SWOT Analysis – In challenging times

I am updating and sharing this again this month as SWOT Analysis consistently pops up in my client discussions.

The purpose of the SWOT technique is to help you focus on a decision or goal that allows you to systematically list all the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats associated with a specific course of action or situation.

It can help you take a step back and evaluate a course of action/specific situation regarding the opportunities and threats in relation to your strengths and weaknesses.  

You may find it helpful to describe the situation in some detail, perhaps as though you are talking to someone else.

SWOT Dos

  • Try to be as open-minded as possible as you work through each section.
  • Be as analytical and specific as you can
  • Record all thoughts and ideas
  • Take a wide-ranging view of external influences and trends

SWOT Don’ts

  • Don’t try to disguise weaknesses
  • Don’t just merely list errors and mistakes
  • Don’t ignore the outcomes at later stages of your planning

Strengths – positive internal aspects that are under your control, things you can exercise and things that are particularly useful within the situation you find yourself. Something that you can capitalize on and use to exploit the opportunities that you have identified.

What strengths do you have that will be specifically helpful in this situation that will move you forward? What can you bring to the table that will help with this situation?  

Weaknesses – negative internal aspects under your control that you can plan to improve or minimize. Something that you can mitigate in pursuit of the opportunities.

What weaknesses are most likely to cause problems?

What opportunities does this situation present, and what might you be missing?

What specific threats does this situation hold for you?

Example

Situation/Course of action

To grow existing coaching business within a Lockdown environment. No face-to-face, for the foreseeable future, no workshops.

  Strengths  
Adaptable and flexible
Prepared to take a risk
Will persevere in the face of adversity
Good list of contacts
Strong social media/online presence
Existing blogs can be repurposed and made relevant  
  Weaknesses/Challenges  
A tendency to jump in too quickly
Not enough experience in direct marketing
Reluctance at times to put head above the parapet
Not a clear enough proposition  
  Opportunities  
Freelance writing, online courses, webinars – grit and resilience
Contacts, networks from past courses
Past client’s LinkedIn collaborations? Hone online presentation skills Speaking/presenting online  
  Threats  
Current economic climate
Low energy
Lack of strategic purpose/focus
Lack of planning
All eggs in one basket
 

Questions you can consider with your SWOT.

What can I do now with what I currently have?

What resources do I have? What resources do I need?

Who can help?

Who could I collaborate with?

Which of my strengths will play the most prominent role in developing and exploiting an opportunity?

Have I missed anything? Is there an opportunity hidden, buried in this situation?

Are there any correlations between my weaknesses and Strengths?

Correlations between opportunities and threats?

What patterns am I noticing?

Which weaknesses are likely to have the most significant impact?

Are all my weaknesses equal?

What would happen if I did nothing?

How can I mitigate my weaknesses?

Where do I need to prioritize?

Can I quantify and scale the opportunities?

Which is the most attractive to me?

Which am I drawn to?

How can I prioritize them?

The value of SWOT Analysis is in how you interrogate the situation you find yourself in and the action it inspires in you. I am delighted to share that the opportunities came along and I am still making the most of them.

Until next time

Janice Taylor

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Five Workplace Habits to Help You Succeed in Your Career

This month is all about helping you become more strategic and proactive in managing your career and developing the habits that put you in the best possible place to thrive in your career.

As a career coach who has worked with individuals and groups from varying industries, I’d like to see more people manage their careers and lives with greater confidence, energy, and focus.

Thank you Pixabay

So, here are the habits as I see them:

Habit One: – Take ownership

Take ownership of your career; the person who has the biggest stake in your career is you. Be realistic and honest with yourself about where the responsibility lies. You may need to be the one who initiates feedback sessions from your boss, manager, or colleague, the one who asks for involvement in an exciting project, some additional responsibility. But do so with a plan – some ideas, some solutions up your sleeve.

Decide what career success looks like and what it means for you. Make sure your ladder is propped up against the right wall. Define what success means to you. It needs to be your vision, no one else’s. It also needs to align with your values and purpose. But do not confuse success with accomplishments; see Terina Allen’s article on Career Success to find out more.

Recognise that your definition and your vision of career success may change as you progress and gain more experience.

And then, you might also want to take ownership of your reputation and brand.

Learn to think of yourself as a brand. If you had to design a marketing campaign for yourself, what key messages would you want to get across? Become comfortable with knowing and, just as importantly, being able to talk fluently and with conviction about your strengths and achievements.

What story are you telling about yourself?  

Habit Two: – Build a network  

Build and maintain a sustainable and robust network. Form relationships based on genuine interests and liking, and be prepared to offer help and receive it. Building successful relationships is always a two-way process; you never know when someone might be in a position to provide that crucial bit of help, and just as importantly, there may be a time when that person is you.

Include within your network a mentor, accountability buddy or group where you can regularly share ideas —people who know and respect you enough to ask some tough and challenging questions.

Many of my closest friends are ex-colleagues who have helped me both professionally and personally over the years. When I became self-employed in 2000, my first bit of paid work was through a colleague I first met in the early 90s. And in the last three years, opportunities to become involved in some exciting projects are due to someone I first worked with over ten years ago.

Thank you again Pixabay

The maxim is not what you know but who you know – is as valid today as it ever was. And I love Cheryl Amyx’s advice, ‘imagine your heart is smiling,’ when feeling at a loss for words at a networking event. You can access the article here, how to Network on Purpose.

And if you are going to build a sustainable network based on genuine relationships, you need to pay attention and listen. I can’t tell you how offputting it is when people talk at me rather than with me, either online or in person.   

So I was delighted to find an article on wholehearted listening and the difference it can make, all based on the Chinese character for listening. You can read the article on Wholehearted Listening here.

Habit Three: Take stock

Take regular stock of where you are with your work and career, both emotionally, psychologically, and intellectually. Are you still excited by your work? Is it challenging, or are you becoming bored and jaded with it? Maybe you feel trapped inside a ‘velvet rut’ – comfortable but not progressing or being stretched?

If you are not springing out of bed in the mornings? Is work a drag? Pinpoint causes of dissatisfaction and satisfaction and see what you can do to minimise one and enhance the other. Identify those aspects of your role that make your heart sing – is there a way to do more? Recognise those aspects that make your heart sink – it might not be possible to remove them altogether, but can they be reduced? Can you wrap them up with those things that you do enjoy?

One alternative is to look for things outside work that challenge and stretch you, though this may only be a short to medium-term solution. In the longer term, you may need to decide to move on.  

It might also be helpful to check in with your values. Are they aligned with those of your organisation? With the role you are performing. If you want to look at this in more detail, read my article on energy, engagement, and enjoyment.

Habit Four: Audit your skills

Carry out regular audits of your skills and knowledge. Ask yourself; what can I do now that I couldn’t four or six months ago? What achievements can I add to my CV? It might even be worth setting up a learning file or a journal so that you can keep track and reference when needed. Far too often, people are drifting without knowing where they are going.

Regular check-ins will enable you to track progress, identify potential gaps and keep up-to-date. Otherwise, the danger is you trundle on in the same vein while the rest of the world moves on.

So ask yourself– what new skills have I acquired? What new knowledge? How am I applying the skills I already have? How am I innovating with them? If there are gaps, how can I acquire what I need? How relevant am I staying?

Now, of course, participating in training and development is excellent – but there is danger in stockpiling learning and new knowledge and not practising at the earliest opportunity. And I am a little guilty of this – so consider, ‘just in time learning.’ As you learn, think about how you will apply it and when. Practice and application will both embed the learning and increase your skill level.

Habit Five: Seek feedback

Finally, seek as much feedback as you can from people you trust and respect – people who will help you identify your strengths and potential gaps in your knowledge and skills. The Incompetence/competence model shows that we don’t always know what we don’t know. Actively seeking feedback will help you identify areas where you can improve, understand possible new areas of strengths, and identify areas for improvement.

Pixabay again

So there you have it, until next time.

Janice Taylor

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Career defining moments

What are they, and how do you know when you have had one? Do you realise in hindsight or in the moment? Are they internal, private shifts, or visible to others? Whichever it is, a career-defining moment often sparks a change sets off a chain of events, even if you are not fully aware of why.   

Thank you Pixabay

It could be that moment when time stops, and in the stillness, you recognise a profound truth – ‘I need to get the f**k out of here.’  Or the less sweary version, ‘I can’t do this anymore.’ Maybe in light of the Pandemic and The Great Resignation, this is what is happening to more and more people. Something is shifting for the many.

During my career, one of the times I realised it was time to move on was when a long-standing colleague announced he was leaving (we shared an office for four years). That was when I felt it was time for me to start making plans as  I couldn’t see how it was possible to stay, to remain with that employer for the long term. And at the time,  I was aware of the shift – a sense of panic that something needed to change, which is how I ended up working for myself.

But then some moments occur in hindsight – they pass almost unnoticed, as an imperceptible internal shift that compels you to start taking action. Almost like a piece of grit inside the shell of an oyster that over time becomes a pearl. When you look back you can then trace your progress from that moment onwards.

Thank you again Pixabay

Career-Defining moments compel you to do something, though not necessarily straight away. Sometimes a seed is planted; that is enough to trigger a series of small actions. You find your feet moving in a specific direction, down a particular path. Almost as if they have a life of their own. It is a compulsion that you cannot ignore. With an earlier employer, I found myself looking to retrain when another colleague left; it made me realise that I had become too comfortable.    

And, of course, career-defining moments can occur in the open for all to see. The critical thing is the significance for you, and it may be that its significance/importance only becomes apparent over time. 

Public career-defining moments might include the following:

  • The meeting when you offered a ground-breaking idea.
  • The presentation where you nailed it, and people started to see you differently.
  • The time where you stepped forward, took charge, led an initiative that showed others what you were capable of doing.

Funnily enough, I first came across the idea of defining moments while on a screenwriting course almost two years ago. Our tutor described them as – the moment that drives change in the protagonist. Because in most good films, there is always that moment where the protagonist recognises that something has to change.   

Examples from two of my favourite films

Mr Magorium’s Wonder Emporium – Molly Malone decides to believe in the magical abilities of the Concrieve Cube (otherwise known as a block of wood). And in doing so she finally believes in her own powers and can do what is needed to bring the shop back to life.

Shawshank redemption – Andy Dufrense, played by Tim Robbins, decides to escape after one beating too many at the harsh and corrupt prison where he is serving life for the murder of his wife.

Incidentally, this film also contains one of the most moving scenes I have ever seen, when ‘Andy’ discovers a box of records and picks out one to play through the prison loudspeaker system. So that for just a few minutes every prisoner can hear the music of Mozart’s ‘Marriage of Figaro’, and it seems that for a moment every prisoner is set ‘free’, absolutely stunning!

So looking back over your working life career, can you identify your career-defining moments – an event/feeling that drove you to make a change, caused a shift, set you on a path?

Until next time

Janice Taylor

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Life after a sudden loss of role………….

I could not quite believe how a US boss chose to fire 900 people over Zoom. Is this the way things are moving now? You can read the full story here. Though I hasten to add, this couldn’t happen in quite the same way in the UK because of current employment legislation.

But the incident of Vishal Garg’s approach to his staff reminded me of a post I first wrote in 2015, relating to the British election and what happens when people suddenly and publicly lose their role.

The lessons are very similar. How do you bounce back after something entirely outside of your control? How do you ‘pull yourself together and successfully manage your way through such a ‘sudden’ and ‘disruptive’ change?

So, as a career coach who has coached people through redundancy, here are some of my thoughts:

Note your feelings– in the immediate aftermath, don’t rely on or trust your emotions to make any significant decisions or rush you into action. They are likely to take you on a bit of a roller coaster. Allow yourself the time you need to respond, not just react.

Know your friends – be realistic and appreciative of your real friends and supporters. Now is the time when you will learn who your real friends are. Prepare to be surprised, sometimes pleasantly, sometimes not quite so

Support – seek out the people you know will be there for you, no matter what, regardless of your status, role or position. Most likely, these are the same people who were there when you weren’t riding so high and are probably ready and waiting to offer you support. 

Acceptance – find a way of looking the situation in the eye and facing the current reality. Remaining in a prolonged state of denial is unlikely to help you in the long term, even if it feels easier to stick your head in the sand’ until it all goes away.

Take your time – when you are in a place where you can reflect, take the opportunity to review your time, the highs and lows, the achievements, and the lessons learnt. Consider what you can or perhaps need to ‘let go of’ as well as those things you might choose to hold onto or take on.

Accept what you were responsible for, the good, the bad and the ugly, learn the lessons and then decide to move on.

You are greater than the ‘sum of your parts’– Remember who you are. We are all greater than the jobs and roles we have. Now might be time to review how much your self-identity is tied to, invested in your position?

Be grateful – use breathing exercises to help you become more mindful of what you already have, what you can be thankful for even in the smallest moments. Do this every day.

Look after yourself– if you haven’t already been doing this, now is the time to start looking after yourself in all the different ways you possibly can, physically, emotionally, spiritually and psychologically.

Find a mentor – look at how others have managed a successful transition. Seek out and talk with the people that have been where you are and completed a successful transition.

Get through it – make the conscious decision that you will get through with grace, style and humility. At this stage, don’t worry about the how. Decide on the outcome you want because if you allow yourself to get ‘bogged’ down in the how at too early a stage, you are likely to tie yourself up with worry and anxiety when the way forward is not clear.  

Establish a basis of faith in yourself first. If it helps find a phrase, quote, piece of scripture, picture anything that will help to anchor you when you start to feel overwhelmed.

Find something that will help anchor you for the coming days, weeks and months.

Until next time

Janice Taylor

www.blueskycareerconsulting.co.uk

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Self-care in a demanding world

Be gentle with yourself. You are doing the best you can – Paulo Coelho.

Paul Coelho’s quote feels highly relevant right now, particularly as the world of work seems to have turned on its head during the past eighteen months.

It is an excellent reminder that we all need to practice some self-care and some self-compassion. So, I was delighted this month to take part in a panel discussion with executive coaches Jenny Garrett, Carol Stewart, Leyla Okhai and Obehi Alofoje on Avoiding Burnout in a 24/7 work culture.  

You can catch up with the panel discussion here

And here are a few of my guidance and tips:

  • Avoid Overwhelm – if you can, build elasticity into your diary. Leave some gaps. Easier to slot things into existing gaps if required.
  • Let some things go – does everything need to be 100%.  Some things will need to be good enough. Familiarise yourself with the concept of good enough – and decide what falls within this category.
  • For those of you that are Strictly fans, it might be more helpful to think about your tasks as dancing partners rather than juggling balls, plates etc. Focus on one partner at a time.
  • Use daily journaling – to release the worries, concerns, stop or prevent them from taking up permanent residence in your head. Stop, prevent them from scurrying about inside your head. 
  • Create pockets – 20 to 30 minutes away from the screen – get as much fresh air as you can. I have enjoyed spending time in my garden, use whatever outdoor space is available/accessible to you. It also helps to move about and take a stretch.
  • Schedule in and stick with some ‘me time’ – this is not a luxury – it’s your oxygen mask.
  • Check your energy levels – you may need to see your GP. Read more here:
  • How is your sleep – disrupted sleep patterns might be an indicator that something is amiss.
  • Protect your sleep – establish a regular, consistent going to bed routine – hot shower at night, a little reading in bed, no screens after 9 pm.
  • Control – consider and establish what control you can take back. Who is in control of your diary?
  • Establish clear boundaries – around your time, space, tasks.
  • Experiment with your day – in the past 18 months, I have shifted the start of my day by 60 minutes. I started with 15 minute chunks and noticed that this small change multiplied as I became more alert in the mornings.
  • Get yourself checked out – though this might be more easily said than done.
  • Watch your ‘to do lists’ – what are you doing with these? They might not be helping if they are overlong and appear never-ending.
  • Think about how you say no-  I found this article on LinkedIn and think it provides a valuable framework for saying no:
  • The more I work in front of a camera – the more I can appreciate and sympathise with those delegates/participants who choose to keep their cameras off or decide to have them on intermittently. It is hard work looking at yourself all the time. Read more about Zoom Fatigue here.
  • It can be helpful to give yourself a break – relax, breathe, and allow your face to assume its most natural shape, expression. Read more here.

I hope this helps.

Until next time.

Janice Taylor

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The day I had to listen with everything I had

Earlier in the week, I posted an article via LinkedIn – about the Chinese character for listening. You can read it here. But it was finding this article that reminded me of the day I had to listen with everything I had.

There are times in life when it is perhaps better to not have all the facts, to be completely unaware of all the complexities and emotional turmoil involved with a piece of work.

Thank you Pixabay

I still remember this as though it happened yesterday – because almost fifteen years ago, I was asked to design and deliver a workshop on assessment days and their role in the College’s selection process. It was a piece of work that I had to facilitate within a challenging environment, and even today, if I had known what I know now, I might have decided to give it a miss.

Anyway, I pitch up on the day to face a group of highly disillusioned and angry senior managers. Emotions were running high as the College had asked them to reapply for a reduced number of roles. They also wanted to get things off their chest concerning their treatment through the initial stages of the potential redundancy process.

These managers most likely saw me as part of the problem and were cynical about what I could offer them. And as the day kicked off with my first PowerPoint slide, I began to wonder the same. I quickly realised that I was facing an uncomfortable and challenging experience – with my scale of discomfort/challenge shooting to a ten.

My first reaction was probably panic, but then I decided that wouldn’t help them or me. It was my job to deliver a workshop that would support this group through the organisation’s selection process. I had a programme to deliver, which I had already spent considerable time thinking through and preparing. I believed what I had was of value and practical use to this group, but maybe it needed to be put across differently, and this is when I decided to draw on my counselling training and experience.

I found that adopting a more counselling approach, using active listening, reflecting on what was said, allowing them space to reflect, challenging when appropriate and containing the emotion enabled me to deliver the content and the group to take most of it on board. This experience taught me valuable lessons in managing my emotions and keeping my cool in the face of an ’emotional storm’.

I should stress that the anger, cynicism, and frustration were not in any way directed at me, but it was still a very highly charged day.

The key then for me was to balance between enabling them to express feelings and concerns appropriately, gain some perspective on their situation, challenge some of the ‘major’ cynicism and get across the day’s content. It certainly wasn’t a day to try and ‘jolly them along or a day for me to become one of them. My job, as I saw it was to remain independent, outside of the situation in some ways while supporting them towards success in the selection process.   

Today in 2021, as I reflect on this piece of work, I can still remember how exhausted I was at the end of the day, but genuinely pleased and buoyed by the positive feedback I received especially regarding my conduct throughout the day.

However, if I had known what I know now, I have to be honest; I’m still unsure.

And for those of you who prefer not to have to click on additional links, here is my LinkedIn post:

Wholehearted listening-

Did you know that the Chinese symbol for listening contains five different elements?

  • Eyes to see
  • Ears to listen
  • Undivided attention to focus
  • Heart to feel
  • Mind to think

I find this beautiful and a great way to think about how we listen but don’t just take my word for it you can go directly to the article here

I also like the actions at the end – how you can make wholehearted listening a daily part of your life.

Until next time

Janice Taylor

www.blueskycareerconsulting.co.uk

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How are you investing your energy – in times of change?

Today’s post is the second of three on the ‘Energy Investment’ model and how it relates to the choices you might make as a leader during times of organisational change. So right slap bang in the middle of a Pandemic:

  • How is it affecting the choices you make?
  • How much has your organisation been affected?
  • How are you engaging with these changes?
  • How is it affecting those around you?
  • What is happening with the teams you lead?

If any of the questions above resonate with you, the EI model might help you assess your response to the changes and how it affects those around you. It might help you as a leader to understand what is motivating your staff to either participate enthusiastically with the change or resist or work against it. Consider the dynamics of your team – the star players as well as the people who may need additional support.

To recap, the Energy Investment Model identifies two dimensions of an individual’s motivation to perform a task:

  1. The attitude of the individual regarding the change
  2. The willingness of the individual to expend energy on the change.

And it is the combination of these two dimensions that define each of the categories/communities – Victim, Spectator, Cynic or Player.

Victims – Low energy, Negative attitude

People in this category live in fear of making mistakes. Typically, individuals in this group feel powerless to take action or influence events. They generally think that they are ‘done to’; there are too many things outside of their control. In the past, they were possibly micromanaged or disempowered in some other way. Individuals in this group primarily turn up to do the job, no more and maybe less. They are in limbo, marking time until the change goes away or they leave the organisation.

Spectators – Low energy, Positive attitude

Within this group, people will talk the talk but rarely deliver it. They likely lack confidence, choosing to wait until they feel safe to act. Preferring in general, to keep their head down, keep a low profile and wait for things to settle down again before moving into Player mode. In times of change and challenge, Spectators may feel threatened and exposed.

Cynics – High energy, Negative attitude

The Cynics are generally articulate, with good technical skills. But they are furious at the organisation. They will not be backward in sharing their views and potentially sabotaging, wrecking projects, plans, and change. And they are likely to try and get others to come around to their perspective – spreading negativity and discord to spectators and victims.

Player – High energy, Positive attitude

These people make things happen and are generally comfortable and excited by the change. They typically hold a realistic and optimistic view of the organisation, willing to put extra effort and energy into its improvement and success. Players are open to new possibilities and ideas and are usually not afraid of short-term setbacks or mistakes. They have a willingness and desire to make things better.

So how might you as a leader move forward with the different groups? What might each group need?

Victims need:

Victims are likely to need greater understanding and support to help deal with any stress they are suffering. They will likely benefit from encouragement both from you and from peers. Is it possible to offer them some stability in their role, some certainty? They might also benefit from a series of mini challenges to help build confidence. But it might also be the case that they need professional help and support. Encouragement to seek outside professional help.    

Spectators need:

Spectators will also need greater understanding and help to cope with fears and lack of confidence. They are more likely to thrive with careful and thoughtful delegation rather than being dumped on or deluged with tasks. In addition, they may need a safe place to try out new learning. Challenges that stretch but do not overwhelm, with lots of positive encouragement and feedback. Coaching around their development might be helpful to understand the story behind their lack of action. Has this always been the case, or has one event/situation triggered their inactivity? Was this spectator once in the Player group? The critical thing with this group is to build on their positive attitude and turn it into action.

Cynics need:

An opportunity perhaps to do things for themselves, with clear accountability and boundaries. A chance to put their energy to good use. Cynics may need reminding what their job is about, the part they play, and the difference they are making. Cynics could also benefit from support and encouragement, which also challenges their continuing negativity. It could be that they no longer feel heard, so an opportunity to come up with and follow through with solutions might be helpful. If they can see tangible outcomes of their suggestions, then so much the better.  It might also help to buddy up a Cynic with a Player, though there might be some risk here.

Players need:

Reward and support for being positive key players through change, do not take them for granted. Players may well appreciate flexible opportunities for personal growth and support if they take a stand against Cynics. They are likely to benefit from high impact objectives and projects which provide stretch and allow them to shine.

Respect, recognition, and thanks – do not allow your Players to become the dumping ground just because they take a positive approach to work. Remember, this group needs care and attention too. You do not want to take their willingness and desire to get things done for granted. If Players become overloaded and stressed, they may decide to migrate to another group.

If any of this resonates or is in any way helpful, please do let me know.

Until next time

Janice Taylor

www.blueskycareerconsulting.co.uk

PS – Adapted from my Training notes on the Energy Investment Model.

References: Claude S. Lineberry, Vanguard Consulting Group, 1986

Word Count: 973

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Giving yourself permission to dream

How often do you allow yourself to dream, immerse yourself in your ideal world? Give it structure, and form so you can inhabit the future you want for yourself?

If you think this is something you might need, then allow me to introduce you to the Walt Disney Creativity Strategy. A technique we used with participants towards the end of our two-day Career Development programme at the BBC. Going back a few years now, so thank Winnie for the recent reminder.

Thank you Pixabay

Giving yourself permission to dream is how I like to think about Walt Disney’s Creativity Strategy.

It is an approach that enables you to fully explore your dream before moving on to think through the practical steps required to make it happen and any potential obstacles. Based on the idea that there are three parts to creative thinking:

The Dreamer or Possibility (Blue Sky thinker)

The Realist or How to thinker (bridge building)

The Critic or What if thinker (identifying blocks)

Each part or stance requires that you step into a room (can be done by stepping onto a sheet of paper, but some movement is necessary), physically as well as emotionally and psychologically – so you inhabit each space fully.

Dreamer/Possibility Thinker – ‘this is what I want’ stance.’

In this room, you can use your intuition and feelings to respond to an issue or problem. You can be playful here and not worry too much about logic; that will come later. The purpose here is to generate solutions and approaches.

You can let go and step into the future you can imagine for yourself. Move about, permit yourself to step into the future you want. What do you see, who are you with, what can you hear? How are you living your values and beliefs? How are you using your strengths?  

What would it take to let yourself go and step into your dream future, live it, breathe it, hear it, smell it?  

To step into your ideal world that is as you want it without shutting yourself down too quickly.

Dreamer Questions:

What are you doing?

What do you see? What colours are associated with your dream?

What can you hear?

What do you feel as you access this dream?

Are there other people with you? What are they doing that lets you know you have succeeded?

What symbols do you associate with achieving your dream?

What are the opportunities, possibilities?

Once you have explored the dream, it is then time to move across to the next room.

The Realist/How to thinker – ‘this is how I can, stance.’

I refer to this as bridge-building – what will I need to put in place to get me from where I am now to where I want to be?

In this room, as the realist, you will assume that the dream is possible and focus on creating the plans and actions needed to make it happen—it is your chance to break the vision down into manageable chunks. It is an opportunity to establish timeframes and milestones for progress – define some short-term steps.

Realist Questions:

What do you need to do first?

How can you break it down?

What are the main components of your dream?

How will you know that you have achieved your dream?

When will you have achieved this?

What are the main steps and the timeframes associated with this?

What resources will you need? Money, time, social support?

Who can help you and how?

Once you have finished in the Realist Room, it is then time to move across to:

The Critic/Block thinking – ‘Change to’ Phase.

I think of this as identifying blocks – what might get in the way? What could go wrong? What might I need to do to mitigate potential problems, weaknesses?  

As the critic, your role is to separate yourself from the vision and take a more distant objective view. You are here to prevent problems and ensure quality by identifying what is missing – to check how the idea or plan holds up under various, ‘what if,’ scenarios. You want to make sure the project is sound; there are no holes. You also want to keep what might work well – without throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Critic Questions

What could go wrong?

What problems can I foresee?

Who could benefit if things go wrong?

Who might be threatened by your success?

What might stop me?

In conclusion, the critical thing to remember is that each room/stance is an essential part of the whole creative process and that getting stuck in just one or two is not going to lead to a successful outcome.  You need to inhabit each room in turn.

Your dreamer without a realist cannot turn ideas into concrete plans, outcomes.

Your critic and dreamer without your realist are likely to remain stuck in eternal conflict with no obvious way forward.

Your dreamer and a realist might create things, but they may not work in practice, or the first problem might cause the whole project to collapse.  Your critic will help to evaluate and refine the project, work constructively with the idea. They are not there to shoot it down in flames for the sake of it.

I hope this gives you some food for thought, and please click here if you want to read more about Walt Disney’s Creativity Strategy.

And if you want to work with a coach who can take you through this, please check out my website.

Until next time

Janice Taylor

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How are you investing your energy – in times of organisational change?

Today’s blog is the first of three on the ‘Energy Investment’ model (1) and how it might relate to the choices you make during organisational change. So first let me ask:

  • How much has your organisation been affected by the Pandemic?
  • How much are you engaging with these changes?
  • How is it affecting you and those around you?

If any of the above applies to you, the model might help you assess your response to the change and how it affects those around you.

Why? Because the Investment model describes four communities of people and their behaviour. Each based on a combination of two factors:

  1. The attitude someone has towards the change, either negative or positive.
  2. The energy someone chooses to invest in the implementation of that change, high or low.

So, thinking about the organisation you work for, and the changes you are facing, which category best describes you?

  • Player – ‘Up for it, let’s make this work.’
  • Victim – ‘Stuck in a rut, ‘nothing I do will make a difference.’
  • Cynic – ‘Here we go, seen it all before, bought the tee-shirt.’
  • Spectator – ‘Sounds like a great idea, I’ll cheer from the side-lines, just don’t ask me to get too involved.’

Whichever category you fall into, you are unlikely to be alone. However, there may well be more ‘Cynics’ than ‘Players’ depending on your organisation and the type of change it is going through. Past experiences may be causing you to react more negatively.

Circumstances that might induce ‘Cynicism’ or feelings of ‘Victim-hood’ include:

‘Working within a climate of fear’ – fear of making mistakes, taking risks and the consequences if things go wrong. In other words, there is little or no psychological safety (2).

Micromanagement – not being able to get on and deliver in the way you know is best, not being trusted to organise and get the job done.

No management – not having enough guidance and support, not being given enough information, boundaries, clarity on what is required. You are in an environment where there is a tendency to dump rather than delegate.

‘Lack of credit and recognition’ – people not being recognised and acknowledged for their input and contribution.

If your typical response is one of immediate distrust and disbelief, it may be that you fall into the category of Cynic. Particularly if you are choosing to invest your energy in undermining, the change, or at the very least actively sharing your ‘feelings’ with those around you.

To what extent is your cynicism warranted in this instance? Do you need to dig deeper into what is happening? How much are you assuming? What facts do you need to check?

It might be worth reflecting on whether this is temporary, relating to this situation. Or whether it is more pervasive, becoming your permanent home? In which case, what might you need to consider doing about it?

I believe that at the heart of the ‘cynic’ stance is a lack of trust. Either in the organisation, the management, colleagues or perhaps even in yourself and your ability to manage. So, it begs the question, ‘where did the trust go?’ or ‘what is the distrust based on?’

Perhaps it is time to reflect. Try and pinpoint the exact source and timing around the distrust; consider what it might take to rebuild or repair it. Do you need to be more actively involved and accountable for the change? Can you present your views and or concerns in a way that ensures you are heard?

Wherever you are, it is also worth considering the impact your stance might be having on others. If you are actively vocal about your feelings of ‘mistrust’, others may struggle with what they perceive as your ‘negativity’—possibly undermining your ability to communicate effectively.

So, take a step back and check with yourself – is this warranted? Which parts can I make a contribution to, which parts might I need to accept? Could I become part of an enhanced or improved solution? Or is it time to bail?

Until next time

Janice Taylor

www.blueskycareerconsulting.co.uk

References

  • The Energy Investment model – based I believe on research by Dr Donald Tosti and C.S. Lineberry.
  • “Psychological Safety is being able to show and employ one’s self without fear of negative consequences of self-image, status, or career. It can be defined as a shared belief that the team is safe for interpersonal risk-taking. In psychologically safe teams, team members feel accepted and respected.”

 Source: – Wikipedia

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Why some compassionate curiosity might be perfect right now

During these times, and the roller coaster of emotions I am experiencing; as a result, I am learning to check in daily and ask myself with compassion and curiosity:

  • What have I struggled with today?
  • When did I feel at my most vulnerable?
  • What has energised and uplifted me?
  • How am I grateful?

For example, I struggled with a few encounters last week. I found them to be incredibly draining, and I can still feel the effects now. But the learning from them was immense and has made me more determined to pursue this line of work, all around Black Lives Matter.  There will be a lot for me to do both professionally and personally if I am going to make this happen.

And here I have to admit there wasn’t too much I found last week to energise and uplift me, but to quote the ubiquitous, Scarlet O’Hara, ‘tomorrow is another day.’  And yes I get the irony.

I am also thinking about friends and colleagues, wondering how they are managing, what they might need? Or who might be struggling right now and how I might reach out to them?

Recently, I have also found myself acting as informal supervisor to some work colleagues, while they let off a little steam. It was a relief to listen with compassion to their issues while letting go of the need to come up with a solution. Accepting, learning that I do not have to solve this. It was enough for me to listen with compassion and curiosity.

And curiosity, in my view, is one of the key characteristics that underpin resilience, underpins an individual’s ability to either, ‘bounce back’ or ‘slog through’ a challenging event or situation.

Curious people are open to new possibilities and fresh perspectives. They are perhaps more alert to changes and what they might mean. Open to new experiences and new ways of thinking, doing and being.

It may be that people who have questions are more motivated to go and seek out answers, even if they end up uncovering a whole new set of questions. A big part of being resilient is first accepting the situation you find yourself in and not staying in a place of ‘denial’.  Far easier to maintain a state of ‘denial’ if you are not looking ahead, asking questions, and seeking answers.

If this applies to you, then it is likely that your curiosity will extend to the people around you and why they act the way they do. You may find that you do not necessarily take everything at face value, especially if you perceive someone to be behaving out of character.

Being curious will likely mean you are continually learning in a way that is easy and natural for you.  Frequently on the lookout for new pieces of information, new ways of doing things, new opportunities and hopefully put yourself in the best place to take advantage of these as they arise.

In times of stress and difficulty, your natural curiosity might help to keep you on an even keel. It is easier to maintain emotional balance and or distance from a situation if you can question it. What is happening here, who can help? What are the implications?

Curiosity can also put you in a position of having some control, information, and choice within a situation. It can put you ahead of the game. Over the years I have coached people facing redundancy and noticed the difference between the people who had seen the changes coming, had seen the ‘writing on the wall’ and those for whom it was a complete shock.  The more curious, seemed to have some plans in hand, whilst the others were almost ‘paralysed. It took them longer to come to terms with the situation and start to move forward.

It is also worth considering that you may not bounce back, like a rubber ball to exactly where you were before this all started. You may find that you have experienced a fundamental shift, and moved through Post Traumatic Growth. I know this happened to me when my mum died almost nine years ago, I am not quite the same Janice Taylor as I was before. I feel as though the experience has tempered me very much like tempering steel by reheating and then cooling it.

So, with the current situation, what are you noticing about yourself and the people around you? Perhaps it is time to apply a bit of compassionate curiosity.

Until next time

Janice Taylor

https://www.blueskycareerconsulting.co.uk/

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