Category Archives: Ideas

New Year, New You: How to make New Year’s resolutions that work

 

New Year, New You: How to make New Year’s resolutions that work

So, we’re a few days into the New Year. How many resolutions did you make? And how many have you stuck to?

We all make resolutions and most of us break them within a few days. I used to do it every year. I would decide, say, that I wouldn’t drink for the whole of January but the first time I was offered a G&T, I would take it without even thinking. Why is that? I got so fed up with being in that situation that I looked into why it all goes wrong and in this post, I’ll give you some ideas about what you can do to make it more likely you’ll stick to your resolutions and achieve your goals. This doesn’t just apply to New Year’s resolutions by the way, it is also a great framework to use in any planning or goalsetting exercise.

First let’s look at the process. How many people really think about what their resolutions will be? Most of us make them at 12.05, once we’ve sung Auld Lang Syne, been grabbed and snogged by people we would rather not have been grabbed and snogged by, and are, ahem, well refreshed. We don’t really think about it, it’s an off the top of the head answer, a vague ‘must do better’. The fact it’s off the top of our heads indicates it’s something that does matter to us but because we haven’t really thought about we haven’t fully bought into it, we’re not committed. And that’s the first mistake.

We all want to be better, so must of our resolutions are around improvement in one way or another – lose weight, stop smoking, don’t drink so much and so on. Our second mistake is that many resolutions are very negative: stop, don’t, lose. And that puts us in the wrong frame of mind before we even start. I know we’re not naughty children any more but what’s a common reaction when someone tells us not to do something? Yes, it’s hostility, anger and, more often than not, increased desire to go off and do it.

So, a couple of years ago, I did 2 things. I really thought about what my resolutions should be, calmly, rationally and in advance and then I flipped them. At that time my main resolution was to have more self discipline, the specifics of which were: get up at 7 and start work promptly by 9. Eat those frogs first thing, get them out of the way. Set aside an hour a day to read and study between 5 and 6pm. So, I used words that framed everything I wanted to do in a positive way: have, do, start, read, eat;

The next step was to write them down. There’s lots of evidence that people with written goals have more success than those without. The famous Harvard study may well be an urban myth, and the statement that 3% of the population have written goals but they earn more than the other 97% put together may well be apocryphal but other studies have been carried out that bear out the general theory. In 2006 USA Today surveyed a number of people who had made New Year’s resolutions and found that of those who had not written down the resolution, just 4% had followed them through. Of those who had written them down, 44% had followed them through: a much better success rate.

Why does writing things down increase the probability of success? Because writing a is a psycho neuro motor activity – as you’re writing you’re being forced to think and to concentrate on what’s important to you. And when you write down a goal you’re impressing it into your subconscious, which then gets to work on it without you even realizing it. It also implies a level of commitment and buy-in that isn’t always there when things are just spoken, there is often so much more power in the written word.

So how should you capture your goals?

I recently came across MMM as an alternative to SMART goals, and I really like it: goals should be measurable, manageable and motivational.

So, if your goal is to slim:

Measurable: How many pounds will I shed, and by when? This is an objective check and deadline.

Manageable: It has to be realistic but challenging – you won’t lose 10 stone in 2 months, but you can lose 1 and keep the weight off.

Motivational: The goals need to excite you, motivate you so that you want to achieve them. I want to be a size 12 by Easter so that I can buy and look good in that lovely dress I saw / feel great / improve my health.

In short:

Goals, and resolutions, should be:

  1. Well considered
  2. Written
  3. MMM

When you’ve settled on your resolutions or goals, it can be a good idea to write yourself a letter and give it to a trusted friend to post to you in 3 months’ time. In the letter state your goals, congratulate yourself on achieving them, and say what your reward would be. You’ll probably forget about it, but in 3 months’ time you’ll be surprised when a letter in your own handwriting lands on the doormat and be stunned to see that you have achieved all of the goals you set down.

And remember that this can be applied at any stage in the year – we don’t just set goals and targets on 1 January, there are other natural break points and times for reviewing progress during the year and we should be frequently assessing and adjusting where we are and where we’re going.

Why not give it a try?

 

 

6 things you can do to be taken seriously at work

6 things you can do to be taken seriously at work

enjoying_a_meetingIn my last blog I shared, with her permission, extracts from a coaching conversation with Rachel, a client who doesn’t feel that she’s always taken seriously enough at work. In comparing her own behaviour and attitude with those of Sally, a colleague just a couple of years older who has the credibility Rachel wants, she realised that she had a problem with boundaries, which meant that she was sometimes behaving inappropriately and unprofessionally at work. Having identified the issue Rachel was halfway to solving the problem: she practised thinking before she spoke, catching herself if she was about to be indiscreet about her private life and quickly got into a pattern of more professional behaviour at work. In later sessions we started to look what else Sally, and other senior women Rachel respected, did to earn the respect of their colleagues. Over a few sessions Rachel came up with this list of six things you can do to be taken more seriously at work (shared with her permission):

  • Be professional. In other words turn up on time; do what you tell people you’re going to do; honour your commitments, under-promise and over-deliver.
  • Keep developing your knowledge. ‘Not just the formal stuff, or doing the minimum you have to do for CPD (continuous professional development). Follow industry news, learn about the economy, find out what your clients are interested in. Understand what matters to them and make sure you can talk to them knowledgably.’
  • Take yourself seriously and act like you should be taken seriously in turn. ‘Which isn’t to say that Sally doesn’t have a sense of humour,’ said Rachel, ‘she does, she’s a really good laugh. But she’s not out for a laugh at all costs’ ‘So she uses humour in the right way?’ ‘Yes, she’ll use it to get things moving or defuse difficult situations or even emphasise a point. But it’s never cruel or smutty or irrelevant.’
  • Speak up in meetings, show that you have a good contribution to make. ‘She’ll challenge people, but in a really nice way. It doesn’t come across as point-scoring, she’s just getting them to think’.
  • Don’t get emotional in public: no tears or tantrums. ‘I burst into tears once and everyone treated me weirdly for ages afterwards. At my last appraisal I was told I’m too emotional and need to get it under control. It’s not just me though, one of the guys in the office got really angry about something and threw his phone at the wall, smashed it to bits. Now people avoid him, they won’t ask him to do anything in case he loses his temper.’

What do you think of Rachel’s list? What would you add to it?

* All names have been changed. This story has been told with the permission of ‘Rachel’.

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Can I just say? How to be heard at meetings

Can I just say? How to be heard at meetings

Have you ever sat in a meeting, really wanting to contribute in some way but been unable to get a word in?  Have you ever left a meeting running the ‘could have, would have, should haves’ of everything you didn’t say through your mind?  I think we’ve all been there.  There are lots of different reasons why you may not be able to speak up but often it’s because you just don’t know how to get your point across.  If that’s you, read on for my 9 tips for getting your voice heard in meetings.

1. Think about why you’re at the meeting.  Who invited you and why do they want you there?  If you’re not sure, ask.  Your boss might want you to just observe and learn, in which case you probably won’t be expected to say much.  However she might want you there to raise your profile and get more experience or because you’re the company expert on one of the agenda items.  Each of these possibilities will require different behaviour from you.

Bored_people_at_a_meeting2. Prepare well.  Check the agenda, find out what the main discussion topics will be.  Read the briefing papers and be ready to contribute to those items relating to your area of expertise or experience.  Jot down some bullet points and questions for each agenda item so you don’t forget what you wanted to raise during the meeting.

3. It can be tempting to be useful and offer take the minutes or write things up on the whiteboard, especially if you’re a woman or the youngest person in the room. Unless that’s what you’re there to do (see #1) avoid the temptation if you can.  A head-hunter once told me that acting as scribe can count against you at an assessment centre unless you also fully take part in the day’s activities.  Most scribes don’t.  After all, if you’re focussing on getting the notes, minutes or actions right it doesn’t leave a lot of time for contributing to the meeting.

4. Get in early and say something relevant and interesting as soon as you can, even if it’s asking a question.  It will take the pressure off you and you’ll settle in to the rhythm of the meeting more quickly.

5. When you do have the floor speak calmly, clearly and get to the point as quickly as you can.

6. If someone interrupts you unreasonably, pause and ask if you can just finish the point you were making.

7. Never start a sentence with an apology, even if it’s a figure of speech. ‘Sorry, can I just say….?’ may put you on the back foot.  Why preface your point at all?

8. Raise your hand slightly, or lift your pen a little to signal to the chair that you would like to speak.

9. If they’re moving on before you’ve had your say raise your hand or lean forward and ask the chair if you can make a final point before that agenda item is closed. If you choose do this make sure that your intervention is good and valuable and that you’re not going over old ground or raising issues that have already been addressed.

These are the things that have worked for me and my clients but I would love to hear your tips – please share them below.

Taking part in meetings can be tricky, as can running them (there’ll be a blog soon on chairing meetings). They can be stressful, especially if you’re new in your role or not very confident. If you find meeting etiquette and participation difficult why not have a free coaching session on us? Just click on the link below If that’s you:

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Feeling meh? 5 tips for getting the career you want

Feeling meh? 5 tips for getting the career you want

I had a really good job – interesting work, well paid, lots of travel.  It ticked all of the boxes.  One day I woke up and wondered what I was doing and how I got to this point.  I felt dissatisfied, unfulfilled and started to wonder if this was all there is.  Really?  This is it?  Blimey.  Cue implosion and rapid change of direction. Many of us drift through our careers and go from job to job without really thinking about where we want to get to or what we want out of life.  Life can be something that just happens to you and you get on with it, and often it’s fine.  But what if you take control and make things happen?  Read on for my 5 tips on getting the career or business you want.

1. Decide what you want.  A few lucky people know what they want to be when they grow up from an early age and go off and do it; most of us flit from idea to idea.  At various stages in my life I would have answered the ‘what do you want to be?’ question with: nun, doctor, choreographer, fashion designer, interpreter at the UN and war correspondent.  All of which would have been totally unsuitable (except perhaps interpreter).  My sister on the other hand always said ‘nurse’ and that’s what she became as soon as she could.  WE are much more successful when we play to our strengths and interests.  So think about what you want – not your parents, friends, colleagues or teachers.  You.  And go and do it.

changing_direction_choosing_a_path2. Find out how to become whatever you want to be.  What training or qualifications do you need?  What sort of life and work experience must you have?  Who should be in your network?  How will you get to know with the people who should be in your network?  What skills should you be developing?  What funding and support is available?  How closely do your current skills and experience match the requirements of your dream job.  Then go and do all of them.

3. Get a really good mentor, someone who understands you and where you want to get to and can help you with support, encouragement and really good advice.  If you’re in a firm or company this may well be someone who is a just bit older or more experienced than you and you may just be assigned to someone. That’s OK but if you can, choose mentors who will challenge you and be really honest with you. Their feedback may hurt temporarily but understanding and acting on your shortcomings will only help you make progress.  The best mentors I ever had could be brutal sometimes but they were telling me things for the right reasons and their insights were always invaluable (thanks guys!).

4. Not everyone can become a board director or partner or the next Richard Branson.  If, for some reason, you can’t quite get to where you want to be try and find a way to get as close to it as you can.  I recently worked with a client who wanted to be an opera singer but health problems meant that she wasn’t able to perform professionally.  She carved out a very successful career in arts administration, which kept her involved in professional opera and musical theatre, and she enjoys taking part in amateur productions as well as teaching singing.  No, she’s not on stage at the Royal Opera House but she’s living and working in a world she loves.

5. It’s never too late to change direction.  There’s also never a good time to change direction.  If that’s what you really want to do just go and do it.  (Change can be very unsettling, download my tips on coaching with change here http://www.alchemybusinesscoaching.biz/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Coping-with-change.pdf

I don’t regret any of the choices I made in my career but I do sometimes wish I had got to some places sooner.  Once I thought about what I really wanted, worked out how to get there and took the appropriate action everything clicked into place.  I would love to hear about your experiences so please share your thoughts, ideas and insights.  Or if you’ve got that ‘meh’ feeling about your career or business why not have a coaching session on me?

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Getting things done: 8 rules for effective delegation

Getting things done: 8 rules for effective delegation

Many years ago I shared an assistant with three of the other managers in the department. Sally was enthusiastic and very pleasant but she made a lot of mistakes (and I mean a lot). Because of the mistakes I tended not to give her anything too complicated to do, it was quicker and easier just to get on and do it myself. It meant I had more to do but at least things got done the way I wanted them done and to my standards. The fact that I had to stay late sometimes and do Sally’s job for her used to really annoy me but it was easier to say nothing. One day I asked Sally to do something and as I walked away I heard her tell a colleague that she hated working for me, I asked her to do nothing but ‘crap’, I never gave her anything interesting to work on and was never clear about what I needed or when I needed it. She wondered how she was supposed to learn anything working for me. I was furious! I didn’t give her stuff to do because she messed it up! And of course I was clear about what I needed and when. Wasn’t I? I thought I was a good manager but overhearing Sally’s comments shocked but ultmately helped me (although I would have preferred it if she had spoken to me directly of course). The fact is that many of us find delegating really, really tricky. If that includes you here are my 8 rules for effective delegation:

1. Be direct and clear about what you want people to do.

2. Know the answers to any questions they might ask before you go to them with the task. Questions might include: Why do you want it doing? By when? To what standard? Who’s it for? What’s it for? What happens if I get it wrong? Is it a standalone task or part of something bigger? What’s the context or background? What are the stages I have to go through with it? Who else should I involve? If they don’t ask relevant questions themselves make sure that you cover the answers in your briefing anyway.

3. If you want things doing in a particular way, style or sequence tell them how you want it doing and explain why you want it doing that way.

4. Accept that they’re unlikely to do it exactly the way you would do it. Does that matter? If the end result is OK, how important is the way they got there? If how they do it does matter tell them, perhaps even provide a checklist, flowchart or crib-sheet they can follow.Lady_using_a_checklist

Lady_using_a_checklist5. Provide the right resources to do the job well. This might be time, it might be information or equipment or tools or money. It might be additional training or help, or an introduction to someone who can help in some way.

6. Use good management. Let them get on with it but check in to see how things are going. Never, ever micro-manage or hover. Ask for updates and feedback, see if they need any help, guidance or support but be sure to use open questions here. Examples might be:

  • What are you finding hard or challenging?
  • What do you need?
  • How can I help you?
  • What can I do to support you?

7. Give your team work that is challenging but not totally beyond their capabilities and experience.

8. Remember that time spent training someone is never wasted: you’re developing a team member and freeing up your time in the end.

If delegation is something you find difficult why not have a coaching session on us to find out why you’re struggling and look at what you can do about it?

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Alchemy A-Z of being in business: N is for networking

Alchemy A-Z of being in business: N is for networking

I got to my first ever networking session early and headed to the bar. I really didn’t want to be there but I was the boss so it was expected of me. As the barman made my drink someone marched up, shook my hand and introduced himself.  I froze. I didn’t want to talk to this guy, I didn’t know him and certainly didn’t like the look of him so I grabbed my drink and, while he was placing his order, headed off to the opposite side of the room where I could see someone I knew.

The thing is, I wasn’t at a singles night; it didn’t matter whether I liked the look of people or not. I was there to represent my company and make new business contacts, not chat to old ones.  I missed a big opportunity because the guy turned out to be head of procurement at a target client and I never got the chance to talk to him informally again. I was rude to him and disrespectful and he never did become a customer.

That was my first experience of ‘proper’ networking. Like many people I really didn’t enjoy it at first but the good news is that networking is a skill you can develop; it really does get easier and more enjoyable with practice.  I would go so far as to say that if you’re in business networking is something you simply must learn how to do. It’s a great way of getting yourself and what you do known in the local business community but it can help you do so much more: make new contacts, find new clients and opportunities, develop relationships with trusted suppliers and advisers, find people who can support you and even make friends. Here are my top tips for successful networking:

exchanging_cards1. Choose the networking event wisely. If you’re not at your best first thing in the morning try a lunchtime or evening meeting rather than an early breakfast. Next, look at the type of people who go along. Free events are often busy but they tend to attract micro businesses, freelancers and sole traders who may not need or want your services.  If they’re not the right sort of customers and clients for you then look for a different event.

2. Think about what will work best for you. Regular meetings of a small group will help you really get to know your fellow members and build great relationships but they can take up a lot of time. Formal meetings with a commitment to give referrals can really get you moving and bring discipline to your networking although you may find the pressure to identify opportunities for other members a bit too much.  Informal, large events can be fun and energizing but also a bit random, sometimes they’re just too big.  Women new to running their own businesses may find all-female meetings good for building confidence and keeping motivation high.

3.  Make sure you have a great elevator pitch or 60 seconds speech: a short description of what you do and the benefits to your clients. Tell a story, be entertaining but please don’t bang on about how long you’ve been in business, get very technical or try to cram in everything you do. The point of the elevator pitch is to pique interest and lead to a longer conversation, you’re not selling anything at this stage. Make sure you keep it short, always stay within the allotted time. Practice and time new pitches.

4. Go into it with a positive attitude. If you think an event will be rubbish and a waste of time you’ll be absolutely right.

5. Talk to, not at, people. A networking event can be the start of a mutually beneficial relationship but there’s a long way to go before you get to that point. So chat to people, find out about them, have a conversation, start to build that relationship. If you bombard them with all there is to know about you then you’ll never see them again.

6. Follow up. Soon after the meeting send an email or text saying how much you enjoyed chatting and maybe suggest a coffee if appropriate and you want to find out more about them. Connect on LinkedIn with a personalized message reminding them where and when you met. Don’t send them all your promotional material unless they’ve specifically asked for it.

7. Learn from the experience. After a networking event think about what went well, what you could have done differently and what you would do better next time.

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