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Category Archive: Blog

  1. Finding Purpose and Meaning in Mid Life

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    If you are between 45 and 55 you have 10 – 20 years of work ahead of you. Do you have career goals and a plan to help you gain satisfaction and find meaning and purpose in the working years ahead and beyond? Many people I speak to don’t. Some are waiting for retirement and all the good they perceive it will bring. They’re waiting in jobs they at best dislike and at worst hate. This is not good for health and wellbeing. This is not good for workplace productivity, workplace culture and society as a whole either.

    Also there is danger that retirement will arrive and life won’t be better. A lack of purpose and associated goals is not good for the soul and is a recipe for further dissatisfaction. Waiting doesn’t fix things, planning and taking action does.

    What can you do to find purpose and meaning in your working life and beyond?

    If you need help to explore your options and possibilities, coaching might be the answer. Give me a call to discuss how that might work 0421 775 924 or email debra.pittam@personcentredladership.com

  2. Ladies: Watch Your Language

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    I was recently leading a project that has a very successful outcome in a very short timeframe. A colleague complemented me on it.

    I said, “It wasn’t just me, I couldn’t have done it without all of help and cooperation I received from the team and the stakeholders too”.

    He responded that it is so common for women to deflect a complement and give others the credit and not themselves.

    I said “I didn’t!” (bit indignant), followed by “I think it’s important for leaders to acknowledge the input and impact of others on the success of ventures they lead.  I strive to do that and always will!”

    He said “But you are doing it at your own expense. A man would not have done that. . A man would have said… thanks and acknowledged the part he played in the projects success as well.” He’s right.

    Hmm. I took a deep breath and said “Ok. Reword: my project was successful because I am good at project management and bringing  a great team with me and inspiring them to join me in the work, which they did brilliantly. I also have great relationship building skills and people trust me. This means I have a broad network and as long as I believe in the project it is easy for me to influence ‘buy in’ “.

    He said “Thats better”

    I said “Oh wow, thank you”. Light bulb moment as they say.

    And I am a coach who works with women. Who should know better than I, the impact of language, self talk and how you present yourself and your talents to others. And how that impacts on success.

    This has taught me, that even though I know the theory of empowerment and the right language and attitude, it is not always easy to implement it. Easier to fall back on the long ago learned feminine default of self depreciation.

    To counter this and stop it in its tracks, I think it is important that we notice and reflect upon what we say about ourselves and how we say it. It’s also a good idea to seek feedback from those we trust about how we are perceived by others when we speak about ourselves and our accomplishments as a colleague and as a leader.

    Adjust language and behaviour accordingly. Repeat.

    I am still not comfortable with the word change and I am working on that with a ‘fake it till you make it’ approach. I cannot unlearn this lesson though. And so I give it to you.

    What will you do with it?

     

    I am happy to chat if you need any help with that. Mail me to book a time on  debra.pittam@personcentredleadership.com

  3. Poem: The Others

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    So many various varied people in the world.

    Each of us has a story that you can’t see from the outside.

    A story that you could not guess no matter how many assumptions you make.

    We ‘other’ others because they are not like us.

    We separate ourselves from them,

    Fear, judge, dislike and vilify them,

    The others.

    Pain, love, despair, hope, grief, joy, disappointment, and pleasure,

    These we all share.

    No matter race, ability, religion, sexual orientation or gender,

    Cis or otherwise.

    As much as we ‘other’, we are the same.

    We must be tolerant, be understanding, be curious, be compassionate.

    Don’t you think?

    Let all of us be us and let none of us be them.

  4. Women in Leadership: the Untapped Power of the Over 50’s

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    Perhaps because I fit the demographic, I have been noticing of late in the media, (social and otherwise), through conversations with clients, friends and colleagues, that women in the 50 plus age bracket are under appreciated and underused in the leadership space across industries. This may be because of time taken off due to caring roles or high level responsibility not sought for the same reason. It could be because women, more than men believe that they are not good enough and won’t apply for positions unless they meet all of the criteria. Or it could be because workplaces are not flexible enough for them to manage competing responsibilities. Whatever the reason, this group of women is an untapped resource that has a lot to contribute.

    To unapologetically generalise, women in their 50’s have had a lot of experience in the workforce and many have also been in a caring role of some kind, whether of children or ageing parents. They are also often active in their communities. Make no mistake, these are leadership roles and the capabilities and behaviours are the same. Some of them are:

    • Influencing
    • Negotiation
    • Delegation
    • Communication skills
    • Conflict management
    • Managing unacceptable behaviour
    • Creativity
    • Tolerance
    • Wisdom
    • Problem solving
    • Nothing much phases them they’ve seen it all before and know it will be ok in the end
    • They understand the importance of family and balance and well being across life
    • They have made mistakes and have taken responsibility many times over
    • They lead more from a place of compassion than ego
    • They are effective workplace culture influencers

    What do you think – am I right or wrong here?

  5. 10 Tips To Get The Most From Your 360 Feedback

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    360 feedback can be an anxiety provoking experience. Having undertaken the assessment myself a few times and also facilitated and coached many people through theirs, I have noticed that the mindset you adopt about both the process and the content is key to your perspective, your reactions, your learning and how much value you gain from the experience.

    So What is 360 Feedback?

    It is a process, which enables you to find out how the people you work with and influence, experience your leadership. These commonly include direct reports, peers and managers (your raters). Each of your chosen raters, completes a survey in which they rate your leadership behaviours, capability and effectiveness. Apart from (usually) your manager, all of the raters responses are generally anonymous.

    Why Engage in 360 Feedback

    If you take a look at the Johari Window Model developed by Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham in 1955, you will notice that there are four areas of self knowing:

    1. That which we know about ourselves and are happy to share with others
    2. That which we know about ourselves that we do not want others to know and which we hide
    3. That which others know about us, but we don’t know about ourselves: our blind spot
    4. That which is completely unknown by ourselves and others and a potential area for discovery

    (For more information about Johari see the link in the references)

    360 feedback though the lens of this model, has the potential to help us (depending on our mindset) to increase our self-knowledge and awareness and gain insight into our blind spots in the context of how we work with and lead others. This in conjunction with education, training and/or coaching is a process that is commonly used in leadership development.

    Creating a Positive Learning Experience

    David Rock (2009) likens the feeling we get prior to impending feedback, akin to that experienced when someone is following you down a dark alley. I think you will agree this is not a useful feeling to have prior to receiving your 360 feedback. Below are some tips that may assist you to reduce this feeling and instead, develop a mindset that is open to learning and growth in this context.

    1. Find a coach who is experienced in facilitating 360 feedback and has a track record of helping people achieve positive results. They should be able to help you identify your strengths, consider your career goals and what broad outcomes you would like to gain from the feedback before you begin
    2. Before your feedback session, consider your career goals. Where do you want to be in 1 year, 3 years, 5?
    3. As you begin to review and unpack your feedback, remind yourself that completing these surveys is not easy and rater’s have taken the time to give you the gift of their opinion. Most people do this from a place of wanting you to do well
    4. Remember that we each see the world as we are, not as it actually is. The raters are also within their own Johari window and generally speaking can only rate your leadership from their perspective. No one can see the whole picture. That is why the feedback is facilitated. So you can be assisted to unpack it and apply it to your situation, role and career gaols
    5. It’s ok to feel emotional about your feedback. It’s a perfectly normal to feel disappointed that you are not perfect and see the negative more than the positive at first. Consider that feedback doesn’t happen in isolation, it occurs in the context of the ups and downs of life, both yours and your raters, so be kind to yourself
    6. Focus on the positives and identified strengths in the first instance. These are your foundation and from these you can build, learn and grow
    7. It is through the process of facilitation and coaching you will be assisted to make sense of your feedback and determine how you want to move forward in your leadership development. You shouldn’t have to do this alone
    8. You don’t have to agree with all of the feedback. Negative feedback can be either general or it can be context specific related to an event, or to a specific day or situation. It’s important to unpack it with your facilitator and discuss and determine what you want to take on board, what you don’t and why.
    9. You don’t have to take on board all of the suggestions for development, even if you agree with them all. No leaders are perfect and everyone will have areas they want to improve, but if you take on too much at once you will be less effective. Consider the top three that relate directly to your role and/or to your career goals. Once you have achieved your goals around those you can always go back and look at other areas.
    10. Zenger and Folkman (2009) talk about fatal flaws in leadership. These are a list of 10 behaviours and qualities that their research indicates characterise the worst leaders. If one of these is identified throughout your feedback, they suggest it needs to be addressed as a priority (i.e. one of your top 3). See the reference list for a link to their article.

    I wish you well in your leadership development and if you implement these tips, or not, I would love to hear how  360 feedback went for you. If you are looking for a coach to help you with 360 feedback please get in touch.

    References

    David Rock, 2009. http://2uxlo5u7jf11pm3f36oan8d6-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/ManagingWBrainInMind.pdf Available 26.2.18

    Johari Window https://www.businessballs.com/self-awareness/johari-window-model-and-free-diagrams-68/ Accessed 26.2.18

    Ten Fatal Flaws That Derail Leaders, Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman. June 2009. https://hbr.org/2009/06/ten-fatal-flaws-that-derail-leaders Accessed 26.2.18

  6. Do you know your values?

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    I am currently in the process of having conversations with a range of women for a book I am writing called Women with Heart.

    The women I have the privilege to speak with are extraordinary women who are invested in what they do, who care and have integrity. These are not high profile women though; rather they are extraordinary, ordinary women whose experiences are seldom heard and whose successes are seldom acknowledged and celebrated, even by them, themselves!

    As I ponder and reflect on the conversations I have been so lucky to have had, I can see a number of themes are emerging. Themes that they all have in common, at least broadly. One of these, is their principles and their values. They know them, they live them, they are guided by them, they find comfort and strength within them. They are the foundation of integrity and even self love. These are not trivial impacts. These are powerful. Knowing and living by your values then, is important, something powerful you can do for your self. We all have them but it can be hard to express what they are. Can you articulate yours? I would love it if you would share them and how they impact you in the comments.

    If you find it hard to articulate them, try these questions out and when you have answered them think about the emotion and the value that lies underneath. Some examples of values are at the end of this post to give you some inspiration if you are stuck:

     

    • What do you most love doing?
    • What pushes your buttons, makes you feel irritated or angry?
    • What do you spend most of your money on?
    • What are you proud of?
    • What is really important to you, something that you will not compromise on?
    • What brings you joy?
    • What does success mean to you?

    Some examples of possible values are below to give you some ideas:

    Respect, fairness, honesty, integrity, learning, social justice, family, collaboration, courage, conscientiousness, fun, love, open mindedness, flexibility, freedom, empathy, compassion, loyalty, openness. And there are many more…

     

     

  7. Do You Need More Connection in Your Life?

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    One of the joys of working at home is that I get to check on my friend’s puppy! And as I sit here with said Puppy, it makes me think about connection.

    What I know about connection, is that just as the puppy needs it, so do we all. It is central to our well-being and according to the research I have read, it is important for our longevity too.

    Across interviews I conducted with a range of women for my book Women with Heart, so far connection has been a recurring theme. So I know connection is hugely important and we must pay attention to our and others need for it.

    I know it doesn’t necessarily take much time in a day or a week to fuel our personal feeling of connection or that of others. Often a few moments are enough. It does however take effort and intention.

    There are many kinds of connection and it occurs and across a range of relationships: family, friends, co-workers, and teammates. Also we can feel connection through animals and nature. You may identify with others. The depth of connection varies across all of these too.

    Connection matters across a range of contexts including school, work, community and sport. I’m sure you can think more here too.

    The strong connections we make in life, persist across time and distance.

    I know that a sense of disconnection can feel devastating.

    Implicit within connection is openness, kindness, empathy, thoughtfulness, fun, appreciation and effort. Also when necessary, compassion and lack of judgement are required too.

    A feeling of connection can happen with a stranger over a shared interest or passion. The woman in the vet’s office with the beautiful Dalmatian cross, I am thinking of you.

    And to go full circle from where I began this conversation, connections can happen with other people’s pets too. Examples: the aforementioned Dalmatian and of course the puppy.

    The purpose of this post is really to remind us to stop for a moment and seek to create and perpetuate connection. So I will finish this post with 2 questions for you to consider:

    • How can you reach out today to meet your need for connection and at the same time meet someone else’s?

    and

    • If you are a leader, how can you foster connection in your workplace?

    I would love to hear you thoughts about connection in the comments.

     

  8. What is Your Biggest Learning From Failure?

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    Today I have been transcribing interviews I conducted with some incredible wise and authentic women for my book Women with Heart (to be finished in the fullness of time!). This came through loud and clear as a theme.

    When you fail (and we all do), be patient and kind to yourself, especially when you are young. Sometimes it can take a while to understand how you have learned and grown as a result. #failure #wisdom #learning

     

  9. Would You Consider Hiring a 50 Plus Woman In a Leadership Role? It Would Be a Shame Not To

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    Here is my assertion. Women in the 50 plus age bracket are an untapped resource in the leadership space across industries. Even if they have never been in a senior paid leadership role. Older Women have a lot to contribute.

    That is not to say that younger women or older men are not also fantastic at leadership. But when women reach 50 and beyond, a range of stereotypes are wheeled out to keep us in our place and there is an increasing lack of employment opportunities available to us. Now women are not strangers to stereotypes and we know they have a big impact on women’s equality generally. I have written about this before. It commonly comes up in the coaching work I do with Women and I also address it in my online programs. But the stereotypes that exist for those of us past 50 are different. I am sure when you read them, they will be familiar to you:

    • We are overqualified
    • Or, we don’t have the skills due to time out of the labour market.
    • Unpaid work is devalued even by the spouses of women who have spent time working in the home (and who are often the ones hiring). Also a workers value is determined by their previous ability to earn
    • We poorly adapt to change
    • Will be sick a lot and may moan about hot flushes
    • The skills required in a caring role, still predominantly undertaken by women across our lives, are misunderstood, underappreciated and undervalued.

    No doubt you can think of others.

    So lets change the conversation and have a look at what 50 plus women have to offer. Lets flip some of these outdated and unfair views and stereotypes.

    To unapologetically generalise:

    Women in in their fifties and beyond have often been in a caring role, whether of children or ageing parents, the skill set is the same and it includes all of the following leadership qualities and capabilities. If you are not convinced think about your own mother or another amazing mother you know and apply each of these concepts to that role. Think of managing toddlers and teens, illnesses and boundaries and creating positive family cultures:

    • Visioning (for family, for children, for self)
    • Goal setting
    • Influencing
    • Negotiation
    • Giving and receiving feedback
    • Creating a shared understanding and creating positive cultures
    • Conflict resolution
    • Change management / adaptability
    • Problem solving
    • Having difficult conversations
    • Use of strategies and tools
    • Acknowledging and praising good work
    • Effective decision making
    • Delegation
    • High level of Emotional Intelligence and behaviour regulation
    • And they have wanted others to be the best they can be and helped them to get there.

    In addition, older Women:

    • Have had to keep learning and growing
    • Take less notice of their ego, are less concerned with what others think of them and are more outward looking
    • Know a lot about people and human behaviour
    • They communicate well, even in stressful situations
    • They know a lot about a great many things, but generally don’t need to keep proving it
    • Nothing much phases them they’ve seen it all before and know it will be ok in the end
    • They have failed many times and got up to try again
    • They have made many mistakes and have learnt to take responsibility for them. They have helped others to do the same.
    • They understand the importance of family career and well being across life

    Would you consider hiring a 50 plus Woman in a leadership role? It would be a shame not to wouldn’t it?

    If you are 50 plus and would like some support with your career planning please give me a call on  0421 775 924

    References 

    Women Over 50 Can’t Find Jobs https://www.pbs.org/newshour/economy/women-over-50-face-cant-find-jobs [14.11.17]

    Never mind the menopause, why women in the workplace are finished at 50 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/work/never-mind-the-menopause-why-women-in-the-workplace-are-finished/ [14.11.17]

     

  10. Is Your View Of Feedback Helping Or Hindering Your Learning And Growth?

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    What are the first words that come into your head when you think about

    • Giving feedback?
    • Receiving feedback?

    David Rock (2008) tell us that when we hear the word ‘feedback’ our brain responds as though someone is walking behind us down a dark alley. Do you answers to the above questions reflect that?

    Feedback, both positive and negative is of course central to learning. In such a changing world of work in which we must constantly learn and grow, it is important that we can both give and receive feedback well.

    Lets see if we can change our perceptions about feedback. This is what I believe about it:

    • Feedback stops gossip
    • Feedback helps us and helps others
    • Through feedback people learn and grow – it is a gift
    • Through feedback we can learn more about ourselves and become better people
    • It’s normal and ok to feel defensive after receiving negative feedback. It’s what you do with the information that is important
    • Asking for feedback about specific areas that you would like to develop is empowering
    • There is no magic formula for giving either positive or negative feedback. You can find many resources and frameworks. What is important is to:
      • Be authentic and do it from a place of caring about the person
      • Make sure it occurs as soon after you have noticed the need for it as possible (both positive and developmental)
      • Be direct
      • Give developmental feedback in private
      • Find out how each person you work with likes to receive positive feedback
    • While it important to consider all feedback, you don’t have to accept all of the feedback you receive. You can choose what is relevant to you and your situation based on
      • Who the giver is in relation to their relationship to you and their experience and knowledge in the area they are providing you feedback in
      • What your goals are

    Are your perceptions and beliefs about feedback serving you?

    Thinking back to your answers to the questions at the beginning of this article consider the beliefs you hold about feedback and

    • Identify those that benefit you and that you need to keep?
    • Decide which ones are hindering you and that you need to change?
    • Now create for yourself a new positive way of viewing feedback.

    Once you begin to view feedback differently you will feel differently about giving and receiving it. The only thing left to do then, is to find a way using your existing communication skills, or by developing new ones with which you are comfortable to make it an even better experience.

    This article has been adapted from our online course Women in Leadership  If you would like more information about that or coaching, please give me a call on   0421 775 924.

    Reference

    David Rock, SCARF: a brain-based model for collaborating with and influencing others, Neuron Leadership Journal, Issue one, 2008

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