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My top 3 tips to help you be happy and successful at work

For the vast majority of people, being successful and happy at work relies on the strength of the relationships with our colleagues, managers, clients and customers. Research shows that we get results faster when we know, like and trust people. We can’t fake that. We earn it. Whether we work in the same location or are working virtually here’s my 3 tips to build strong relationships.

Ask open questions

Ask people about them (what’s your favourite topic? Yep – you got it ‘you’). Listen carefully to their response. Ask them more open questions about their answers. Listen again. Find things in common. Sounds obvious I know, but when we’re busy or stressed out, simple things like asking and listening can easily get forgotten.

For example, a great taste in shoes, knowledge of a local area, a football club. It doesn’t have to be work related; you’re looking for any topic where there’s a common interest.

We get results faster when we know, like and trust other people. And building genuine rapport about common interests builds trust.

Have a give first attitude

Whether it’s online or face to face, go to your meeting or networking event with the mindset of helping others; how can you add value to conversations? Can you help to unpick other people’s problems and be a go-to person when others need help?

Be the person that gives first, invests in relationships, asks and receives and builds on others ideas and conversations. Make ‘How can I help?’ one of your most used questions.

Take an improv class

I’ve saved my most valuable (and scary) tip for the last in this list.

I took improv classes a few years ago, because I wanted to challenge myself to step outside of my comfort zone. I wanted to be better at thinking in the moment when I was presenting. I didn’t want to be afraid of being asked something that I couldn’t answer. It was scary and also one of the best things I’ve ever done. I use so much of the rules of improv in my working life.

We’re all guilty of over thinking and over complicating things. Many awkward or fractious work situations involve some over thinking or over complication at some point. This overthinking is often the result of fear. Improv forces you to be in the moment. Instead of thinking about yourself, you have to spend all your energy on listening, building on what others have said and making sure the other people on stage with you look good. And in turn, they do the same for you.

You can’t prepare or overthink because it all happens in the moment. If it all goes wrong, it doesn’t matter. No one is judging. You get to laugh at yourself.

The only failure in improv is not stepping up and giving it a go. You could argue that is also true of life and work.

What are you not giving a go because of fear?

A couple of years ago I set up the Lucidity Network – it’s a place to get training, support and connections. It’s a safe space to build your confidence and overcome the fears that are holding you back. It’s a network designed  to help you be happy and successful at work.

If you’d like more success and happiness at work, then  join a network of friendly, non judgmental, successful people who are not afraid to reach out for help or admit that they don’t know what to do, or feel in control 100% of the time. Check out the Lucidity Network today.

Feeling lost in your career? How to get unstuck and have the work life that you want

It’s a weird time right now. We’re all riding the corona coaster as best we can. While some have been on and off furlough, others have been keeping the organisation ticking over and many have been getting through home schooling and taking one day at a time. We’re all facing uncertainty. Many of us are facing restructure, redundancy or being asked by our employers, yet again, to do more with less.

I’m having a lot of conversations about career opportunities and how the situation is actually helping people get unstuck right now though. Restructure, redundancies and realising we can live differently, with less, has provided an opportunity for many people to rethink, regroup and reset. Many people who were feeling dissatisfied with their career before Covid-19 hit have taken the opportunity to think carefully about what they want their working life to look like in the future. They are now working on new strategies to get themselves unstuck and get the work life they want.

Over the years I’ve helped hundreds of people who’ve told me they feel stuck in their career to get unstuck. People have told me that something had to change for them to break free and be happy, but they lacked the confidence to take that step.

Covid-19 has forced rapid change. Work has changed and jobs have changed. And you don’t need to be stuck in your career. This is an opportunity to rethink what you really want from your work life and go and get it. Go on, get yourself unstuck.

Read on to find out how you can stop feeling stuck in your career, and have the confidence to break free, get unstuck and get the work life you want.

Here are my top ten tips for getting unstuck and getting the work life you want.

1. Make time for you

If you’re feeling stuck, frustrated, or unhappy with how your career is panning out, the first step is to work out why.

Maybe you’ve arrived in your current career by accident and haven’t ever made time to deliberately think or plan what you’d love to do and how you’d get there.

Prioritizing time to think is the first step you need to take to stop feeling stuck and start getting ahead. Book some time into your day where you can have an uninterrupted meeting with yourself. This is your thinking time.

Work out what makes you happy at work, what doesn’t, and where you might want to go. Decide on the steps you want to take to progress your career in the direction that you want it to take.

For example, are there training days, evening courses, or online learning that you can do? Have you considered getting a mentor to help you get ahead?

By booking in a meeting with yourself, it signals it’s important (to you and your colleagues) and also stops others spotting a gap in your day and filling it with a meeting.

2. Grow your network before you need it

Who you know is more important than what you know for career progression. Don’t wait until you’re feeling stuck in your career to start expanding your networks. Do it now.

Adam Grant, the author of Give and Take, says you’re 58% more likely to get a new job through your weak ties than through your strong ones. Your strong ties are those in your immediate circle whom you interact with often. Your weak ties are your friends of friends. They move in different circles to you, they know different people, make different connections, and are more likely to introduce you to new and different opportunities.

When I was thinking about setting up my current company, Lucidity, I turned up to every networking event. I drank a lot of coffees with a lot of different people to understand what they did. I asked for advice, unpicked what their problems were, and looked for opportunities for collaboration and connections.

It paid off. When I launched my business, I let my network know how I could help them, and soon I had my first clients.

Pay attention to building and nurturing your networks and focus on how you can add value to other. That’s where your next career opportunity is most likely to come from.

3. Surround yourself with people who inspire you

According to Tim Ferriss, ‘You are the average of the five people you most associate with’, and his associations with different people ebbs and flows depending on what he’s working on and trying to achieve.

For example, if you’re wanting to be fitter, it’s easier if you hang around with people who love doing exercise–they help you to up your game.

If you want that promotion, a career change, or to set up your own business, seek out people who are excelling at it already. They’ll have valuable things to teach you about breaking free and getting ahead.

4. Work on your personal brand

Jeff Bezos defines a personal brand as ‘what people say about you when you’re not in the room.’ People will talk about you when you are not in the room anyway, so you might as well be deliberate about what you’d like people to say!

Your personal brand isn’t about pretending to be something you’re not. That can actually keep you feeling stuck in your career. It’s really about being your best ‘real you.’ It’s about owning your strengths and being purposeful about how you want to be perceived by others.

What do you want to be known for? By being more deliberate about how you want to come across and what you’re looking for in your career, you’ll increase your chance of attracting the right opportunities.

Once you’ve given your personal brand some thought, make sure that you show up online. Is your LinkedIn profile up to date? And if you don’t have one, get one. Make sure it communicates what you want to be known for and that it’s consistent with your other social media profiles.

5. Get unstuck and be accountable

Achieve your career goals faster, and grow and learn by making yourself accountable. Tell other people your goals and a timeline, and have them to hold you accountable.

For example, you might want to get a promotion by the end of the year, have decided the sector you want to move to by the end of the month, or have got your new business idea before the next pay day. Whatever your ambitions are, you can tell a friend or a colleague, or share this with a mentor or a mastermind group.

When we tell other people our goals and intentions, they hold us accountable, and we are more likely to make progress faster.

6. Make sure your values are aligned with your organisation’s

All the professional development, goal setting, and networks in the world won’t make you happy if you’re working for a company that ultimately has opposing values to yours.

Figure out what’s important to you in a job. For example, does your company’s product help people live a better life? Do you feel strongly about your company’s ethics and social responsibility? Does the company culture allow employees to be themselves and shine? Or maybe flexible working and more holidays for employees with families is where your heart is?

Some companies put their employees well-being at the core of their business; others put profits first. If you feel that your values don’t match the core values of your employer, it could be a reason why you’re feeling stuck in your career and unhappy.

It’s important to work through this and identify whether it’s the job that is not right for you, or if it’s a great job but the organization or sector is wrong for you.

7. Get out of your comfort zone

Your comfort zone is your safe place. For any change to happen, you have to step out of your comfort zone. Many of us have been forced out of our comfort zones right now, perhaps we’ve been on and off furlough, been through restructure or redundancy.

It’s actually much easier not to change anything and to keep grumbling on about how you’re stuck and unhappy than to step outside of your comfort zone to address the fearful unknowns associated with change. It’s part of human nature that we’d put up with the devil we know rather than risk the devil we don’t.

This is true even if the devil we know is a boring, unfulfilling job because we’re wired to think that making a change to find a better option might actually leave us worse off.

If you feel stuck, it might be that your confidence has got the better of you.

To get ahead at work, start taking small steps outside of your comfort zone. Consider what you’re scared of that is stopping you from making a change. Then, tackle that in small steps.

For example, if you know that to move into the job you want, you’ll have to do more public speaking, but public speaking terrifies you so much it’s stopping you from going for the job, then start small to build your confidence. You can speak up more in team meetings, then slowly build from there.

You might also choose to set up or be part of a specific group. One of my clients, who found that confidence was holding her team back in achieving work goals, set up a ‘get out of your comfort zone club.’ Here they challenge and support each other to build their confidence by regularly leaving their comfort zones.

8. Learn to embrace failure

Failure is part of life. A New York University study found that children learning to walk averaged 2,368 steps and fell 17 times an hour. Failure is simply the natural path to success.

The truth is that we don’t get everything right the first time. We fail, we learn, we pick ourselves up, and we try again.

In my experience, it’s common that whilst the theory of learning from failure is supported, the reality of being open about failures to enable personal learning is much harder to achieve.

We don’t like to admit that we’ve failed. We have a fight or flight response to failure. It’s a normal gut reaction to ask ourselves: ‘Will I get away with it if I don’t tell anyone?’ We are fearful of criticism, of losing face in front of others, or even being fired for failure.

However, if you’re going to stop feeling stuck in your career, you must be open to learning from failure.

Reframe failure by viewing everything as an experiment. You can’t have a failed experiment, you just learn whether something works or not. Think of Edison inventing the lightbulb, when he said:

‘I’ve not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.’

9. Build your resilience

Resilience is the ability to tackle difficulties and setbacks, to bounce back, regroup, and to keep going.

Getting unstuck in your career, taking a different path, and achieving the results you want will take resilience. Having resilience is also the capacity to choose how you respond to the unexpected things that life throws your way and adapt and thrive in times of complex change.

Given that the world we live in is in constant flux, and the only thing that is certain is uncertainty, the ability to adapt and bounce back is an important life skill, as well as a career skill.

In her book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, Angela Duckworth’s research shows that when measuring success, the ability to persevere beats talent every time.

10. Get unstuck – ask for help

It can be hard to ask for help, as it can make us feel vulnerable.

No one person can be expected to have all the answers. That’s why we need a group of people that we can go to for help to get unstuck, people who can pick us up when we have setbacks and also help us to celebrate success.

My advice is to be deliberate about creating your group. You can do that with a tool called a ‘Me Map’:

  • Write down all the things that you might need support with, like help with career progression, interview practice, making new connections, talking through business plans, learning from failure, etc.
  • Next to each thing, write the names of the people you go to when you need that particular thing.
  • Make sure you get in touch and regularly connect with them.

Final thoughts on getting unstuck in your career

You can stop feeling stuck in your career. Break free, get unstuck and get the work life you want by applying the tips in this article.

If you’d like to accelerate your progress I can help you. Two years ago I set up the Lucidity Network specifically to help people get unstuck and get the work life that they want. It’s a mix of learning – and includes topics like build your personal brand, learning from failure, building resilience and making time to think – and a network of people to go to for help, pick you up when you have setbacks and help you to celebrate success. The network holds each other accountable to make progress through a Facebook community, group coaching and mastermind groups. Recently one member said;

‘This network has felt like a real lifeline over the last few months. I hoped to learn important work and working skills through the training but I’ve also found a network of friendly, non judgmental, successful people who are not afraid to reach out for help or admit that they don’t know what to do or feel in control 100% of the time…. and I can’t tell you how important it has been for me to learn that.’

Remember, no matter how stuck you feel, it’s never too late to make a change, get unstuck and land the career that you truly want. Come and join us at the Lucidity Network. We can help you make the change, get unstuck and have the work life that you truly want and deserve. Join us here.

How to get your confidence back after a knock back

Have you ever had a confidence knock back? Have you gone in for a handshake only to be met with an awkward high-five and ended up casually styling it out and cringing inside? Or had that uneasy anxiety creep over you in a meeting that everyone is looking at you – but you’re not sure why? Have you ever made a badly thought through comment that was met with silence and had no option but to wait for the socially awkward moment to pass?

Did you feel your confidence take a nosedive? You’re not alone.

I help people to be creative and think differently to get the results they want. A lot of my work involves helping people make change happen, overcoming dips in confidence and brushing off the knock backs and keeping going.

In fact, I’ve helped so many people get through a confidence knock back, that I’d like to share some proven tips on how to manage your confidence.

If you’ve ever been afraid to speak up in a meeting or kept quiet when you knew the answer, or if you’ve let your inner critic jeopardize you by telling you that you’re no good and you’re going to get found out, read on and learn my 7 tips to get over the knock back and shine at work.

7 confidence boosting tips

  1. Shift your mindset

Stop labelling yourself as ‘not confident’ or ‘not good enough’. It might be your view on how you feel, but it probably isn’t how other people see you.

Nothing is going to send you into an unconfident spiral faster than berating yourself for the way other people may or may not see you.

So stop telling yourself that you are not good enough and start telling yourself that you’re an excellent confident person.

  1. Ask yourself ‘Why?’

Why are you having these feeling of low confidence in the first place? Are you comparing yourself to others?

An excellent piece of advice that I heard recently was:

‘Don’t compare your inside to someone else’s outside – you will always lose.’

Consider the situations where your confidence dips. For example, do you feel awkward at networking events? Why? Because you’re worried about what other people think? Why? Because people don’t understand what you do and lose interest?

Then you can think about how to describe what you do in a way that does spike peoples’ attention.

For example, when I told people I was a fundraiser for a charity, people would back away from me at networking events anxious that I was going to ask them for a donation.

So I changed what I said. I started talking about the impact of my work ‘protecting children from harm’ rather than my job title ‘fundraiser’ which felt much better and opened up conversations rather than closed them down.

Keep asking yourself why to get to the root cause of your anxiety. It might help to talk it through with a trusted friend or colleague. Or join the Lucidity Network to get some help and support. Then you can start to find solutions to shine.

  1. Focus on the other person

We can often get stressed out about what people think about us. Stop thinking about you – focus on them.

Be present. Put your phone away and give them your whole attention. Ask them lots of questions. By doing this you don’t have space to think about what they think of you because you’re too busy thinking about them.

  1. Practice every day

The best way to tackle anything that can feel big and overwhelming is to do something small every day that builds your confidence.

Like eating an elephant – how would you do it? In small chunks. (Well of course, I’m not really suggesting that you should eat an elephant.)

For example, if you feel awkward in social situations, start with small steps to build your confidence; say hello to the person at the bus stop, talk to the barista at the coffee shop, say hello and smile at the person on reception.

Build up every day with small steps and you’ll find you’re confidence for social situations will grow.

  1. Put your inner critic back in its box

That little voice that tells you you’re going to get found out and you should never have got the job, the pay rise or be at a work event where you have to interact with people – call it out!

Find evidence to prove the voice wrong. Tell that voice to shut up, tell it about all the reasons you did get the job, deserve the pay rise and the times when you enjoyed a conversation at a networking event or felt comfortable in a social situation.

  1. Fake it until you make it

An oldie but a goodie and one that’s stuck around for so long because there’s a lot of truth to it!

How you look and behave and how you feel are closely linked. Dress like you mean success. If you turn up to the office or a meeting looking smart (and smart will mean different things in different contexts) you’re perceived differently than if you turn up looking ready for a casual Sunday afternoon.

  1. Notice your body language

A research published on the Harvard Business School Working Paper shows that your body language has an effect on your confidence.[1]

So before you go into the meeting room, stand tall, shoulders back and breathe slowly to get yourself into a confident frame of mind and body.

Are you keen to be more deliberate about building and maintaining your confidence?

I’ve created a 55-minute training webinar and workbook to keep your confidence at work. It includes simple and practical tips you can action straight away to keep your confidence topped up even if you’ve experienced a knock back.

You’ll finish this training  and be able to over come a knock back and keep your confidence high at work

Get the full 55-minute training webinar and accompanying workbook for only £5.

3 tips to keep your confidence at workFind out more about this training here

This training contains:
– A 55-minute webinar, packed with practical actions to take immediately to build and maintain your confidence.
– A practical workbook with the key action points for success as well as a place to write down your notes and goals.
– Bonus guide on how to be brilliant at stepping out of your comfort zone.

Sign up now for only £5

 

[1]^Harvard Business School: The Benefit of Power Posing Before a High-Stakes Social Evaluation

Three tips to be brilliant at strategy

Strategic thinking at the Lucidity Network

A strategy is a plan of action designed to achieve a long-term or overall vision.

At its core, strategy is about finding where an organisation, team or individual should focus its efforts so it can overcome the biggest challenges holding it back. A strategy is about determining how you are going to ‘win’ in the period ahead.

Your strategy is a combination of the thinking required to work out the overall vision, combined with a plan on how best to achieve it. You need to have both a vision and a plan. One without the other simply doesn’t work because you need to know where you’re going in order to decide the activities that you believe will best get you there. A strategy must be flexible; for example as the environment changes, the activities you carry out to achieve your vision might need to change too. This is especially important now that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed our lives beyond recognition.

Strategy can be difficult to define. It can mean different things to different people and organisations. Strategy can feel like a buzzword or jargon, which can feel confusing. There is often a misconception that if you’re not in a ‘leadership role’ strategy doesn’t apply to you. I believe that we are all leaders in our own sphere of influence, whether we lead an organisation, a team or ourselves. We all need strategies to achieve our vision.

That’s why this month over at the Lucidity Network we’re focusing on how to be brilliant at strategy. Here’s our top 3 tips;

  1. Don’t be intimidated by strategy jargon: Strategy can be surrounded by a lot of jargon. (For example SWOT, KPIs, PESTLE and balanced scorecard) Sometimes these are useful shorthand for a well-understood concept or analytical tool. However, sometimes people use this strategy jargon because they think it makes them sound more impressive, or to gloss over their own insecurities about their strategic thinking abilities.

Always ask for clarification. If you feel unable to ask what a phrase means, putting your question like this can be helpful: ‘Help me understand what you mean?’ or ‘How might that ensure a strategic approach to the challenge we’re facing?’ This can help you move beyond the jargon and steer the conversation towards the strategic elements of the decision at hand.

  1. Use the four building blocks of strategy The four building blocks of strategy are useful when you’re creating or testing a strategy.

Clarify your vision: Why does your organisation exist? What difference will it make to the world? Where do you want to be in 5 or 10 years’ time? How will people think of it/you?

Identify your accelerators and sticking points: What are your accelerators; the positives already propelling you towards achieving your vision? What are your sticking points; the things holding you back or the challenges you’re facing? This is often where the hard work is.

Figure out your general approach: What is the general way you’re going to overcome your two or three most significant sticking points? How can you use your accelerators to help? Keep it general at this stage.

Create an action plan: Plot out some activities, which will start to put your general approach into action. Don’t plan too far ahead, just far enough to check that your general approach is realistic. Each time you near the end of your action plan, revisit your general approach and plan your next set of actions.

  1. Make time for strategic thinking Studies have reported that 97% of business leaders feel that being strategic is the leadership behaviour that has the most beneficial impact on organisational success. However, 96% of business leaders say they don’t have enough time for strategy! Strategic thinking doesn’t just happen. You have to make time. Time is the fuel for your thinking and your personal and organisational success.

I’m delighted that Juliet Corbett, a strategy consultant helping school heads and fundraisers create robust strategies to achieve their visions faster is delivering a webinar at the Lucidity Network to share her expertise in strategic thinking.

This kind of webinar is usually exclusive to members of the Lucidity Network, but the topic of being brilliant at strategy is so important (especially right now as our strategies are changing in response to COVID-19) that we’re inviting people outside the Network to benefit.

Join Juliet at 12.30pm UK time on 28 July and learn:

  • Tips to build your confidence and skills for strategic thinking
  • How to use the four building blocks of strategy
  • Practical ways to adapt your strategy in a fast-changing environment.

Sign up to reserve your place here. Hurry though as places are limited.

This blog is co-written with the help and expertise of Juliet Corbett. Thank you. 🙂

Why storytelling is an important skill in business

Dreaming big and storytelling are an important part of being an innovator. Innovation, by definition, means “trying something new”.

We encourage would-be innovators to think big, break the mould and shout their ideas from the rooftop in order to radically shift the status quo and create measurable change.

However, the reality of “innovating” is easier said than done. You can’t expect anyone to like your new idea or any changes to systems and processes that you might propose. It’s particularly difficult if you’re up against an industry with a rigid culture of traditions, bureaucracy or stuck in the ‘way we do things here’.

So what can you do to get people on board with new ideas and inspire them to want to make change happen?

The power of storytelling

Many of the world’s best innovators and influencers are also some of the most accomplished storytellers. Martin Luther King Jr. famously roused the American Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s with his legendary “I have a dream” speech.

Steve Jobs, the revered Apple CEO, was able to paint a story of his visionary future with the now infamous presentation that launched the iPad.

JFK painted a vision of sending a man to space and returning him safely to earth:

“I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal… of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind.”

 Humans are wired to tell stories 

Storytelling skills are absolutely key to your ability to inspire and influence other people. That’s why we help innovators develop their storytelling skills. 

Storytelling is how human beings have shared knowledge for hundreds of thousands of years. Scientists have even shown that information learned through emotionally charged storytelling has greater memory recall. Stories inspire people. They remember them, they retell them.

For you to be an innovator, your ability to tell stories could be the difference between your innovation staying on the drawing board and making it to the market place.

The structure of a story

Are you trying to convince people in your organisation that there’s a better way – or at least that you deserve the opportunity to try?

The trick to getting the ball rolling is describing problems and their solutions in a way that captivates attention and encourages action.

Every powerful story is made up of key areas, as we’ve outlined in our five-step story structure below to help the listener, in this example, engage with the new idea of automated rent payment.

1. Setting the scene

Tell the listener who the story is about.

Give them enough information to make them care what happens.

Using a character reference or real human being helps, e.g. Irene is an elderly woman, too frail and frightened to leave her house after falling on some ice. She has to struggle to the rent office every week because there is no other way to pay her rent other than in person.

2. Describe the problem

The problem on hand is that a frail, injured senior citizen has no other option but to leave her house to pay her rent in person.

3. How the solution will change you / them?

If the payments could be automated, Irene could pay her rent easily without the pain and expense of getting to the payment office and standing in a long queue.

4. Paint the vision of the different future

In this context, the innovation (automated rent payment), has made the difference.

Someone like Irene and millions of senior citizens just like her don’t have to struggle to make it to the payment office, and she has peace of mind that her rent is paid on time.

5. Highlight how the listener has a role in making the better future happen

Consider the role your listener plays in the story. For example, if you are trying to persuade your colleague to support your idea, help them connect to the part they play in making the better future for Irene happen.

 Quick storytelling tips

Consider how you tell your story to others. Below are our top tips to get peoples attention and inspire them to get involved.

  • Make it about one person or a particular group of people –  people connect to stories of specific people on an emotional level, e.g. Irene, rather than stories of the thousands of people like her.
  • Make it simple, use simple language, no jargon or acronyms; your story has to be easily understood to be effective. A good litmus test is to consider if both your granny and a five-year old will understand it.
  • Think about your audience and what sort of story would appeal to their interests.

Lastly, and most importantly: you have to care!

If you don’t care about your story, it’s very hard to convince anyone else to care.

(Nancy Duarte talks a bit more about the importance of structure and passion in her TED talk.)