A Small Leap for the Economy? Or a Big Leap for You? - 29th Feb 2012
Some claim today’s leap day will provide the economy with a little boost. That might be, but it will be a very small one though. We can’t rely on such small passing and passive events to boost our economy; we’ll have to put our very own shoulders underneath it.
So maybe this special day might be the one to start strengthening those shoulders by learning, developing and growing. We can all always become better at what we do; we can always work harder to achieve higher goals. Coaching is the perfect aid to help you do that. But the time for it has to be right, and maybe this rare 29th of February might just be the time for you.
Take a look at http://www.mvantage.co.uk and surf to Client Centred Coaching. You might get inspired. Contact us if you would like to discuss this further. Who knows where it will lead you?
A woman I was talking to last week told me a gripping but not unusual story. She had been working for a bank in The City for the past 11 years and had done a great job she was always told, praise and positive reviews all the way through. The day before yesterday she received a call from HR, out of the blue. They asked her to come up to their floor.
There was a meeting with the HR director. For starters the stated this meeting would last no longer than five minutes. Then he fired her. And then he told her she would be accompanied by a member of security to her desk where she had five minutes to pack her personal belongings. A taxi was already waiting; the security staff member would lead her to it. “Could you hand in your badge now, please?” She was not punished, reprimanded, criticised. She was just let go, sent off.
She had been blacksacked. She was in tatters.
Blacksacking is certainly not an uncommon practice; it is a remarkable and very interesting one. Obviously a lot of factors need to be taken into account when firing people: personal aspects, but also company interests and strategic considerations.
One aspect that I feel should deserve more consideration is the effect on the people who are left behind, who have to continue to work in an environment where fear is introduced. Blacksacking creates an unpleasant working environment. It heightens stress. It is important that employers are aware of that, like I am aware that some employers might even seek this effect to raise the bar and competitiveness amongst employees.
As an employee it may be helpful to remind yourself to look at the bigger picture. You should understand that you are not party to every aspect of the decision making process.
I have in past been trying to open up the discussion about the glass ceiling, and have even suggested abandoning the term. I feel it doesn’t help affected groups to bang on about it; the concept itself is not always a good one to indicate certain biases.
However, this week we were all reminded that indeed there is a problem. Imagine we had a new music-star who took the world by storm, broke every possible sales record, had a very authentic image, manages the biggest cross-over success and is hailed as the future of music. A new David Bowie, a new Prince. With such stardom comes power; these stars appear high in list of most powerful or influential people.
Now imagine that star is male. We would find it unimaginable that that male star would be interrupted. At all. Ever. You wouldn’t dare. You wouldn’t interrupt Damon Alban (Blur). Babbling on. Wouldn’t happen. You certainly wouldn’t interrupt them when they have the limelight, have just been recognised as best act and are given their acceptance speech.
A female artist of that calibre, apparently, can be interrupted.
Let’s go back to our male super stars. I seem to remember a lot of male super stars, and even lots of male wannabe stars flipping fingers, one or even two, sometimes on both hands. I can’t remember that there was ever a problem.
Untill M.I.A. and Adele did it. Controversy.
I have always found the music business to be a very sexist one. And I found that interesting, as the music scene is very progressive. It was also notoriously racist; some believe it still is.
It makes we wonder if whilst we have come to accept women capable of achieving the highest goals, having outstanding skills and having them compete, do we still find it difficult to adore and revere them for their outstanding work. Is that still a bridge too far?
As I predicted, the recession dip is not double and will not be double. The press had been chasing their lovely phrase of a double dip recession for months … well almost a year in fact. With the new inflation figures bombing that silly idea once and for all, even the press now has to admit their bizarre schadenfreude won’t double up. Greece is still struggling, and so is the euro. Unemployment figures are worryingly high, but now is the time to start building towards the economic rise that will be fuelled by a new spring and a fantastic summer, with added sparkles of Diamond Jubilee and Olympics.
Rarely any single professional or any business has not been damaged along the way of this past difficult period and, as we prepare to spread our wings, this is a crucial time to seek professional coaching. Soon the economy might be taking off again, time will become sparser. The end of this quieter period is ideal to find the support to help recognise what can been learned from the past period and to help professionals get the utmost out of the period that is coming up now.
I am very happy to discover “economic crisis weariness” in my clients and professional contacts. The build-up to some kind of expected mysterious meltdown and the negative hype have taken a very long time now. The news has gotten old before it materialised. The self-fulfilling prophecy might turn out to be a faulty prediction after all. The expectations of a big bust, another Lehman, an economic atom bomb lead to waiting and pausing. There was a halt in economic initiative. But the crisis didn’t come with a spectacular outburst and now people seem to be tired of looking out for it.
Hopefully this developing crisis weariness will get businesspeople to get back to business, back to taking risks and initiatives. Because they are realising that sitting back and waiting is basically doing nothing. The crisis is here, it is what it is and it is being dealt with. Business leaders are wasting chances on big profits. Leading businessmen are not made to sit back and wait. They seem to get bored now, and I hope that from that boredom lots of new ideas will stem. Journalists are getting bored of a doom and gloom that isn’t coming. We could be having a very interesting period ahead of us; albeit not one where all goes well, not one where all the problems have gone away. Dealing with the issues will still take a lot of time, but that should no longer stand in the way of building the successes of tomorrow today.
I am no stockmarket expert but I feel an economic boost is what we need and that business leaders can make that happen, not by following fears but by leading by initiative. It is time to be cunning, to be clever. It is all hands on deck, and coaching could play a pivotal role right now in dealing with fears and uncertainties.
Now is the time to move decidedly forward. Personality finding and defining coaching could be the turbo in the engine of our business leaders.
There is a very interesting article by Rebecca Marston on the BBC news website (05/02) on oft hidden emotional and psychological weight of being an expat (‘Tales of woe from the roaming professionals’ http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-16789231 ). It is not always easy to relocate and integrate in a different culture, even if that culture is well known to you and close to your own.
There are many organisations glorifying the expat experience. A lot of companies pressure their best employees and their families into working abroad. But there seems to be a taboo on admitting that that experience can and will be a challenging one. We have learned to be tough about it and keep a strong façade up.
Expats can benefit from a large number of services helping them with the practical issues, but it is very useful to support the process via a coach. It is also necessary and smart to recognise emotional and cultural difficulties when they arise, and that can be months, even years after the move to another country, long after the support services have gone.
I am an expat myself and speak therefore from personal experience. Therefore I think that as a coach I am perfectly placed to support expats and their families. Give me a call or send me an email if you would like to discuss further.
It is probably very dangerous to send populist political messages influencing public opinion that top managers need to be punished, degraded, stripped and covered in tar and feathers, certainly if they haven’t broken any laws. Top management is an extreme practice requiring rare skills. I am sure that those who are good at it can take a blow. It was probably very necessary to reel some back in, as greed and risk lead to damage.
But it is certainly more useful at the moment to highlight that we have a small army of highly competent managers and budding top managers who are doing a fantastic job, and are seeking to do better and to become stronger and more skilled. I think that right now, after a crisis of trust it would be best to move forward in a constructive way, to strengthen skills and practice and make the economic machine turn even better and more rewarding. Many exceptional people are doing just that; they don’t deserve to be given a bad name.
One of the contradictory side-effects of our current economic crisis is that the demand for coaching, mentoring, training and other forms of support seems to be going down; I hear from many colleagues. That is understandable, but surprising. Companies and individual professionals are careful in their spending. But on the other hand this should be the moment for many to try and become stronger, better, smarter and to plan future career moves. The competition for the top-jobs will become stronger, demands will be higher. This slowdown in the economy should be seen as a breather and should be used smartly. When the economy picks up, it might be too late and there might be no more time in busy agendas.
So my call to all ambitious professionals would be not to waste your time but use it well and to invest in your future now.
It is very good to learn via the good old Evening Standard that last year over 100 more director posts of FTSE-100 companies have been taken by women, taking female presence in the board room to an all-time high of 15 per cent. However, the continued use of the term “glass ceiling” might stand in the way of achieving more diversity in the board room. It is not just women who find it difficult to make it through the door of the board room, and I don’t believe it is their gender that sits in the way. A board room is a club with a self-perpetuating blend of personality traits and professional skills. To open it up to women means opening up the commercial and competitive positioning and approach by our companies.
It will have to be the choice of individual companies to fight competitive battles with a more varied mix of skills and characters; it shouldn’t be too hard to see the commercial value
My core client group consists of people – men and women – who don’t necessarily fit the mould but are looking for ways to make the mould fit them. They are looking for support to make it in a corporate reality that does not necessarily fit their character, but I help them turn their originality into their best weapon.
I wonder how many people build their personal office image consciously. If you work long hours every single day, you will get criticised by your colleagues if you knock off early once, and certainly when you do it twice in a short period. When you go home early every day, you will get praise for working late once or twice. When you start a new job, how do you built up your personal office image? If you stretch yourself from the start, you can only give less than what people are used to after a while, giving you a poor reputation and image.
Most of your colleagues will be focused on their own work and situation. Their views and appreciations of you will and should be superficial. They don’t invest in scanning an analysing your style and effort. But they will have an opinion, a view; take into account how the dynamic works and how you can influence their views on you. And remember: those colleagues who do monitor your comings and goings and your output intensively, they have a serious problem.
The Year of (the end of) the Ratings Agencies? - 6th Jan 2012
Happy new year, everybody!
It has been very quiet on the front of the ratings agencies. They may have done themselves more harm than they did the world any good. New initiatives to compete in a more ethical way are under way. A good read on this issue is Nouriel Roubini’s 2010 book - ‘Crisis Economics: A Crash Course in the Future of Finance’ in which he argues that trusting the ratings agencies to control or monitor our economy is like asking the fox to look after the chicken run.
Last week thousands of public sector workers went on strike to defend their pension rights. Lots of my clients speak about retirement and how they have planned it, even at 40 or 45 years old. Many of them hope to retire very early, as early as possible.
With my clients, I dare to question that planning. The economy needs able and skilled people to work and use their skills. But also, the common idea of retirement seems very one-sided. Why would retirement be so much better, so much more joyful? One would hope that work is joyful and satisfying as well. And if it isn’t, you have an increasing amount of opportunities and possibilities to make it so further down your career. Maturing people are happier, healthier and live longer when they have a sense that they are necessary, useful and needed. The dream of a life-long holiday after retirement seems like a trap, a road that could just as well lead to emptiness and feelings of being unwanted or unnecessary.
The pension age of 65 was set at a time when people didn’t grow as old as people do now. Why is there not more ambition and enthusiasm to make our healthy years valuable and constructive. There is so much to learn and to experience, professionally growing older. Why seek to deprive yourself of those possibilities?
I found, through my clients, that people who are focussing a lot on their retirement, were not so happy in their jobs. With them, we sorted that out through coaching, and they got a whole new outlook on life. The dreams of early retirement disappear and perhaps that is a good thing for everyone.
The media has been announcing a double dip recession for years now. When is a recession double dip? We have been out of recession for a while. Somebody coined the phrase double dip recession at the end of the previous one and the press, politicians and therefore the public run with it. Doom and gloom are being predicted every day.
The consequence is that businesses too believe this and freeze all initiatives. This negative speech slows down our economy, but it isn’t even correct. We can stimulate our economy by realistic positive reporting and fact-giving. I think that is just what we need at the moment: a confidence boost, a spark, a push to get it all rolling again.
Businesses need to develop, invest, take risks, but the current reporting climate creates fear and makes them sit and wait.
Northern Rock bought By Virgin Money - 17 Nov 2011
Today Northern Rock was bought up by Virgin Money. To many it feels like the troubles with Northern Rock were the start of this whole recession, it’s a symbol. Could it be that this takeover will turn out to become symbolic for the start of the end of the recession?
It appears to me that our businesses are careful, reluctant at the moment. Not many initiatives are taken, let alone risks. Everybody seems to be waiting, holding back. All the poker players are looking at each other but nobody moves. That’s a situation that can’t last. Our economy should be galloping forward.
This is a good time to self-develop, re-define, go back to your own square one and reflect on what you want to do with the rest of your career. Things are quiet out there. They are also dangerous; people are losing jobs. This might be your best moment to build the foundations of your further career.