Category Archives: Careers

Boosting the impact of career planning

Boosting the impact of career planning: Strategies for getting the most out of your programs.

Executive summary

(Click here to view research highlights and download the full 16-page report.)

Today’s HR professionals know how crucial career planning is but their organisations often fail to act on this knowledge, according to new research conducted by HR.com in partnership with Harrison Assessments.

Our survey analysis also revealed a number of critical findings that relate career planning to issues such as employee retention, engagement, recruitment, assessment and leadership development. Below are some of the key findings from the research:

1. Career planning has grown more important in the last three years, suggests the data. About nine out of ten respondents said employee career planning is either more important (48%) or as important (43%) compared to three years ago.

2. Few organisations approach employee career planning systematically, despite its rising importance. Just 11% of participants say employee career planning is a serious initiative in their organisations.

3. Employee career planning has a large impact on other critical talent management areas, according to many of our respondents. Participants believe career planning has a very high or high impact on employee retention (60% of respondents), employee engagement (58%), and recruitment of high-quality talent (45%).

4. Few organisations make data-driven decisions related to employee career management: About 60% of the participants use competency models for leadership development, but less than
one-in-four participants use behaviour assessments in career planning.

5. Most participants report they are either already facing or will face soon talent gaps in leadership: More than one-third (35%) of the participants say they already face a leadership talent gap. Another 20% say they will face a leadership talent gap within two years.

Download the full report.

Find out how Balance at Work and Harrison Assessments can help your organisation meet career planning challenges.

Why, when and how business owners should ask for help

Most entrepreneurs share a natural optimism with a belief that things will turn out for the best – but this can seriously hold them back when it comes to asking for help.

Have you fallen into the trap of feeling you have to ‘cope’, ‘just do it’, ‘go it alone’ or any of the other phrases we associate with the heroic business person prevailing despite all obstacles?

Could it be time for a reality check?

Unfortunately, our business culture and narrative is full of hero stories that make it seem as if all successful people somehow achieved what they accomplished with little or no help.

Is it possible a result of this hero myth is that you could be comparing yourself to an impossible benchmark and judging yourself as somehow deficient if you have to get help?

Why ask for help?

The most obvious answer is because you will at some point need it.

However, it also has the added benefit of building a good business relationship. If done right, seeking out and asking for help can demonstrate humility and show that you’re human.

It also allows others to connect with you on a different level, and they feel good about themselves if they can end up helping you.

When should you ask for help?

The time to ask for help is after you have tried to go it alone, but before you feel so overwhelmed, you give up.

The tricky part is knowing when you’ve reached that point and not persisting too far down the ‘overwhelmed’ path.

You’re not looking for someone to rescue you. You’re looking for a partner for this part of your business journey.

If you’re working alone on your business, it can be a very lonely journey.

Surrounding yourself with trusted advisers, like your accountant, can be a great source of help and support.

My accountant has brought me back from the brink a few times over the years. Sometimes all I needed was someone to listen and ask the right questions while I worked out myself what I should do next.

How to ask for help

Do you know someone who seems to be trapped in helplessness and wants the world to make it all better for them?

If you’re reading this, you probably don’t want to be like them.

Here are some ideas about how to ask for help, now we’ve identified why and when.

Things to consider before you ask someone to help you:

  • Do you already have a healthy established relationship with this person?
  • Are they more than likely able to provide the help you need?
  • Will they feel comfortable to say no if they can’t help you?

If you can answer yes to all three questions, then asking for help is easy.

You’re approaching a friend who will not be overburdened by your request, so adjust your language accordingly.

You don’t need to plead for their assistance or to demand it.

Instead, start from a mindset of building a stronger relationship based on mutual help and reciprocity. How you ask will follow naturally.

One final tip: If you don’t feel comfortable asking for help for yourself, start by asking for help for others.

There’s no better way to be convinced that most people are delighted to be asked and will do what they can to assist.

I’ve been reminded of this lately as I put together a mentoring program for the young staff of a not-for-profit organisation.

So far, I have approached ten experienced (and busy) business people to act as mentors, and all but one have jumped at the chance to be involved.

Never be afraid to ask for help when you need it.

By being conscious of your capacity and needs — and the needs of others — asking for help will grow your business in unexpected ways.

You won’t get this experience until you take a chance and ask.

This article was originally published on MYOB’s blog, The Pulse. For more business news and tips, visit www.myob.com/blog.

Tolerating structure v ‘You don’t own me’

career help

The video below really puts a smile on my face. Could it be because I know – from my Harrison Assessments results, at least – that I have a very low tolerance for structure? I’ve learnt from experience that not everyone thinks like this and that there are benefits to having rules and regulations. For one, you wouldn’t want to go out on the road if you weren’t confident that most people follow most of the rules most of the time!

If you’re like me and want to do things your own way, read on for the tips I share below for living in a world full of structure. But first, enjoy the video! Apologies to those who think work comes before fun – you probably don’t need to read any further.

Tips for when structure matters more to others than it does to you

Firstly, I can’t claim to do all these things all of the time. They are just ideas designed to make us feel better about structure.

  • Realise that just because it doesn’t make sense to you, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t make sense. It’s fine to question the status quo but at some point in the past what you are questioning was important to someone.
  • Ask questions. As Stephen Covey famously said: “Seek first to understand then to be understood.” Practice empathy.
  • Listen – don’t interrupt. When you think you know a better way, your enthusiasm drives you to share it at the earliest opportunity. Keep your ideas to yourself for now.
  • Influence gently. Once you’ve fully listened that is! Show don’t tell. You can demonstrate what needs to change and why.
  • Don’t kerb your enthusiasm. Any change – especially to the ‘tried and true’ – takes time. It’s your desire to make things better for everyone and the persistence that breeds will make the difference.
  • Be patient. Not everyone will want the speed of change and variety you seek, even after you have convinced them that the change is a good thing.
  • Pick your battles. You might not like doing things a certain way, but if it helps to make it easier for others to work with you then sometimes it’s best to keep your ideas to yourself. On the other hand, as the video shows, sometimes it can be harmless to break a few rules when no-one’s looking. But choose them very carefully!

[Tweet “Tolerating structure – it’s all about respect and empathy

You might not follow all these tips all of the time either. The first step is awareness and the second step is practice. Remember, if no-one questioned the way things are done, we’d all still be sitting in caves chewing raw meat. One change in the way things are done that definitely relied on demonstrating a newer, better structure.

Find Your Joy at Work – Relate to Your Boss

Relate to your boss

You know the saying, you can choose your friends but not your family. The same can be said for business, where you meet and interact with all types of people. Being able to work effectively with them is important to getting on with the job and creating a positive work environment. You don’t have to be Richard Branson to know the secrets to career success and job satisfaction are significantly related to the quality of your work relationships. Particularly how you relate to your boss.

It’s a bit like dealing with your significant other or maybe even the kids. It depends on trust, respect, support, guidance and you really need to pick your battles wisely. Keep in mind, however, your boss is in a position of power, influence and status. This is regardless of your own assessment of their experience and wisdom.

Your boss may be brand new, all knowing, micromanaging, a buddy, intimidating, indecisive, apathetic, a workaholic, she may even be working in another location. Whatever characteristics or situations are in play, it is in your best interest to make the relationship work for you and the business. I have experienced a number of bosses and have had an interesting time navigating the personalities with some successes and career limiting failures.

Seek mutual support, trust and respect to relate to your boss

‘Managing up’ is a technique commonly bandied round online and was advice given to me for a new and inexperienced manager. In theory, it sounds OK. In practice, however, it can appear manipulative and self-promoting, and might even label you as a ‘crawler’, or ‘groveler’, if you spend too much time managing only your boss. Instead try focusing on mutual support, trust and respect with a communication strategy that skilfully ensures these are achieved.

A number of years ago I recall getting quite frustrated with my boss, I felt we were having some communication problems. By the way, he is male and I am female. I did wonder if the Mars and Venus cliche was operating at work. If I mentioned an issue he had to fix it when all I was doing was just getting it off my chest. Then there were times I wanted to run a couple of things by him and was keen to get his opinion.

We decided we needed help to clarify our needs so we devised the jelly bean strategy. If I wanted to just chat I grabbed the green jelly bean. If I needed some advice I grabbed the red. It was a bit of fun but just discussing the problem and deciding on a mutual fix improved our respect and reduced misunderstanding.

There will always be differences at work in the ways men and women, manager and team member communicate, solve problems, react to stress, earn respect, and ask for what they want.

Understanding yourself and what makes you different can help you to relate to your boss constructively to reduce conflict and frustration. Then you can develop a working relationship that will be good for the business, but more importantly healthy for you.*

We help our clients work better together with a range of tools and resources. Call us today on 1300 785 150 to find out how!

*Provided you don’t eat too many jelly beans!

What’s Your Story? #13 – Louise Longhurst

What's your story?

Louise is an energetic senior manager skilled in sales, marketing and customer services. As an accomplished leader she is motivated by guiding people to unlock their potential and make their own choices.
Extensive experience in organisational change management has given Louise a healthy understanding of its benefits and impact in the workplace. Its lasting effects are a commitment to the achievement of happiness in both our personal and professional lives.

What’s your current position and what do you do?

Louise LonghurstManager Client Projects at Balance at Work.
I understand the challenges confronting business today, expectations high, workloads ever increasing, results, goals, objectives, targets are ongoing in an environment of change. At Balance at Work our clients are seeking solutions and tools to best manage their people and culture to meet these challenges. My role is to ensure our services are delivered effectively to address our clients’ specific needs and requirements. I am committed to customer satisfaction and service best practice.

What other activities are you involved in?

I have been known to dabble in a bit of community theatre, I have had the great pleasure playing a selfish Inn Keeper, pompous Duchess, desperate Widow, and   ruthless proprietor of the city’s worst public toilet! I enjoy a day sailing in Pittwater, however when we’re racing it’s all about following the captain’s orders, very difficult when he’s your husband. I’ve also been seen horse riding but the post aches and pains are limiting this activity.

Is this what you expected to be doing when you were at school?

No, I saw myself as a nun and then a teacher, I guess that’s what was around me at the time.

What was your first job?

Working in a behavioural sciences lab at university looking after rats and carrying out some interesting tests on the delightful creatures. I had a couple of pets that had the run of the department.

Can you tell us about a significant turning point in your career/life?

Living in the Solomon Islands for a short time exposed me to a wonderful culture and community. I found a job as a high school teacher in the local school. I scuba dived among the WWII wrecks and got to know some great people with whom I am still close friends. It opened my eyes to new cultures, people and experiences and was the beginning of a yearlong trip across Europe and Asia.

Who do you admire? Who has inspired you?

My husband stands out, although he knows I hate being told he has been a rock and is probably one of the calmest people I know. His mother is in the same category and has given me much to aspire to.

If there were no limitations, what would be in the future for you?

Sailing round the world, meeting people, experiencing cultures.

Finally, what would you tell your younger self about work and careers?

Be kind to yourself, find your strengths and use them, understand your weaknesses and don’t be afraid or critical of your vulnerabilities. Try lots of different things and embrace change, don’t be scared to of calling it quits when you have given it your best and know it’s not right for you. Sing more.

Is your career missing the talent stack?

We can’t all be good at everything, but we’re all good at something. You can build a career on knowing how to combine average levels of ability.

This is true even if you’re not brilliant at any one thing. Take Donald Trump for example…

The talent stack is a concept I first encountered through Scott Adams (the Dilbert cartoonist). In this post from January 2016, he predicts the rise of Donald Trump based on his unique combination of talents.

We all have some talent, skill or characteristic we already possess or can develop if we are willing to put in the time, work and energy.

This combination will give you the advantage over anyone who believes a unique talent, or passion, in just one area is enough as a base for a successful career. Look at Scott Adams’ talent stack as an example:

1. Artistic talent (mediocre)

2. Writing talent (simple and persuasive, but not Pulitzer-worthy)

3. Business skills (Good, not amazing)

4. Marketing and PR (good, not great)

5. Social media skills (mediocre)

6. Persuasion skills (above average, but not Trump-like)

Any one of those skills alone would be enough for an average career. Recognising that combining them systematically to make him more valuable is what has made Scott Adams above average. It was also the key to building a satisfying and successful career.

What do you think of this idea? How could you create a talent stack that works for you in your career?

We can help you work out your unique talent stack and how to build on it. Find out more here.

Or you could use Scott Adams’ list above as a guide. What talents have made you successful so far? What talents are you willing to develop further?

 

What’s Your Story? #12 Susan Hervey

What's your story?

When we meet someone like Susan Hervey, with an interesting career or life story, we’re always keen to share it in this series of articles. It’s amazing to think we are up to twelve stories in the series already!

Susan Hervey is well known in her field and if you ever get the chance to ask her yourself, you’ll be stunned, as I was, by the variety of 20+ different jobs she has had in her lifetime. I first met Sue a bit over 3 years ago at my very first NAGCAS conference, where she and her team were so warm and welcoming. It’s taken a while to get this story – she’s a very busy woman! – but worth the wait.

Thank you, Susan Hervey, for answering our ‘What’s your story?’ questions.

What’s your current position and what do you do? Susan Hervey

My current position is Director of Career Services at The University of Adelaide. I manage a team of 14 staff and we have four major portfolios for a student body of approximately 25,000. These portfolios include Careers Education and Counselling across our five faculties, Industry Engagement and Events and Careers Information provision to students and staff. We also provide specialist support for students on campus from China and engagement and liaison with industry in China.

Is this what you expected to be doing when you were at school?

My father was the first careers counsellor I ever met disguised as a fitter and turner, a job he did for his entire working life with ETSA. At 5 years of age, I had been to school for just one day when my Dad asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. At that stage, I only knew of 2 jobs that existed, my teacher’s job and my Dad’s job.

I still remember considering carefully whether I wanted to be a teacher or a fitter and turner. I told my Dad I would like to be a teacher and he said “I will start saving for college from today.” We had very little money and I realised this was a very big deal that my Dad was committing to. From that day on, I just knew I would be going to University, it never crossed my mind not to take that pathway. I was the first in my family to ever attend University but my sister and nearly all of my cousins followed the same path.

My father believed that education was the answer for any problem. I always knew that my father harboured a desire to train as a school teacher but his family were unable to support him to attend teachers college. As a career professional I note that my sister and I both have teaching degrees amongst other qualifications.

Our dad was very proud of us when we graduated and he would carry our business cards around in his wallet. I don’t think he realised how much we listened to his message about education and that we would return to University quite a few times. When he passed away I found an entire collection of our business cards from the first job to the current roles we had.

Apart from having a careers adviser at school, I wasn’t aware of the Career Development Industry at all, which was probably in its very early days at that time. The careers adviser was also the maths teacher and sometime PE teacher, so Career advice was quite a low priority at my school. As a teenager, I entertained my share of the usual uninformed daydreams about careers that students still present with today. Some of the ones I remember include wanting to be a physiotherapist, a journalist and a fiction writer. Of course in the back of my mind was the discussion I had had with my father about being a teacher when I was just five years old.

What was your first job?

I had a part time job throughout high school and University but my first full time job was in assisting physiotherapists and occupational therapists with their clients. Most of the clients had suffered a stroke or an injury to a body part and we were assisting them on the road to recovery.

Craft was one of the ways we trained people to use their arms and hands again and I trained as a ceramics teacher. Many beautiful items were fired and artistically decorated by our clients and I still have some of the ceramic dishes in my kitchen cupboards that I created in my first professional role.

Can you tell us about a significant turning point in your career/life?

A significant turning point in my career was meeting my mentor Don Dobie. I remember meeting Don in 1999 when I was employed by Spencer TAFE. I was on the cusp of quite a dramatic career change. At 32 years of age I had won the Campus Manager’s position at a large regional TAFE campus and would be responsible for 82 staff and 2,300 students on campus and via distance education. Don had been contracted by the Student Services support team to introduce us to Harrison Assessments and train us so that we could use the assessment with students.

As part of the training, of course, we had to undertake the Harrison Assessment ourselves. I had never undertaken a career assessment before but the Harrison Assessment not only showed that I would be successful in my role as a Campus Manager but that I would probably be an even better CEO. I could definitely see how useful the Harrison Assessment would be for students trying to navigate their career pathway and I have now been using HA for 17 years in the higher education sector.

I have trained in the use of many tools since but I have never found a resource that helps clients more than the Harrison Assessment. Of course, a significant and unexpected outcome is that I have had the privilege of having a very experienced and insightful mentor and friend for most of my working life, thanks to a chance meeting at a training session.

Who do you admire? Who has inspired you?

Parents inspire me, my own parents, parents in general. I chose not to have children but I greatly admire anyone who does. I’m in awe of my sister who is a full time deputy district attorney in Nebraska, her work takes her into very dark places working with child victims of crime. She also has 7 children ranging in age from 7 year old twins to a 23 year old son.

If there were no limitations, what would be in the future for you?

If there were no limitations, I’d really like to return to University full time and complete my PhD. I would also like to complete the novel that I’ve made a few attempts at. I think with writing you need to fully immerse yourself in the process and surround yourself with like-minded people at every opportunity. At least that’s what I think I would need to bring a novel to fruition. So for the time being, my novel is on hold.

Finally, what would you tell your younger self about work and careers?

If I was able to speak to myself at a younger age, this is what I would say…
In between describing to her the many fantastic work opportunities that were coming her way in the future, I would say “My best advice is don’t be afraid – of anything.”

I would speak with great excitement about all of the amazing projects waiting for her to work her magic on and the teams and individuals that she will have the privilege to be part of and more often than not, lead. I would say “As a manager be consistent, be fair and lead by example. Take the time to develop your team members and they will follow you anywhere. Bring a sense of fun to whatever you do and inspire people with your ideas, your words and your actions.”

I would also say “Find a mentor or 3 and seek their wise advice whenever you feel you need it.”

I would tell her to never stop learning, to look for ways to add value to whatever she is working on and to take more time than I did to travel for leisure or work purposes. I would encourage her to take up work opportunities even if they weren’t exactly what she was looking for or hoping for. I would say “Some of those offers will turn into opportunities that you can’t even dream of”.

Finally, I would say “Stop worrying about the future and enjoy your youth. I know you think it will last forever but the future will be here before you know it. There is no need to worry – you will create an amazing life and it will be more than you had ever hoped for. Enjoy.”

Susan Hervey
1st March 2017

Are You Ready For Redundancy?

Redundancy Louise Longhurst

When the redundancy notice appears, it is one of those moments when any sense of control evaporates. You can be overwhelmed with questions and doubt, but it’s important to devise a plan to regain confidence through things you can control. In this article, one of our friends shares her experience and her response.

Looking back

Was trouble brewing?

Did I see the storm ahead? Feel the boat rocking? Hear any alarm bells?  Was there any clue my career ship was heading for the rocks?

Times were tough. We’d had three general managers in as many years: the defeated Try Hard, the Tyrant, and the Micro-managing-control-freak-smiling-assassin, (he was my favourite). Staff sick days were high, long lunches and new outfits on the rise.  Networking on LinkedIn was rabid. Long timers, a loyal bunch committed to the cause, were suddenly switching ships.  A new HR manager was appointed, ……oh no….. I couldn’t find my “Survival Guide to Managing HR” anywhere!

Doors were closed, talk of another restructure surfaced. The office was unnaturally quiet, laughter was rarely heard, it felt almost wrong or inappropriate. Auditors added to the feeling of pending doom. Were my colleagues behaving oddly, awkward, different? Was I taking the warning signs seriously? Maybe bringing the dog to work was a bad idea.

I wondered should I grab a life jacket and jump ship too? Twenty-five loyal years and another recent promotion rapidly dismissed those thoughts. I kept myself busy, made good changes, was my usual flexible self, the yoga lessons and meditation felt good.  Sure, there was pressure but I was happy that I was doing my bit. I had a holiday planned to recharge, my retirement was not too far off. Now was definitely not the time to leave.

I was blindsided, unprepared and naive. I refused to acknowledge the obvious, the body language, the growing resistance to my ideas, the odd remarks challenging my work and leadership. I returned from holidays and thirty minutes later I was driving back home. Only one senior manager was made redundant.

Revenge was high on my list of to dos. Dead rat in the filing cabinet, slash a couple of tyres, crash a computer or two, release a virus, nothing too drastic. What did I do wrong? Was it my oestrogen levels? My age? Was I too good at my job? I didn’t get the golden hand shake, I got some legal advice that confirmed two things, leaving was the best thing to happen to me, and I still needed to work.

Looking forward

I also needed a distraction, a bit of fun. The “Unemployment Club” evolved and to my surprise grew quite rapidly. I found out I was not alone. The company gave me a lifeline, a career transition coach. I realised I hadn’t considered what I wanted to do for quite some time. Away from work now, I can admit it was stressful. I was tired and very unhappy. The redundancy forced me off the treadmill and gave me a chance to reassess my life. I consider myself lucky.

I know ageism exists in the workplace, especially when applying for jobs. I’ve started job hunting and have missed out on a few roles. I’m getting plenty of interview practice, good feedback, and networking with likeminded people. I’m defining my assets, what drives me and my values. I’m looking after my health and getting financial advice. I started to look at some courses and some unpaid time getting new experiences. All of these activities are critical in my navigation towards career change. I am on a journey of self-awareness to uncover the answer to “what” I want to do and more importantly “why” I want to do it and I’m excited.

Career Reality Check: Fashion Editor

We love sharing career stories!  What could be more inspiring or educational than hearing about other people’s experiences in a wide range of careers?

There are 2 ‘occasional’ series of career stories running on this blog:

  1. What’s your story? (Here’s one of the early stories, just updated.)
  2. Career reality check (So far we’ve touched on pilots and TV presenters.)

Today’s career reality check is ideal for you to share with anyone who might be considering a career in fashion publishing.

We became aware of the 60 Minutes segment below because one of the subjects, Laura Brown, is my cousin. From growing up in Sydney and studying at Charles Sturt University, Laura has worked incredibly hard to pursue her dream of working in fashion in New York. Laura is now Editor-in-chief of InStyle magazine. The other Australian subject of the story, Jo Levin, built her own path to Editor-in-chief of Glamour magazine in London.

Their stories are inspiring. Both women epitomise the power of creativity and persistence. That, and a love for their work. They also have in common an ability to be true to themselves and their own vision.

Incredibly, Jo just happens to be the cousin of one of my friends and neighbours. How’s that for a ‘small world’ story?

Do you know someone with a career story that should be shared? Let us know!

Why are you here?

(This was my first ever post on LinkedIn and what I said seems to have struck a chord. That’s why I’m also sharing it here. Hope you like it!)

This question is not a huge, existential angst-filled, deep philosophical question. Instead, I mean “why are you HERE – on social media?”.

This is my first article on LinkedIn, even though I’ve been blogging here forever. It’s also a post that’s been rumbling around in me for over a year.

Back when I first thought of writing this post, at the start of 2016, I had just learnt that someone I had known and cared about for over 30 years was gone from this world. It was a big shock to me.

In the preceding few years, I had reconnected with this old acquaintance through our business interests, on LinkedIn and via our weekly email ‘Feel Good Friday’. With those links, even though I hadn’t seen him for many months, I thought we were ‘connected’.

But that was an illusion. We weren’t connected enough for me to know that he had become seriously ill and would die before I got around to seeing him again.

This sad event led me to reflect on the meaning of connection…

I love social media and the relationships, knowledge, sharing and thousands of ‘connections’ it has brought me since I started using LinkedIn over 10 years ago.

Social media platforms make it easy for us to stay in touch with more people than ever before. But if we believe that being here is keeping us connected with people who are important to us, then we are kidding ourselves.

We are not communicating, we are broadcasting. We may have some interesting interactions with others – whom we may or may not know in the ‘real world’ – but they are usually simple and ephemeral. Who knows, we may even prefer it to be that way because we have so many other demands on our time and attention.

Sometimes I may even choose to use social media because it feels quicker, cleaner and more efficient than having to deal with real people in real life situations. And most small business owners I know are in the same boat. We feel compelled to do our marketing here because it feels like we’re doing something. Perhaps we are using it to help us avoid what we really should be doing!

At worst, all this is a distraction from the connections we could be making.

I continue to use social media but I understand the relationships that matter can’t be sustained this way. They need time, attention and real conversations.

Go for a walk. Pick up the phone. Send a card. Have a conversation. Connect!

And so I publish this first article hoping something I’ve said will connect with how you’re thinking and feeling. Yes, I do see the irony here!

Please let me know what you think below… or give me a call, or drop me a line, or go talk to someone close to you.

There is something worse than rejection. It’s uncertainty.

When was the last time you experienced rejection? Was it following a job application? Perhaps you put forward a brilliant idea that was ignored or discounted by someone else.

Rejection feels dreadful and most people will do whatever they can to avoid it.

You know the feeling. You are so demoralised and discouraged you don’t want to do anything. Remember? Could anything be worse?

As humans, we are programmed to avoid rejection at all costs. Rejection from the family or the tribe meant almost certain death to our distant ancestors. We have evolved to avoid rejection as a very natural survival mechanism.

How does rejection feel for you?

When we fear public speaking, we fear rejection. When we don’t want to make a sales call, it’s because we are afraid the answer will be ‘no’. Rejection again.  As are the times when we don’t follow up on a job application because while we don’t know the answer, we can convince ourselves it might be ‘yes’.

When was the last time you stopped yourself from putting forward your ideas in a meeting because you weren’t sure they’d be welcome? A classic and typical business example of avoiding the discomfort of rejection.

What could be worse than rejection?

We all know how rejection feels. We don’t want to experience it. We also – usually – don’t want others to experience it. In fact, sometimes we go to the extent of lying so we don’t impose rejection on others.

We want the world to see us as friendly, kind people. Within that hope lies fear of rejection. So instead of telling the truth, we choose to generate some uncertainty.

Here’s a scenario familiar to many of us: You apply for a job, you are interviewed and it goes well. The people seem friendly and they say they’ll let you know. You really want that job and you are feeling good about it. There are other jobs you could be applying for but there was something about this one that makes you hold off on going for the others.

A couple of weeks later, you still haven’t heard, so you call. Only then do you find out that the job has gone to an internal candidate. Your application and interview were great, they say, but you just didn’t have the level of experience of the other person.

What would be your preference now? Would you rather have had a clear ‘no’ immediately, or hear it now? What could you have achieved in the meantime, instead of hanging on thinking the job just might be yours?

This post is a plea for us all to be more honest. With those close to us, with team members, with anyone trying to sell us something.

How to handle rejection

When you have to give an answer to the question of employing someone, buying their product or trying their ideas, there are only three possible responses:

  1. Yes
  2. No
  3. Later

By being honest about your intentions, early, everyone can move on. The first two options are fairly clear. Use option three only if you mean it. In that case, give the other person a set date when you will be ready to provide a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer.

From dealing with the latest telemarketer to management to parenting, this principle will save time and pain all round.

What do you think?

Do you agree we could all be more happy and productive if we were a little more honest with each other? Next time someone tries to sell you an idea, product or service, will you be able to override your fear rejection and give them an honest answer?

Need some help? Dealing with rejection – from both sides – is a key leadership skill. Click here to see how we can help you understand and develop your leadership strengths.

Employee engagement is “everything money can’t buy”

employee engagement

The inspiration for this post on employee engagement came from an unlikely source – a drive in the country. We visited the beautiful Wolgan Valley west of Sydney and historical Newnes. Although there’s no longer a town, there’s a sign that says Newnes, followed by the tagline: ‘Everything money can’t buy’.

When someone works for you, you exchange your money for their labour. That’s the basic economics of labour. There’s nothing about that transaction that imposes a duty on your employee to feel engaged, excited or enthusiastic about their work. They bring their skills, training and experience to work to produce goods or services you sell for profit. That’s the part of the employee engagement equation money can buy.

Doing things that increase employee engagement can certainly cost money, but engagement itself usually can’t be bought.

People want to feel the work they do is making a difference. Making a difference means different things to different people – and this is where many attempts at employee engagement have run off the rails. Answers to the question ‘How do you know your work is making a difference?’ will include answers as diverse as these:

“I know my company always acts ethically”

“The work we do here helps society”

“I have opportunities to contribute to the direction of the organisation”

“I’m learning new skills that will give me a hand in my career and that I can pass on to others”

“My work matters”

Can you tell me where you can buy that sort of employee engagement?

Employee engagement is much more than an annual survey or a new workshop. Employee engagement requires managers to find out what money can’t buy for each person on their team. What can you do to employ their heart and not just their head and hands?

Surveys and workshops, while valuable, are also generic by nature because they don’t tap into individual engagement ‘drivers’. There are many engagement factors to consider. Each person has their unique combination of things that money can’t buy. How do you find out what will employ their heart and not just their head and hands?

A valuable starting point in any employee engagement exercise is to do a serious analysis of employee expectations. With the Harrison Assessments Engagement and Retention Analysis, we examine these expectations in eight categories:

  1. Development
  2. Appreciation
  3. Remuneration
  4. Communication
  5. Authority
  6. Personal
  7. Social
  8. Balance

Here’s a small part of an individual Engagement and Retention Analysis report, to give you a taste of what’s possible:

Employee engagement indiv

We can also analyse the expectations fo any size group. Here’s a tiny snippet of the information you’ll get in a group Engagement and Retention Analysis report:

Employee engagement group

Beyond the colourful graphs, the detailed narrative in each report can help you improve your business results by showing how to increase employee engagement. You will know what people want, how important different factors are to them and how to address those needs to create better performance.

If you would like to experience our unique approach to employee engagement, get in touch!

 

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