Saturday, 28 February 2015

How To Write Your Personal Biography For A Website, Resume, or Conference

During your career, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to write a biography about yourself for websites, social media, conference programs, membership in professional organizations and more. The problem is, too many people seize that moment to pontificate about themselves as if they’d won an Academy Award or Nobel Prize. But writing an effective bio can do more than just tout your accomplishments – it can really serve to advance your ideas and message. Now’s a good time to re-think your bio, and here’s a handful of important principles to keep in mind:
1) Mention your accomplishments but don’t go over the top.  Far too many bios include phrases like “changing the world,” “bestselling author,” “in demand speaker,” or “internationally respected _______.” Unless those types of accolades can be verified, don’t stretch the truth. It hurts your credibility. Always remember that in the Internet age, everything can be verified.
2) Focus on your “One Big Thing.”  Too many bios list a wide array of interests and work, and leave the reader wondering what your area of expertise actually is. Instead, use your bio to share what you feel called and prepared to accomplish with your life. (And if you don’t know what that is, then read my book.)
3) Write your bio for a specific audience.  Is the bio being used for a leadership conference? Then focus on your expertise in that area. For a job site? Focus on your qualifications. For a professional organization? Make it clear why you’re part of that group. Always think about the specific reader of the bio and what they need to know.
4) Keep it short and sweet.  Generally speaking, I’ve noticed that in conference programs, the least experienced person usually has the longest biography. That’s because the most qualified speakers don’t need to promote themselves in their bio. Keep it short and focused on the purpose at hand.
5) If you’re young or haven’t accomplished a great deal, then don’t fake it.  When someone starts in a new career, they often feel like there isn’t much to say. If that’s the case, then make what little you’ve done look good. And think about things outside the workplace to talk about – maybe your work for a local cause or nonprofit. Don’t be afraid to sell yourself, but  don’t make things up. Your integrity matters, so just keep it simple.
6) Finally, have some fun.  When Paula Zahn joked on CNN that I was “the only working producer in Hollywood with a Ph.D. In Theology,” I included that in my bio. The only reason my wife went out with me on our first date is that when I called her, she thought I was someone else – so I’ve used that in a bio. Maybe you have an odd hobby, or a quirky past. Don’t be so serious all the time. People will enjoy seeing your personality.
Remember – your biography isn’t about bragging rights, it’s about credibility.  Why should I listen to your speech, check out your website, or connect with you online? Lose the hype, be authentic, and have some fun.

Friday, 27 February 2015

Where Does The Next Generation of Leaders Come From?

Leadership is like a torch which is passed from generation to generation and it’s the obligation of the current generation, to prepare the next generation to carry it forward.

Leadership is about delivering results, about getting our teams from A to B, but during this process we need to find the time to develop the next set of leaders.
There are many ways that we can help develop people, one of my favourites is to lead by example, to show people what good leadership looks like, and then to delegate tasks and empower them to be able to follow suit, and learn how to implement the things they have seen.
This requires us to share our leadership, to give up a little, which some leaders find difficult to do, but if we don’t give people the chance to learn, how will they progress.
Leadership development programs are great, but we learn more from doing than we ever do from reading or listening, even if we listen to experts.
Imagine learning to swim, you can learn a lot from many sources, but it’s not until you actually get in the water and swim, that you really know what it means to swim.
I really like the swimming analogy because, as with swimming when delegating leadership we need to make sure that we don’t put people in deeper than they can handle. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t push the envelope, but when we do there needs to be a support structure in place, this could be direct support in the form of coaching, or indirect in the shape of mentoring.
To just push people in the deep end, and to then leave them sink or swim, is not  leadership development, this not how we pass the torch onto the next generation.
However, in my experience, this has often been the approach, people get a little bit of training and are then given leadership roles with little to no back up, and if they fail then it’s claimed that leaders are born and not made, and clearly this person was not born to be a leader.
But this is just a cop out, an excuse to hide our poor leadership development behind.
With the right training, and the right support and encouragement, the majority of the people can become leaders, irrespective of their birth circumstances.
But to admit this, and to accept it, is to take ownership and accountability for developing the next generation of leaders, but too many leaders just don’t want that burden, they are in leadership for what they can get out of it, they don’t see it as service, one which is a two-way street.
This is not to say I haven’t worked for leaders who didn’t give back, who didn’t look to pass that torch on, because I did, but they were in the minority.
The rest, well they just took what they could, and left the next generation to fend for themselves and then criticised the lack of quality coming through the ranks.
When we lament at the lack of leaders coming through, or the weakness of the next level of leadership, we should understand that we are not criticising them, we are actually criticising ourselves, because their development is our responsibility.
I have even worked in companies where the leadership training budgets were capped in tough times, in order to boost profits, but this is short term thinking, selfish thinking.
The stronger the next generation of leaders, the stronger the future of our companies,and profits will be, and as the current generation of leaders it’s our moral obligation to facilitate and encourage their development.
Read more:

Thursday, 26 February 2015

7 Ways to Increase Trust by Creating Stability

This is a guest post by Marlene Chism, author of Stop Workplace Drama. 

Uncertain times always invite a little more drama, particularly in the workplace. One reason is because the brain craves certainty. When you feel uncertain, the amygdala, an almond shaped structure in the brain shoots out chemicals through your blood stream that make you experience feelings of fear, doubt and anxiety. 

Fortunately leaders can use this information to create a sense of stability in an unstable world, which increases and eliminates much of the unnecessary drama plaguing so many workplaces today. Here are seven ways leaders can increase trust and reduce workplace drama by creating a stable environment and seven questions to help you get to the root of the problem. 

Be clear 
Just because you are unclear does not mean you have drama, but I can guarantee where ever there is drama there is a lack of clarity in some area. The lack of clarity could be in your policies, mission statement, job descriptions or even the methods of communication.  

When there seems to be negativity or any other form of drama, ask the question, “Where might there be a lack of clarity?” 

Be Consistent 
Often a leader can add to the confusion unintentionally because of personality and wiring. In my book, Stop Workplace Drama I talk about the creative genius boss and the idealist, two traits often found in high driving entrepreneurial types. The creative genius drives employees crazy with “flavor of the month” ideas and emergency deadlines only to change course at a whim. 

The idealist contributes to lack of consistency by starting out strong then losing momentum when the new wears off, or when realism sets in and resources are scarce. 

When you see the morale dipping or you sense a lack of engagement, ask the question, “How might my behaviors be perceived as inconsistent?” 

Shorten the Gap 
Most of us know from experience that plans that look good on paper don’t always work in the real world. One way to keep clarity and consistency is to shorten the gap. In other words, chunk down the goals into very small measurable parts. The idea here is to give the vision and the overview, but explain that plans may change as new information emerges. Then at the designated stopping places, celebrate the successes and then explain the next few projects and pieces and how the changes will contribute to the stated goals. 

When you get ready to make a change, always provide a pilot period for the change rather than announce the change is here to stay.  

When you see negativity, frustration or overwhelm, ask the question, “Where do I need to shorten the gap so it seems easy?” 

Keep your Word 
When you are in the midst of change, regular communication, scheduled communication and documented promises are a must. Even a simple, “I’ll get back with you” can create a sense of uncertainty and inconsistency if you don’t do what you say you are going to do. When you say, “I will let you know” or “I’ll get back to you on that,” schedule a time in your blackberry or calendar and make sure you follow through. Make your word golden and you will build loyalty and trust in your organization. 

When you stop getting ideas, curiosity and questions, ask yourself the question, “Where do I need to follow up or tie up loose ends?” 

Every time I have interviewed employees on what makes a good boss, listening is always the first response, and respect is the second. Rather than always being the one with the answers, learn how to ask a good question. When you really listen, you increase engagement, which is always a sign of trust. The good thing about listening is remembering that you don’t have to have all the answers. When you start to feel overwhelmed, stuck or confused, ask yourself, “What could I learn from my employees if I was willing to listen?” 

Before I became a professional speaker and trainer I had some bad habits unbeknownst to me. I would either roll my eyes, or use sarcasm as a way to keep people at a distance when I did not agree or when I felt misunderstood. I was not aware of these habits until someone pointed it out to me. Eye-rolling, interrupting, or using innuendo and sarcasm may keep people in their place, but these habits will also build a barrier instead of a bridge. In addition, you will be viewed as a persecutor instead of as a leader. 

If you perceive distance from your peers or your employees, ask yourself, “What habits do I have that could communicate disrespect?” 

Master Your Self 
William Penn said, “No man is fit to command another who cannot command himself.” As a leader, the worst thing you can do is to let your emotions rule you. No matter what the reason, flying off the handle, cursing, yelling or throwing fits does not benefit your corporate goals or inspire your team. No one wants to work for a bully or a hot head.  

Excuses such as “that’s just the way I am,” or “You would feel the same way” indicates a lack of discipline and emotional maturity. 

If you feel the pressures piling up and you have difficulty mastering yourself, ask yourself these questions: “Is my behavior and thoughts adding value,” and “How can I get my needs met so I can represent myself appropriately?” 

Tumultuous times offer great opportunities to increase your leadership skills. Rather than focusing on the outside circumstances, now is the time to become a creator and lead from within by creating stability even in difficult times. 

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Some of the Things I’ve Learned...

Post image for COMMENTARY 915.4: Some of the Things I’ve Learned
I hope the new year is off to a good start for you, and that you are confident that 2015 will be full of opportunities and challenges that will bring you pleasure and fulfillment.
It’s traditional to start the New Year with resolutions designed to help us live healthier, happier, and more rewarding lives. But the ritual of starting a new calendar also allows us to reflect on some of the important things we’ve learned over the years, the insights we want to pass on, and the things we’ve learned that make us not only smarter, but wiser.
For instance, I’ve learned that I am still a work in process; that as long as I can think I can learn.
I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn but if I keep learning I will get better; and the better I get, the happier I will be.
I’ve learned that trying to be a good person doesn’t get any easier and that being a good person often requires me to do the right thing even when it costs more than I want to pay.
I’ve learned that kindness is more important than cleverness and that carrying grudges is foolish and self-defeating.
I’ve learned that my dad was right when he told me, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way,” and that tenacity is more important to success than talent.
I’ve learned that pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional and that I have a lot to say about my own happiness.
I’ve learned that a life focused on fun and pleasure rarely leads to happiness or fulfillment.
I’ve learned that in my personal relationships and in the workplace I’ve got to set limits because whatever I allow, I encourage.
I’ve learned that the things I like to do least are often the things that need to be done most.
I’ve learned that it’s easy to fall into self-righteousness and that neither the intensity of my feelings nor the certainty of my convictions is any assurance that I’m right.
I’ve learned that unless I translate my thoughts into actions, my great ideas and good intentions are like unlit candles.
I’ve learned that I cannot lie myself out of a problem and that the problems I ignore don’t go away, they just grow bigger.
Read more;

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

4 Keys to Finding Hidden Leaders in Your Organization

Jim Kouzes writes in the foreword of The Hidden Leader that “Our images of who’s a leader and who’s not are all mixed up in our preconceived notions about what leadership is and isn’t.” Well put. That is the issue. 

He goes on to say that “hidden leaders are those people in your organization who share the belief that what they do matters.” And they are all around us. 

The authors Scott Edinger and Laurie Sain have developed some key indicators for finding the hidden leaders in your organization or team. These people can be “defined, identified, nurtured, and encouraged to help an organization develop a competitive edge.” Some will accept a position and others will prefer to stay off the organizational chart, but all can drive excellence throughout the organization. 

Hidden leaders display four key identifiers: they demonstrate integrity, lead through relationships, focus on results, and remain customer-focused no matter what role they have in the organization. Let’s look at them one by one: 

Demonstrate Integrity. Edinger and Sain believe that this is the “absolute bottom-line requirement of hidden leadership.” It means a consistent display in thoughts and actions of a strong ethical code of conduct that is “focused on the welfare of everyone.” Their consistent adherence to their beliefs makes them predictable and therefore dependable. They have the courage to do the right thing even when it is difficult. 

Lead Through Relationships. Leading through relationships is the basis of leadership. They get along with others and value others. They “lead and inspire because of who they are and how they interact with others.” They don’t depend on their position or lack of it to influence the actions of others. 

Focus on Results. The hidden leader “maintains a wide perspective and acts with independent initiative.” They use the end to define the means, which can mean working outside of strict processes to achieve the end result. “They aim for the end they are supposed to produce” so “they feel responsible and accountable, not just for the demands of their jobs but also for successful outcomes for stakeholders involved.” 

Remains Customer Purposed. This is different than customer service; it is an “awareness of how an action in a specific job affects the customer.” It is a big-picture focus and having a deep understanding of the value promise of an organization. 

For some hidden leaders one characteristic may dominate and others may need to be fully developed, but a hidden leader who lacks integrity, isn’t a hidden leader. Any leader needs support from other leaders in the organization and a good leader will make a priority out of developing others. 

Hidden leaders are easier to spot in flatter organizations and those that provide a greater number of areas to contribute. Listening to people at all levels is a big part of that. 

By recognizing hidden leaders we help to create a culture that develops more leaders. The hidden leaders are there. It is a leader’s responsibility to discover and develop them. 

Read more;

Monday, 23 February 2015

12 Things That Successful Leaders Never Tolerate

By and large, tolerance is a good trait. The differences we encounter enrich our lives and organizations. But to attain a successful life and meaningful leadership, we must refuse to tolerate the things that deplete, and ultimately destroy, us.
Start by declaring these things intolerable in yourself and those around you--and see what changes as a result.

1. Dishonesty

Living an honest life allows you to be at peace with others and yourself. Dishonesty imposes a false reality on your life and those around you.

2. Boredom

Successful people are generally exploring something new. Life is too short for inactivity and staying in your comfort zone.

3. Mediocrity

It's easy, and a constant temptation, to settle for less. But what makes some people stand out is their willingness to make the hard choices that allow a life of greatness.

4. Negativity

5. Toxicity

At work or at home, a toxic environment will literally make you sick. If it doesn't feel right, if it makes you tired or fills you with dread, cut yourself loose.

6. Disorganization

Clutter and disorder cause stress and affect your emotional and mental well-being. Get rid of what you don't need and keep everything else where it belongs.

7. Unhealthy anything

Unhealthy food, unhealthy relationship, unhealthy habits--choose what you do wisely. Remind yourself that you deserve better, and then give yourself better.

8. Regrets

We all have regrets, but you can't move toward your future if you're dwelling on the past. Learn from it, right any wrongs where you can, and leave it behind.

9. Disrespect

Relationships are at the heart of success, and respect is at the heart of good relationships. Disrespect--whatever the form and whomever it's directed toward--is one of the most destructive forces you can harbor.

10. Distrust

Distrust often arrives through a succession of little compromises here and there, so be watchful. Focus on building your own integrity and surround yourself with others who do the same.

11. Anger

We all feel anger, and in its place it can move you to action. But holding onto anger is paralyzing and accomplishes nothing. Learn to direct anger toward problems, not people, and then get over it.

12. Control

Don't worry about the things you can't control. Focus your energy where it can do good, and learn to let go of the rest.
Pay attention to the difference between the things that are truly positive in your life and the things you just let happen.
Remember, you are sum of what you tolerate!

Sunday, 22 February 2015

How Does Emotional Intelligence Affect Your Career

The reality in our current workplace shows the disconnect between EQ and IQ. Think about the company that you currently work for. 
Were you primarily hired based on your cognitive skills and technical capabilities or your interpersonal capabilities, or simply people skills? 
The truth of the matter is pedigree and track records outlined in your resume has a lot to do with your IQ. What you may not know is that IQ is a threshold competence. You need it, but it isn’t what makes you a star performer. 
What truly propels you to be a star performer originates from your people and interpersonal capabilities (EQ). I wonder how many people have fully appreciated this fact and have embraced developing themselves as an EQ leader.
The infographic below illustrates the sheer impact of Emotional Intelligence in a leader’s career path and organizational effectiveness.  
Read more;

Saturday, 21 February 2015

How to develop a lifelong learning habit

Lifelong learning

How to develop a lifelong learning habit

Never let schooling get in the way of your education – Mark Twain
Hard and technical skills we are told become outdated as fast as we obtain them, making a commitment to lifelong learning even more important than ever. Content learned in the first year of an engineering degree is said to be out of date before the end of the final year. It has become vital to stay committed to lifelong learning habits. This isn’t about keeping your end up in dinner party conversation.
As professional careers or working lives become extended, workplaces become more age and culturally diverse, staying in touch with the zeitgeist will assume a new significance for all. On top of this many hard skills will need updating. A marketing expert can no longer survive with traditional marketing knowledge alone, but will need digital marketing skills and know how. A lawyer might need business training or soft skill training,  a chef will need financial skills, nutritional and legal knowledge. This has possibly always been the case to some degree, but today, with an unprecedented pace of change and individuals having to assume greater responsibility for investment in their careers,  it is more important than ever.
Today, with the demands made on us from every angle and attention spans decreasing,  even those who understand well the need for lifelong learning, can find it challenging to stay the course.

Here are 12 tips for developing a lifelong learning habit:

1.  Have career goals and strategy
Understand your life long career goals and create a career strategy to achieve them, starting with the current year ahead. Carry out a career audit.  What are your strengths and personal development needs? Are they in line with your goals? Do a skill set assessment for this year. What do you need to work on for the next step in your plan? Create that plan and stick to it. If you are thinking of a career gap for any reason – parenting leave is one, make sure that you have a strategy for staying up to date and lifelong learning. Many women are shocked at how fast the work place moves on, as they have busied themselves with their domestic roles. Re-entry can be a struggle. During periods of unemployment it is also important to stay focused on lifelong learning.
2. Select a career that challenges you
If you are not in a career or role that stimulates you most of the time (most jobs have some boring elements) now is the time to change. This might be a new profession all together or a new role.
If you need support on this check out my career coaching programmes
3. Prioritise learning
Very often, especially those who have had lengthy and rigorous training, take their foot off the gas once they have qualified, or reached a certain level of seniority.
You don’t want to go there – especially mid-career.  Make learning a priority.
4. Make a business case
You company might not be enthused about your interest in wine, but where applicable commit to making a business case for your personal development for corporate sponsorship every year. Even though organisations are tending to invest less in employee training, the worst thing that can happen is your boss can say no.
5. Stay up to date
Create a habit of reading and understanding what’s going on in the world and your sector. Whether this is via a newspaper, online sources, Twitter or Facebook or following influencers and thought leaders on LinkedIn. Create alerts for the topics that interest you and keep an eye open for those that don’t currently – but might in the future. Understanding  how world events impact those not directly involved, is important to anticipating trends.
6. Cultivate the right network    
Add people to your network who can enrich your skill set, knowledge and experience. Meet and or interact with them regularly if possible.
7. Look for a mentor
Find someone who has walked in your shoes to be your mentor. What wisdom can they share from their own experiences? What would they advise in your position?
8. Be your own brain storming buddy.
Albert Einstein said, “Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking.”   Start keeping a record of ideas and projects and a journal of your own thoughts. They might come in handy.
 9. Put your hand up
Volunteer or position yourself for stretch assignments so you can put into practise the skills that you have learned or develop new ones. It might be a negotiation skill, handling a difficult conversation or even a new hard skill. Make sure you gain maximum use out of it before that too becomes obsolete.
10. Become a mentor
Pay it forward. Share what you’ve learned with someone junior, or even act as a reverse mentor with an older or more senior colleague to consolidate the knowledge you have acquired.
11. De-clutter
Just like your computers, your network, mental hard drive, address book and feed alerts need to be defragged and cleaned up to be at peak performance.  De-clutter.
Perhaps you have advanced and are in a position to outsource some of the low value work, or a niche specialist for the more specific technical elements. Let go of people in your network who hold you back.
12. Daily routine
Making lifelong learning part of your daily routine will eventually become a habit. Allocate to begin with 10 minutes a day of “you” time to implement your strategy and achieve your goals so that your future is the one you have planned.  
What else would you add?
Read more

Friday, 20 February 2015

Why You Should Always Think Before You Speak

Thinking before speaking is a challenge for a lot of people. It might even be hard for you, especially if you are trying to prove to the world how smart you are. Take the following little test and see if you’ve got this bad habit running through your communication with colleagues, friends, and employees.

Your assistant rushes into your office with news of an urgent document that needs your attention right away. What he doesn’t know is that you were alerted to the situation a few minutes earlier by another colleague. Do you a) accept the document and thank your assistant for his expediency and effort? b) tell your assistant you were already privy to the information and he has wasted precious time?
If you let the moment pass with a simple, “Thank you,” you’re in good shape. If you’re like a lot of people, you will find a way to communicate to your assistant that you are one step ahead of him. Your response may vary from a dismissive, “I already knew that!” to a more accusatory, “Why are you bothering me with this?” Either way, the damage is done.
It’s not hard to stop trying to prove how smart you are. This three-step drill will help: 1) pause before you open your mouth and ask yourself, “Is anything I am going to say worth it?” 2) conclude that it isn’t, and 3) say, “Thank you.” If you can stop yourself in this minor moment, with someone with whom you work closely and who knows you well, you’re in good shape. If not, try this visual on for comparison. Your CEO walks into your office with the same urgent document that you already know about. Would you tell her in the same impatient tone that you did your assistant that “you already know about it”? Probably not. It’s something to think about.
Trying to prove how smart we are is just one of the bad habits that leads us to speak without thinking. Another is speak when angry or out of control. Some people use anger as a management tool to some success. It can get people’s attention. The difficulty is that when you’re angry, you’re usually out of control, and it’s hard to lead people when you’re out of control. It’s also hard to predict how people will react to your anger. They will shut down as often as they will perk up.
The worst thing about anger is that it stifles your ability to change. Once you get a reputation for emotional volatility, it can take years of model behavior to change how others see you. But, that’s okay. You have to start somewhere.
How do you stop getting angry? My job is to show my clients that their anger is rarely someone else’s fault. It’s their flaw. A Buddhist legend tells of a young farmer paddling his boat up stream to deliver his produce to the village. As he looked ahead, he spied another vessel heading rapidly downstream, right towards him. He rowed furiously to get out of the way, to no avail. He yelled at the other vessel, “Change direction you idiot!” It didn’t work. The vessel rammed into his with a loud thud. The young farmer was enraged and yelled out to the other vessel, “You moron! You idiot! What is wrong with you?” No one responded, and the young man realized there was no one in the other boat. The lesson is simple. There is never anyone in the other boat. When we are angry, we are screaming at an empty boat.
All of us have people in our lives who drive us crazy. We’ve spent hours reliving the unfair, unappreciative, inconsiderate treatment they have inflicted on us. But getting mad at this person makes just about as much sense as getting mad at a chair for being a chair. She is who she is. If we had her genes, her background, and her parents, we would be her. It’s not easy, but you can do it. Suppress your inclination to speak when angry; bite your tongue. Once you appreciate the payoff of saying nothing (that silence keeps you from alienating people and damaging your own success), you have a chance of getting better!
Photo: Ollyy / Shutterstock