Going It Alone

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Linking back to a previous blog post on scary goals and being brave one area that frequently comes up in my career coaching work is when an individual is trying to decide whether to leave paid employment and enter into the world of self employment.

I remember when I made this move leaving a very well paid corporate job in 2000 I walked out of the office door for the very first time “unemployed “ thinking what I have just done is either very brave or very stupid. There wasn’t a plan on what I was actually going to do I just knew that the job I had been in was making me miserable and had been doing this for about eighteen months. I had got to the point where I dreaded going back to work after a holiday and I had always vowed if that happened to make some changes.

Within the first couple of weeks had I heard a few of bits advice from mentors who had a similar path and were a few years down the line at that point. The advice I gained in these early weeks I still pass onto others as I believe them to be very true in my experience

  • It takes 3-4 years to get used to being self employed and if you last this long without returning to a regular salaried job them you are likely to be successful and also become fairly unemployable as you get used to the freedom of being your own boss and the feast and famine nature of this path.
  • It’s all about who you know and who you surround yourself by. There will be many doubts in these early years and pragmatic encouragement from authentic inspirational people who want to help you succeed is a critical success factor.

I certainly underestimated the length of time it takes to

  • Refine what you want to specialise in
  • To work out the correct pricing model
  • To set up the operational infrastructure working out what you want to do yourself and what you want to pay others to do for you
  • Work out the elevator pitch when people ask the classic “ what do you do?”
  • Polish off an authentic sales and engagement process
  • Develop a support network to encourage you when the going gets tough but also challenge you when something needs to be discontinued and you don’t see it yourself.

What you get in return however after persisting through these initial years is immense personal growth along with a sense of achievement and freedom along with the by product of meeting some great new people on route.

 

Sandra works as a coach with both businesses and private clients. She is also author of the book Own It – regain control and live life on your terms available from Amazon click here http://bit.ly/1JhAkst

 

Being Brave

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Anyone who likes inspirational quotes will be familiar with the one that encourages us to always push the boundaries and move outside our comfort zone. Why is this a concept important for us to consider in terms of developing a mindset of high performance in either ourselves.

High performing teams or individuals are always adapting to change, evolving and looking to deliver more. Growth comes from exposing ourselves to different situations, learning new skills or behaviours and the personal satisfaction of achieving new things. This is where the concept of pushing the boundaries and getting comfortable with being uncomfortable links in.

The easy and safe option is to carry on in the comfortable world we are already in however anyone who is interested in high performance knows that staying in this zone isn’t good for our personal growth.

When people set themselves goals an easy trap to fall into is to set targets that they know are well within their capability. The good thing about this is that it won’t take a lot of effort to tick the box and achieve these goals, the downside of this approach is there maybe a niggling doubt when you get there that it wasn’t that difficult so the sense of personal satisfaction isn’t that high.

Taking the being braver, high performance route would mean that when setting yourself or your team goals then more risk should be taken. The goals should be a lot more stretching or “ scary” as I suggest in my book Own It  http://bit.ly/1JhAkst . In the goal setting Chapter I suggest that we all need a scary goal, one that makes us feel uncomfortable, one that is definitely outside of our comfort zone, in that by just thinking about it there is a slight feeling inside that means we are not 100% sure this is something we want to push ourselves to do. This is where the personal growth and reward comes when we set ourselves such a goal and then actually achieve it, a brilliant feeling.

So do you have a scary goal at the moment? If you haven’t got one start thinking what could it be then define clearly, tell the world and go for it.

 

Sandra works as a coach for both businesses and private clients, find out more at http://www.sandrawebbercoaching.com

Persistence & Accountability

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So how are you doing with all those good intentions, resolutions, goals or new habits that you decided to commit to at the beginning of the year?

If I look at myself then I would say I am doing better with some than others, there are certain actions that are proving more difficult to embed as habits than others. When I work with both business and private clients keeping the momentum going over a long period of time and working out how to embed certain behaviours or habits that the individual wants to work on is by far the hardest part of the change process.

So let’s take a work example to illustrate a couple of things that can help embed new ways of improving or creating new actions moving forwards:

 A leader I have been working with for several months was struggling to commit her time to holding regular Team Meetings and hold monthly 1-1,s with her direct reports. She had had various attempts at putting the meetings in the diary and had also managed to keep the momentum going with a few meetings but it never lasted more than a couple of months. She began to think it didn’t matter as she sat quite close to the people they all chatted every day and they were having the occasional meeting. Deep down however she knew that the regular pattern she had originally set out to achieve hadn’t been embedded to become routine practice plus the fact that these two activities in my view (as her coach) were key to maintaining individuals motivation, aiding consistent communication and managing performance issues. It took a couple of events to refocus the leaders attention back to the important “why” did she want to work on improving this area in the first place. The two events were a high performing member of the team handed in her notice as she felt she wasn’t been challenged or developed enough in the role plus in the end of year appraisal feedback the Team commented that they often didn’t know what was going on in other areas of the business. When we discussed both of theses events at a coaching discussion it was clear that if the regular 1-1’s had been happening with everyone and team meetings were a given part of daily operations then these two events might not have occurred.

 So this illustration shows there has to be a solid reason behind why you want to embed new behaviours or change the way you do things.

 Ask yourself the question for anything you intended to do at the beginning of 2018 what was your “why” was it strong enough? Is it still there?

 Also who are you accountable ? It really helps if you share what you would like to work on with someone else and ask them to be your accountability buddy until the new habit or action becomes embedded in your routine.

Sandra works as a coach to both businesses and private clients – more information can be found at http://www.sandrawebbercoaching.com. She has also written a book called Own It which can be found on Amazon at http://amzn.to/2m3l8Vl

New Challenges Mean New Frustrations

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Anyone who knows me or has read my book Own It will know that I always like to be working on a new challenge however sometimes I do wonder why I do this as it is not always easy.

 I love the initial phase when a new idea bubbles up or just comes completely out of the blue in what I call a moment of clarity! It’s happened to me many a time e.g. Deciding to qualify as an accountant in the 1980’s, setting up the business in 2000, doing my first triathlon and then an Ironman! Well the challenge that came up from nowhere this April while on holiday in Lanzarote was I want to learn Spanish and be above average.

 So, the familiar pattern starts, and I secured a Spanish teacher before the return flight landed at Bristol airport and I was telling everyone this was my new “non-work” project. I discovered a brilliant app Duolingo thanks to a client who recommended it and initially everything was great.

 Now nearly eight months later reality has hit learning Spanish is hard and requires a lot of time and effort. I keep meeting an amazing amount of people who I didn’t realise can speak Spanish well some who did A levels or degrees in it. I have also met a lot more people who have embarked on a similar project, maybe with a different language, who have given up when they got to the stage I am currently at. It’s not as easy as I thought it was going to be. I am myself at that decision point, how much do I want this? Is my reason for doing this strong enough?

 Well at the time of writing yes, I am still fully committed to learning this language even though it’s not going to be as easy as I originally thought. I am going to have to put more effort and time into this if I want to achieve my goal however you will notice I didn’t put a timeline on this challenge and this was for a reason I wanted it to be a fun, non-work-related pastime. I certainly know an awful lot more Spanish than I did in April of this year and I need to remember this. My understanding and recognition of words is much better however there is still a lot more work to be done in pronunciation and understanding what is been said by the natives rather than a slower paced Spanish lesson.

 So, it’s a challenge you bet it is and it’s tougher than I thought but that is ok it just might take a bit longer than I originally thought and I have now got great respect for those people who can fluently speak a second language.

 

 

 Sandra works as a coach or Businesses and Private Clients. She is also author of the book Own It regain control and live life on your terms available from Amazon http://amzn.to/2m3l8Vl

 

 

The Ultimate Recommendation

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Anyone who has used the profiling tool Belbin will be familiar with the various roles we can all migrate too e.g. Plant (the ideas person), Implementer (the doer) etc.  well I am a Resource Investigator (the person who finds someone to help or finds an expert for the team) I love connecting people who I think will either get on or who can help each other.

Thankfully in my job I get to meet a huge variety of people, so I can connect people easy if asked to do so or I spot an opportunity that I feel will be mutually beneficial. There is one prerequisite however before I recommend a professional service provider to someone though and that is that I must be 100% happy with that service and the individual providing the service myself. For me to be 100% happy I need to have had a consistently high level of service over a long period of time coupled with the traits I mentioned in my previous blog regarding the individual being knowledgeable, passionate about their subject area and tailored in their offering to each individual client.

When I was asked for the “thankful list” for a profession or service that others provide that I appreciate I had no hesitation in calling out two people in my life who meet all the criteria above and who I always recommend to others without any hesitation and have done for the past three years.

My hairdresser Nadine of Madison Rae  http://www.madison-rae.co.uk/ and my acupuncturist Verity Allen http://www.verityallenacupuncture.com/ both ladies tick all the boxes on a consistent basis, so if ever I meet people via business or socially I share their contact details.

When working with teams of customer service professionals one key measure universally used to measure the current level of customer service is the Net Promotors Score which simply asks the question would you recommend this service others? This is the ultimate result we should all be aiming for; if all our clients are delighted with the service that we provide they will have no hesitation in recommending your service to others and act as your unpaid salesforce always without realising it.

Sandra works as a coach to business and private clients and is also the author of the book Own It available from Amazon http://amzn.to/2m3l8Vl

 

Inspirational First Impressions

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We are all familiar with the phrase “first impressions are important” and it is so true still. What is it that creates that positive first impression when we meet someone that means we go away from this initial encounter saying how inspirational this person was to anyone we meet. Over the past few years I can vividly remember a few people I met briefly that left this impression on me and I have been trying to work out what were the qualities these folks had.

Firstly, the people I have in my mind were all very passionate and knowledgeable about their profession or had a clear purpose to their enthusiastic about wanting to share their experiences, knowledge and expertise with others.

The other trait these people had was they looked after themselves and took time to do this. They were all varying ages and physiques however they had healthy habits prioritising their self-care and daily wellbeing regimes. A saying “you can’t give what you haven’t got” comes to mind here as these individuals were helping others in some way by being of service, teaching or helping develop students and clients.

They all showed genuine interest in me from that first encounter, they went out of their way to try and work out areas of difficulty or subjects that were important to me. They weren’t in a “one solution fits all” mode, their approach and their listening skills enabled them to tailor their offering to my circumstances.

Continual learning was a priority, and this was evident quickly in that they weren’t standing still, they all had new projects they were working on or new countries they planned to visit. In each of their chosen professions they knew there was a lot more to learn and they were hungry to first take on this learning themselves and then share it with others.

Finally, they were all generous with their time and their knowledge demonstrating the ability to identify people, books or resources that they thought might help each individual and they then facilitated those connections which demanded their own personal time and commitment to action,

None of this stuff is difficult however rarely is it all packaged together which makes this a winning cocktail of behaviors that creates such a positive first impression. Think back over the year who has created this impression with you? Any other qualities to add to the above list?

Sandra is professional coach working with Businesses and Private Clients http://www.sandrawebbercoaching.com

My Love of Reading

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When we were creating the “what are we thankful for in 2017 list” last month and I was asked for “an activity that I can become absorbed/lost in the answer came very quickly. I have always loved reading from about the age of 10 and now having recently been introduced to podcasts this is becoming an equally absorbing and enjoyable activity.

 I remember always having a book on the go initially Enid Blyton with the famous five and Secret Severn series and then from my early teenage years I graduated to detective novels when my grandmother introduced me to Agatha Christie which I proceeded to devour. Reading is a way of spending time by myself and I find it incredibly therapeutic and time does disappear when caught in a book that grabs me. I now love nothing more than a recommendation from a friend or colleague for a good book and I am straight onto Amazon to order. I must admit to still preferring a proper paperback book although for ease of travel the kindle versions are useful it’s just the added screen time that I try to limit at the end of the day, that is a dilemma for me on this.

 My reading challenge in 2017 was to add a bit more variety into my reading, as for the past few years most of my books have been related to either business or self-development. It took a conversation with another lady in the office who always relaxes by reading fiction that made me realise that I had neglected this area and wanted to add it back in. Having made that decision, I am pleased to have read around 6 novels in 2017 from very different authors and have thoroughly enjoyed them so I think in 2018 I will continue to alternate my pile of books in waiting between fiction and non-fiction.

 Podcasts are also becoming important and my initial introduction to these was via my Ashtanga Yoga Practice when some of the teachers started sharing stories via this method. I must admit I now listen to a variety of podcasts but mainly these are work related maybe there is another challenge for me to expand the subject matter wider here next year?

 My additional challenge is to encourage our little grandchildren to read, I always try and buy them books whenever possible in the hope that they might get the same pleasure I have from this pastime.

 

Sandra is a coach to Business and Private Clients and also the author of Own It available from Amazon http://amzn.to/2m3l8Vl

 

Managing Your Own Energy Levels

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Having always been a naturally high energy person, it wasn’t until I found myself feeling low energy on a daily basis that I gave this subject any consideration. The only times when I had previously felt lethargic were when I was ill or in the early years of having young children when I just assumed it was a given in both situations.

It took the condition of an un diagnosed bout of glandular fever about 5 years ago for me to take a good look at how I managed my energy daily. The virus eventually did get diagnosed but not until I had suffered with extreme tiredness for many months getting highly frustrated not knowing the reason. In some of the Chinese medicine literature it states we all get the illnesses we need to give us signs that the body needs help or that we need to make certain changes to our lifestyle and I now believe catching glandular fever in my fifties did me a massive favor. It forced me to do a complete audit of my lifestyle, read around the subject of adrenal fatigue and make some positive adjustments in both how I manage my work and personal life.

Any person with a driven personality type tries to muscle on through when they get ill and this often not helpful. In the end I realised that I had to give in a bit, reserve the little energy I had to focus on  the most important tasks and take rest a lot more than I had ever taken in my life before. Being self-employed I decided that I needed to focus my energy on keeping my work commitments and let go of my social life, my then intensive exercise routine and pare down my diary time to two simple elements going to work and coming home and resting. If felt very unusual at first sitting down and doing nothing but in the end, I was left with little choice as the current way of operating wasn’t working. Within a few weeks the energy levels started to return, and this is dangerous as feeling better it is tempting to return to old habits and burn the candle at both ends again. Luckily during my rest periods I had been reading and a brilliant book called Adrenal Fatigue by Jim Wilson and it helped immensely; some of the key messages had filtered through and I made two lists of “things that make me feel good and energise me” and “things that make me feel bad and drain me” This exercise was a breakthrough for me as it forced me to list out activities, situations and things that aided my energy levels and also the opposite, any person, activity, food or situation that drained or stressed me and therefore depleted my energy.

Five years later I still add too and refer to these lists – I encourage you to create your own to manage and optimise your own energy levels.

 

Sandra is a High Performance coach who works with both businesses and private clients; more information can be found at http://www.sandrawebbercoaching.com

How Many Rays of Sunshine do you know?

 

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You may have heard the phrase “we become an average of the five people we surround ourselves by” Personally I believe this is so true and can have a massive impact on how you live your life and whether you reach your full potential and live the life you want for yourselves.

 If I remember back to my early family life I wasn’t born into a family who inspired me to achieve anything other than average. Looking back for the first 21 years of my life the people I was surrounded by were using my own definition of weather character cloudy skies. They were good people and some days were better than others but until I started work for an American computer company Hewlett Packard my aspirations for my own life were average and ordinary.

As I started right at the bottom of this growing American multinational they type of people I found myself spending time with started to change. There were still the cloudy skies folk amongst the people I began to interact with however the big change for me was that I started to come across a more inspirational type of person who was operating on a different level. These people exuded infectious energy, they worked hard, they were professional, they were fun to be with as they knew how to play hard as well! When the company was growing rapidly in 1980’s we certainly worked and played hard sometimes staying behind in the office to reconcile the month-end accounts until midnight and being back at the desk by 8am the next day. I learnt about the importance of teamwork, setting stretch goals and continually improving both processes and taking any opportunity that came my way to attend learning and development events. Some of the course tutors on such training events were also pivotal in my own learning.

 Without really realising it at the time my world had expanded and now I was surrounded by some ‘Rays of Sunshine’ These people were impressive professionally but also authentic and approachable at the same time. Not everyone I met was like this but there was enough of them in my life now to know that there was a different way of approaching life. There was another level beyond Cloudy Skies and I wanted to learn how these people lived their life in this way.

 So, look back over the last few weeks, list who you spent your time with, how many Rays of Sunshine are in your life? Enough or do you need to find some more?

 Learn more about how important it is to understand who you surround yourself by in Chapter 8 of Own It Book available using this link amazon http://amzn.to/2m3l8Vl

 

At A Crossroads? – don’t wait too long

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My last article discussed how we can often find ourselves “stuck” either in our professional or personal life or indeed both and how sometimes just the realisation that we need to take some action to get “unstuck” is the first step to making positive changes in our life.

Another situation we can find ourselves in is facing a crossroads where there are many alternative routes that can be taken and a decision needs to be made as to which path to take. When we are driving a car, or walking and we reach a crossroads we MUST decide a direction of travel at that point unless we want to annoy other cars or pedestrians by just standing in the middle of the road. When reaching a life crossroads however it is a lot easier to hover and procrastinate.

So, what is your personal approach when faced with a life crossroads situation? This can happen at any age. I work with graduates who have just finished university and have several options available e.g. graduate entry level job in big company, go and work for a smaller SME, apply for jobs in total alignment with their degree subject matter or make a complete change as they no longer have interest in that subject three or four years later.

In later life, another crossroads situation can appear in mid-career e.g. Having worked for a smaller company for many years, knowing everyone and having built up a good reputation for the work you do, do you stay put and build on that reputation, enjoy being part of the team or do you apply for jobs in a larger organisation where there may be more career progression and salary scope, alternatively you could go freelance or self-employed and as a fourth option a hybrid model of part time work and other work or personal activity is also an option.

Further on in life many of the people I work with are approaching the last phase of their working life and the crossroads they face can present itself as stay in current role until lucrative pension package kicks in, move jobs into their ideal role before it’s too late, be brave and launch the business they have always dreamt of, reduce hours and enjoy more leisure time, or retire early.

These are just some of the many choices we can face and on one hand it’s great to see how many different routes there are but on another front, having too many options paralyses some people to the point where they just stay put and always wonder in a “what if” way what would have happened if they had taken another route in another direction.

Over the years I have read many inspiring self-development books and added any useful learnings to my own personal toolkit from this reading. One tip I took many years ago that I still use today was from the classic Susan Jeffers book Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway… in here she states there is no such thing as a bad decision. I use this when faced with the crossroads situation, take time to consider the options, do a pros and cons list and talk to others but then go ahead and be brave, make the decision and don’t look back. Make the decision on what route you want to take and then set off down in that direction with 100 percent commitment to make it work. Don’t look back or torture yourself with ‘what if I had taken the other route’. If it turns out you took one that doesn’t work out make a different decision at the next crossroads you meet and I have met many successful people who have had to make an occasional U-turn in their lives and its worked out ok in the end.