Accelerate your career with a Personal Board of Directors

Hi all,

As we wrap up annual performance review season, you’ll all be on the receiving end of feedback. Some of it will be good, some of it will be less so, but hopefully it will all be constructive. With any luck there won’t be any big surprises in there, that’s always unpleasant. Feedback should be a continuous process throughout the year, driven by the individual.

A great way of creating that pipeline of continuous feedback, advice and support is to think of yourself as a company. Banoub Inc. if you will. Has a nice ring to it actually. The best companies operate with a solid, skilled and experienced Board of Directors, working together to provide the direction that the company needs. No one person can do it all themselves.

And that’s the same with you. We all need our own Personal Board of Directors. The people that can advise, critique, praise, motivate and generally steer each of us through the minefield that is our career.

I like to think of my own Personal Board of Directors as 6 – 8 people that connect with me in a number of ways. Here are a few suggestions.

  • A Subject Matter Expert

    • Someone that knows my subject area inside out. A person I can learn technical and job-related skills from. A real expert in the field.

 

  • The no BS advisor

    • We all need someone who gives it to you straight. Someone who’s opinion comes with no BS. They’ll tell you how they see it, whether it is uncomfortable for you or not. Often a great way to get the feedback that others are too scared to give you.

 

  • A super-fan

    • Some people just like you. They might like the way you work, or your attitude, or you just click. It’s always good to have a positive fan on your Personal Board of Directors. They’re handy for spreading that positive message about you and for selling your achievements.

 

  • A critic

    • While your super-fan will tell you all the things you do well, it’s good to balance that out with someone who will let you know where you’re going wrong. They might seem negative, but if they’re spotting flaws that you are missing then they’re extremely valuable. Obviously attitude is key here; you want feedback to be constructive.

 

  • The connector

    • We all know someone who seems to know everyone! They’re all over your social feeds, all over forums and events. Their name crops up everywhere and they seem to get all the info on what’s going on. It’s great to be close to someone who has this profile. They’re able to connect you with people from all over the place and they open so many doors. And as cliche as it sounds, it really is all about the network.

 

  • Someone from Generation-Not-You

    • Your perspective on life is profoundly influenced by your generation. And there’s not a whole lot you can do about that. I like my Personal Board of Directors to feature someone from another generation. Be they younger, or older, they see things through a whole new lens and as such can offer an invaluable opinion.

 

  • The non-work advisor

    • I find it useful to have an advisor that I don’t share any real work connection with. Maybe they share the same hobby as you, or have similar life challenges, the non-work advisor can offer unique commentary that you can use to make real progress.

 

Finally I like to think how I can act as someone else’s board member. Maybe you’ll have a mutual arrangement with some of your own advisors? But do consider how your own skills can be of use to acquaintances at work. The recipient might not even realize you could be of use. So offer!

You’ll probably already have some of these roles already filled, maybe without even realizing it. And just like a real company, there will be turnover, hirings and firings, and maybe the odd scandal, but the group will undoubtedly provide a great deal of collective value.  One thing is for sure, your Personal Board of Directors will provide a continuous fire-hose of actionable feedback and advice, that you can use to shape your career for the better. Don’t rely on the usual feedback channels, go out and get hiring!

Regards, Paul

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You’re a manager, but are you a coach?

Hello all. Thought I’d take a few mins to continue my series on leadership. Check out some of my other posts on Emotional Intelligence etc.

This one is about management and in particular, how management is a distinct skill from the oft-used discipline of “coaching”.

We hear a lot about management. About what makes a great manager, what makes a bad manager and how to develop your own management skills. And that’s important. Effective managers are vital to the success of a firm and also to developing and maintaining a cohesive team. In fact I’ve often seen that people don’t usually leave jobs, they leave managers.

We also hear a lot about coaching. Managers are encouraged to act as coaches to get the best from their teams, but often the specific skills involved in coaching are sometimes not fully understood.  The terms “managing” and “coaching” are also often used interchangeably, incorrectly in my opinion.

Managing refers to the task of overseeing the work of others, be that a team or a project.

Typically we see management responsibilities as

  • Delegating tasks and work items
  • Providing feedback
  • Monitoring performance
  • Onboarding and orienting new staff
  • Resolving conflicts
  • Resource planning
  • Status reporting and tracking

That’s very different from coaching. Coaching is much more of a two-way process between the coach and the employee which aims to implement and refine a framework that empowers the employee to develop their own skills in the areas of attitude, judgement, motivation and emotional intelligence.

Great coaches excel at the following

  • Listening, absorbing and understanding points of view
  • Asking probing but open-ended questions that encourage the employee to think
  • Providing feedback
  • Fostering behavioural change, initiated by the employee
  • Showing empathy and high emotional intelligence
  • Recognizing strengths and focusing energy on refinement
  • Helping the employee develop a natural support framework

I always think of my role as a coach first and a manager second. Sure we need to get the job done, and management skills are critical to that, but it’s also vital for me to develop a team that feels empowered to take charge of their own career. Coaching helps people to build those critical frameworks to self-support and self-manage, which gives the employee a much greater sense of satisfaction than merely following management direction. Seeing individuals join a team and then using coaching techniques to develop that person is one of the most satisfying aspects of my role, especially if that person then begins to naturally coach other team members or peers.

So I’d always encourage managers to have a strong focus on the coaching aspects of their role. Managing people enables them to get the job done, but coaching people develops the leaders of tomorrow.

As always, comments invited.

Cheers, Paul

Further reading

https://venturefizz.com/stories/boston/management-vs-coaching-whats-difference

https://www.forbes.com/sites/work-in-progress/2012/05/01/know-when-to-manage-and-when-to-coach/

Emotional Intelligence – The Secret Sauce for your Career

Hi,

Back in the day I was a young, bullish upstart, with an over-inflated opinion of myself. I’d come to work, think I was the bees knees and then watch as others moved past me in their careers. It was always someone else that got the promotion, or the great feedback, or the pay rise. How could that be? I just couldn’t work it out. Why were these people leaving me behind? What was the differentiating factor? It was all just so unfair!

Then as I got more experienced and read more it became clear that these people all had one thing in common. A secret sauce for success. Something that is present in almost all successful people and absent in many people that struggle. That magic ingredient is Emotional Intelligence (EQ).

EQ as a term was popularized in the mid-90s by journalist Daniel Goleman and is loosely defined as the ability of an individual to recognize, manage, and adapt their feelings to situations, and use those feelings to achieve success. Something that as a young gun I thought I had full control of, but was sadly mistaken.

When the whole EQ subject clicked into place, my career started to rocket. Everything changed. I delivered, I got on with people, I influenced and achieved. I managed conflicts and improved relationships. I gained more friends. Results were transformed. I enjoyed my work again.

EQ is a complex subject so I won’t attempt to explain it all here, but in a nutshell there are a handful of key components that I’ve found most valuable.

 

1. Awareness of self, others & situation

The first step in controlling emotions and EQ is to be able to recognise the current situation. How is your behaviour coming across to that person right now? How will that email comment be interpreted? If I do this, what might the outcome be? We all know the people that cause a scene by shooting off that angry email without thinking – that’s a sign of low EQ. The high EQ response is considered, thoughtful, calm and measured and ALWAYS achieves better results.

Next is to be able to recognize the mental state of others. A common example is being able to spot when someone may have lost control of a situation and looks ready to shoot that angry email or make a silly comment. The high EQ person would spot that, and then gently intervene to prevent an escalation. That’s classic awareness of others / situation.

 

2. Empathy and humility

A common characteristic of effective leaders, empathy isn’t just being able to listen. It’s about placing yourself in their shoes and not just responding with your own experiences or opinions.

For example, a team member may be having a hard time at home with illnesses and wants to speak to you.

 

Colleague: “I’m really struggling. My child is ill and it’s causing me a lot of stress. I’m finding it hard to sleep.”

Low EQ response: “Ah that’s bad. My son had a bad illness last year as well. I had to take time off and it was really stressful for my family. I’m still not recovered, maybe I need a holiday”

High EQ response: “Ah that’s bad. I’m really sorry to hear that. It must be really difficult for your family. Have you thought of taking some time off or seeking help from HR? There may be things we can do to help. “

 

A world of difference in the responses. And it’s not just verbal, body language can play a large part. Having a level of empathy is key to achieving results from your teams.

And then there’s humility and equanimity. Don’t get over excited when things go well, and don’t get too down when they go badly. Stay calm and in control. Hard to do, especially when it all hits the fan, but a key characteristic of people with high EI.

 

3. Social skills

High EQ leaders work tirelessly on their communications skills, conflict resolution and being able to give and receive constructive feedback. They regularly praise others for their achievements over taking credit themselves. They genuinely enjoy seeing their colleagues achieving great results

 

4. Motivation

The high EQ leader is motivated to succeed, believes in their own abilities, and is constantly striving to learn more and improve.  They set goals, monitor and manage performance and demand consistent excellence from themselves and their colleagues.

The best high EQ leaders set such a high example with quality of work and interpersonal relationships that they inspire and affect change without even trying. You’ll regularly find the best way to increase standards in a team is to lead by example.

Obviously there’s more to it than this, but those are the components I’ve had the most success with. Of course I’m not perfect and have to continuously work on my own EQ, but if I was asked to name the main factor that allowed me to progress professionally, it would be Emotional Intelligence.

Regards, Paul

Further reading

https://www.hrzone.com/perform/people/emotional-intelligence-do-you-know-the-four-basic-components

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/tracy-crossley/10-reasons-why-emotional-_b_6770864.html

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Daniel-Goleman-Emotional-Intelligence-GOLEMAN/dp/9382563806