ExecLifeCoaching

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Do you know, or can you think of a collective noun for leaders?

gallery

Later today, I am previewing a new leadership workshop.  For the icebreaker, I have created posters of a number of leaders that will be on the walls as participants arrive.

I plan to invite the participants to choose a leader who they think best merits the title of leader, and then say the single most important thing, to them, that makes this person the ‘best’ leader in our gallery.  If they can’t find a ‘fit’ in the gallery, they can say who they would add and why.

When I chose the images, I wanted to depict leaders from history, current leaders and a mix of backgrounds – industry and commerce as well as sports and politics.

I also wanted to represent a good diversity of leaders; a balance of men and women, a mix of leaders from different ethnic backgrounds as well as disabled leaders.  What interests me about my choices is that my own bias translated into the images I selected even as I was picking a diverse selection.  Not just the “who?” – others may not even recognise Emmeline Pankhurst, but also how flattering the images I selected were.  I grew up in South Yorkshire and can remember Dad taking us to the picket lines with several Christmas lunches during the Miner’s strike.  I included Margaret Thatcher in the gallery, but I chose not to show her coiffed and serene.  No.  I picked an image that showed her pointing her finger; frowning; mouth wide open as she was making an animated speech. Seeing the news this morning Hillary Clinton was added too – love being topical.

Back to my icebreaker.  I expect some participants will list certain attributes of their first choice.  The thrust of the workshop is around leadership flexibility, not single traits, so I hope this will provide an initial discussion on that.

I anticipate some participants will list the results achieved by their first choice.  I hope this will provide an initial discussion around ends and means in the context of leadership.

I purposefully included Rihanna and Zayn Malik.  I predict some participants will question why these appear in the gallery at all.  With some citing Zayn Malik as the most influential Muslim in the UK, I hope we will raise some questions around whether experience is critical for a leader.  Can young people make effective leaders?  I also plan to use the opportunity to invite participants to explore whether a leader needs followers.  With about 45 million Twitter followers, does this make Rihanna a leader?  Does a huge number of followers equate to an effective leader?

A squabble of seagulls

A squabble of seagulls 

Up to now, I have been referring to my collection of images of leaders as a gallery.  What’s bugging me, though, is that this seems to fit better for a collection of rogues.  At school, we learned some wonderful collective nouns.  Among my favourites were a parliament of owls, an exaltation of larks and a squabble of seagulls.

I turned to the internet to look for the collective noun for leaders.  Where it should have been right between a murder of lawyers and a colony of lepers (hope the positioning isn’t significant) was……nothing.  Do you know of, or can you come up with a collective noun for leaders?

Angela Sabin is an executive coach who works with leaders to help them get clear on their goals and mobilise their own resources to achieve these goals.

Contact Angela on 01302 220021 for a free, no obligation chat, or email her at angela.sabin@executive-life-coaching.co.uk.

With thanks to stock images by  Naypong and sumetho at freedigitalphotos.net for use of the images.

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Executives: How much effort do you put into your assistant’s career?

ID-100111377Behind every great boss is a great assistant…wouldn’t you agree? The sheer variety of tasks they’re required to demonstrate and the attention to detail they need to apply demand a hugely diverse range of skills. Consider: could you do your job anywhere near as well without them?

According to the Global PA Association, too few bosses place much thought towards their assistants’ careers. Rosemary Parr, assistant to Sir Christopher Bland when he was head of BT, said: “Sir Christopher told me that once I’d got to the top, as his PA, I didn’t need any more development. He was being a devil’s advocate but often that’s what chief executives are thinking. They need to understand that the more you help people to develop, the better they will do their job for you.”

I’ve spoken before about the merits of delegation. Involving key staff in decisions means they’re able to contribute relevant information. The eyes and ears of the executive assistant, for instance, reach far wider, and across more levels, than the goal-driven, one-track-mind executive.

Degrees, initiative and emotional intelligence

Statistics show that only 40% of UK PAs have degrees, perhaps one area ripe for development. That said, it’s not easy to get an assistant with whom you have a good working relationship, who can think like you think and spot things you miss. If you have this kind of connection, with an executive assistant who’s professional and intuitive, it’s common sense to consider boosting their skills gaps than hiring, instead, a new graduate who may consequently have little experience and initiative, and possibly, poor emotional intelligence and a lack of self-reliance.

Given the deep understanding an executive assistant has of their boss’ role, it’s not unthinkable that they may be an appropriate replacement if he/she moves on – another reason to be concerned with the boosting of any skills/qualifications gaps. And carving out a clear development path for your executive will lead to a more engaged and productive employee.

A pivotal role, not just a fetcher/carrier

One of the main aims of an executive assistant is to make their boss look good, to pick up on any mistakes he/she has made before they’re noticed, to prompt and to feed back, and also to build a contingency for the unexpected. Some days, they’re expected to work miracles. They’re time-savers, as well as occasional life-savers, filtering what’s urgent from what can wait. They’re pivotal to an executive’s operations, making what’s commonly a hectic, over-committed 9-5, a smooth and rewarding day. Is it unfair, therefore, to reward them, perhaps with a leadership role of their own?

Clearly they have the skills, and it’s unwise to make them feel as if they’ve reached their ‘limit’, in case they look elsewhere for more challenges than what you may perceive as simply booking your next flight or collecting your Starbucks. Do you know, for example, how much your executive assistant does in his/her daily role? Have you an idea of the range of skills he/she applies during their working week? Whilst it’s crucial that your PA knows your role inside out, do you have a similar understanding of what you expect of them?

Standing in for the boss

For instance, a recent survey of over 1700 PAs and Executive Assistants showed that, “nearly 20% regularly make recommendations that their bosses act upon, regarding important strategic and financial issues. 20% take regular meetings in place of their manager, and over 30% manage vital company-wide projects.” More ‘heart of the organisation’ than ‘right-hand man/woman’.

The role of the executive assistant is, nowadays, more than just a support role. It’s one that can be moulded into a bespoke, highly specialised position. Some executives clearly value their assistants, demonstrated by their insistence that they go with them when offered a new executive position with another organisation. It makes sense: why spend time creating rapport and a well-crafted, smooth working relationship with someone who may not have the same diplomacy, people management skills or ability to organise fine details, when you can bring this with you?

Michael Hayman, co-founder of Seven Hills, adds this: “They say that knowledge is power. And it is. An assistant of mine was once snapped at by someone who insisted they speak to the boss. They obviously did not understand that they already were. The conversation never happened.”

Perhaps it’s time to take stock and consider not what your assistant can do for you, but what you can do for them….

Angela Sabin is an executive coach who helps her clients succeed and progress within their career, and to also remove obstacles that are impacting their life. Contact Angela on 01302 220021 for a free, no obligation chat about your needs and circumstances, or email her at angela.sabin@executive-life-coaching.co.uk.

With thanks to stock images at freedigitalphotos.net for use of the image.

Succession management programmes: the backbone of every organisation?

ID-10083024Are they necessary? Do they deliver? What benefits would you see if you implemented a succession management programme within your company? And how can you ensure your programme is appropriate?

What succession planning is, and how it can prove its worth

Succession planning should not be an afterthought or a consideration once a vacancy appears, but a seamless, consistent initiative running throughout the company, which aligns to the company’s medium and long-term goals. The focus, therefore, should not be on replacing staff or how a workforce is best distributed in the current climate, but on retaining future talent and the strategic career plans of key people holding specific skills and the right aptitude – it’s a perpetually evolving process. This forward thinking also upholds business continuity – rather than see a lifetime of knowledge and experience disappear as a senior executive retires, succession planning can help upcoming talent harness this expertise, by shadowing, mentoring and personal introductions to the departing executive’s carefully built up network.

The feeling such nurturing instils in an in-house high-achiever, knowing they’re being ‘cultivated’ for bigger and better things, can further boost their loyalty and become an even bigger driver of their performance. That their future looks promising and is clearly mapped out within their organisation dissipates any need to look elsewhere.

Does every organisation see the worth in their programme?

It appears, however, that some programmes aren’t fit for purpose. According to a recent survey of 1,000 senior executives, less than a quarter were confident that their company’s succession management programmes would deliver the right candidate – if any at all – to executive and leadership positions. The majority, despite having structure in place for in-house promotions, were forced to look outside the organisation to fill higher level vacancies.

Though it’s easy to see succession planning as a business element that can easily be put on the back burner if more immediate concerns/issues arise, in the long run, the organisation could suffer as a result. Having a good understanding of the issue from their position, HR directors believe succession planning is even more important now than it was before the recession, according to recruitment specialists Randstad Financial and Professional, and their findings from a recent study they held. Two-thirds of those polled went on to say they believed succession planning would be even more crucial in the future.

Starting early…

It’s been shown that pay is only one consideration when it comes to career choices; an effective solid, structure for progression is likely to influence talented employees far more. Some say that succession planning should be a factor from the off – even when interviewing prospective employees – in order to recruit and hone key positions within the company.

Identifying possibilities within a workforce is a key element of both talent management and succession planning. Have you tests in place, for example, to measure potential? Do you have appropriate resources and programmes available to develop raw talent for future senior roles?

Planning affords time towards building the right skills in the most appropriate area. By the time succession occurs, transition is seamless. Compare this to a more reactionary approach to succession, and it’s likely that the person taking over won’t hold the necessary transferable skills or fully understand the nature of the role he/she has taken on.

The competitive advantage of a company boasting a flourishing succession programme is significant, and the implementing of such an initiative need not be difficult – so why are they not integral to as many businesses as they could be?

Some businesses, such as fast-growing technology companies, simply haven’t had the time to install such a scheme or structure whilst focusing on the growing of their business. Another reason could be that founding members of an organisation find it difficult to let go, at pains to think of their retirement and who may succeed them. In family-run businesses, issues in personal relationships can see those at the top actively seek out impartial third parties to run their businesses, rather than hand the reins to the next generation – a move borne out of fear that the founders’ practices and business plans won’t be followed.

It’s clear that an appropriate, thriving succession planning programme and talent management initiatives can drive a company forwards far more than a company without such schemes in place. Given the incessant drive for competitive advantage, I believe succession planning will become even more necessary as time marches on. 

Do you need help to create a succession planning programme within your organisation? Angela Sabin is a Senior Coaching Practitioner and executive coach, helping those engaging her services remove obstacles in their careers or life situations. Contact Angela on 01302 220021 or email her at angela.sabin@executive-life-coaching.co.uk.

Thanks to ddpavumba at freedigitalphotos.net for use of the image.

The role of the non-executive director, and how to determine if they can benefit your business…

ID-10075451Non-executive Directors (or NEDs) are common within large organisations’ executive boards. The NED, as an outsider, can help bring a fresh perspective and vital insight into a business’ strategy – their objectivity and ability to see an overview of the whole organisation are huge assets.

NEDs are usually chosen because of their experience and knowledge, though not necessarily gained in that organisation’s industry. Transferable skills are important, as are the right qualities and commitment. Businesses are encouraged to have more than one NED but to not get carried away with their appointments – according to the Stock Exchange’s Combined Code, a balance is necessary to ensure that “no individual or small group of individuals can dominate the board’s decision-taking”. They believe that “non-executive directors should comprise no less than half the board.”

More than just short-term consultants, NEDs have the same legal responsibilities as a director employed by the organisation, and are invited to apply the same commitment as their in-house counterparts. Strategy is their focus, as is long-term direction and a steadying hand, rather than on day-to-day operational issues.

Given that their aim is to boost growth, should NEDs only see interest from conglomerates? Can a NED bring the same benefits and valuable advice to smaller businesses?

Ambitious companies looking for fast-growth are perfect collaborators for the NED. However, a company in this position should consider the following before jumping into any agreements:

What’s your goal?

Before you enrol a NED, you need to know what you want your business to achieve. What are your aspirations? What do you want the business to look like in a year’s, 5 years’, 10 years’ time? What will success look like? Are you planning to expand into different markets, or globally?

There’s not much point inviting a NED to bring focus to your strategy if there is no strategy there. Consider also, if you’re at the right point in your business’ journey to appoint a NED? An honest appraisal of your current position saves time on both sides.

What opportunities can they bring?

When considering which NED to work with, consider the opportunities they may bring with them. For example, can they open doors you’ve previously been unable to open? How well connected are they? What can they do for your business that another NED couldn’t do? Have they the right experience, earned at an appropriate level? What expertise do they bring as an individual? Do you need access to finance? Do you understand the help they plan to bring?

If they’re particularly connected, qualified and laudable, can you afford them, and what systems/measures can you put in place to ensure you get value for your money? Perhaps you plan to award equity in your business to the NED, rather than pay a day rate or alternative; if this is the case, consider that a NED is no longer objective and impartial once they have shares in your business, which could significantly influence the advice they give you.

Are they the right fit?

The best NEDs nudge and steer the companies they work with and challenge the owners’/directors’ thinking. Whilst it’s always nice to hire the person you get on with the most, will they still drive you in the right way, or will you spend more time talking about what you have in common outside of work, off topic? What dynamic will they bring – can they be the trusted, confidential adviser you’re looking for?

Though clashing personalities are not advisable, constructive criticism and the stance of devil’s advocate are both necessary and motivational. Ascertain the kind of support you need to progress, not what’s the easiest and most palatable, and consider whether the NED can deliver this. Ensure you have a contractual agreement that covers expectations from both sides, spelling out any particular issues or boundaries.

Can they commit?

How many hours a month are they able to devote to the growth of your business? What restrictions do they bring? Are they committed to the same goals you are? How long will they be around? Without the same vision and understanding of the work needed to be done, the NED may not prove to be the driving force your business needs.

There’s no doubt that a NED and their support can prove key factors in a thriving business, a short-cut to greater success. As with all business decisions, however, doing your homework and forming plans before jumping in will pay off in the long run.

Angela Sabin is a coach and senior practitioner with over 20 years’ experience of coaching senior management and directors, helping them to take control of their careers or to help them deliver better results. Contact Angela on 01302 220021, or via angela.sabin@executive-life-coaching.co.uk.

Thanks to arztsamui at freedigitalphotos.net for use of the image.

Executive bonuses and bulging pay packets: are they deserved?

ID-100240533You can’t look at any newspaper or media outlet without spotting a news story lambasting the bonuses/payoff to the executives of some company, somewhere.

But is the media just stirring the pot?

Members of the Institute of Directors believe executives’ payments of large bonuses are the biggest threat to public trust than any other issue. The majority identified with the public’s anger, particularly if an organisation paying huge bonuses was one found to be mis-selling, or guilty of similar wrongdoing.

The same IoD survey found that more than half of its respondents took more reward from building a successful business; financial benefits were, to them, just the icing on the cake.

Simon Walker, director general of the IoD, identifies that performance related pay is a key driver for executives in high positions. However, he says, the performance of some individuals have not matched the bonuses they’ve received.

Are pay gaps getting bigger?

Some business commenters believe that the premise of the big bonus only encourages the risk-taking that contributed to our country’s current economic woes. The gap between what the top guy earns at the head of a corporation against his front-line workers is not closing in these austere times, but widening exponentially.

For example, the head of Next’s pay was 459 times the average wage of a front-line employee. The pay gap at the media company WPP was even larger; the chief executive’s pay package was almost 800 times more than that of the employees.

A maximum wage?

Calls for a maximum wage to sit at the opposite end of the spectrum to the minimum wage gather pace when outlandish pay bonuses hit the news. Opposition claims such a move would be ‘anti-business’.

Justifying bonuses

Barclays chief executive, Antony Jenkins, defended his 2014 £1.1m bonus in the same year the company cut 14,000 jobs and profits were down by a fifth. Jenkins said, ‘I completely understand that I am very well remunerated for what I do. But, I think it is appropriate that I accept my bonus.’ He demonstrated the progress Barclays had made in the two-and-a-half years he’d been at the helm, and the company’s healthier balance sheet. Mr Jenkins insists the bank is now stronger than at any time since the financial crisis, after announcing a 12% rise in adjusted pre-tax profits.

Iain McKenzie: ‘Why not make teachers’ or nurses’ salaries performance-related?’

Iain McKenzie, MP for Inverclyde says, ‘Growth in executive pay, bonuses, and incentive payments has vastly outpaced performance as measured by every indicator in common use. Even if we do accept the need for performance-related salaries, why do we not expect generals and senior civil servants – let alone nurses or teachers – to be paid millions of pounds a year to perform well?’

Iain’s suggestion is to limit executives’ pay to 100 times that of their average employee’s remuneration. He has little support in government, however, appropriately demonstrated by George Osborne’s recent slating of the EU’s move to cap bankers’ bonuses – branding it ‘illegal’. Iain goes on, ‘Reports say up to 80% of the public support government action to end income inequality’.

How do you feel about executives’ bonuses? Would you turn down a large bonus if it was offered? Would you refuse to add bonuses into your contract of employment when negotiating with a new employer? Would you feel guilty about taking a bonus if it provided your kids with a better education, or you a better pension? If you’d turned round a failing, or less profitable, business, wouldn’t you feel you deserved a small stake of the extra income you’d secured?

Let me know your stance in the comment box below.

Angela Sabin is an executive coach and senior practitioner who helps clients with issues in their career, or life in general. Contact Angela on 01302 220021, or via angela@executive-life-coaching.co.uk.

Thanks to Stuart Miles at freedigitalphotos.net for use of the image.

Are we moving towards gender equality in the workplace, or is the glass ceiling still intact?

ID-100161451I recently wrote a series of articles about issues that could affect the progression of your career – such as obesity, the rising popularity of tattoos, and your visibility as an employee when looking for a promotion.

An issue I only touched on within the obesity post was discrimination against women in the workplace, particularly in senior, board and executive roles. Gender equality is a more talked about subject than ever before, and we’re increasingly conscious about the younger generation and their influences towards traditionally male or female dominated roles. But do these factors mean equality is just around the corner?

Women in the boardroom

Much has been made of the slow but significant rise of women sitting on various boards – mainly because organisations have realised that, in order to sell products to women, they must have accurate – not assumed – insight of them as consumers. That said, statistics show just 23% of board members are women.

This is an improvement – there was only 15% in 2011; however, Britain didn’t make the top twenty in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap survey in 2014. In 26th place, we lagged behind Rwanda and Nicaragua. Norway came amongst the top in the survey, following their decision to make gender quotas law.

One of the unspoken fears of men considering a women for a senior role is the likelihood of her getting pregnant, and the ramifications of her maternity leave absence. Karren Brady has stated that she returned to work within the week she gave birth to her first child, because she feared her career and the reputation she’d so carefully built would suffer. She says, “I thought people would forget me, or that I might even lose my job.”

Times have changed since Karren’s experience a couple of decades ago, not least because of business’ attitudes to flexible working for both genders, and a much-heightened focus on a word/life balance. There are also improved paternity rights for fathers, which allows a family the option of sharing the childcare. Dismissing a woman’s application on these grounds, however subconsciously, is unnecessary in today’s society.

The pay gap

Even when women gain senior jobs, the pay gap between what they earn compared to their male colleagues is, on average, £10,060 less, according to the CMI – and they receive half the bonuses their male counterparts also enjoy. This difference is narrowing, though. Recent figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) showed that the gap went from 10% to 9.4% last year. Before females rejoice in this positive report, this narrowing was due to a drop in men’s wages as opposed to a rise in women’s. Applying this narrowing of the pay gap towards the future means 81 years would pass before pay became equal.

What are the benefits of gender equality in the workplace?

Having a gender-equal workforce improves morale, ensures a wide range of talent and expertise, enforces a company’s reputation and boosts staff engagement. So how can organisations attract more women, or take steps towards a gender-equal culture?

  • Make it easy for staff of both genders to work flexibly. Implement a range of working options, i.e. job sharing, flexitime, working from home, effective use of technology, etc. Encourage staff to embrace such measures so that a flexible culture becomes the norm.
  • Proactively appeal to women when hiring. Make it clear that women are supported and promoted within your organisation, and that their input is valued.

It’s not just women who see gender inequality; according to the Center for American Progress, both sexes agree that pay gaps and discrimination occur, but they have different opinions as to whether things have improved in those areas. 80% of men also support maternity leave, which makes one wonder if discrimination on these grounds is doled out by the same 20%.

35% of men surveyed felt that woman needed to toughen up if they wanted a board or executive position. What’s perhaps most shocking is that almost the exact same percentage of women agreed with this.

Debunking the myths

Project 28-40 was a recent ground-breaking study involving 25,000 women in the UK. A commonly cited lack of ambition was put to rest as a reason women are not reaching top positions; in fact, 70% of both sexes said they had a drive to reach the top. Loyalty was inherent in the women surveyed, demonstrating that if a woman felt supported by her employer when it came to the progress of her career, she was more likely to stay with the firm than male colleagues in the same situation.

Gender equality is not the taboo subject it once was, but it’s clear from these findings that there is a long way to go before equality is intrinsic in every workplace. The glass ceiling may have cracked but it’s not shattered just yet.

Angela Sabin is an executive coach who helps her clients succeed and progress within their career, and also remove obstacles having an impact on their life in general. Contact Angela on 01302 220021 or at angela.sabin@executive-life-coaching.co.uk for a free, no obligation chat about your needs and circumstances.

 

Do you feel unfulfilled in your executive position? Perhaps volunteering could be the solution…

I’ve talked, in previous blogs, of the issues some executives face in their career. One problem that some high-achievers may encounter is the feeling of being unfulfilled – after spending years climbing to the top of the ladder, some executives feel their career stops offering them any sort of challenge. Without a goal to aim for, there’s a risk that those in senior positions may start to lack direction.

ID-100294770

Is age a factor?

Towards mid-life, we wonder about our contribution – what legacy do we want to leave? Some argue the ‘ultimate intelligence’ is spiritual intelligence (SQ).  This spiritual dimension is a search for ‘wider meaning and purpose’, not necessarily religion. Denton (1999) defines spirituality as ‘the basic desire to find ultimate meaning and purpose in one’s life and to live an integrated life’.

Within the 32 approaches to coaching (who knew there were so many?) certain techniques are especially helpful when thinking about our higher purpose. Ontological, transpersonal and existential coaching techniques focus on self-actualisation; they offer particular value for those seeking meaning or higher purpose, who wish to broaden their field of awareness.

Of course, this isn’t everyone’s experience. Job satisfaction and what constitutes a meaningful life can involve different things for different people.

Job satisfaction

A recent survey by Pilotlight showed that 62% of executives and business leaders volunteering through its programmes subsequently gained job satisfaction in their own roles. 85% improved their coaching skills as a result of working with charities, and 87% acknowledged that the process had brought new leadership styles to their attention. Another benefit saw executives’ empathy increase, along with their understanding of the challenges faced by those needing help.

Business leaders are increasingly seeing volunteering as a way to refresh or hone their business skills. Though the motivation for giving their time and experience to a charity was to ‘give something back’, according to 80% of those executives surveyed, the sharpening of their own attributes was a close second. Many of the executive participants on Pilotlight’s programme went on to become charity trustees.

Do you have the time?

It certainly sounds like a win/win situation for all concerned, but despite both the executives and the charity enjoying a range of positives from such an initiative, there were still hesitations. The biggest issue, for 81% of respondents, was their perceived lack of time, as well as a misguided belief that their skills and experience borne from the private sector would be of little use to charities.

Dr Paul Steinfort, 63, found volunteering became a true passion. Although he enjoyed a high-flying career masterminding projects like the redevelopment of Melbourne’s cricket ground, Paul was drawn to volunteering after he spent three months in India. Rebuilding areas and communities in such as Japan and Indonesia was, Paul says, one of the most rewarding things he’s done in his career. Whereas most executives his age would be planning retirement, Paul attributes his volunteering as a “passport to other worlds and all sorts of cultures”.

The bigger picture

It’s been said that this generation is one that values making a difference more than any other benefit – whether within their own organisation, from volunteering, or through a similar opportunity. Spending time with people from completely different backgrounds, and especially those from a position of disadvantage, can be very humbling, and teach us a lot about managing people that can be implemented when back at work.

Other transferable skills

Volunteering in some parts of the world could place you within the next ‘emerging market’; information gained at ground level could make a significant impact on future projects and the direction your organisation may choose to follow. Another indirect benefit stems from dealing with people from different cultures; your communication skills are likely to be better understood and honed – both vocal and non-verbal dialogue. Adapting to another way of life also strengthens your resilience, yet another transferable skill.

Corporate responsibility is an integral element of most organisations today, and seeing those at the top of a company willing to give their time and experience for the benefit of communities (however near or far away from home) builds a good reputation, seen by customers and the public in general.

It’s easy to talk about giving back – personally making a difference speaks louder.

Coaching is an especially useful tool in such circumstances. When your direction seems uncertain, coaching can help you ascertain what is lacking in your life or career, or help you unlock the extra elements that will enrich your existence.

There can be many reasons why you may feel unfulfilled; if you’d like my help to evaluate your life and career paths, contact me on 01302 220021, or via angela.sabin@executive-life-coaching.co.uk.

Thanks to holohololand at freedigitalphotos.net for use of the image.

Fire-fighting today is challenging enough, but what will be of concern to tomorrow’s executives?

ID-100247518The one constant in life is that everything changes. Think of how differently our lives are today to how things were for your parents and grandparents. Amongst many other things, new technology has appeared and attitudes have altered and broadened.

Companies that haven’t rolled with the changes and adapted are likely to be few in number, if still trading at all. If customers’ tastes change, or their expectations shift, an organisation has to move their approach to still appeal to those consumers.

Consider that only ten years ago, the internet wasn’t anywhere near as integral in our lives as it is now. Few businesses would have been present on the web, and even fewer people would have used it to shop, bank, or as the huge resource it is; the whole face of consumerism has shifted within the last decade, thanks to cyberspace.

So, what will be the next huge shifts and challenges today’s companies will face? Here are just a few points for business leaders to consider:

The typical age of consumers

Evidence has shown that we’re living longer, thanks to medical advances and continual improvements in our living standards. Because of this, the retirement age has moved and we will work for longer. Our expectations of what ‘old age’ means will also shift, particularly if we’re still actively working; businesses need to pay heed to the wants and needs of the older generation, because there’ll be a lot of older consumers around.

You’d be forgiven for thinking only the young matter if you were to walk along most high streets or pick up magazines today; however, things will alter with a much larger market and demographic of consumers over the age of 50.

Urbanisation

Over 50% of the population lives in cities today, but during the next generation this figure will rise to 70%, bringing all sorts of issues concerning logistics, infrastructure and space for housing, retail and development.

The most efficient execution will be what sets companies apart, as will their agility and ability to adapt to what could prove ‘overpopulation’ challenges in some areas.

Class shifts

Whilst it could be argued that class is something that diminishes with each generation, experts predict that the middle class will see the most growth in the near future, due to economic shifts. 90% of the middle class will live in emerging markets, such as China and India.

Though this has its positives, not least new wealth to be chased, we may see some commodities become scarce as a result.

Interaction

With so many channels and technologies available that allow you to interact with your consumer, and new avenues surfacing all the time, one challenge will be choosing the right channel for the right demographic. High expectations from all sections of the market may see some organisations spread thinly across all platforms and outlets, which may threaten or dilute the overall customer experience.

Serving a global community means companies will need to keep abreast and sympathetic of differing languages and cultures throughout all their touch points – a challenge in itself.

Innovation

Attention to, and investment in, innovation is crucial, as the more flexible a company is, the more likely it will stay afloat. I’ve spoken in recent posts about the importance of innovation and creativity in business, touting it as the main source of competitive advantage; the most successful companies of tomorrow will lead and produce new ideas, rather than react to market changes driven by their competitors.

Skills gaps and a still-shaky economy are just two things that threaten any rosy future, as significant issues to businesses today. Tomorrow’s executives certainly have as many challenges to face as the execs of today – whether they prove harder or worse challenges, only time will tell. As I said at the beginning of this post, change is the only thing executives of any generation can rely on.

Angela Sabin is a Master Practitioner and executive coach, helping those engaging her services to eradicate obstacles in their careers or life situations. Contact her for more details on 01302 220021 or angela.sabin@executive-life-coaching.co.uk.

Thanks to pakorn at freedigitalphotos.net for use of the image.

When team building days go wrong….

A few months ago I wrote some blogs on the theme of team-building/away days, which struck a chord with readers. I received a few real-life examples of why an away day didn’t work or was unproductive in some way, which got me thinking as to whether this feedback referred to isolated incidents.

ID-100115004Once I started looking for examples on the web I was both amused and shocked to see how many anecdotes and stories there were around poor/weird/disastrous team-building days. And whilst digging more examples out, I also found some of the more unusual activities employees are invited to undertake.

I think it’s fair to say that practically everyone knows the purpose of a team-building away day. Removing staff from their workplaces delivers a different perspective and shakes them from their comfort zones. Usually, the structure of the day and the types of activities involved help participants to learn trust, exercise creative thought, and interact effectively within groups.

That said, what the organisers were aiming to achieve with the following anecdotes is less apparent.

Strange but true…

 “I worked in a team that was having trouble getting along. First activity? We had to go around the room and say what we didn’t like about each other. We might have also had to add what we did like about each other but I honestly only remember the criticisms and people bursting into tears. We went from simply not being able to work together to actively disliking each other in about 30 minutes.”

“My team did ‘horse whispering,’ where you work with horses to learn about effective communication. One of the horses got over-excited, galloped towards the centre of the barn where we were being briefed, and nearly trampled one of my co-workers. It was a bonding experience to a certain extent, but only because we all thought we were going to die.”

“I work in Japan, and my worst team-building exercise was taking a bath with my boss and supervisors (of the same gender). After showering and washing your hair in a group facility, you sit in the bath together, talk and bond. The idea is that when you’re naked, everyone is equal and you feel freer to discuss and joke about things that you wouldn’t in the office.”

“We had to take a big gulp of soda and spit it into a partner’s mouth! It was incredibly disgusting.”

Even more strange?

These are genuine activities available for corporate teams:

  • Sheepdog handling
  • Stuntman training
  • Egg roulette (taking turns to smash eggs on your forehead to see if they’re boiled or raw. Lovely.)
  • Cardboard boat racing
  • Blindfold driving
  • Sumo wrestling
  • Human vs. zombies
  • Chariot racing

The intention of these activities may be to encourage participation and to bring people out of their shell, in the hope this renewed confidence and sense of community continue when everyone’s back at work. However, competition-type events only reinforce good things for those that win; the rest get the message that they’re not good enough or that only winners are rewarded, which isn’t conducive to productive work or the basis of a successful team.

What a successful team-building day looks like

An effective team-building event should: promote a greater understanding within each participant, and the people they work with on a regular basis; leave participants with a positive experience and a feeling that they’ve all worked well together; a pride in the work they do, and for their organisation; a sense that the time was beneficial and that it will ultimately help the whole group work in unity, towards shared goals.

Ensuring that those participants that help others win or get good results are recognised or rewarded – as well as the top dogs – sends a powerful message that ALL contribution is important and of value in group situations. Reminding or showing employees how everyone can benefit if they’re all pulling the same way, towards the same goal, gives the important message that co-operation often results in greater success than solitary initiatives or approaches.

A successful day also builds in time for reflection – particularly helpful for the introverts in the group – so that participants can absorb what they’ve learned, make sense of it, and hopefully understand how those skills can be implemented once back at work.

I’m sure I could find even more evidence of strange and unsuccessful team-building days – perhaps you have your own account? When planned correctly, with suitable outcomes, team-building days can prove useful tools that encourage unity, boost production and build confidence. However, as you’ve seen, the desire to help participants step out of their comfort zone and ‘think outside the box’ can conjure up some very strange tasks/initiatives indeed!

If you’d like my help to improve the success and productivity of a team within your organisation, please do get in touch to discuss the situation, under no obligation. Call 01302 220021, or email me at angela.sabin@executive-life-coaching.co.uk.

Source: http://quickbase.intuit.com/blog/2012/07/06/the-10-most-horrifying-team-building-exercises/#sthash.UPFuHC8m.dpuf

Thanks to Mister GC at freedigitalphotos.net for use of the image.

Challenges for the executive when moving organisations…

ID-100266970 (1)Even when you’re near, or at, the top of an organisation, it’s not set in stone that you’ll never again change jobs. Moving to a new company can be just as unnerving, disruptive and traumatic – probably, even more so – than it would be for anyone else in the company. Below are common challenges executives face in such a situation, and ways to tackle those issues.

Relocation

It’s entirely plausible for many executives that, if they move organisations, they may have to relocate too. Due to honed, niche skill-sets and years of experience, for top-level executives, it’s likely that their next role will come looking for them, rather than the reverse. This, of course, has a bigger impact than just the job change, it can mean the whole family being uprooted, and urgent searches for new schools and a new home.

From a business perspective, coming to a new location means an element of education: on the area’s demographics and consumer habits, on prominent people/stakeholders in the locality, and the perception/reputation their new company attracts.

Preparation is key: finding out as much information about the new area – from all members of the family’s viewpoints – will help the transition process and any reservations about the move. Making sure all the family understands and accepts, the reasons for the move should reduce any resistance they may feel.

Assessing needs

With much responsibility and little autonomy typical of roles near the top of an organisation, it’s important that the executive ascertains what they want from their next position – such as their motivations and interests, because it’s unlikely there’ll be a standard job spec.

It’s essential executives clarify goals and targets they’d personally like to achieve so that they progress their own development as well as that of the company.

Timescales

Leaving a role may not be straightforward for the senior executive, who may be midway through crucial projects and innovative development. Timescales and handover processes need to be determined, so that there’s less risk of disruption to the organisation as a result of the departure.

Particularly concerning head-hunting, it’s plausible that the executive’s new role won’t be ready immediately; some companies strive to secure the best talent as soon as they know a key position is likely to be open, or if someone is set to retire.

In this situation, find out if it’s feasible to spend a little time in the new organisation whilst also still working in your present company. Sometimes it may be possible to take on an interim or consultancy role, if the timescale of your transition is particularly lengthy.

Following big footsteps…succession planning

Imagine the mind-set of the chief executive and his team who had to follow Steve Jobs – the legacy or impact a previous leader leaves can be big shoes to fill.

Even though those in the organisation are looking for continuation, it’s often wise to use the opportunity to evaluate the direction of the company and its practices. Sticking to ‘old ways’ may now not be commercially viable in the face of a continually moving and competitive market.

Everyone has their own ideas; it’s natural for the new leader and his team to want to implement their own plans. It’s possible, however, to respect the past yet still implement radical change, with structured change management initiatives.

Looking forward, not back

32680ptqotfi4ceIt can be a very testing time, moving organisations, particularly for the executive who may have introduced significant practices, products or a culture in their time with their old company. Starting from scratch to put your own stamp on things within the new organisation may evoke feelings of loss for what you’re leaving behind.

Seeing your move as a new challenge that could lead to even bigger successes is a good approach; look to build on your past achievements. It’s also feasible that there’s more scope with your new organisation to achieve, if it’s a bigger company than the one you’re departing from.

Time will help, but in the interim, remaining positive for your family during the transition, your old and new colleagues, and for the benefit of your own mind-set, will make it much smoother.

As an executive coach, I can help your transition from one company to the next, and with any of the feelings associated with the above challenges. Contact me on 01302 220021, or email me at angela.sabin@executive-life-coaching.co.uk for an informal chat regarding your circumstances.

Thanks to stockimages at freedigitalphotos.net for use of the main image.

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