have a physical location rather than being based solely online, Google+ users have the option to add their own reviews to a Local page, helping to influence the choice of future users.

H – Hootsuite

HootSuite is a social media management tool that allows users to update and post any pages or profiles for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, WordPress and others from one place – the HootSuite dashboard. When you sign up, you are essentially given a dashboard with tabs organizing all the social profiles you connect to HootSuite.

Users can implement and analyse marketing campaigns across all social profiles without needing to sign in to each social network individually. For premium accounts, users get advanced features for social analytics, audience engagement, team collaboration and security.

I – IFTTT

IFTTT, which stands for If This Then That, lets you create connections between different web apps and services through what it calls “recipes.” To create a recipe all you have to do is tell IFTTT what the “This” and the “That” in your equation are.

The service integrates with a number of different applications, such as Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, Google and bit.ly and offers a sizable amount of integration options for each to get you going.

IFTTT is simple to use, and there are thousands of pre-made “recipes” to choose from or even to help you think of what you could use IFTTT for. It helps to keep you organised, save you time, and reduce the time spent wading through the masses of information you see in a day.

J – Joining or Not to Join

Few areas of business and society have been untouched by the emerging social-media revolution – one that is not even a decade old. Many organisations have been responding to that new reality, realising the power and the potential of this technology for corporate life: Wikis, SharePoint and Lync enable more efficient virtual collaboration in cross-functional projects; internal blogs, discussion boards, and YouTube channels encourage global conversations and knowledge sharing; sophisticated viral media campaigns engage customers and create brand loyalty; next-generation products are co-developed in open-innovation processes; and corporate leaders work on shaping their future strategy.

However, many companies still hesitate when venturing into public social media networks, harbouring fears of possible customer criticism such as negative comments on the company’s website. While care does need to be taken when planning social media activity, there are undoubtedly significant benefits of integrating social media into small business operations:

• Social media is a low-cost, low-barrier communication channel that allows businesses to interact with internal and external contacts on a regular basis.

• Social media enables businesses to engage with millions of potential customers and investors available at the click of a button.

• Social media and analytic tools used within a company’s private network can allow employers to track employee sentiments and discover possible areas of contention faster than through traditional means.

My view…Join!

 K – Klout

Klout measures influence based on the ability to drive action across the social web. Any person can connect their social network accounts and Klout will generate a score on a scale of 1-100 that represents their ability to engage other people and inspire social actions. Klout enables everyone to gain insights that help them better understand how they influence others. Klout also provides people with opportunities to shape and be recognized for their influence.

L – LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a must for all professionals and businesses alike. It is not merely a social network aimed for business users. Rather, it should be viewed as an online network of influential people all over the world. Whilst there are many uses of LinkedIn for your business, I’ve highlighted three of the top ones below:

Find new suppliers, business partners and clients – Simple searches in your field will reveal thousands of experts, service providers and potential clients. If you do not personally know an individual, you may request to be introduced through a mutual contact or can send an introductory email. Upgrading your membership gives you improved searches and direct access to more people.

Recruitment – LinkedIn can provide easy access to potential candidates. There are both free and paid options Businesses can search for candidates that fit their required level of expertise and approach them directly, provided they are at least ‘2nd degree’ contacts. In order to search further afield, a monthly subscription is needed. However, even the basic or ‘business’ package allows users to contact any individual with a LinkedIn profile. Businesses also have the option of posting a job ad for a monthly fee dependant on location.

Groups – Groups represent a fantastic opportunity for businesses to network and grow. If you are looking to drive traffic to your blog or company website, think seriously about setting up a LinkedIn Group. The key challenge in some industries is to make your group stand out. The key is to find a niche/area of your business that is under-represented and aim to be the authority on the subject. Nevertheless, based on perception alone, the owner is naturally viewed as the thought leader for that niche unless proven otherwise. The more quality content you produce to back this up and the more effectively you run your group, your community will support you and look to you as a leader in that niche.

M – Mobility & Social Media

According to Ofcom in the UK, 55% of adult smartphone users have used their phone for social networking, with one in four (40%) doing so regularly. This rises to 74% in teenagers with 62% doing so regularly. Ensuring that your websites and content are easily viewable via smartphones is becoming more and more crucial.

N – Newsreaders

If you happen to read articles from the same websites every day, then Google Reader might be just for you. Reader consolidates your favourite websites and blogs into one, easy to manage interface. Think of Google Reader as your personalized online magazine. It’s easy to set up and easy to use.

O – Online vs Offline

Social media is still only part of your marketing mix and strategy albeit an increasingly important one. Depending on your industry or sector you will need to consider which will be the important communication channels and how much time, resource and money you invest into which. Ignore Social Media at your peril however!

P – Pinterest

Pinterest is a relatively new, but rapidly growing social network that allows users to visually share, curate, and discover new interests by posting, also known as ‘pinning,’ images or videos to their own or others’ pinboards (i.e. a collection of ‘pins,’ usually with a common theme). Users can either upload images from their computer or pin things they find on the web using the Pinterest bookmarklet, Pin It button, or just a URL .

As with any other social network, Pinterest offers a range of activities you can initiate to market your company to a new audience. The goal here is to gain brand recognition, drive traffic to your website and be successful at converting the new visits into leads.

Q – Quora

Quora is an excellent platform for organisations interested in showing open and transparent thought leadership. You won’t be able to post your news release as the site is moderated and people will contest and question your viewpoint, but if you really know your subject matter, it can be an amazing way to establish your authority in a given field.

Even if you’re not in a position to use the network to demonstrate thought leadership, Quora can still be a useful tool for gathering customer intelligence. You can get insights into how users feel about all kinds of subjects and even ask questions of your own. It’s not a substitute for traditional surveys, since the user base isn’t a representative sample, but it can be an easy way to start getting a glimpse into how your customers think.

R – Reddit

Reddit is a social news website driven by user-generated content in the form of a link or a self-post. Most users view Reddit as a modern-day bulletin board system enhanced for the web. Users submit content on forums, which are split into multiple “subreddits”. Subreddits focus on a specific topic, and there are hundreds of thousands of them. The most popular forums have over 1 million subscribers and more than 100,000 subreddits.

Reddit users rank the content other users submit by voting it “up” or “down. Submissions voted “up” by large numbers of users get listed on the front page of Reddit and usually receive large amounts of engagement from the Reddit community.

Reddit has 2.5 billion page views per month and 34.9 million unique views each month.

Businesses can use Reddit for link building and traffic generation as well as for market research and getting your message out to target audiences with tailored messages. A note of caution though – anything that seems overly promotional or advertising-focused will be very negatively regarded by the community.

S – Stumbleupon

StumbleUpon is a social media bookmarking site that allows users to “like” websites and add them to their profile. These websites are then shared with their friends through their profile and by using the “stumble” button, which is added to a user’s browser toolbar when they sign up. The stumble button basically sends a user to a random website, usually one previously liked by a friend. StumbleUpon boasts more than 30 million users. Each user fills out a survey of their interests, so there is definitely the potential for your business website to reach a broad and targeted audience.

StumbleUpon asks their users to define the categories that interest them, everything from archeology to zoology. If your business fits into one of these interest categories well, your site can get a lot of new visitors that are more likely to be interested in your business. Additionally, you’re going to get a steady stream of visitors if you use it properly and regularly.

T – Twitter

It took Twitter three years, two months and one day to reach their first billion Tweets. Today, there are over a billion Tweets sent every three days. These Tweets represent conversations related to almost any topic imaginable.

For businesses and brands, these conversations provide a rich canvas and a powerful context in which to connect your messages and your brand to what people are talking about right now. It’s a canvas for telling engaging stories, for participating in cultural events, for broadcasting content, for connecting directly with consumers, and for driving transactions. Businesses can influence and participate in real-time conversations on Twitter to drive consumer action with integrated paid, earned and owned campaigns, delivering results throughout the marketing funnel.

U – User Generated Content

In recent years we have developed into a society which likes to share …digitally. User (or Customer) Generated Content is content that we upload to a website or social media platform, examples of such content include audio files, photographs, videos, presentations, documents and reviews.

Research carried out has shown that more than 8 in 10 say user generated content from people they don’t know influences what they buy and indicates brand quality, while 51% say it is actually more important than the opinions of their friends and family, and far more trustworthy than website content. [Source Talking to Strangers Millennials Trust people over Brands Jan 2012]

V – Voice of the Customer

With incidents like United Breaks Guitars now commonplace, it’s painfully clear that social word-of-mouth has tremendous consequences when brands give a poor customer experience. Of course, there’s upside too. Social media is a veritable goldmine of insights that can help a company innovate and improve its competitive position.

Participating in social media—via online communities, blogging and networking sites—is now thought of much like the internet a decade ago. A company is conspicuous in its absence of a social media plan, especially if it sells to consumers.

W – WordPress

Think Oak is written using WordPress. It’s a very versatile blogging tool that is easy to use, has a range of free and chargeable templates, great analytics and has built-in search engine optimisation for Google and Bing. It’s open-source and can be hosted (WordPress.com) or un-hosted (WordPress.org). Even some of the world’s biggest brands use WordPress – Ebay, Ford, Sony and CNN all use it for their blogs!

X – Xbox 720, Playstation 4 & Next Generation TVs

With announcements of the next generation games consoles imminent, it will be interesting to see whether any increased elements of social media are woven into the new Xbox and PS4 operating systems. With 55% of homes having games consoles that can link to the internet plus advances in Smart TVs that already connect with social media channels, I would expect significant growth and opportunity in this space.

Y – YouTube

Though Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter were the leading social networks that swept through the business world in recent times, YouTube continues to be the most valuable video marketing and advertising tool for businesses of all sizes. By far the web’s largest and most popular online video archive, YouTube offers fantastic opportunities for a business to show off its expertise, share knowledge, market products and connect with customers, colleagues and prospects.

Z – Zero to Hero

With some investment of time, energy, enthusiasm, creativity and a little bit of know-how you can rapidly build up the social media presence of your organisation. This is Social Commerce: Turning Social Media into Sales by Guy Clapperton is a new book that I would recommend to get you started,  together with his previous book – This is social media.

Ultimately, you need to choose the social media services that are right for your business. You can’t be engaged with users everywhere and on every medium. If you try, you’ll quickly be focusing only on social media and not on your business. Stick with a handful of services where you can build a following and engage customers on a regular basis.

Hope you enjoyed this A to Z. As always, I look forward to hearing from you.

007 ~ An Agent For Change – Think Oak! – 50th Post Edition

Agent, Change AgentAs both James Bond and myself are sharing a 50th anniversary I thought I’d discuss Agents, Change Agents and how we should all aspire to be one!

Firstly what is a Change Agent?

A Change Agent is a person who leads change within an organisation, by championing change and by helping to communicate the excitement, possibilities, and details of the change to others within the organisation. A change agent doesn’t need to be a full-time, formal role. It can be simply the way someone chooses to be in an organisation.

What are the personal qualities of the ‘007’ of Change Agents?

The Best  Change Agents ‘LIVE AND LET DIE’

L – Love Change!

Probably not a surprise to you that the best agents of change, love change! They thrive on being involved in new ideas, initiatives and projects and are not afraid to roll their sleeves up to get the job done.

I – Innovative

I’m not talking of their ability to develop exploding pens, but innovation in the way they communicate, engage and enrol others in the change effort. They don’t just come up with ideas, they know how to apply them.  Great Change Agents are curious, experimental, and they apply their discoveries to the organisation’s goals.

V – Visionary

Great change agents help to shape the future. They can see very clearly where the change effort needs to go and have a clear vision of what the future will feel and look like, and more importantly the key steps to take the organisation there.

E – Enthusiastic

Change Agents need have enthusiasm in abundance. It can often be a tough role and often requires a great deal self-motivation to keep momentum in an organisational change effort.

A – Articulate

Communication is THE most important part of being a good agent for change. The best of the best have the ability to articulate the WIIFM – ‘What’s In It For Me’ at all levels of the organisation. They know what makes people tick and know how change will impact individuals and teams alike.

N – Not afraid to speak the truth

This one is certainly near the top of my list for a killer Change Agent. Change Agents, by their very nature, speak to people on the shop floor right the way up to Chief Executive levels in organisations. They hear what the ‘troops’ are saying and they see how the senior management interact and behave. By being effective, and by speaking the ‘awful’ truth when necessary, they can be the conduit from bottom to the top of an organisation, conveying key news, good or bad, straight to the people who can change things for the better.

D – Deliver + 1%

Bond always delivers and then some. So do great Change Agents. They always go the extra mile to ensure that everyone that is impacted by change are engaged, enrolled and bought in to what is required of them. They work tirelessly to engage with the key influencers to ensure that the organisation is as prepared as they can be for change.

L – Listening

Those that are avid readers of Think Oak! know of my passion for generous or active listening. Great Change Agents are masters at listening for what is being said and more importantly for what is not being said, taking time to really understand the challenges that individuals, teams, departments and functions face. They take this feedback and tailor communications and training as well as feeding the learning back into the wider organisation.

E – Empathetic

To many people, change is unsettling, at best and to some downright scary. A solitary piece of generic communication to the organisation is unlikely to affect change and unlikely to address people’s questions or concerns. Change Agents invest time to understand people’s worries and address them with empathy to get the right results.

T – Trusted

For Change Agents to be effective, they have to a reputation of trust with their peers and others in the organisation. They always do what they say they’ll do.

D – Decisive

Change Agents can’t be procrastinators. Decisions often need to be made quickly especially around people issues and business impact challenges. Great Change Agents act with urgency and aren’t afraid to deliver difficult messages to senior management or management teams.

I – Influencer

Stakeholder awareness and management is crucial to the success of any major organisational change programme. An effective Change Agent is a key influencer in an organisation. The have the ability AND relationships, to overcome issues and barriers quickly. They very often anticipate the challenges ahead and engage with key stakeholders in advance to smooth the road ahead.

E – Egoless

Top Change Agents are not in it for themselves. They are 100% behind the change itself and the success of the organisation.

So whilst a ‘007’ Change Agent isn’t quite as glamorous an individual as James Bond, they’re still pretty special.

Hope you enjoyed the post. As always, would love to hear any feedback you may have.

Aptitude or Attitude~ What makes a Star Performer?

Star Performer - Attitude or AptitudeI’ve been thinking a great deal of late about what makes the difference between a good team member and a great one, or for that matter a good leader or a great one.

I’ve come to the conclusion that Attitude is a key defining factor.

Who are the stars in your organisation? What characteristics do they possess that make them your top choice? Generally, the best employee is the one who exhibits desired behaviours, i.e. attitude, in addition to having a strong skill set in what’s needed for the job.

What constitutes a ‘great’ attitude? What attitudes make a STAR PERFORMER?

S – Self-belief

The person with self-belief believes in his or her abilities and strides forward with the expectation of success. Others can see and feel that confidence. They are not arrogant – they don’t have to be. Being self-assured means you are secure in your own specific abilities and are happy to let others shine in their own ways. Confident people are not overly sensitive and don’t have big egos. Those who are truly self-assured are the ones you feel good being around.

T – Tenacity

It is often not always the strongest, nor brightest that succeed. Sometimes it is the one who simply refuses to give in – who fights against every discouragement, who presses through every difficulty, who ignores every prediction of failure, who spares no effort, who sees no problem as insolvable and no obstacle as insurmountable. A person with tenacity simply believes that there is a way even when everyone else thinks there is not!

A – Approachability

Don’t you find that your highest performers are often the most approachable? They’re always happy to help, even when they’re really busy. You often find that your star performers are also great coaches because their so approachable and are good at what they do.

R – Resiliency

I’ve also discovered that those who are extremely positive don’t resist life’s events, curse their fate or bemoan how bad things always happen to them. Instead, they believe that everything happens for a reason. This approach helps them to overcome setbacks and “go with the flow.” They learn lessons fast and don’t make the same mistakes again.

P – Positive Energy

A person with high personal energy has a positive outlook on various situations, even during difficult times, maintaining the perspective that the glass is half full rather than half empty. Their energy tends to motivate others as well as themselves!

E – Exceed Expectations

Star Performers go above and beyond the call of duty of their day-to-day tasks. They pay attention to details, seek solutions to problems, and provide a high level of commitment in their duties. In short, they deliver and some, consistently.

R – Responsibility

Anyone that says – ‘That’s not my job’ or says ‘I passed it on to Dave to do, hasn’t he done it?’ or ‘Oh sorry, I forgot’ is not taking responsibility. People that take responsibility, take ownership and take the initiative. If they see something that can be done in a better way, they make it happen; they take decisions; they’re accountable for their actions and they also take responsibility for their own personal development and performance.

F – Focus

Star Performers focus on the right things, not only to meet their objectives, but they also focus on doing the ‘right thing’. Star performers are driven by results and stretch targets. See my previous post ~ Focus on Focus.

O – Openness

Authenticity and generous listening are great behaviours that are not always prevalent in business. These behaviours do get results and often much more quickly. Great businesses need people who speak up and express their thoughts and ideas clearly, directly, honestly, and with respect for others. Such a team member does not shy away from making a point but makes it in the best way possible — in a positive, confident, and respectful manner.

R – Reliability

Star Performers deliver. You can count on him or her to deliver good performance all the time, not just some of the time.

M – Motivated

No matter what the task, a star performer will always perform it without grumbling or with lacklustre, in fact quite the opposite. They’ll absolutely immerse themselves in the task until it’s complete.

E – Enterprising

An enterprising employee is one who is always coming up with new ideas, new ways to do things and innovative solutions to problems. They can be difficult to manage and they can get frustrated by lack of pace. BUT, if you can harness their energy and help them deliver some of their ideas that make a

R – Respectful

Star Performers are always respectful of others, even if they have differing views. They generously listen to what others have to say before expressing their viewpoint. They never speak over, or cut off another person. Star performers never insult people, name call, disparage or put down people or their ideas. They treat people the same no matter their status, race, religion, gender, size, age, or country of origin.

Know any Star Performers? Take some time to spot individuals demonstrating these attitudes in your organisation. With the right coaching and support, they could be your greatest asset and leaders of the future.

Would love to hear your thoughts.

Communicate or Fail ~ Part 2

Personal CommunicationCommunicate or Fail is a two-part post focussing on communications at an organisational level and on a personal level. Part 2 will focus on personal communication. Click here if you missed part 1.

Effective communication remains at the heart of business. It is a crucial skill that must be mastered in order to be successful, even in today’s twitter-based world. While literacy levels continue to fall and good expression seems irrelevant to many, the ability to convey your message effectively will help you and your organisation stand out from the crowd.

From short emails, to mission statements, to large business proposals, effective communication is a skill you cannot afford to be without. If you can make your point or present a case clearly, you have a better chance of influencing people, gaining their support and motivating them. If you can give people clear instructions and information, they are better equipped for the tasks asked of them.  It could be the thing that helps you win that big client or a promotion!

Each person has a unique communication style. By getting to know your style, you can achieve greater self-awareness and learn how to develop more effective interpersonal relations with colleagues, customers and even at home.  Accurate self-knowledge is truly the starting point for effectiveness at work. Understanding other people’s communication styles improves working relationships by increasing our acceptance of other people and their way of doing things.

I personally find the DISC model and Myers Briggs the most useful tools to help you understand communication styles. Once you have established your natural communication style you can start to think about how you can adapt your style to drive the right outcomes with others. Adapting your communication style is not about changing who you are nor is it about changing your intended message. Adapting your communication style choice is only about conveying your intended message in the manner that the other person is going to be best able to receive and understand it.

The diagram below, based upon the DISC model, shows the four basic communicator styles: They tend to be called different names depending on the methodology used, but they’re all pretty similar.

Communication Styles

How to interact with each style:

Relators

Relators like to work with groups and build relationships. Security is important to them and they like consistency and focusing on areas of specialisation. You should:

  • Be sincere and personable
  • Take an interest in him or her as a person
  • Be patient in drawing them out
  • Use open-ended questions
  • Present new ideas in a non-threatening manner
  • Give plenty of time to adjust
  • Clearly define individual goals and roles
  • Offer and provide personal support
  • Focus on the benefit of his or her contribution to the group

Socialisers

Socialisers like recognition and pride themselves on being popular. They like freedom of speech and freedom from control and detail. They work best in an open environment. You should:

  • Create a positive, friendly environment
  • Give them plenty of opportunities to speak about ideas, people, and their intuition
  • Engage them with stimulating and fun activities
  • Reinforce conversations with written documentation
  • Foster a democratic relationship
  • Incorporate incentives for taking risks
  • Encourage him or her in thinking outside of the box

Thinkers

Thinkers know there’s a place for everything and everything should be in its place. Correctness and exactness are highly valued. You should:

  • Take time to prepare your case in advance
  • Make an appointment
  • Provide both the pros and cons of your plan
  • Support your ideas with volumes of data
  • Assure that you’ve eliminated all surprises
  • Provide a detailed plan with a precise explanation of how it fits in the big picture
  • Stay focused on the issue when disagreeing
  • Be prepared to provide many explanations with patience and persistence

Directors

Directors must be in charge. They pride themselves on achievement and focus on results. The bigger the challenge, the better they feel. You should:

  • Provide direct answers
  • Get to the point
  • Be brief
  • Stick to business
  • Show how your plan will get results, solve problems, and allow this individual to be in charge
  • Identify ways in which your idea will benefit the Director
  • Ask questions that focus on “what,” not “how”
  • Avoid direct disagreement

Communication Basics

There are 3 skills you need to hone to be an effective communicator, namely listening, speaking and writing. You won’t be astonished to read that, I hope! However, you would be surprised at how little effort people invest in them.

Listening

Listening is really where all good communication begins. Misunderstanding what another person is saying is one of the biggest obstacles to communication. Each of us sees the world in a unique way, and we usually assume that everyone sees it the same way we do.

Below are some barriers to effective listening. You’ll probably recognise that most of them apply to you at one time or another.

  • We can think faster than a speaker can talk, and jump to conclusions
  • We are distracted and allow our minds to wander
  • We lose patience, and decide we are not interested
  • We overreact to what’s said and react emotionally
  • We interrupt

So how do you become a generous listener?

1. Don’t talk. Listen. People want a chance to get their own ideas and opinions across. A good listener lets them do it. If you interrupt the speaker or put limitations on your listening time, the speaker will get the impression that you’re not interested in what he is saying — even if you are. So be courteous and give the speaker your full attention.

2. Don’t jump to conclusions. Many people tune out a speaker when they think they have the gist of their conversation or know what they’re going to say next. Assumptions can be dangerous. Maybe the speaker is not following the same train of thought that you are, or is not planning to make the point you think they are. If you don’t listen, you may miss the real point the speaker is trying to get across.

3. Listen for the ‘unsaid’. Concentrate on what is not being said as well as what is being said. Remember, a lot of clues to meaning come from the speaker’s tone of voice, facial expressions, and gestures. People don’t always say what they mean, but their body language is usually an accurate indication of their attitude and emotional state.

4. Ask questions.  If you are not sure of what the speaker is saying, ask. It’s perfectly acceptable to say, “Do you mean . . . ?”or “Did I understand you to say . . . ?” It’s also a good idea to repeat what the speaker has said in your own words to confirm that you have understood him correctly.

5. Don’t get distracted. Don’t let yourself be distracted by the environment or by the speaker’s appearance, accent, mannerisms, or word use. Paying too much attention to these districations can break your concentration and make you miss the point of the conversation.

6. Be open-minded. Don’t just listen for statements that back up your own opinions and support your beliefs, or for certain parts that interest you. The point of listening, after all, is to gain new information. Be willing to listen to someone else’s point of view and ideas. A subject that may seem boring or trivial at first can turn out to be fascinating, if you listen with an open mind.

7. Provide feedback. Make eye contact with the speaker. Show him you understand his talk by nodding your head, maintaining an upright posture, and, if appropriate, interjecting an occasional comment such as ”I see” or “that’s interesting” or “really.” The speaker will appreciate your interest and feel that you are really listening.

Hearing is natural. Generous listening is a skill that we learn.

Speaking

We’re not all born with a natural talent for public speaking or getting our message across effectively. Many people lack confidence in their ability to express themselves verbally – not necessarily all the time, but perhaps in certain situations or circumstances. However, talking to one another does tend to make things happen! It is not always what is said, but how it is said that can make the difference between good and poor speaking skills.

A good speaker:

  • Relates to the listener
  • Is respectful of others
  • Encourages trust
  • Shows empathy
  • Is purposeful and clear
  • Uses appropriate vocabulary
  • Speaks with fluency
  • Is confident and credible
  • Is approachable and responsive
  • Uses body language well
  • Involves listeners
  • Enables participation
  • Knows what to leave out
  • Generates interest
  • Uses silence well
  • Varies pitch/pace/tone according to the situation
  • Is passionate about their topic

By far the best way to improve your verbal communication skills is to practice, particularly in areas where you are least confident. Put yourself in situations that require you to communicate effectively, be that one to one, or to a group. Speak at work. Speak at your child’s school. Speak at a town hall meeting. Speak in your car. Speak in front of the mirror.

You won’t ever achieve perfection. But you will improve. Little by little, your practice will result in improvement. Feedback is crucial to improving your speaking skills, so take the good and the not so good on board and work on those areas for improvement

Writing

The first step to writing clearly is choosing the appropriate format. Do you need to send an informal email? Write a detailed report? Create an advert? Or write a formal letter?

The format, as well as your audience, will define your “writing voice” – that is, how formal or relaxed the tone should be. For instance, if you write an email to a prospective client it should have a different tone to that of an email to a friend.

Start by identifying who will read your message. Is it targeted at senior managers, your team, or to customers? With everything you write, your readers, or recipients, should define your tone as well as aspects of the content.

Composition and Style

Once you know what you’re writing, and for whom you’re writing, you actually have to start writing.

Start with your audience – Remember, your readers may know nothing about what you’re telling them. What do they need to know first?

Create an outline – This is especially helpful if you’re writing a longer document such as a report, presentation, or speech. Outlines help you identify which steps to take in which order, and they help you break the task up into manageable pieces of information.

• What’s in it for the audience? – For instance, if you’re writing a sales letter for prospective clients, why should they care about your product or sales pitch? What’s the benefit for them? Remember your audience’s needs at all times.

Identify your main theme – If you’re having trouble defining the main theme of your message, pretend that you have 15 seconds to explain your position. What do you say? This is likely to be your main theme.

Use simple language – Unless you’re writing a technical guide,  it’s usually best to use simple, direct language. Don’t use long words just to impress people.

Structure

Your document should be as “reader friendly” as possible. Use headings, subheadings, bullet points, and numbering whenever possible to break up the text.

After all, what’s easier to read – a page full of long paragraphs, or a page that’s broken up into short paragraphs, with section headings and bullet points? A document that’s easy to scan will get read more often than a document with long, dense paragraphs of text.

Headers should grab the reader’s attention. Using questions is often a good idea, especially in advertising copy or reports, because questions help keep the reader engaged and curious.

In emails and proposals, use short, factual headings and subheadings, like the ones in this article.

Adding pictures is also a smart way to break up your text. These visual aids not only keep the reader’s eye engaged, but they can communicate important information much more quickly than text.

Good luck with improving your Personal Communication!

Destiny or Design ~ Choose to Succeed

Choose to SucceedLife is not something that just happens to you, something you are powerless to do anything about. You have choices. You can make the choice to succeed. It is never too late to improve your life and implement the changes that are going to lead you to your ambitions.

I don’t profess to have all the answers, but below I’ve highlighted a few areas to focus on that will help you be more successful in whatever you choose to do.

1.        Have a Plan

‘Fail to plan and you plan to fail’ as the saying goes.

Where do you want to be in 5 years? What steps do you need to take in order to get there?

a)      Work out a goal

b)      Plan how to achieve it

c)       Break it into small tasks

d)      Introduce a time frame and make a timeline that works for you

e)      Work out what the key barriers are

f)       Stick to the timeline as much as possible

g)      Measure your progress

2.       Learn Lessons….Fast

It’s never easy to admit you’ve made a mistake, but it’s a crucial step in learning, growing, and improving yourself. Admission of a mistake, even if only to yourself, makes learning possible by moving the focus away from blame and towards understanding. Wise people admit their mistakes easily. They know that they can only make personal progress when they do.

Success in learning from mistakes often requires involvement from other people, either for advice, training or simply to keep you honest and give you feedback. A supportive friend’s or mentor’s perspective on your behaviour will be more objective than your own and help you identify when you’re in denial!

Consider your actions from other people’s perspectives. Think about what you did and whether you made a good decision given the information you had at the time. Evaluate your strengths and weaknesses, analyse your approach, and be honest with yourself about whether you had the capabilities to avoid mistakes. This ruthlessness will allow you to see more clearly and understand what you should have done instead.

No amount of analysis can replace confidence in yourself. When you’ve made a mistake, especially a visible one that impacts other people, it’s natural to question your ability to perform next time. But you must get past your doubts. The best you can do is study the past, practice for the situations you expect, and get back in the game. Your studying of the past should help broaden your perspective.

3.       Never Give Up

Winston Churchill gave a speech in 1941 to a group of school children, that still holds true over 70 years later:

“The pessimist sees the problems in every opportunity. Whereas the optimist sees the opportunity in every problem. Never give in, never give in, never; never; never; never – in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense”

There is no way around it: sometimes life gets hard. Obstacles can seem insurmountable. But success is often the result of pushing through these problems. People who find success rarely have an easy path but their willingness to persevere helped them to eventually meet their goals.

There are few things that will drive you toward success as quickly as a strong work ethic. People notice when others work hard. While working hard isn’t a guarantee that you’ll become a Chief Executive or a top sports person, it certainly doesn’t hurt. Few successful people got to where they are by sitting back and doing nothing, as it’s often a hard road to the top.

4.       Learn to Communicate

Good communication is not an easy process and it can take a lot of practice. However, if you are able to develop self-awareness and work towards clearly expressing your feelings and develop your listening skills you will be on your way to becoming an effective communicator which will undoubtedly have a positive and long-lasting impact on all your personal and professional relationships.

Look out for the upcoming post dedicated to Communication – Communicate or Fail

5.       Set Challenging Personal Goals

Goals need to stir your emotions in order to motivate you to do whatever it takes to accomplish them thus the importance of setting challenging goals. By increasing the level of challenge you set yourself, you can also increase your motivation to accomplish the given aim, particularly when you know that the achievement of this goal will result in a positive outcome for you and your financial security. Every time you set a new goal try to make it a challenge that is not that easy to accomplish, but still reachable and realistic.

6.       Believe in Yourself

If you believe it, you have a better than average chance of achieving it. Few successful people got where they are by having a low opinion of their abilities. Before anyone else can believe in you, you have to believe in yourself and your ability to achieve what it is you want to achieve. Those who are confident are often more successful as leaders, regardless of the field, and chances are you can’t name too many leaders in business, politics, or any other field who don’t have this quality.

7.       Choose your Role Models

I’ve been really fortunate in my life to have known a number of very bright people, from different industries, backgrounds, cultures and time zones. I’ve not really formalised too many of these relationships as ‘mentors’ or consciously as ‘role models’, but I have worked hard with these relationships to learn more and more about business, people and success.

The people you choose to adopt as your role models or mentors throughout your life can be virtually anyone whom you respect and from whom you believe you can learn something towards your goals. It could be a co-worker, your manager, a friend, a customer….anyone who you believe you can learn from. As you select a person, you’re looking to obtain new knowledge or emulate some aspect of that person’s success – you’re not trying to actually become that person. Throughout your personal and professional life, you will evolve and your mentoring needs will change.

8.       Be Positive

Many people believe that success will make them happy.  They work long hours, sacrificing time with family and friends, because they are convinced that they will find happiness when they finally achieve success.  But according to research in positive psychology it is the other way around.  Being positive makes it more likely that you will be successful.

Positive attitude is not only about choosing to have a good outlook through good times and bad, but also about learning to love what you do. I have observed that outstanding business people are successful because they deeply love their work. The achievers of this world know that if you can learn to love your job, you’ll be more productive, more creative, and more content. Think of most successful people you know, and you may agree that most are passionate about what they do, are rarely affected by negativity, and tend to enjoy their work. I know for certain that the better your attitude the better your work and your life will be for you.

9.       Recharge the Batteries

While there are many people who are financially successful, there are many that don’t really have much balance in their lives. Balance really is an essential component to a happy life. After all, what does money mean if you’re lonely or miserable? Giving the mind time to relax, step away from work and responsibilities, and just enjoy life can actually lead to greater success as a rested mind is better able to think quickly and be creative.

Easier said than done. Believe me, I know. But in a 24-7 world, a work-life balance is no longer a nicety but a necessity, for organisations and individuals. The reality is that humans don’t have Intel inside and unlimited energy, only caffeine. Without proactively managing your downtime the result will be stress, burnout, illness and increased anxiety —all of which reduces chances of success at home and at work.

Everyone has different ways that they replenish their energies, be that through exercise, art, religion, reading and so on. Make sure you find yours and make time for yourself.

10.   Build and Nurture Your Network

You never know when you’ll need to tap into your network of contacts on your path to success. You may find a previous post (Business Networking – It’s not ‘what’ you know…) useful.

Choose to Succeed11.   Take a leap of faith

If someone invited you to go sky-diving, would you go?  If you were offered a top job in an industry that was unfamiliar to you, would you accept the position?  Whether it’s a fear of heights, a fear of the dark, or a fear of public speaking, we have all experienced fear. Perhaps the biggest fear for many of us, is a fear of failure.

But if we never try, how will we know the outcome?  So many people worry about what will happen if they fail, that they lose sight of what could happen if they succeed. Fear can keep us from moving forward. Consider the missed opportunities in your life. Think about the relationships you didn’t pursue, or end. Think about the career opportunities you allowed to pass you by because you were more comfortable with the status quo. Think about the dreams and goals you once had, but are now stuffed down into a seemingly unreachable place in your memory. Imagine if you had taken a leap of faith.

A leap of faith is just that – a leap from what you know and trust and to the unknown. Frequently, personal growth lives on the other side of the leap – try it!

12.   Be Open to New Experiences

An old proverb says, “If you always think the way you’ve always thought, you’ll always get what you’ve already got.”

You may conclude that the converse of this is therefore: If you want something that you’ve never had, you’ve got to do something that you’ve never done.

To achieve continued success, you must open yourself up to new learning experiences that may make you feel uncertain at best and incompetent at worst. Remember that those feelings are temporary and a prelude to greater future.

13.   Be Accountable

If you do what you say when you say you’re going to do it, people will trust you because your word will mean something. This can be a big deal when it comes to getting promotions, managing others, or even negotiating business deals. Honesty, integrity, and fairness are all aspects of personal accountability worth working on and will help others view you as more responsible and dependable.

Thanks for taking the time to read this post. Would love to hear any comments or feedback.

The Brand New, Brand You! ~ Part 6

Measuring SuccessIn the sixth and final part in the series of The Brand New, Brand You, I will be covering the last step in the START process in Brand New, Brand You, Test.

So you’ve got to grips with Brand New, Brand You. You’ve developed your Brand – Your values and your Vision. You’ve started to build up your network of contacts and your personal brand with a wider audience. But what are people saying about your brand? Chances are, if you’ve been working with the STAR elements of START, people are talking about you and your brand already. How do you monitor these conversations both online and offline?

Online

Getting Started: How do people talk about you?

A good place to find how people know and speak about your brand is to look at the keywords and phrases they use to find your website.

You can find these metrics in the analytics package you’re using with your website. If you’re not using an analytics package like Google Analytics, Webtrends or Clicky, then brainstorm keywords and phrases that you may have heard clients/customers use in discussions you have had with them.

There are a large number of tools to choose from for monitoring Brand You and many are free to use. Here are a few free brand-monitoring tools that you may wish to try out.

Monitoring Tools

1: Google Email Alert System

You can sign up for Google Alerts quickly and easily. Using those keywords and phrases from your preliminary research, you can elect to have any instance of those keywords and phrases in combination with Brand You as Google finds them online sent straight to your inbox.

Enter the topic you wish to monitor, then click Preview to see the type of results you’ll receive.

Anytime Google indexes any mention in search results of the alerts you’re signed up for, you receive an email notification into your inbox. The notification is a direct hyperlink to the article, website, blog, product review, etc., wherein the keyword or phrase appeared. 

2: SocialMention

SocialMention allows you to easily track and measure what people are saying about you across the web’s social media landscape in real-time. SocialMention monitors 100+ social media properties directly, including Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Digg, Google, and many more.

It’s straightforward and easy to use. You simply type the brand, product, service name or keywords/phrase into the search field, select where you would like to search the social sphere for the search term(s) you have entered and click the Search button. I recommend searching all of the categories, but if you’re limited on time and resources, narrowing your search breadth and depth may be a good place to start.

SocialMention also provides the ability to narrow or broaden your brand monitoring as you like.

Based on your search criteria, SocialMention will return all of the mentions of your brand or keyword/phrase across the web.

Within the results, you’ll be provided a number of statistics, not just the instances of brand/keyword mentions. Based on SocialMention’s search metrics, they’ll provide you sentiment ratings, top keywords used in conjunction with your brand, top users of your brand name (those mentioning it the most), strength, passion, reach and more.

You’re able to click on the links where your brand is mentioned which facilitates a direct response to the person or party mentioning your brand or keyword/phrase.

While these provided metrics are not completely scientific, they’re a good reference point for understanding the nature of the types of conversations and comments surrounding your brand.

3: TweetDeck

To narrow down where you monitor your brand, TweetDeck offers you a simple way to view multiple conversations and searches from one location. You can use the dashboard in multiple locations such as laptop, desktop, smartphone and tablet.

TweetDeck is your personal real-time browser, connecting you with your contacts across Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn and more.

You can monitor your brand mentions as they happen and respond just as quickly!

The power of TweetDeck and other similar dashboards like HootSuite is the ability to see tweets (conversations, comments, feedback) regarding your brand and keyword/phrases in real-time.

4: Technorati

To monitor the blogosphere for what bloggers are posting about your brand, I recommend Technorati. It’s an online tool that searches a blog directory of nearly 1.3 million blogs for all mentions of the brand or keyword/phrases that you enter in the search field.

Technorati is the world’s largest blog search engine and robust community blogging platform.

When the search results are compiled, you have a listing of posts for perusal to again determine what kinds of product and service reviews, comments, feedback, stories and more are being shared regarding your brand.

Using Technorati for monitoring your brand via blogs allows you to post comments and feedback on the blog posts. Yet another tool that permits you to join in the conversation about your brand.

The search results Technorati blog searches return can be a powerful tool in finding and building a network of blogger brand ambassadors. When you find your brand mentioned in a blog post, take the time to read it, and comment. If questions are raised about your brand on a blog post, feel free to answer the questions. Many bloggers who take the time to write about your brand will welcome your participation in the comments/conversation. Use these opportunities for involvement to build your network of brand ambassadors, as often these folks are some of your biggest fans and advocates!

5: Klout

Klout is tool used to measure and leverage your online influence based on your use of social media communication tools like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Foursquare, and Google+. Wherever you have an online presence, you have the opportunity to influence people by creating or sharing content that inspires actions such as likes, retweets, shares, comments and more. The more engagement your posts receive, the more influential you are. Tracking this influence overtime, allows you to understand your brand resonance further, and basically, highlights what you should continue you doing, and what you should refrain from exploring.

6: Bit.ly

Bit.ly is a URL shortener that tracks clicks to a URL you shorten, regardless of where you shorten it, and lets you see how many clicks that link received. It’s also a good way for determine the engagement of your network, as well as the best times to post an article. For example, tweet a blog post at 8 a.m. with one bit.ly URL, then tweet it again with a different bit.ly URL at 1 p.m., and see which time gets you the most clicks. Do this a few times, and see if you can figure out what time of day is the best time to regularly publish your blog posts.

When deciding which online monitoring tools are best for your brand’s needs, take into account all of these considerations: what, where, how and why you are monitoring. This will help you plan for and hopefully succeed in brand monitoring and give you a roadmap for how and where to participate in the conversations about your brand online.

Offline

In short, ask for feedback; from your manager, their manager, your peers and your customers. Seek feedback on a regular basis, especially after you have identified Brand You improvements or areas of focus. Exchanging information and perceptions is an iterative process, not a single event. You can do this relatively informally by just asking for feedback face to face outside of any structured one-to-ones with your manager, or you can use more formal mechanisms such as 360 degree feedback questionnaires and personality testing.

Receiving feedback is a gift that provides you with honest information about people’s’ perception of your behaviours and performance – Be open to what you will hear!

1: Face to Face Feedback

A Face to face meeting is a great way to get quick feedback about the Brand New, Brand You. I’ve listed below a few Do’s and Don’ts for these types of feedback session.

Do’s

1. Set-out to the person giving the feedback your reasons for wanting feedback and areas of Brand You that you would like feedback on, e.g. personal impact, quality of work, areas for improvement etc.

2. Encourage honest, straight talking and reassure the person that they don’t need to hold back.

3. Let the person finish what he or she is saying. Really listen to what is being said, and often more importantly, not said.

4. Try to summarise the feedback at key points in the conversation, to ensure that you have listened effectively

5. Ask clarifying questions, if you’re not sure what’s being said and ask for specifics, if not provided.

6. Take the time after the feedback session to evaluate the information and consider specific actions for improvements.

7. Teach yourself to recognise situations in which a certain behaviour needs to be altered. Feedback can help you self-monitor your behavior at times when you are less than optimally effective.

8. Use feedback to clarify goals, track progress toward those goals, and to improve the effectiveness of your behaviors over a period of time.

Don’ts:

1. Become defensive or explain your behavior. (You can either spend your time defending your actions or you can spend your time listening)

2. Interrupt the other person, unless you need clarification.

3. Be afraid to allow pauses and periods of silence when you receive feedback. This gives you time to understand what is being said and it gives the other person time to think about what they say.

 2: 360 Degree Feedback

360 Degree Feedback is a more formal system or process in which employees receive confidential, anonymous feedback from the people who work around them. This typically includes the employee’s manager, peers, and direct reports. Typically a mixture of about eight to twelve people fill out an anonymous online feedback form that asks questions covering a broad range of workplace competencies. The feedback forms include questions that are measured on a rating scale and also ask raters to provide written comments. The person receiving feedback also fills out a self-rating survey that includes the same survey questions that others receive in their forms.

Generally,  360 feedback systems automatically tabulates the results and present them in a format that helps the feedback recipient create a development plan. Individual responses are always combined with responses from other people in the same rater category (e.g. peer, direct report) in order to preserve anonymity and to give the employee a clear picture of his/her greatest overall strengths and weaknesses.

360 Feedback can also be a useful development tool for people who are not in a management role. Strictly speaking, a “non-manager” 360 assessment is not measuring feedback from 360 degrees since there are no direct reports, but the same principles still apply. 360 Feedback for non-managers is useful to help people be more effective in their current roles, and also to help them understand what areas they should focus on if they want to move into a management role.

360 Feedback methods tend to measure the following areas of Brand You:

  • Behaviours and competencies
  • How others perceive an employee
  • Skills such as listening, planning, and goal-setting
  • Subjective areas such as teamwork, character, and leadership effectiveness

Most company HR Departments will be able to help you perform a 360 assessment, but there are tools such as Appraisal 360 available for you to purchase online, but these can be relatively expensive.

3: Personality Tests

There are numerous personality and psychometric tests available which measure a skills such as verbal, numerical, abstract or mechanical reasoning (these are often called aptitude tests) and questionnaires used to find out about your personality type, learning style or career choices, which can help you and / or an employer make informed choices. Tests are often used by employers to give an objective assessment of a people’s abilities. They can also be used throughout your career to gauge areas for development.

There are plenty of management tools out there concerning personality types that you may wish to explore– Myers Briggs, DISC Strategy being the better ones in my experience.


That concludes the final step in START and the Brand New, Brand You series. Let me know you get on!

If you missed the first  five posts of The Brand New, Brand You please click Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 and Part 5

The Brand New, Brand You! ~ Part 5

Reinforce - Brand New Brand YouIn the fifth part in the series of The Brand New, Brand You, I will be covering the fourth step in the START process in Brand New, Brand You, Reinforce.

Now that you have started to establish the Brand New Brand You, it is important that you continually reinforce your personal brand. In this post I’ll focus on some key pointers that will keep Brand You fresh and at the front of people’s minds.

1. Deliver + 1%

This may seem obvious, but the best way to reinforce Brand You is to DELIVER. Whatever your role, if you consistently deliver to time, cost and quality expectations you’re reinforcing your personal brand. Delivering the extra 1% is how you will really differentiate Brand You. What do I mean by 1%? In short, exceed expectations. Going ‘the extra mile’ will get you noticed – by your managers, by your peers and by your customers.  That doesn’t mean that you necessarily need to put in long hours every day, although sometimes that might be the case. In my career, I have found that ‘Rising Stars’ have gone the extra mile by:

Demonstrating a ‘Can Do’ attitude – People that embrace change initiatives, find ways around problems, take ownership of tasks through to conclusion and are passionate about their job make a difference and are invaluable to high performing teams.

Being a self-starter – People that spot an opportunity to fix a problem, come up with the solution and implement it effectively drive continuous improvement helping their team be more effective and / or efficient.

Continuously looking at ways to improve themselves – People that consistently ask questions with a view to improving themselves, ask to be involved in key initiatives and drive their own personal development planning are often ‘stars’ of the future.

Always thinking of their customer’s needs – People that can think beyond the specific task and ask themselves about why they are doing it in a certain way and putting themselves in their customer’s shoes. By doing this they may change or enhance the delivery or even change a process for the better.

Helping others – People that continually support their colleagues in delivery not only help their teams achieve but build a strong reputation with their peers and help build strong professional relationships.

Putting themselves forward for new projects – People that work beyond their job descriptions and volunteer for those important projects that often come up and just need to be done.

2. Express yourself and your passions

Being confident in communicating with your peers, managers, customers or your network is a very important part of reinforcing Brand You. It’s not something that comes naturally for everyone, myself included, but is something you should practice at every opportunity. Try to put yourself into situations that require you to speak about your views and passions; whether that be key meetings internally or speaking at external meetings or events and with new people you bring into your network.

Remember to be consistent with your brand values and your vision statement. Plan in advance to ensure that you make the most of the opportunity and that you present yourself effectively.

3. Build influence with key stakeholders

Who are the key people who could influence your career for the better? Who could be an advocate for the Brand New Brand You?

Understanding the answers to these two questions will help you understand where you need to exert effort in reinforcing Brand You. As long as you have identified the right people, building strong relationships with these individuals will have a positive impact on your career. Below I’ve highlighted some areas that you may want to spend some time thinking about before you engage with stakeholders.

a) Be patient. Building strong relationships and influence takes time and could take months or longer.

b) Be respectful. It is highly likely that the stakeholders you have identified are more senior than you and are likely to be extremely busy people. Be respectful of their time and position when making any requests of them.

c) Be committed to the stakeholders’ success. By gaining an understanding of what is important to them professionally, you can then potentially support them in achievement of their objectives.

d) Be able to put yourself in their ‘Shoes’. Often, concerns will not be vocalised, particularly if there’s not yet a degree of trust in the relationship. Try and see the world from your stakeholders’ perspective and anticipate how a particular stakeholder may respond to what you have to say. By addressing concerns from their perspective before they raise them you will start to build trust and will help you progress your ideas or proposals.

e) DELIVER (No apologies for mentioning ‘Deliver’ twice in this post!). Whatever you agree to do for or with your stakeholders, make sure you deliver against your promises. Nothing will hurt brand you more than non-delivery.

4.  Join like-minded people

A key way of building your network and Brand You is to join professional organisations.  It is better to belong to fewer organisations and take an active role (board position or volunteer role)  than to belong to many with superficial connections to the membership.  Truly participating allows you to get to know people and build strong, enduring relationships.

If there isn’t a professional organisation that feels right to you, create one.  It can be a physical organization or a virtual one. Being the founder of the organisation gives you instant credibility with your entire membership and an opportunity to define and evolve it. And with the opportunity to build private social networking groups on the web, it’s as easy as it is valuable.

5.  Volunteer

Volunteering is a great way to build professional relationships while contributing to the community. Take a volunteer position that allows you to use your strengths or develop new skills. Your network will grow along with your sense of fulfilment and accomplishment.

 6.  Continue to create and grow your online content

In Part 4 of this series, I talked about contributing to industry forums, writing blogs or contributing to other blogs to create an online presence for the Brand New Brand You. Keep it up! Building an online following takes time and effort, but if you create strong content, it will start to build your credibility with your network and drive growth of your network.  

7. Keep Networking

To be truly successful building Brand You, you need to be continuously making new connections while at the same time nurturing the relationships you have. Remember, if you take the attitude that it is about you, you will be less successful in retaining your network.  But if you treat your network as a group of people you serve and support, your experience will be much more positive and you will attract what you need to be successful.

That concludes the fourth step in START. Good luck with Reinforcing Brand New, Brand You  – let me know you get on!

In the last post in the series of The Brand New, Brand You, I will be covering the fifth and final step in the START process, Test.

If you missed the first  four posts of The Brand New, Brand You please click Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

The Brand New, Brand You! ~ Part 4

Elevator PitchIn the fourth part in the series of The Brand New, Brand You, I will be covering the third step in the START process – Articulate.

Brand You is who you already are, whether you are consciously aware of it or not. Brand New, Brand You is about building a name for yourself based on what you have achieved and what you want to achieve and what differentiates you from others. It essentially is your reputation. The benefits you offer to others; your value proposition and your return on investment to prospective employers. And it must be consistent throughout your communications and how you Articulate yourself.

The key to Articulate is how you establish yourself as an expert in your field and is one of the most essential ways to brand yourself. It builds credibility and demonstrates your achievements and proven abilities through various venues, such as by writing articles published in trade journals, giving speeches at conferences and conventions, being quoted by the news media, and the like.

In this post I’m going to focus on a few key areas, namely Your Elevator Pitch, Telephone and Face to Face Interviews and Your Online Presence.

The Elevator Pitch

You’re in an elevator, a corridor or at a party and the CEO of the firm you’ve always wanted to work for, is standing next to you. What do you say?

Elevator pitches are developed to relay just enough information to cause the person you’re speaking to, to ask, “Tell me more.” If you’re lucky, the CEO will say, “If you have a few minutes, I want to hear more.” If you’re even luckier, your prospective boss will ask you to set up an appointment the next day to meet up. All of that from the development, memorising, and tweaking of a few simple yet incredibly powerful words.

Putting your pitch together

1. Who are you? Introduce yourself and your credentials up front. There’s no point in saying anything if the listener has no idea who you are or if you have any credibility.

2. What’s your objective? Get to the point quickly about what you are looking for or how that person can help. Being direct not only grabs attention but helps the listener to put your pitch into context. 

3. What can you do for the listener? This is where you explain how recruiting you will meet their need. Your goals and dreams are all well and good but remember in the end what you are offering must benefit them. This is your chance to communicate what makes you someone who your audience should consider helping.  People typically like to help those that they feel will be successful in the process.  There are a few things you should think about when highlighting your qualifications:- industry relevance, leadership, expertise, pedigree, and impact.

4. The close – this is tricky to deliver effectively, but ideally you need an outcome to the conversation. This could be a follow-up meeting with the person you’re pitching to, a name of someone who you need to contact to follow-up, or some advice as to how to reach your goal.

Once you have your personal elevator pitch, practice it in front of the mirror. If possible, try to video or audio tape yourself, and watch it in fast forward. You’ll be amazed at your nervous habits!

Even though you’ve prepared and practiced, keep it natural.

Articulating Brand New, Brand YouInterviews

Arguably one of the most important times to articulate Brand You, is at interview. You’ve got through the CV shortlisting stage, but now you have to impress. More often than not you will have to face a telephone interview before you get to meet a prospective employer face to face.

The Telephone Interview

Eighty percent of human communication is body language—eye contact, facial expressions, the way you move your hands, your behaviours, the way you sit or stand, and all of this is missing during the telephone conversation. However, you still have three powerful ways to get Brand You across:

Tone:  Your passion, energy level and pronunciation.

Content:  Your expertise and depth of experience.

Quality: Your choice of words and your ability to demonstrate a solid, consistent thought process.

Before the Interview:

  • If you haven’t already, research the company and the position. Visit the company website and review news releases and other public information about the company, including quarterly and annual reports. Learn about any new product releases, any awards or special recognition received by the company. Find out about the structure of the organization, its products or services and the markets it serves. You would be amazed at the number of candidates I’ve interviewed over the years that miss this crucial step. I’ve actually terminated interviews at the point I discover that they have not bothered to prepare.
  • Make sure that you know who you will be speaking with and can check for that person’s LinkedIn profile and you should also “Google” them to learn more information.
  • Revisit the job description and the person specification for the role. Make a special effort to identify any areas where your skills and experience may be of particular value.
  • Prepare a list of your achievements pertaining to the job description. Specify and quantify your accomplishments, e.g. ‘increased sales by x%’ or ‘reduced costs by y%’. Keep this list in front of you during the interview for you to refer to.
  • Make a note of any key questions that you wish to ask.
  • Make sure that you have a copy of your CV with you and ensure you have a pen and notepad to hand.

The Interview:

Ensure that you will be somewhere quiet for the interview itself and that you will not be interrupted.

If you have been asked to call at a specific time, ensure that you call at precisely the correct time. If you can’t get through, leave a message if you can and also call a secretary/receptionist to show that you called at the right time. Ask when the manager is expected to be free, and try again then. Repeat the same procedure until you make contact. If you have been told that the hiring manager will call you – do not expect the same rules to apply. They will call you when they want to!

  • Sound interesting/interested, energetic and enthusiastic.
  • Try smiling while you are talking. Studies have shown that this has a positive effect on the person who is listening. It is also a good idea to stand during a telephone interview as this makes you sound more confident and helps project a positive and professional image.
  • Be polite and don’t swear or use colloquialisms.
  • Try not to use jargon if at all possible, unless the interviewer introduces it into the conversation.
  • Use the other person’s name regularly throughout the conversation (but not all the time). Also, use the company name a few times.
  • Be succinct. For most questions a 2-3 minute answer is a good target. Time is always an issue with telephone interviews and you’re wasting your own time if you stray off the subject.
  • Be a good listener. If you do not hear or understand what was said, do not hesitate to ask that it be repeated. Do not make up answers to questions you think you have heard.
  • Do not bring up salary, holiday entitlements and benefits at this stage.
  • Have powerful questions written down that you can ask when provided the chance.
  • Use strong, positive phrases, such as “I know,” and avoid weak phrases such as “I think.”
  • Never speak negatively of anyone or anything—a former manager, colleague or company.
  • Emphasise why you want to go to work for the company you are interviewing with and NOT why you want to leave your current employer.
  • Do not try to evade any question. If you don’t know the answer to any particular question, say so, and then say you’ll get the answer and call back.
  • If something doesn’t sound good to you, take note of it. Do NOT confront the interviewer at this stage.
  • “Close” at the end of the interview. You might use:  “I really appreciate your time today, and I am genuinely excited about and interested in this opportunity. Based upon our conversation, is there anything that will keep us from moving to the next step?”

After the Interview:

A post interview thank you letter or email is an excellent way of re-impressing your qualities and abilities on the mind of the interviewer. It may also separate you from others interviewed, and will tell your prospective employer that you are courteous and professional.

The Face to Face Interview

Before the Interview

Repeat the same steps as for the telephone interview. Depending on the gap between the telephone interview and the face to face interview, there may well have been recent activity within the organisation that you need to be aware of.

Ensure that you are dressed neatly and professionally. Doing so will immediately create an air of quiet confidence that will be evident in how the interviewer responds to you.

Get plenty of rest the night before. Many job seekers are so nervous they find it hard to sleep and wind up pacing the floor half the night, only to be exhausted by the time they get to the interview.

Ensure that you get to the interview venue in good time. Leave yourself enough time for traffic problems or any other eventuality that would delay you being on time. I would suggest arriving 15 minutes early, giving you time to relax once you’re there, and it creates a good impression.

The Interview:

Be ready to make a good first impression right away. Look your interviewer(s) in the eye and smile warmly. Be ready with a friendly greeting, and offer your hand to shake. You’ll score points immediately by getting this right – a clammy limp handshake is not good, but a bone crushing vice-like grip is equally as bad. If you’re not sure about your handshake ‘quality’, ask someone you trust to give you feedback – it is important!

During the interview itself, try to be natural. Don’t use the time the interviewer is talking to you to prepare your next answer – if you haven’t been listening attentively, it will be blindingly obvious. Punctuate any long speeches by your interviewer with very slight nods of the head – particularly the ‘let me tell you a little about what we do here …’ speech. The interviewer knows this by heart, and so is far more interested in your reaction to it. If you are being interviewed by more than one person, switch your attention periodically. It’s good practice to address your remarks to one interviewer only if he or she has just asked you a direct question, but don’t turn your back on the rest.

Be confident, you’re the expert of Brand You! Nobody knows you better than yourself, and you this is your opportunity to Articulate your passion, your value proposition and why you are the best candidate for the role.  

I’ve listed some generic questions below that I often use with candidates that may help you prepare; obviously you’ll get specific role-related competency based questions about the role you’ve applied for.

  • Tell me about yourself and your career?
  • Why do you want the job and why do you want to leave your existing one (if applicable)?
  • What can you tell me about this company / department / role?
  • What is the worst feedback you have received?  What was it about?  How did you react?  What did you learn from it?
  • What motivates you? What frustrates you?
  • Assuming I offer you this role, what would be the goals you set yourself for the first 30, 60 and 90 days?
  • What has been your biggest achievement and failure in the last 12 months?
  • What are you most proud of in your professional life?
  • How would your last employer describe you?
  • What strengths would you bring to this role and where would you need some support or development?
  • How do you manage your time / work under pressure?
  • What does success look like for you?
  • How do you deal with conflict?
  • How do you relax outside of work?

The key is to have lots of examples that you can draw out during the interview to demonstrate your skills and experience. Using the same example more than once to answer a question is not ideal. If you can, practice your answers with someone else.

 After the Interview

As with the telephone interview, a thank you letter or email to the person / people who interviewed you is a good idea.

If are offered the job at this stage:

Ask yourself are you genuinely excited about the prospect of working for the company for a fixed term?

  • If ‘yes’ – keenly accept – verbally; await the written offer and reply within a few days.
  • If ‘no’ – explain to the interviewer why you feel you cannot accept it.  Do not wait several weeks before declining – there may be another candidate who genuinely wants the job.  Remember to be civil and polite – at some stage you may want to go for another interview with them.

If you are not offered the job:

  • Review your performance objectively with yourself.
  • What interested the interviewer?
  • How could you improve your presentation next time?
  • Did you get all the points across?
  • Did you interrupt the interviewer at all, or fail to complete any questions?
  • Were you positive, aggressive, tense, too laid back, too talkative or taciturn?
  • What questions were difficult or needed further research?
  • Try to get some feedback from the interviewer(s). Most people are happy to give feedback, so use it as a golden opportunity to develop.

It may be that there a several more hurdles for you following the 1st face to face interview. Many companies now ask shortlisted candidates to complete psychometric tests, medical or physical tests, analytic tasks, skills tests or other tested measures. Some companies will ask you to attend a second or even third face to face interview, depending on the seniority of the role or the rigour of their recruitment process. They may also ask you to deliver a presentation at this stage of the process. Don’t panic…this is all good news. It shows that they’re very interested in Brand You! Ensure you repeat some of the key preparation steps above!

Use the second interview to clarify any of your doubts about the organisation including its training program or location. And use the second visit to work out if you like the people you may be working with. Remember this is a two-way process. They may like you, but what’s your opinion of them? Use this opportunity to meet individuals, view facilities, review company philosophies and ask any additional questions. Do the employees seem happy, bored, overworked? These are people you will have to spend much of your time with so it is best to find out now.

Second interviews are often occasions for you to be introduced to other potential colleagues as well as the manager – and just as much as it’s their mission to find out if they really like you, it’s yours to determine if you can happily share an office or desk with them. If you are lucky enough to be introduced to people who would effectively be your peer group, don’t be afraid to ask them what it’s like to work there. 

 Online BrandYour Online Presence

Depending on your field of expertise, your personal brand values and your career goals, you need to think carefully about your online presence. Over 20% of employers (according to careerbuilder.com) research candidates online and 77% of executive recruiters use search engines to research applicants.

If you type your name into Google, where do you appear and more importantly does that article or link represent Brand You?

Your professional image/headline is already created. It is a matter of taking charge, marketing it and building a solid reputation in your industry. Establishing credibility and visibility in your field is essential in building meaningful relationships and elevating your online presence.

Today’s business climate is too competitive not to create and build your brand and you need to keep pace with your competition. Not only can your online footprint give you that edge you need when someone comes looking for you, but effectively marketing yourself online can actually bring great opportunities to you. There are many success stories of people who’ve been discovered on the web and created viable businesses around their passion.

I’ve already covered LinkedIn and its importance in Part 3, but what other areas should you be thinking about to build your personal brand?

Contribute to industry blogs and forums – a great place to build Brand You is on industry specific blogs and forums. You never know who is reading and where those connections might lead. Comment on popular blogs in your field. Contribute on forums related to your field. Leave links to your LinkedIn account so people can learn more about you.

Start your own blog –A blog is a great to begin building your personal brand. Having your own personal website or blog will not only make it easier for people to find you, it will give you a chance sell Brand You. In order to really connect with people, you should personalise your site in a tasteful and professional manner. Post a picture of yourself and tell your audience who you are and how you got where you are today. What you write should exude confidence, but not come across as boastful. Your web address should contain your name or the name of your company or business, and your website should be appealing to the eye yet simple in design. If you are looking for a new role, be sure to incorporate your CV and a portfolio of your work into your website or blog so that potential employers or clients can view your background and your work. You need to make a great first impression. Because of advancements in technology, many first impressions are formed in the virtual world! I would recommend WordPress. It’s really easy to use, and you can be up and running with a minimal amount of effort and technical know-how!

Not everyone needs to blog (or should) – You don’t need to blog to establish an effective brand online. If you do want to blog without the pressure or time commitment, look for opportunities to guest blog. Remember that Twitter is a form of microblogging. Other ways to share your expertise: participate in online forums, contribute to LinkedIn’s Q&A section, or submit articles to sites such as eHow or your local or professional equivalent. If you’re a dynamic speaker, add podcasts or post videos on YouTube.

Keep your personal brand separate from your company brand – If you’re working for an IT firm, don’t tweet about the company. Establish yourself as the person on Twitter locally who has all the IT answers. Otherwise you’re limiting the power of your personal brand (and what happens when you leave that company?).

Safeguard your privacy – Whether you’re using Facebook, LinkedIn, or any of the social media platforms, check your privacy settings. Most people don’t realise how much control they have. Consider keeping your online private and professional lives separate. On Facebook, for example, you might choose to have a personal page for family and friends and a separate page for anyone else. This is a particularly good strategy if your profession has a more conservative public image that differs from your personal beliefs.

It’s really important that you keep Brand You fresh. Make sure that you invest some time at least each week to keep your profiles current and your opinions flowing!

That concludes the third step in START. Good luck with Articulating the Brand New, Brand You  – let me know you get on!

In the next post in the series of The Brand New, Brand You, I will be covering the fourth step in the START process, Reinforce.

If you missed the first three posts of The Brand New, Brand You please click Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

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