It’s that time of year again. The pressure’s on to buy buy and buy more. On the heels of Black Friday (whoever came up with that name was cheekily brilliant), we now have Cyber Week! Everywhere we look there’s some corporate giant waiting to pounce on our wallets.
This mass media marketing is, of course, designed to make us think we must have that new electronic, or fancy pair of shoes. But do we really need it?
The same thing happens in our careers. We’re told we must develop our leadership competencies so we can climb that ladder that beckons us to the top. Managers tell us we must directly supervise employees to become a Director. And the message is, everyone must aim to be a leader.
If you’re an entrepreneur you’re hearing so many “must” do’s to earn multiple figures or market to our target niche. Business mentors are ripe with recipes for that one path to success.
Like the pre-Christmas mass marketing that dupes us into thinking we must have the toys, gadgets and latest of the latest, so do the manager, mentors, leadership books and business publications demand we need to be and act a certain way.
But are they right? Or are they really telling us how to reach their goals and their vision of success?
I’ve recently had the privilege of coaching a large number of rising stars in a sizeable organization. Their managers tapped them on the shoulder to attend an intensive leadership program. While some of them truly do have the goal of making it up the ladder, others are confused and feeling pressured.
What I find most interesting is when we peel the layers off their onion we find that their own career goals are in contrast to what they believe they’re “supposed” to do as defined by their manager, organization or business mentor.
This is when the confusion sets in. Questions invariably come up:
- Will the company still value me if I don’t want to move up?
- Will I be passed over for interesting projects?
- How will my colleagues view me?
- What value do I bring to the company?
If you own your business, your questions are likely:
- Why do I have to follow what everyone else is doing?
- Will I be a failure if I don’t make 6+ figures?
- Why does my sales funnel have to look like B-School’s?
These are natural responses and reactions. But what if I asked you, “What’s your definition of your purpose and the legacy you want to share with your organization or business?”
That changes everything!
I know this may seem obvious, but it bares saying: it’s unlikely you’ll ever be happy following what others do or what they expect you to do.
So now what?
While having a coach guide you forward is an asset in gaining clarity and perspective, you can start by tossing aside the previous questions and focus on uncovering your true goals and a path to achieving them. Start by asking yourself:
- Who is responsible for my career?
- How important is my work/life balance?
- Am I passionate about the work I do?
- Do I like being an expert in my field?
- Do I crave greater responsibility for and interest in leading others or the bigger picture?
- Is financial achievement my primary motivation?
- Am I open to moving laterally versus up, in the organization?
- Do I actually care what others think of my career direction and me?
The next step is getting clear on your beliefs. Try writing down 5 beliefs you hold regarding work and career. Compare these with your answers to the questions above. Do they align or are there disconnects? These disconnects are critical holes that need your attention; this is the vacancy between what you believe and what you desire. The idea here is to go into this space and honestly ask yourself which is your truth – your so-called belief or your so-called answers to the questions.
Please know there is no right or wrong answer. You’re entitled to your own career goals and a path to reach them. You’re also entitled to question your beliefs.
There are no musts or rigid rules in your career – only your ability to discover what is right for you. Like the catalogue full of enticing trinkets guaranteed to bring you joy and happiness, so too are your managers’ or mentors’ expectations for you – illusions painted by someone else.
The bottom line is – you get to decide. You actually need to decide. Getting clear and forging your true path is no doubt the most important career development step you can take.
I remember the first time I hired a coach. I had no idea what to expect, nor did I know what coaching was really about. Our first meeting was like getting to know a friend. Sure there was trust building through our conversation, and he was super nice. But when I left I didn’t feel challenged.
I returned to our next meeting and again it was more of the same – great listening on his part, but I still wasn’t sure where we were going. Eventually I realized that I had entered into this arrangement without enough information to give me the greatest impact. Was the coaching helpful? Yes, but I believe it would have been way more powerful if I’d asked the right questions at the beginning to make the most of the experience and to really get the “right fit” with my coach.
It’s common practice to interview a coach before signing on. Here are 7 critical questions to ask to make sure you get the most out of your experience – after all, you or your company are paying good money for the service so why not get the absolute best for you?
- What are her credentials and work history?
I don’t know about you, but knowing my coach is trained and credentialed is really important for me. It tells me she isn’t a flash in the pan or someone who’s just decided to hang out a shingle. Knowing my coach’s background is key. I want to know there are common milestones we can both relate to. After all, you wouldn’t hire a CEO who doesn’t have the requisite credentials.
- Does she give advice?
If I’m going to work with a coach on my vision and goals, I don’t want advice. I want the focus to be on my story. I’m looking for clarity and direction that works for me. I don’t know about you, but I have plenty of friends waiting to give me advice. For my coach, I want them to listen and ask me the powerful questions so I can figure things out.
- Is she available in between sessions if something important comes up?
Life doesn’t just happen in a one-hour time slot every few weeks. It happens constantly and sometimes we find our self in a sticky situation. If that occurs in between our sessions, I want to know I can email or call her to talk about the issue. That’s what I’m paying my coach to do; be my thinking partner when the going gets tough.
- Is she willing to challenge me?
I’m looking for change. I want to shift my perspective and find out what I don’t know. I know this will be tough work, but I’m committed so I want to make sure my coach is comfortable challenging me with tough questions. It’s like peeling an onion and if I’m not challenged we’ll be sitting with a smelly vegetable rather than getting to the essence of the issues.
- Will she be my champion?
This is especially critical if my company is paying for my coaching. I want to know that she’s in my corner, and even though there may be common goals with my organization that we work on, the sessions are about my success and me. Having a champion thinking partner will enable me to be open and know that even when the going gets rough, I have her in my corner.
- What is the process of coaching and what can I expect will happen?
Would you leap off a cliff edge into a cold river without asking what to expect? Not likely. So why enter into a coaching relationship without knowing what the process will be. I use the Essential C process that clearly describes how the client and I move toward sustained change (check out my Essential C blog). I want to know my clients are in expert hands and that we aren’t just meeting for tea.
- Will the coaching sessions be confidential?
This is the most important question of all. Like question five, if my company is paying for the coaching, I need to know that anything we discuss is completely confidential. Confidentiality creates trust and safety, and believe me, coaching can bring out deep ideas and emotions that most of us would prefer not be made public.
Let’s face it, coaching costs money and getting the most from it requires entering into the relationship with eyes wide open. Not every coach will be the right coach for you. So before you hire a coach, take in your list and don’t be afraid to ask your tough questions.
You deserve the “right fit”!
There are very few of us who can create and build a thriving business completely on our own. I admire those who can.
I don’t know about you, but I have a small list of go-to women (okay, plus one man) whose expertise and encouragement enables me to grow and prosper in my business.
Each person has some piece of the “must have” information, perspective or expertise that I don’t have. For example, my pal in Toronto is a marketing whiz. I have my content strategist who always steps in and grabs the details out from under me at just the right moment (in case you didn’t know I’m a big picture kind of girl). There’s my techie guru across the continent and my mastermind American coach/entrepreneur buddies who help me wrestle down my next big idea. And not to forget my own executive coach – she’s always got my back.
Grateful is an understatement.
Naturally, we all come with unique skills, experiences, and viewpoints so no two businesses will ever look alike. I’ve taken courses and bought the books; learned the winning formulas for this and that; tested and failed; adapted and flourished. And my truth from these experiences is that, yes, I can learn the logistics but I will never succeed to my own standard of achievement if I don’t bring ME to the business equation.
Let me explain.
I’m driven by my values of uniqueness and professionalism. Therefore, I believe that for me to be successful, I must bring my distinctive thinking and way of being to my business. And I must do that by using my expertise to provide my clients with a respectful, encouraging and authentic experience.
My differentiator in business is me.
I’m super clear on what strengths I bring to the equation. I’m also well aware of where I fall short.
I’ve always placed a high value on self-development and I’ve done tons to understand who I am and what makes me – well, me.
When I started my business I relied heavily on my strengths, and I still do. Unlike many people, I didn’t have fear or doubts. I didn’t have sleepless nights of worry and panic.
What I did have is a deep belief in myself.
And that, my friends, has come from being really committed to working on my personal and professional development.
Doing the work includes time, curiosity, coaching and a deep-seeded focus on the process. And now I bring a similar process to my business.
The best part is that I’ve created flow in how I run my business. I know what I’m good at and what causes me sheer havoc. I know how to shift things around to draw on natural strengths that minimize my stress when my computer crashes!
Why am I telling you all this? Because I believe we all have the capacity to succeed. And the truth is, we just need to understand our uniqueness and our qualities and capitalize on them to create our own flow.
I quickly became tired of the “formulas to success” – other people’s methods. I’m sure they work wonders for them, but not for me. Having my business isn’t about cutting corners. It’s hard work. And when I use my strengths and fill the gaps by hiring others who have those talents, I can move mountains and I am happy!
I tell my husband that my quality-of-life-meter when up 50% the day I hired a graphic designer, brand strategist and technologist. And it zoomed higher when I added my content strategist to the mix. You see I’m a knucklehead when it comes to labouring over details. Ask me to create the vision and I’m good.
By now you may be wondering why I’m focused on my business and what it takes to run it. Here’s the thing, this same approach, no matter what you do or where you do it is key to your career. Know yourself, understand your own process that works for you and surround yourself with top-notch people who are better than you at what they do!
My team gets me and I give them space to do what they’re great at. With them, I’ve created my own specific, unique and successful process for my business.
You get to where you want to be by knowing exactly who you are. (Tweet It!)
Personality profiling and assessments are a common and useful tool for coaches.
But, there are so, so many.
When I first started my coaching practice, I was overwhelmed at the sheer volume of tools available to coaches to help them help their clients understand themselves as the first step to development (personal or professional).
Most typically provide a self-report inventory (questionnaire) or other standardized instrument designed to reveal aspects of an individual’s character or psychological makeup. They are a way of digging a bit deeper into self-understanding.
Corporations, the military, and the government use them to understand different leadership styles and the dynamics of working in groups.
Personality assessments have been used since the 1800’s. The modern version dates back to psychologist Carl Jung – arguably the granddaddy of personality testing. Since then, many academics have developed variations on Jung’s work.
There are a myriad of assessments available which all offer many things to many people. Assessments based on the self-report inventory depend on how you answer or respond to questions or items in a survey. The more honest we are in our answers, the more likely the accuracy.
But not all profiling tools are created equal.
In my career, I’ve done at least eight different assessments and at face value the results are similar. They tell me I’m a big picture thinker, a motivator, spontaneous, and a people-person. All good information to know. But what many don’t do is give me my underlying motivations and how to use my strengths and understand my gaps.
For my practice, I went on a hunt. I wanted to find the personality assessment that would be of greatest value to my clients – one that doesn’t put us in a box.
In his blog, Peter J. Smyth, PhD explains why Lumina is different. Most other assessments measure you as having one or the other opposing aspects (eg. either one is introvert or extravert, outcome focused or people focused, flexible or structured – never truly both). Lumina incorporates the opposite aspects of your personality across a continuum. For example, you can have strength as an extrovert while still having some extroverted tendencies in your personality.
Lumina Learning offers our personalized portrait through three unique yet integrated views (personas): underlying, everyday and overextended self.
Let’s dig into these a little more.
This is our preferred behaviour. These qualities feel natural and motivate us. It’s our closest family or friends that get glimpses of us in our underlying persona. It’s my husband and daughters who see me in my imperfect yet natural glory.
Our everyday behaviors are the ones we make a conscious effort to use, especially when we take perceived expectations into account. For many of us, showing up at our workplace often means we adapt ourselves to the culture and demands of that environment. We may put on an outgoing face even though we’re more comfortable shutting our office door.
We all have those times when we’re stressed and start to use too much of a quality. This is when we are overextended. I know that when I get overwhelmed I can’t make a decision if my life depended on it. Naturally strong at making quick, solid decisions, being hesitant is a sure sign I need to take notice and slow down.
What I find so useful about looking at things this way is that rather than beating ourselves up for certain qualities, we can learn that certain traits only come out when we’re overextended. Consequently we can work to avoid putting ourselves in situations when stressed.
Or, say we’re feeling really great when we operate within our underlying persona. We can then work to create conditions that allow for more of that. Becoming a coach has meant I work at aligning my underlying self with how I show up in my coaching practice. It’s important to me that clients experience the authentic me.
We can use the understanding of how we function in our three personas to understand ourselves better in different environments and under different circumstances.
How then can we bring this level of deep self-awareness and understanding into our business? Check out more about Lumina by clicking on the Lumina link on my Corporate page!
The truth can hurt sometimes and we often find out our hard truths indirectly.
Maybe you’re left out of a gathering of friends.
Or a job you thought you were perfect for, didn’t pan out.
Of course, one-off situations like this are not cause for alarm but paying attention to patterns in the way people respond to you can give some clues as to where your blind spots lie.
Your friends tell you that you weren’t included because you aren’t flexible and it was a last minute event.
And the hiring panel provides feedback and tells you they need a candidate who is conceptual.
Do any of these stories resonate with you? If you’re like many clients I’ve worked with, when faced with a truth about yourself (from someone else) – you might feel gob-smacked.
The good news is that you’re in great company. Almost all of us have qualities we don’t have full awareness about. Or we believe we have certain shortfalls or characteristics and they’re not at all how we’re perceived.
How does this happen?
Let’s break this down by starting with how others perceive us versus how we see ourselves. These two perspectives could be miles apart like in the examples above. But before you jump to the conclusion that others’ perspectives of you must be the truth, it’s important to understand that self-awareness does in fact have two sides:
Internal awareness – your own perceptions of yourself
External awareness – how others perceive you
Now here’s the key – it’s as important to know who we are as to know how we show up in the world.
Let me give you an example.
I’m highly resilient but I hate conflict. I tend to avoid difficult situations and challenging conversations with others. In the way I see myself, I run to the hills when the going gets tough but I’m known to others as being able to handle high-pressure situations. Funny that.
So what does this mean? What I think of myself and how others see me in the frame of conflict is miles apart. There must be something here I’m just not getting. Shouldn’t the two perceptions – internal and external – be congruent?
Let’s dig a little deeper.
We all have a persona from which we think and behave. But did you know your persona could actually be broken down into three distinct personas?
You have your:
underlying persona – you at your most natural (this is where you get your motivation from)
everyday persona – how you tend to behave and how others might see you
overextended persona – who you are and how you react under stress
Lumina Learning, a tool that I use to help my clients build self-awareness, makes use of years of research and psychometric testing to figure out exactly how we show up in different situations and how to leverage the strengths in each area. Lumina testing measures 24 different qualities that make up you and figure out the amount of each quality for your three personas.
So when I was thinking about writing this blog, I became really curious about my tough quality. So I pulled out my Lumina Spark portrait and guess what I discovered? My peeps are right!
My tough quality measures at 3% when I show up in the world (everyday) but I have 64% toughness in my underlying persona. Hmmm. For years I’ve bought into the idea that I just didn’t have the ability to face conflict despite the fact that underneath it all I’ve got a fair amount of capacity for facing conflict.
So why is this?
Well it could be many reasons. But, I do know that even though I naturally have toughness, somewhere along the way I must have believed it wasn’t a “good” quality to have or didn’t value it enough to develop aligning behaviours. It really is just undeveloped.
Whatever the reason, the point how others see me is spot on. I know that people see me as being able to be tough when it’s called for. But my take on my own ability is off. So, now that I have that bit of information, I can focus on how I can show up comfortably (to me) and appropriately when conflict does arise. I actually have it in me to do it.
The same goes for when people perceive you one way and we know differently. When this happens, it’s time to sleuth out which is closer to the truth. And then put that strong quality to work or stop using up energy when it isn’t in you.
That my friends, is self-awareness!
It’s understanding yourself, as objectively as possible, and leveraging that understanding to create a life and business that aligns with our natural inclinations, not challenges them.
Curious and want more? I’ve got a FREE webinar May 12th that takes a deep dive into why getting to know yourself is critical for your business – Build your Biz by Being YOU!
I remember taking a big sigh and letting out a lot of unwanted air when I stopped working for a large organization.
Slipping into my home office every morning with my hot latte felt like heaven – no chitter chatter, no one else’s lunch bag ruffling and best of all, not having to listen to the unsubstantiated theories on who’s going to get then next coveted job.
Fast forward a couple of years and I noticed my shoulders starting to tighten and my head slightly ache by the end of my workday. I don’t keep music on when I work, and my client appointments don’t take up every hour. So what was underneath this tension? These feeling were the same as I used to get at my former workplace.
At first I felt a little panic creep in. Was I headed to toward the big S(tress), god forbid. Was I afraid? You bet!
So then I started to purposely pay attention to what was going on around me. Where was I letting my attention roam? What was I hearing? What was I doing?
Eureka! I discovered that I was, in fact, in the early stages of noise stress.
But how could that be? My ears weren’t hearing banter, shuffling, clicking or muffled sounds of tense board meetings.
The noise was coming from my computer in the form of emails, instant messaging and social media in the form of a constant onslaught of written words aimed at grabbing my attention.
In my quest to feel “connected” with the world, I had managed to follow every successful on-line entrepreneur, coach, techie and writer out there! They all seem so smart and successful. I could learn from each of them. They could be my online mentors. And they offer great free advice.
And don’t get me started on Groupon and other online markets. Like a great fashion or home décor magazine, they have everything I don’t need!
Now I don’t for a second blame anyone else for enabling this noise – and it’s definitely noise – creep into my head. I did it to myself.
But here’s the thing. If you don’t take control over what you let into your inbox and social media feeds, the noise level will just keep rising. It’ll draw you into the care and feeding cycle of social media. Worst of all, it’ll impact your production, your time, your mental health and even your confidence (cause let’s face it, there’s always someone smarter, better looking and more creative in the virtual world).
So what to do? Here are 6 tips I’ve found to dim the clamor and relieve the tension in my shoulders:
1. If you work from home, keep your work email and social media feeds free from on-line shopping carts – after all, if you work in an office for a company you wouldn’t go shopping on work hours (I hope)
2. If you do work for someone else, leave your personal iPhone, or Android safely in the bottom drawer of your desk with the ringer and buzzer off
3. Schedule time once or twice a day to check your social media if you must; otherwise wait till evening – it’ll all still be there
4. Choose to follow only your top 7 on-line mentors – the people that you continually get value from and unsubscribe to everyone else
5. If you do subscribe to a new business/website to get their free opt-in or make a purchase, immediately unsubscribe afterwards. If you think they’ll give you ongoing value with amazing information, keep the subscription BUT drop another website/business off your list that isn’t giving you real value
6. And finally, be mindful of those who follow you and make it worth their while every time you tweet, write a blog, or email – make it your goal to be on their top 7 list!
I’m so glad I got afraid of the noise. It made me realize I only want a community around me who share ideas, believe in the idea of reciprocity, have something relevant to say and most of all, who I can give value to.
Now how about telling me how you manage the noise?