Category Archives: People Management

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.

3 secrets for better teamwork

One common complaint we hear from managers about their staff is that there’s a lack of teamwork – but it can be taught.

It’s almost as if they think teamwork is some secret, magical quality their staff are lacking.

Perhaps they think there’s a wand we can wave and teamwork will miraculously appear.

I like to take a more practical approach.

1. Choose wisely

There are certainly personality traits that enable people to play well together, like having a preference for collaboration.

Being productive requires more than a will to collaborate, however.

Before you form a new team or hire a new team member, take the time to consider how they’ll contribute as well as how they’ll fit in.

For example, you might have the brightest mind in your field on the team, but if they’re intimidated by others and don’t speak up, they may as well not be there.

Ask yourself:

  • Do they have the level of technical expertise we need to get the job done?
  • Will they be willing to do what’s needed to make the team work? For example, they may need to feel uncomfortable occasionally and share an opposing view. Productive teams don’t agree on everything, and that’s a good thing.
  • Are they bringing to the team skills and potential we don’t already have on the team?
  • Will their preferences help or hinder the team’s productivity? If your team is high-velocity, but this person prefers a slower pace — or if they love to be well-organised, but the team tends to be more fluid — you might be building tension into the team. Tension’s not always a bad thing!
  • How will they react when things go wrong?

2. Lead the way

Can you name many sporting teams that have succeeded with a poor captain?

As the leader, you set the tone for the team both regarding how they behave towards each other and the wider world.

You also give them direction, so they know what they need to achieve. They’ll also look to you to model how they can be productive.

If setting the context and giving the team a vision of what winning will look like feels too hard, it could be because you have the wrong team. Or it could be time to work on your skills.

There’s no better way to develop skills than by using them, as long as you are open to feedback and learning.

Isn’t sharing your learning a great opportunity to model appropriate behaviour for your team?

To function well, have healthy interactions and be as productive as possible, your team needs to feel safe and supported.

They also need to be held accountable.

This TEDx talk by Amy Edmonson provides insights into the importance of providing both psychological safety and accountability for your team.

3. Get out of their way

This is when the magic happens. But it won’t happen if you try to micromanage the process or control the outcomes.

As a manager, you now need to step back and let the team get on with the work you’ve selected and guided them to do.

Some managers make the mistake of assuming they can go straight to this step.

If you think that way, I can tell you that back-tracking to fill in the gaps you’ve missed by not choosing wisely or showing leadership can be arduous and painful.

It’s the bread and butter of our consulting practice, so you can believe me when I say it’ll cost you a lot more time and money than you saved by assuming all would be well without your input in the early stages.

I’m sure most of us have had the experience of sitting in a team meeting thinking there are so many better ways we could be using our time.

Either our talents are not being utilised or we don’t know what we’re supposed to achieve — or both.

That sense of futility is a sign that the secrets above have not been applied.

Sometimes the elusive ‘teamwork’ just happens like magic. More often, it takes work to have a great team.

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.

Three steps to hiring for the culture you want to create

assessments for recruiting

Have you ever tried to change the culture of your organisation? Wouldn’t hiring for cultural fit in the first place be better?

Some of the consulting work we do centres around changing an organisation’s culture – something which is ingrained and difficult to budge.

But what if you could set the culture from the moment you hire somebody?

If culture is ‘the way we do things around here’, then it’s not beyond your power to design it for your organisation.

One place to start is with your hiring and selection processes.

Technical ability and soft skills usually take pride of place when we hire.

While I don’t dispute these are basic and important, ignoring cultural fit can be where the seemingly perfect match comes unstuck. How can you avoid this trap?

1. Know what culture you want to create

What’s important to you in your work and your dealings with colleagues, clients and suppliers? How do you want the world to see your organisation?

There are as many answers to these questions as there are organisations!

One may focus on delivering their product or service as efficiently and inexpensively as possible.

Another may highlight the importance of staff engagement to deliver the best client and financial outcomes.

At Balance at Work, for example, we pride ourselves on how much we care about our clients and are known for going ‘above and beyond’ to help them achieve their objectives.

This attitude is the foundation of our culture and helps us identify who we want to attract, employ and work with daily.

2. Have a strategy for finding the right people

Once you’ve defined the culture you seek, it’s time to ensure you are seeking staff who align with your culture.

There are several parts of the recruitment and selection process that give you the opportunity to make decisions related to getting the best cultural fit:

  • The advertisement: Make it reflective of your culture, not a cookie-cutter generic ad. Also, be honest. Only use the phrase ‘fun place to work’ if it actually is.
  • Screening resumes: Look for experience, interests and skills that indicate a good fit, including those outside their employment. For example, if it’s important in your culture to help others, then look for volunteering. If teamwork is important, what have they done that shows it’s important to them too?
  • Interview: The interview is your big chance to describe the culture and to ask questions specifically aimed at finding out more about cultural fit. Make sure you are using behavioural questions that give the candidate an opportunity to describe how they work.
  • Objective assessments: Using psychometric surveys that cover values and motivations will help you see how well the candidate’s views align with your culture.
  • Reference checking: Get in the habit of asking referees to describe the culture in the candidate’s previous or current workplace(s). Tip: you also need to ask the candidate why they wanted to leave. Often it’s the culture that has driven them away. If your culture is different, you now have a great way to attract them to work for you if they meet all your other selection criteria.

3. Get help

You can easily get feedback on your culture, what works and what doesn’t, from your existing staff and other stakeholders.

They’re also well-placed to help you identify what you need (and don’t need) in your new hires to build your desired culture. Some questions you could ask:

  • How would you describe our culture to someone who doesn’t know our organisation?
  • What are the qualities you think a person needs to be an excellent fit for our culture?

Armed with this information, you can then fine-tune your recruitment and selection processes to screen for cultural fit.

Want to create the culture of your dreams? It all starts with the right people.

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

Three signs it’s time to hire

Killing the business you love

“When should we hire our next team member?” is one of the questions businesses most often ask as they grow and evolve. Unfortunately, there’s no one simple answer.

There’s also no guarantee that it will work out.

Sometimes the decision to hire is more a matter of luck and serendipity rather than cold, hard planning.

For example, at Balance at Work we took on a new consultant because she happened to be available at a time when we needed help.

Doing this goes against everything I tell our clients they should do, but it has worked very well for us — this time, at least!

If you’d like to have more science around this critical decision, look out for the signs.

If you’re experiencing any of the following, alone or in combination, it might be time for you to hire one or more new employees.

1. You’re consistently not delivering on your service promises

There can be several reasons your customers are not getting the quality, response times and levels of service they’re expecting.

If all these things were previously running smoothly and now aren’t, perhaps your staff just don’t have the time and resources they need to serve your customers properly.

An increase in any of the following requires you to look closely at the causes and determine if the problem could be solved by hiring:

  • Late delivery of goods or services
  • Projects that are running over time and over budget
  • Complaints and refunds
  • Disputed invoices or late payments
  • Needing to re-do work that’s already been paid for and delivered

2. You and your team are feeling overwhelmed

If you’re awake at 2am worrying about work, something has to give. Hopefully, it won’t be you!

No growing business can go it alone, and if you just saw yourself in that first sentence, my first recommendation is to find yourself a business coach as soon as possible.

On the other hand, you may feel totally in control while your team is giving you signs things are not quite as they should be.

If you notice any of the following behaviours, take the time to find out why it’s occurring:

  • Sudden resignations
  • Unexplained absences
  • Bickering within the team
  • Low morale and a negative vibe
  • Rumours about the future of the business

Once you know that coping with the workload is the underlying issue, you’re ready to take appropriate action.

3. You’re experiencing rapid growth or change

Congratulations! Sometimes we choose to change and sometimes change is thrust upon us. Either way, change brings with it significant opportunities to do things differently.

You can only make the most of your situation if you have the right people on your team.

Some of the business changes that indicate you need to hire more staff are:

  • Increased demand for your existing service or product
  • New services or products added to your catalogue
  • Implementing new processes or structures that require new skill sets

If you find you’re working ‘in the business’ instead of ‘on the business’ most of the time, over a long time, you are setting yourself up for failure.

In fact, failure is almost inevitable if you don’t get to do the important work in your business, instead of just what’s urgent.

It’s a big step to hire a new team member, and doing so requires careful planning.

It can be expensive, and it will be time-consuming.

So we ask ‘Do I really need to hire?’ instead of ‘Can I afford not to?’. When you refer to the signs above, it’s easier to answer both questions.

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

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.

We’re all in this together

succession

Some new business owners struggle with how to treat their ‘competition’.  Do you research what they’re doing? Do you try to beat them on price? Do you even try to undermine their integrity? What if collaboration is a better option?

It can be difficult when you’re in start-up mode not to have a negative view of your competitors. They are already established, they already have the clients you would like to have and they may the staff and infrastructure you can only dream of at this stage.

Here’s why:

  1. They already know the market and they’re talking to your potential clients;
  2. They’ve made mistakes you can avoid if you know about them; and
  3. Most people want to help you because it makes them feel good.

Learning from what your competitors do well, and tapping into what and who they know, can be a real short-cut to getting your business off the ground.

Getting to know your competitors (and I don’t mean spying on them!) will be one of the best steps you can take towards having a successful business. Ask yourself: How can I help them? What expertise, tools and experience can I offer that will support their success?

A friend of mine calls this ‘coopetition’. I’ve built my business on close relationships with other businesses that outsiders would see as my competition.

If you are still hesitating about picking up the phone and having that first conversation, give us a call first. We are always open to opportunities for collaboration and happy to help with tips to start you on your ‘coopetition’ journey.

Culture: How do you assess fit?

This article is by Dan Harrison, Founder and CEO of Harrison Assessments International and was first published on 2 March 2017. If you are interested in learning more, please contact us.

High performing organizations can be quite obsessive about their culture as both a market differentiator and as a guiding force for decision-making. These organizations tend to be extremely careful to bring new people in who match the culture well.

By “culture”, we can use this definition: “the organization’s vital Purpose, its distinctive and enduring Philosophy and its strategic Priorities”  – the 3 P’s, according to Sheila Margolis [1]. A strong culture will endure and thrive if employees’ own beliefs and values align well with the organizational culture. If there is poor alignment, then the culture degrades and competitive edge may be lost.

Job-Fit vs. Culture-Fit

In the employee-selection world, professional Talent Management staff often focus on understanding the job in question by conducting a Job Analysis (JA). JA typically involves identifying the tasks, duties and responsibilities performed on the job as well as the specific knowledge, skills and abilities (KSA’s) that lead to success. Once the KSA’s are identified, a selection plan can be devised to “test” for these competencies and a “score” or predictor of potential success in the job is derived. The test can include a online assessment to determine probable job-fit. Certainly job-fit is critical to determine to ensure that the candidate both CAN do the job and WILL do the job (i.e. is motivated to perform).

Certainly, ensuring that a candidate has the technical skills, know-how, background, education and even “soft” or people-skills to be successful is critical. What many organizations fail to do, however, is assess for culture-fit. That is, applying assessment strategies to measure the extent to which a individual’s values, beliefs and priorities align with and complement those of the organization. In many cases, culture-fit is is just as important as Job-fit, if not more so.

What is Culture-Fit?

Person-Organization, or Culture-Fit is the congruence of an individual’s beliefs and values with the culture, norms, and values of an organization. Entrepreneur Magazine says that culture is, “the personality of an organization from the employee perspective, and includes the company’s mission, expectations and work atmosphere.” [2]

Employers are now competing hotly for the best and the brightest younger workers. We know from recent research on younger workers that they highly value People and Culture Fit above all else. They want to be comfortable with like-minded people in an environment that matches their own passions, interests and personal and professional values. If the employer can get their culture right, defined and clearly articulated then they are in a much better position to match the employer’s needs with younger workers expectations – a win-win proposition!

What Does it Matter?

Research consistently shows that employees who understand the company culture and are aligned with it outperform the competition by a three-fold factor. Aligned employees:

  • Are happier
  • More satisfied
  • Stay longer
  • Are committed
  • Provide better service

Person-Job vs. Person-Organization Fit

If we accept the idea that job fit is critical AND that culture-fit also plays a role in an individual’s potential success, then how are these two ideas related? The chart right attempts to address this question. Person-job fit can be determined using skills tests, competency analysis, behavioral interviewing and even resume/application review. Person-organization fit requires asking and getting answers to different questions – mostly about what is most important to an individual both in terms of their engagement as well as their priorities and core values.

Can One Assessment Do Both?

Certainly, multiple assessment methods can accomplish job and organization fit; for example, using one assessment for competency assessment and another one for values and engagement factors could work. This approach is time-consuming, expensive and cumbersome, not to mention a possible “turn-off” to candidates. In a perfect world, we could use one assessment to give us all the information we need in a short amount of time. In fact, such an assessment exists – the Harrison Assessment.

How can the Harrison Assessment Accomplish Both Goals?

Because the Harrison Assessment (HA) is preference-based, and uses forced-ranking as a method, it collects very detailed information about an individual’s work-related preferences in a very short amount of time (less than 30 minutes). Everyone takes the same questionnaire. What changes is the filter, or Success Formula, that is applied to the individual’s data set. In terms of Person-Job Fit, there are thousands of Job Success Formulas in the system that are specific to the demands of unque jobs. In terms of Person-Organization Fit, the system can be set up to filter for core values, engagement factors and motivational triggers. This filter can be applied to the same data.

Culture Mapping and Assessment Example

Let’s apply this process to a real-world example. Consider Company X that has 5 Core Values that they want to make sure new employees have the propensity for and embrace at a personal level. The first of those Core Values is shown below and is called Innovative Ideas and Approaches. The document below shows how this value and its definition was mapped to HA. This work was performed by a trained HA consultant. This was done for all 5 of the Core Values, though only one is shown here for the purposes of this example.

Example Core Value and Mapping to the Harrison Assessment with rationale included.

This “culture template” was created in the HA system and could then be run for any or all finalists or new employees to show how much their own personal preferences and priorities stacked up against the ideal. In the partial report shown below, you can see the individual’s match-up against this customized cultural filter (note that this report ran several pages; this is just the first page). The hiring manager, and/or interviewer could use these results to probe areas that may have been weaker for this person, or “out-of-sync” with respect to the cultural values. The report also includes traits-to-avoid that can possibly de-rail success.

In this way, organizations can use the same dataset collected by one questionnaire in multiple ways; First, to assess fit for the job itself; second, to look at culture fit. It is true that some set-up needs to be done to do the customization work to create the cultural, or values filter, but once set-up, this is a very efficient, effective, time-saver that is also inexpensive.

Visit our website to find out more about both Job-fit and Culture-fit

_________________________________

[1] Sheila Margolis, Defining Organizational Culture Questions (https://sheilamargolis.com/consulting/organizational-culture-change-initiatives/organizational-culture-assessment-questions/)

[2] “It Really Pays to have a Rich Company Culture”, Entrepreneur Magazine, 10/21/14, (https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/238640)

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.

 

"The last couple of years at batyr has seen incredible growth and the Balance at Work team has supported us along the way. They have helped us improve leadership skills across the team by helping us source and manage mentors, and even engaging as mentors themselves. As a young and fresh CEO Susan has also supported me personally with genuine feedback and fearless advice to achieve great things. "
By Sam Refshauge, CEO, batyr
"We used the Harrison Assessment tools followed by a debrief with Susan, for career development with staff, which then allowed us to work with Susan to create a customised 360 degree review process. Susan has a wealth of knowledge and is able to offer suggestions and solutions for our company. She is always ready to get involved and takes the time to show her clients the capability of Harrison Assessments. "
By Jessica Hill, Head of People and Culture, Choice
"Balance at Work are the ideal external partners for us as they completely get what we are trying achieve in the People and Culture space. Their flexibility and responsiveness to our needs has seen the entire 360 approach being a complete success. The online tool and the follow up coaching sessions have been game changers for our business. The buzz in the organisation is outstanding. Love it! Thanks again for being such a great support crew on this key project."
By Chris Bulmer, National GM Learning and Development, ISS Australia
"We use Harrison Assessments with our clients to support their recruitment processes. We especially value the comprehensive customisable features that allow us to ensure the best possible fit within a company, team and position. Balance at Work is always one phone call away. We appreciate their valuable input and their coaching solutions have also given great support to our clients."
By Benoit Ribe, HR Solutions Manager, Polyglot Group
"The leadership team at Insurance Advisernet engaged Susan from Balance at Work to run our leadership development survey and learning sessions. Susan was very professional in delivering the team and individual strengths and opportunities for growth. Susan's approach was very "non corporate" in style which was refreshing to see. I can't recommend Balance at Work more highly to lead, employee and team development sessions."
By Shaun Stanfield, Managing Director, Insurance Advisernet

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