Need a sea change? Bah…humbug!

IMG_0162Welcome back everyone!    I’m pumped to be back in your inboxes and on your screens.  Woot woot, the New Year and so much new excitement ahead of us.

Was great to have a break, spend less time looking at the clock and more time doing some of the things I love (like cleaning out the cupboards…totally..more on that in a future post),  spending time with my family and friends.  And of course, a great time to do a little reflection on what is important.

So, I’m going to get on my soap box a little bit here.  Is anyone else sick of all the people going on about totally revolutionising their lives.   Quitting their dull corporate job to follow their lives passion and make millions while they are at it.  Sell their city house for a coastal retreat, so they can practice yoga and drink green smoothies all day.   Do we really need to completely up-end our lives to be happy?

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I am super envious of the people who I know in life who are truly passionate about something. Who recognised they were in the wrong job or with the wrong people and had the bravery and tenacity to jump into the unknown like a fearless warrior ready to unleash on life. You go girls.

But, for the majority of us,  we don’t actually need to make significant, crazy, leaps of faith in order to achieve what we want.  For many of us, we feel comfortable with the choices we made…although we might be a bit confused as to why we are not jumping out of bed each morning with boundless energy and enthusiasm for those choices.

So maybe what we need, is not a complete overhaul,  but just some tweaks around the edges.  Some filing of the sharp corners.

For me, there are a few things I try to be conscious of each day,  which help me to feel like I am following the right path and am in the right place for me.  And whilst I certainly don’t jump out of bed…it is more like a slow motion fall/clamber followed by a struggle to the teapot for a green tea hoping not to wake up the kids on my way through…I’m pretty happy with where I’m at right now.

Want to find your inner mojo? Here’s my top tips…

1) Understanding your strengths…and looking for opportunities to use this no matter what your job is.  I love doing questionnaires, so highly recommend the VIA Strengths survey.  It’s free and gives you some real insights about the kind of things that light the fire in your belly.

2) Look after your wellbeing.  The most important thing is consistency.  I love my life so much more on the days that I get up first thing in the morning and exercise.  Job done.  It’s amazing what a cascading effect it has on the rest of my day…I am far more like to eat well, be patient, be resilient.   This one thing which essentially is so simple…and doesn’t involve an organic juice revolution (although I have been known to enjoy the occasional green smoothie…don’t judge me)…is a key part of my everyday happiness.

3) Have fun.  What makes you laugh?  I hate it when people are too serious.  I find that people at work are generally pretty serious.  It is like you are not allowed to have fun and work at the same time.  But in my world, these things go hand in hand.  My favourite days are those which involve a little bit of silliness and laughter.  They can make a dull project shine like the sun.

4) Reflect on your direction.  Take time to reflect on where you are at and where you want to be.  Whether you are disciplined enough to meditate every day,  or once a week you grab a cup of tea and a list.  Or maybe once a month you pull together a vision board.  Whatever is your thing, it doesn’t matter, as long as you take time to reflect on what you want the future you to look like and to think about the little fairy steps you take every day to get there.  Again, this is NOT necessarily about huge life changing goals, but simply taking time out of the busyness of every day life to reflect on where you are at.

And I’ll leave you with a great quote from my Lorna Jane (yep…love her)…lets get this 2015 party started!

“You don’t have to live an extraordinary life, you just have to live your ordinary life in an extraordinary way”

claire2

 

P.S I reserve the right to change my mind at any point, and may in the future be raving about the joys of giving up your corporate career, living in a caravan and home schooling your children…I’m sure it would be amazing…

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My personal cheerleader…

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????I’ve talked before about some of the bad managers I have had during my career… like Teflon,  or the manager who threatened to throw her laptop at me (and I haven’t even written about “the aggressor” yet).  But mostly, I have had the pleasure of working under some pretty amazing, influential and inspiring managers.

I believe Managers are the single biggest influence in your workplace.  Doesn’t matter where you work or what you do,  the person you work for has the power to truly engage you in what you do,  or make you walk away from an awesome project.   And it is not easy.  When I was a Manager,  I suddenly realised how hard the job is (I spent so many years thinking “I’m going to be such a good boss, just give me the reigns and I’ll run this joint”), then you realise just how different every employee is, the bureaucracy that Managers often have to deal with and how many ridiculous curve balls Managers are thrown on a daily basis.  And in the social age… the manager role is becoming even more complex, as businesses become more open and collaborative.

So what has bubbled to the top in my experience?

My personal favourite leaders are calm and collected (to counter my sometimes passionate rollercoaster riding),  they listen way more than they speak (they need to, with me on their team!),  they empower and trust me (let me loose with an objective and the freedom to achieve it) and most of all,  they make me feel like I’m amazeballs.

That last point is often the most important for me.  That regular reassurance that I’m on the right track.  The constructive suggestions to support my momentum.  The faith that I can do it,  even when I don’t believe that I can.  The willingness to overlook some of my weaknesses because they can see my strengths.    Like your own personal cheerleader.

And it can’t all be about work.  A great Manager knows when to ask how things are going outside of work,  is tuned into your tone on a bad day and gives you the support and space when you need it.   This has happened to me recently and I can’t tell you how much that meant to me, and the commitment I gave back to work in return was ten fold.

Just like everything in life,  it doesn’t always happen this way.  And, as I’ve said before,  working under some bad Managers gave me skills I may never have learnt if I hadn’t been forced into it sometimes.   So I try to see it as a win:win situation,  bad manager = great, what can I learn from this experience, what new skills can I develop from turning this challenge into an opportunity?..and when a great Manager comes along,  I take every opportunity to learn from them, grow and hopefully progress.

If you’re a Manager,  are you helping your team to thrive the hard way or the easy way today?

The day my boss wanted to throw a laptop at me…

http://www.freephotosbank.com/1066.html
http://www.freephotosbank.com/1066.html

Early in my career,   I was moved into a team with a boss who was a talented and credible marketer.  I couldn’t wait to work in her team and I knew that I would learn a lot.  The first few weeks seemed to be going fine,  she was paying attention to what I was contributing in meetings and watching my work intently.   Soon, she pulled me aside for “a chat”.  She started to reel off the things that she thought I needed to work on,  she mentioned everything I had done “wrong” and she finished by telling me that I talk so much she found it “really annoying” and just sits in meetings feeling like she wants to throw her lap top at my head.

DEVASTATED! 

I was gutted,  I couldn’t believe it….well actually no, I believed every single word she told me.   She was right,  I was useless.   I know I have issues with talking too much sometimes, especially when I am passionate and excited and engaged.   She made it personal,  and her words cut me like a knife.   I went home dejected and upset.  I didn’t want to go back into work.  How could I keep going?

But after 24hrs,  I came back determined to improve.   I decided to take the personal out of what she was saying, and tackle the issue head on.   I went back to her and asked her for MORE feedback.  Was I crazy!?!  No, I just thought having it all on the table would help me to understand her position.   It was hard to take,  I had to bite my cheeks to stop from getting upset.  I made notes.   I took those notes and stripped away all the personal comments.  If she doesn’t like me as a person, it doesn’t matter,  but I want to be good at my job so I am going to take this as an opportunity to learn and grow.    I asked other Managers if they had ideas on how i could improve some of the things she mentioned.   I spoke to my colleagues and apologised if they felt “talked over” like she told me they did.  I reminded them I would not be offended if they cut me off or made other suggestions in meetings…I would prefer this than they suffer in silence.  Incredibly,  they all looked at me like I was bonkers and told me they enjoyed working with me on teams because I was so engaged…even if I was a bit over exuberant some times.  I didn’t believe them but I forged through.   My Manager continued to point out my flaws,  she rang me after meetings (it was apparently important to provide feedback in real time) and in our annual business reviews,  she reeled off everything that I hadn’t done to perfection.

Amazingly,  I was soon promoted. 

I couldn’t believe it.  Not only was I getting a new job but I was moving away from this Manager…YIPPPEEEE!!!  I survived this period in my career by staying resilient, by not trying not to take things personally and looking at where I could grow and learn from the experience.   But it wasn’t easy and it was also the start of many many wasted years of my career, where I focused all my attention on what I was doing wrong.  She had taught me to look for my weaknesses and try to fix them.  That anything less than perfect meant that I hadn’t succeeded and I needed to change.    Don’t get me wrong, I had great fun and lots of growth, learning and opportunity at work, but underpinning it all was a constant voice that kept reminding me of what I should be…not what I was.  Never truly believing that I was good at what I was doing,  even when I was promoted and praised.  I was just waiting for the house of cards to fall down around me, and my new Managers to realise how many flaws I was trying to patch.

The turnaround

Many years later, I had the absolute pleasure to be invited to a Positive Leadership workshop run by Michelle McQuaid.   One of the things we did in the workshop was complete a VIA Strengths survey.   Michelle talked about the importance of focusing on your strengths instead of trying to fix your weaknesses.   To have a mindset of growth and to build on your strengths and the things that energise and engage you, letting your true self shine.   This was a revolutionary moment for me.   I took my top 5 strengths and put them up at my desk to remind me each day to search for those things in my work.  My number 1 character Strength is Teamwork,  so instead of seeing my need to work with others as a weaknesses because I’m hopeless at working on my own,  I realised it was a strength to be able to work effectively with teams, to be energised by others, to show kindness to their needs…this is why I love being a Manager.   Now I could seek out those opportunities which let my strengths shine.

And a funny thing happened

You know what,  I stopped talking quite so much (Ok…so I didn’t exactly become quiet).  The more confident I grew by reminding myself of my strengths,  I stopped trying to over explain myself.  And without the little voice in my head saying “stop stop talking, just stop, you’re talking too much”,  I found more clarity in my words.    I also realised that writing (like this blog!) and mentoring others gave me a channel for my thoughts, helping to get them out of my head and reduce my need to speak all the time in meetings.

I did meet up with that old Manager at a conference once (she had long since moved away from my company),  and when I told her what I was doing, she said she wasn’t surprised.  She always saw the potential in me, and that is why she was so hard on me, she thought pointing out the things I could improve would help me.  And she believed she did help me.   Noble intention,  shocking execution.  If only she knew the damage she did.

I’m just glad she never actually did throw her laptop at my head,  although in hindsight, it would have been kinda funny if she tried…

(want to read more about my experiences with bosses, check out the story of Teflon!)