What problems are you solving?………

Today’s post has been inspired by a game called the Cortex Challenge, a Brain party game, given to us as a Christmas gift last year. A game that requires each player to compete in several different problem-solving tasks so that ultimately the winner is the first person to accumulate the four pieces needed to complete a brain.

But what intrigued me most about this card based game was the range and variety of problems and tasks that were a part of it. With each of the eight categories, listed below requiring the player to process and manipulate information in a different way. Either through touch, logical reasoning, pattern recognition or through the use of your short-term memory.

  • Finding the correct pathway between two items via a maze.
  • Being the first to identify a word written in its own colour.
  • Completing a physical coordination task
  • Identifying and then being the first to name the one item that is duplicated
  • Recognising which item is repeated most frequently from a jumble of items
  • Using logical reasoning to select the one shape that fits the ‘gap’
  • Using touch to identify an object
  • Memorising and then recalling all the objects shown on a card

Careerresilience April 2 2018

As we played the game for the first time over Christmas, it was our daughter who suggested we abandon the goal of collecting brain pieces. She thought it would be more interesting to compete as a family and work our way through all the tasks, so that we could see which one of us consistently won within a category and whether there was some sort of pattern to this.

So, some 80 to 100 tasks later it emerged that my husband was the clear winner on the short-term memory tasks, I was best with physical coordination and our daughter came out on top with the colour identification. She also tied with my husband for the top place on the frequency and logical reasoning problems.

Clearly, this was just a bit of family fun with a newly acquired game, but it did get me thinking:

  • How many of us are consistently addressing the problems we are uniquely, best placed to solve?
  • Are we really working to our ‘natural’ strengths and talents?
  • How many people are stuck in their careers trying to solve the wrong problems?

Of course, this was just one game, but I was struck by the way it provided our daughter with some real insight as to where her potential strengths and abilities might lie. Something that has not necessarily happened through school.

So, how do we find out, what we have the potential to excel at?

Careerresilience April 1 2018

My sense is, that those of us, lucky enough to do so, might have uncovered it more by happy chance and good fortune than anything else. A chance remark, from a colleague, an observation or piece of feedback may have helped some people on their path to excellence. Others yet, might have uncovered their ‘spark’ by being thrown in at the deep end and found they were in their element.

Maybe you’ve experienced being in the right place at the right time, as your catalyst or spark.

Even playing a family game might do it.

Perhaps the key to a truly successful career is to discover and identify the problems you work best at, the ones you are consistently able to solve and enjoy solving.

My point is that I think that there is still too much left to chance. I don’t see enough opportunities within our schools and our work places to identify people’s potential for excellence.  I suspect it is easier for people to find the problem solvers they need, than it is for the problem solvers to find their best problems.

Until next time

Janice Taylor

www.blueskycareerconsulting.co.uk

 

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Engaged and loving your job?

What I learnt from our family trips to the zoo

Employee engagement and why it might be lacking in some workplaces has been of interest to me for some time and I have been asking myself; why is work so poor for some? Why are some people seemingly so disengaged, unhappy and unfulfilled in their roles?

Strangely enough, this topic puts me in mind of family trips to the Isle of Wight Zoo which happens to be one of my favourite places to visit on the Island as I always want to see the big cats.

We haven’t been for a few years now, but what I still remember from our past visits and was always strongly impressed by; were the deep levels of love, trust and conviction shown by all members of staff for the welfare of the animals. There was a sense of purpose, conviction and pride that emanated from all the staff, including those in the canteen, those in the shop as well as the keepers.

Working at the Isle of Wight Zoo for these people seemed to be far more than a job – they were clearly on a mission and it showed in their interactions with us as visitors as well as with their interactions with the animals in their charge.

Zena (1)

Recalling our visits got me thinking:

  • What is employee engagement?
  • How do you engage people?
  • What happens when it’s gone?

According to Wikipedia an engaged employee is defined as:

‘someone who is fully absorbed by and enthusiastic about their work and so takes positive action to further the organisations reputation and interests.’

Certainly, picked this up over several visits to the Isle of Wight Zoo, I saw staff that were knowledgeable, enthusiastic and proud about the work they were doing.

According to the Institute of Employment studies, employee engagement is:

‘a positive attitude held by the employee towards the organisation and its values. An engaged employee is aware of business context and works with colleagues to improve performance within the job for the benefit of the organisation. The organisation must work to develop and nurture engagement, which requires a two-way relationship between employer and employee.’

This definition is interesting, because as a visitor I could see for myself what the staff were doing but can only assume that the management team were in some way, working to ‘nurture and develop, engagement.’

Zena (2)

The question is how? What might they be doing to nurture and develop, engagement in their members of staff?

Well without knowing precisely, I wonder if they have found a way to:

1) Develop decent and accessible managers, by this I mean managers who provide feedback that people can act on, encourage development and listen to their staff. Perhaps this is more likely to happen if the managers themselves are well supported with access to all the above too. It’s interesting to note that in many cases, people leave their managers rather than their jobs.

2) Identify and enable people to work to their strengths, skills and abilities and again more likely to happen is there is dialogue and ongoing development to unearth these.

3) Create flexibility in the workplace, so that in peak times it’s ‘all hands to the pumps’ but allow people greater flexibility when things are quieter or as their situation, changes.

4) Share their vision, share their ‘why’ so people can get on board and see where they are headed. They may well have ideas that will support the vision too.

5) Support the health and happiness of their employees, studies are beginning to show that happy, healthy employees are less stressed and more motivated.

6) Listen to their staff, clearly not everything can be acted on but genuine listening, with open ears and an open mind will go a long way.

7) Invest in ongoing training and development for the people they have.

The above list is by no means exhaustive and perhaps you think this is all ‘over the rainbow’ stuff, and perhaps you are right but, in my opinion it’s well worth striving for.

In terms of what happens when engagement is gone, I’m going to ponder this and come back to it in a future post.

So, until next time.

Janice Taylor

www.blueskycareerconsulting.co.uk

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How was 2017 for you? ………..

The good, the bad and the indifferent and what are your hopes for 2018?

Have to say that for a whole variety of reasons, 2017 has not been a stellar year and I for one am very glad to be leaving it behind. But all that aside, I can still list a few highlights, there is always something positive to be found if you look hard enough.

So, here are a few of my highlights from 2017:

1) Volunteering on a regular basis, with a local homeless charity and becoming part of an amazing team of people. This has opened my eyes to some of the realities of rough sleeping. It has also shown me some of the skills, attitudes, heart and dedication needed to work with this client group.

Feel inspired and reinvigorated by the Team I work alongside, both those employed and the other volunteers and pleased to be able to support the work they do. I am getting as much out of this, if not more than I am giving.

Really important if you work from home, largely by yourself.

2) Making the decision to move forward with my writing and enrol on a two-year programme, where I am required to attend actual classes on a weekly basis. Having started and failed to complete other online, distance learning writing courses I decided I really needed to be with people, physically. I also wanted to set aside regular timeslots to write and be with other aspiring writers.

This I’m sure, will take my writing to another level as I share and receive, what’s been so far constructive, honest and helpful feedback.

I’ve also committed to writing, 500 words per day for the rest of the course.

careerresilience 1 Jan 2018

3) Reviewing and pruning my networking activities both on and offline, some I have decided to leave behind and others I’m trying afresh. I am a huge fan of networking and building sustainable and beneficial relationships, but I realised towards the end of 2017, that some were no longer serving me well. I needed to be a bit more focused and careful about how I was spending my time.

In fact, some of the new events, perhaps because they are more in tune with what I offer, and my approach have already resulted in a couple of interesting conversations for me to follow up with in 2018.

Additionally, I also decided to engage more with my contacts on LinkedIn and Twitter rather than leave them, gathering dust. Making the decision in 2017 to follow up each new LinkedIn contact with a message of welcome. Can’t believe I never thought to do this before, but my instincts tell me that doing this consistently will yield results.

4) Receiving an unexpected, but very welcome email from a longstanding corporate client, which I have followed up and will be meeting with very soon. It has been almost two years since we’d last had any contact.

5) Having my coaching clients find me through my website and LinkedIn, I’ve had the privilege of working with individuals who are making plans to move away from traditional employment, so they can start running their own businesses. Exciting times and reminds me of how I optimistic I felt when I started my own business Blue Sky Career Consulting, almost eighteen years ago.

careerresilience 2 Jan 2018

6) On a slightly different note, and this happened right at the end of 2017, being picked from the audience to play the reverend and perform the wedding ceremony between Prince Charming and Cinderella at our local pantomime, Cinderella and the Beanstalk.

It was a great way to finish the year, it really was so here’s to 2018, whatever it might bring.

Until next time

Janice Taylor

www.blueskycareerconsulting.co.uk

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Vulnerability and Leadership………………..

Recently, I have been reflecting on the relationship between vulnerability and leadership, for two reasons, really:

One, after years of quoting Brene Brown’s

“You can have courage, or you can have comfort, but you can’t have both”

I finally read, her book Daring Greatly. How the courage to be vulnerable transforms the way we Live, Love, Parent and Lead.

It certainly helped me to see that increasingly those of us that are called to lead and instigate change cannot expect to be comfortable. Discomfort is most likely to become a familiar companion.

Careerresilience Values 1

Two, observing Theresa May’s speech at the recent Tory party conference and our reaction to it.

It is not my intention or wish to become embroiled in a political discussion, but I am curious to understand what this means about how we see leadership and what we expect from our leaders.

Do we expect too much or indeed too little from our leaders?

Do we only want to see vulnerability and human frailty in our leaders, when it suits us, when it feels safe? Is it perhaps our own discomfort with vulnerability that stops us from accepting it in our leaders or others?

Had never really given the idea of vulnerability much thought other than to try and avoid it until I started noticing, people stepping into the ‘arena’ and sharing their stories, their feelings, their values and their why. They were giving us real access to their struggles, their highs, their lows and we the audience seemed to engage and respond to it more.

So, on one level, we like stories and we want to know what goes on ‘behind the scenes’. But, on another level we like having the reassurance of knowing that our leaders are always on top of things, they are certain about their vision and certain about what needs to be done. And if there are uncertainties and doubts we prefer not to see them.

Perhaps for leaders it’s more about getting the timing and the balance between the two just right.

However, in today’s world of ever increasing change, global instability, economic uncertainty and the ability of news and social media to whip things up in an instant.  I believe it’s unrealistic to expect a leader to have such a clear and untarnished view, the future is not going to be so clearly mapped out. It’s not going to be enough to point the finger and state, ‘that’s where we need to go’. 

It strikes me that leaders may need to take on the role of navigators, prepared to assess the terrain and make the changes as situations evolve. Leaders will need to be agile, open to learning and open to using/utilising the skills and talents of all the people around them.

Careerresilence Nov 2017 1

In Daring Greatly, Brene Brown suggests ‘ a leader is anyone who holds her – or himself accountable for finding potential in people and processes’.

For me this only partly explains or captures the notion of leadership, so I dug around and picked out three from Lolly Daskels helpful article, 100 answers to the question, what is leadership?

‘If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader. ‘ John Quincy Adams

‘ Great leadership is about human experiences, not processes. Leadership is not a formula or a program, it is a human activity that comes from the heart and considers the hearts of others’ – Lance Secretan 

‘ I start with the premise that the function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers’ – Ralph Nader

Out of the 100 available on Lolly’s list these were the ones that did it for me. I like the idea of leaders supporting, creating and mentoring new leaders. Am totally on board with the idea that real leadership is a human and I would add, humane activity.

If you want to pick out your own favourites, the full article is available here.

It seems self-evident that there is a strong link between vulnerability and leadership, and one that most of us probably accept at one level. If you are going to lead, you are by definition, ‘exposing yourself to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally’.

It could be argued that you can’t really lead unless you are prepared to be vulnerable.

In Daring Greatly, vulnerability is described as:

‘Vulnerability is not knowing victory or defeat, it’s understanding the necessity of both; it’s engaging. It’s being all in. ‘

I love the idea that leadership needs to be present and engaged come what may.

Whatever happens we need our leaders to be all in and perhaps for this to happen we need to accept and celebrate their vulnerabilities and frailties.

Until next time

Janice Taylor

www.blueskycareerconsulting.co.uk

Posted in Leadership, Uncategorized, values, Vulnerability | 1 Comment

‘The people you admire, warts an’ all’ ……

Who are the people you have a high regard for, despite their flaws or maybe even because of them? Maybe they have had a strong influence on your life and career choices or played a role in formulating your world view?

I first wrote about this in November 2010, where my list included, Elizabeth I and Scarlet O’Hara, now, seven years on as I review my list I realise that there are certain traits and behaviours these characters may share, that I continue to notice and admire in people today.

Careerresilence tough and focused

So:

To those stubborn and ‘bloody minded’ people I know who just refuse to accept second best – I salute you.

To those whose attention to detail and determination to get things right, drives me mad at times – I salute you.

To those who are completely committed to their cause and uncompromising in their pursuit of excellence – I salute you.

To the people who continue to try and give things a go, and don’t allow their age and gender to limit them – I salute you

To the quietly determined people, who don’t posture and impose but get things done on their terms – I salute you.

To those people whose strength of character shows up in regular acts of kindness and compassion – I salute you.

To those who have the courage to stand up and be counted, in the face of social media and everything else – I salute you.

And my list today would still include:

Careerresilience Sept 22 2017

Elizabeth, I –  I am still completely captivated and fascinated by this monarch, impressed by her intellect and bravery, especially in the early years of her reign. Elizabeth managed to keep her wits about her when accused by her sister Mary of plotting to overthrow her. And I have always wondered, what must it have been like growing up knowing that your father was responsible for the death of your mother, yet still having to show him due reverence and respect at his court. Then having to constantly adapt to an ever-changing political reality.

Scarlet O’Hara – Maybe not a politically correct choice, but as the original exercise allowed for fictional characters, I included her because when the ‘chips were down’ with food shortages and other deprivations this spoiled, pampered girl, rolled up her sleeves and simply did what was needed to keep food on the table. Even as things look grim right at the end, her determined optimism, “Tomorrow is another day” still resonates with me today.

Winston Churchill – In my view, the right man for the right job at exactly the right time. He clearly had to make some very tough decisions, in some very tough times. Whilst also rallying a nation behind him with some truly inspiring speeches. For me it is enough to say, “cometh the hour, cometh the man”.

My Gran –  because she lived her life to the beat of her own drum and was her own woman. Fun, mischievous, incredibly beautiful and a little bit of a Diva, I think.

And now I would also add:

Diane Abbott – simply because she came back and is still in public office doing her thing, despite the media storm during the last election.

To all these people I salute you………….

So, there you have it, who would you have on your list?

Until next time
Janice Taylor

www.blueskycareerconsulting.co.uk

Adapted from original post in https://pittabread.wordpress.com/

 

 

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It’s never just about the notes or the words..

The similarities between working as a coach and learning to play the piano…

Have been learning to play the piano for about seven years now, the first three of which I had an amazing piano teacher, Emily.

Unfortunately, for a number of reasons it was not possible for me to continue with weekly lessons. Luckily for me,  I realised very quickly that even though Emily wasn’t with me physically, she did in fact leave me with an ‘internal’ piano teacher and I still hear her ‘teaching’ at points when I am practising.

Careerresilience July 1 2017

Emily, left me with enough knowledge, experience and motivation to continue practising and learning new pieces on my own. Which is what I have been doing for the past three years. My plan is to go back to lessons when circumstances permit, but for the moment I have enough to be ‘going on’ with.

So, this for me is what coaching is all about, helping people to develop their inner resources and their ‘internal’ coach.

When I first started out as a career coach seventeen years ago, my intention was to help people to create a long-term vision for their career and develop the habits and approaches that would help get them there.

This still holds true, today.

People would get what they needed to ‘fly and soar‘ with their careers, it was rarely just about the immediate job, but more about helping people to build for their futures.

So, getting back to my piano lessons, when I first started I was expecting to learn how to play the piano and just follow the notes.

Thankfully Emily, very quickly put me straight, with:

‘I can teach you to play and then I can teach you to play

Which for Emily was about sharing her vast knowledge, experience and understanding of music. It was never just about the notes, it seems obvious now but this wasn’t what I was expecting when I first started with lessons.

Bit like coaching really, it’s not just about the words that are being said.

She taught me to get a feel and understanding for a piece of music before leaping in to learn the notes. She taught me about articulation and dynamics two of the things that add variety, movement and colour to a piece of music.

Very much like hearing someone’s story, the rhythm and movement add layers of meaning to what is being said.

She also taught me how to look for and identify patterns, something you can only generally do if you ‘stand back’ and look at the ‘whole’ first. This meant I could generally reduce the time and effort needed to learn a piece of music.

My go to place April 2017

As a coach, ‘standing back‘ gives me the perspective needed to identify and challenge unhelpful patterns or acknowledge/celebrate helpful ones.

She also taught me how to quickly identify and focus on the problem bars of music. So, instead of getting stuck at the same part and then repeatedly going all the way back to the beginning each time to get stuck all over again. Emily taught me to stay with the difficult sections, even if it were just two bars in a whole sheet of music. She taught me that getting these problem bars right first, would move me on so much more quickly.

There are times, I think when we get so busy working around an issue, that we sometimes find it ‘easier‘ to go all the way back to the beginning and get stuck in the same place, all over again. Rather than sticking with and working through the issue once and for all.

Emily also taught me how to integrate the problem bars into the rest of the music. So, having perfected them I could then add them in, ‘bit by bit’ and then move into and through them, seamlessly.

When I think about this in  terms of coaching, this might mean that my clients may well find that they too can ‘weave’ solutions seamlessly into the rest of their lives or at the very least, understand and see clearly the consequences and the full impact of their ‘solution’.

So, there you have it.

It’s never just about the notes or the words…….

And I look forward to continuing on with both my piano playing and coaching, over the coming years.

Until next time.

Janice Taylor

www.blueskycareerconsulting.co.uk

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What keeps you going, when times are tough?

What keeps you going when times are tough and work isn’t going so well or it just feels like you are ‘wading through treacle’? Your progress seems inordinately slow and you might even wonder if you are in fact moving backward.

I know for me, there is a certain stubbornness in my nature, (I don’t always want to admit I might be on the wrong track).

There is a certain level of ‘grit’, in my makeup and I also know that there are times when I need to get my head down, put the work in and just keep going.

Sometimes the break through comes at the moment you least expect it,  the ‘darkest hour is just before the dawn’- Thomas Fuller.

How many people have given up just at the point they were about to reach their ‘breakthrough’?

So, how might you be able to encourage and support yourself when times are tough?

Careerresilience June 2017

Well it might not hurt to:

Check your perspective, are you really making so little headway? How realistic are your plans and expectations, are you hoping for too much too soon? Or are you in fact playing too small, I do seriously wonder whether it is easier to just go for the ‘humongous’ dreams.

It may be that your vision or your dream is simply not big enough. Take a look at an earlier post, ‘Making sure your dreams are big enough’ post here

Check in with your values, is what you are trying to do in alignment with who you are and the things you really stand for? A lack of progress might well be a big clue to this, you may well have propped your career ladder up against the wrong wall. It just might not be the right thing for you.

Check your timing, so much of life I think is about timing and serendipity. Perhaps there is some additional learning and training that you need to undertake first. You may well be stretching yourself too thinly and not giving your project the energy and focus it really needs.

Check your pathway, is it time to adjust your approach? This might be when you need to ‘Stay committed to your decisions, but stay flexible in your approach’ – Tony Robbins

Check your process, similar in some ways to the point above, but if you know you have the right elements in place then ‘let go of the outcome’ and focus on the doing. Sometimes this is the only way to proceed, just keep going and trust that the process you are following is right for you.

Check your destination, is it still where you want to go? Maybe somewhere along the way you have simply changed your mind, but possibly not quite acknowledged it.

Check your self-talk, what are you saying to yourself about your progress or lack of? Would you allow someone else to talk to you like that?

So, whether you are:

  • On the hunt for a different job
  • In pursuit of your first role
  • Making a complete change of role, career
  • Looking for that first break
  • Waiting for that first piece of work as a new business owner
  • Chasing your dream

It is worth remembering that sometimes, life is a bit of a marathon, for some situations there are no quick fixes, no sprints to the finish.

Be kind to yourself and accept that you are most likely doing the best you can.

Until next time

Janice Taylor

www.blueskycareerconsulting.co.uk

PS if you have time and enjoy singing take a look at one of our songs from Brighton Goes Gospel, our version of the Mary, Mary song I can’t give up now.

Hope you enjoy

Posted in career change, kindness, Personal Development, Resilience, values | Leave a comment