You can’t read the label from inside the jar

This week I got some wonderful feedback;

‘After one phone call with Lucy I had complete clarity on what my next career steps should be’

 And it wasn’t a mega long coaching phone call – it was under an hour!

Thing is it doesn’t matter if you’re a trained coach or not. Basically it’s a million times easier to help someone else unpick what’s keeping them stuck, or unhappy or frustrated and help them figure out what to do about it than it is to do it for yourself on your own.

We’re too close to our own problems and often emotionally attached to them which means it’s practically impossible to be objective. We can be fearful of facing up to an uncomfortable truth on our own; maybe the business idea isn’t very good, maybe you’re in the wrong role, or maybe that person isn’t considering your point of view. The fear is real and that’s why sometimes it can be easier, and feel safer to stay stuck and unhappy.

And many people do stay stuck and unhappy.

Often the root cause of a problem and therefore the solution, is something so obvious we can overlook it. We are riddled with assumptions and bias that can stop us seeing something that is blatantly obvious to other people who are less close or involved in the situation.

It’s difficult for us to ask ourselves challenging questions. Sometimes we simply don’t want to admit that we’re wrong, and we’re fearful of what changing direction might involve.

I head this expression recently, and for me it sums up why asking help from others is so helpful and important ‘You can’t read the label from inside the jar.’ 

You can’t effectively identify or solve your own problems because you’re just too close to them.

When you talk situations through with others, they bring a different perspective. They ask questions that open up new thinking patterns and opportunities. They challenge bias and assumptions. They provide space and legitimacy to focus on you, which in itself can help the questions and answers to flow.

Talking to someone else also holds us accountable and makes us more likely to take action.

I believe that everyone would benefit from having someone to help them read their label. That might be a coach, a mentor, a network or an accountability group. Different things suit different people (and different budgets).

However you read your label remember the same principle; it’s very difficult to work on your own problems on your own. Having someone who will listen, reflect, ask you questions, be candid and kind in challenging your bias and allow you time and space to respond is perhaps the most important gift you can give to yourself.

What’s right for you?

Here’s some options;

Get a coach – Coaching is usually paid for and is a process that aims to improve performance and focuses on specific goals in the short term (rather than on the distant past or future). The role the coach as a facilitator of learning.

Get a mentor – Mentoring is more likely to be not paid for; the mentor often sees the relationship as giving something back as well as being part of their own learning and development. Mentoring tends to have a longer term focus and deal more with wider support regarding career and attitude like, where are you going and what do you want to be doing five years from now?

Join a mastermind group – A mastermind group is designed to help you set powerful goals and navigate through challenges using collective intelligence. Such groups usually consist of between four to eight people with a mix of skills and experience. They may meet regularly (weekly, fortnightly or monthly – whatever makes most sense to the needs of the group). They have a core remit of helping each other achieve their own success. They can be something you set up yourself, however in my experience the more powerful ones are paid for and professionally facilitated.

Join a network – A place where you can benefit from the collective help provided by the membership. This might be your sector professional body, a Facebook group or something more structured like the Lucidity Network.

None of the above options are mutually exclusive. In fact I encourage you to consider them all. Many of my coaching clients also have a mentor, and are in a mastermind group and are part of the Lucidity Network. The warning is that when you embark on any of these, you have to want to change, be open to challenge and be prepared to take action.

If you’re prepared to take action I can help you with all of the options above. If you’d like to chat about coaching, joining a mastermind group, getting a mentor or joining the Lucidity Network, book a 30 minute call here.

Do you feel like you’re winging it?

I remember when I was first promoted from being part of a team to being a manager of a team. I spent my whole time feeling like I was winging it.

I was super pleased though. For what seemed like a long time, being a ‘manager’ was the next career move. It felt like an important step up. A career milestone.

I was proud of my new business cards. I liked having manager in my job title. I felt like I’d made real progress.

Then reality kicked in.

I had no idea what was involved in managing people. I didn’t realise how much my previous manager had protected me and my colleagues from organisational politics and pressures from other departments.

I went on a management training course.

The training was great, however it didn’t prepare me for the less obvious and perhaps more challenging aspects of being a new manager that can’t be learned in a training session. I was promoted from within a team, so I was managing some of my old colleagues (some of whom applied for the [my] managers roll and didn’t get it).  Even though everyone was great and there was no obvious hard feelings it still felt difficult to adjust to this new dynamic. Drinks after work changed – now I was expected to buy the first round and then go home so the rest of the team could bond. It was no longer OK to be the last person standing on a night out.

It can be hard to ask for help

Whether you’re promoted from within an organisation or you start a new role in a new organisation, the same anxiety can take hold. The uneasy feeling that you’re winging it, that you don’t really know what you’re doing and that if you’re not careful you’ll get found out.

It’s hard to ask for help because you’re a manager now and you’re supposed to know stuff.

Also you want to step into your role and prove that you can do it. That’s why you don’t ask your manager for help for fear or appearing incompetent, inadequate or making them think they’ve made the wrong decision in appointing you. Because doubt is creeping in and you’re secretly starting to believe that they’ve made the wrong decision.

You don’t feel safe to ask your new peer group, the other managers, for help. You’re still figuring out the order of things, who you trust and who talks to who. It’s hard to ask them for help because you feel like you want to be accepted as one of them. You want them to respect you and your experience but you feel that you haven’t earned it yet, so you can’t ask them for too much help. You don’t want to be seen as the ‘new manager’ (Even though that’s not how they see you – it’s only how you see you).

You can’t ask your team (the people you manage) for help because you feel like they look to you for answers and you should have them. Plus who knew that managing people could take up take up so much time and energy? There’s hardly any time to do anything else what with one to ones, meetings about objectives and performance, forms to fill in and organisational deadlines to meet. What about the actual work, the stuff you’re good at, the things you love?

As we climb further up the conventional career ladder we often get further away from the work we love because we’re managing other people to do it.

Back to winging it

If that’s not enough all of a sudden I had to present information at meetings, talk about budgets and people actually listened, and with that comes great responsibility. What if I got something wrong?

I just wanted to enjoy my job and be good at it. I felt that in the time I was learning to step up to be a manager that I was floundering, being a fake and that I was going to get found out. Even with excellent management training I still felt like I was lost and making it up, my confidence took a nosedive and I started to doubt myself.

Does this sound familiar?

Now I work with clients in different points in their careers, and I’ve noticed that there’s some real grey areas for organisations in the development of their people.

There’s two gaps that I see time and time again; the first is when someone steps into a management role and manages people for the first time. The second is when someone takes the step from management to leadership and becomes part of a senior management team.

When people first step into a management role they often go through a management training programme but nine times out of ten they don’t have support networks they need to put the theory into practise and continue to learn and develop. Self doubt creeps in and the great management opportunity turns into an anxious nightmare. Even when people are well networked, even when they know a lot of people, the majority are still not very good at asking their networks for help. It either feels too daunting or they don’t want to be seen as incompetent or are fearful of being found out.

More senior mangers and leaders in my experience tend to see the value in networks and have more established ones, yet still find it difficult to ask for help and utilise the networks that they’ve worked so hard to build.

Whatever stage we are in our career we all need to ask for help and to help other people. We all need a cheering squad, critical friends, people to bounce ideas round with and people around us who challenge us to be the best version of ourselves.

These are the things that traditional management training doesn’t (or perhaps can’t) cover. The subtle challenges that keep you awake at night, the learning by experience and the skills that get called ‘soft’ which are essential to master to have a happy and productive working life.

These gaps are the reasons that I run the Lucidity Network. It’s a community of people to ask for help as well as coaching and training (including those critical soft skills) to help you step up in your career and enjoy the experience. For more information go here, or book a time for an informal chat on how joining the Lucidity Network can help you progress in your working life.

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.

 

When was the last time you took some time to reflect on your work life and identified the right opportunities to pursue?

Are you ready to fully step into your greatness and get that dream leadership role?
Are you asking yourself how you can get support and what you should be prioritising?

It’s hard, working alone to bring your big dreams into focus, prioritise the steps that will get you there fastest, and stay on track amid distractions.

You are not alone.  Take this as your call to get clear on your next career steps.

Join Juliet Corbett and me, for a 90-minute webinar where we’ll show you our tried and tested process to identify your strengths so that you can harness the accelerators already driving you and pinpoint your sticking points holding your career back.

Accelerate your career webinar with Lucy Gower and Juliet Corbett

We’ll also give you the tools to take action straight away and make significant progress in your career.

The webinar is for you if…

  • You know what you want your work-life to look like, but you’re not sure how to get there
  • You’re facing challenges that are getting in your way of creating what you want
  • Dips in confidence are getting in the way of you making progress
  • You’re ready to take action but you’re procrastinating about where to start.

We can’t wait to see you online on Thursday 22 April – 12 pm (UK time). Sign up today!