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What do professional women in Sussex want in their career?

If you are a professional woman in Sussex then Hilary Ellis and I would like to hear about your career ambitions, what gets in the way and what supports you. What do you believe could best develop and sustain you in achieving your career dreams?

Please complete the short survey here http://goo.gl/forms/Zzlsy63CKj by Sunday 1 March 2015.

OnewayWe will be using the results to compile a unique report on women’s  career ambitions across Sussex and to design new career development tools and courses specifically tailored to the needs of women like you.

The survey results will available on these pages and across a range of relevant media later in the Spring, or contact us directly: lisa@lisawestbury.com or hilary.ellis@talent-for-change.com.

 Photocredit: One way (2006) by Brian Creative Commons. Some rights reserved

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A simple tool for setting your career direction this year

We are already in February, and your New Year’s resolutions may be losing their sparkle – or perhaps you don’t do resolutions anyway! How will you know if you are moving in the right direction in your work and career? If you don’t know where you are heading then you might soon find yourself stuck in the doldrums or drifting somewhere you don’t like at all, and that can be very de-motivational.dreaming

So take a quick break from your busy schedule and spend a precious few minutes taking that all important step back to set your career intentions for the year. Here is a simple exercise you can try when you get some quiet time to yourself:

First, take a few deep breaths in and out. Allow your body to relax and your eyes to soften. Enjoy the feeling of your body’s weight in the chair. Then bring your awareness to your career.

Ask yourself: “What is my high dream for my career this year“. Write a few notes.

And then ask“What supports my high dream?”

Next, explore your low dream in the same way.

You now have two parameters to work with –  a clearer sense of your vision, and also your potential concerns or fears. Both are important to know if you are going to make some change happen. Dreaming is a way of accessing what lies beneath the every day activities we spend most of our life doing. It is the place of possibility and of exploration which can help to shape and motivate your next steps forward.

Now you know your high dreams and low dreams, you can work out what is going to be most helpful for you to tackle next. Do you need to sort out an obstacle which is getting in your way, or start planning some actions which move you forward?

With your high dream and low dream in place, you can choose your direction of travel at any point in time and have something to check in with regularly throughout the year. You might like to create a picture or montage to connect you with those dreaming places, or simply post the words somewhere they will catch your eye. Do your action planning with each of these potential destinations in mind, and don’t forget to celebrate each step forward!

Photocredit: One is always dreaming, Jared Tarbell, 2012, Creative Commons Some rights reserved

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The quote which launched my business

Melanie Lawson shares what has helped her launch her Bare Biology health supplement which is stocked by Space NK and Liberty London, following a seven year career break

The difference between people who really do something and people who don’t is literally that – they’ve done it. I discovered this after reading the quote in Tim Ferriss’ Four Hour Workweek which got me started in business (see below). Once you really commit yourself stuff starts happening, people enjoy helping you, or put you in touch with people who can and it takes on a life of its own.

Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Begin it now.
William Hutchison Murray, “The Scottish Expedition

Like everyone I was pretty scared of starting a business.  As a woman and having been a full time mother for seven years I wondered why I would succeed. But I realised that everybody viewed from the outside looks like they are successful, but actually everyone feels the same. What gives me confidence is the realisation that I am capable of doing it. Once I block out the voice that tells me I ought to be somebody else, I can recognise my progress and what I’ve achieved in the last year has been pretty amazing.

The motivation to run my business comes from it being so personal and something that I completely believe in. I’ve always been into health and nutrition and I was pretty fanatical about finding an Omega 3 that was high enough quality for me and my children. When I discovered a gap in the market for a high quality supplement it seemed like the obvious thing to do. And now I’ve embarked on this I don’t want it to fail. I really want this sense of achievement which is just about me and what I’ve achieved.

They say that comparison is the thief of joy and it’s so true. If you compare yourself to people in the media you’re setting yourself up for failure because most of them have a fleet of nannies and it’s not realistic to expect the same in your life or career.  It’s a piece of wisdom I hope to pass on to my children. I want them to have the self-belief that they don’t have to look a certain way, that they can choose a job they enjoy, and that they don’t have to succumb to peer pressure.

I’m not a workaholic. I’ve always done the minimum effective dose to get the maximum results in managing my work and family life. I try to be super productive whilst the children are in school and then give them the time they need when they get home.  I could do more work after they go to bed but I believe if you work all the time and don’t sleep you won’t be productive and are storing up health trouble in the future.

Break it into little steps. My dream is to have my own concession in Space NK, to make enough that we can have a charitable arm for children, and a business my own children could inherit if they choose. If I try to consider it all at once I get overwhelmed, so I take deep breaths, write lists, and take it one chunk at a time. As long as I get one important thing off my list each day I feel better.

When I am having a low I remember that a high is just around the corner and tomorrow is another day. I really try to look after myself, eat well, get good sleep, practise mindfulness and I recently gave up alcohol. At the end of every day I remind myself of five successes and five gratitudes which really grounds me and helps me get a good night’s sleep.

Find out more about Melanie and her amazing Omega 3 at Bare Biology

Posted in career coaching, career development, coaching, confidence, new career, professional development, returning to work, small business, women, work life balance | Leave a comment

The power of deeper listening: 7 skills which unlock potential

A chance friendship is struck up by two women over the washing up in a church hall, and something about the quality of their conversation eighteen months later allows one of them to admit something she has kept hidden for many, many years – her holocaust experience in Auschwitz.

Over the coming years she is able to give voice to those long buried experiences, to connect with thousands of younger people about respecting our fellow humans and unleash a body of deeply moving work including an autobiography and poetry. All this from one person asking and listening.

Good listener

It took enormous courage for Iby, who took part in the recent BBC Listening Project, to re-live those darkest most painful years. But it also took courage from her friend Carolyn to ask the right questions and truly listen, however difficult and shocking those answers must have been.

Why is this deeply personal story relevant at work? It’s relevant because too often we talk too much or gloss over the important and potentially eye-opening thoughts, feelings and ideas of our colleagues that lie beneath the surface. We miss the invitation to open up someone’s potential for development and self-knowledge.

Generative thinking

If we spend time more time deeply and respectfully listening to people, we can facilitate their most generative thinking, establish trust and connection, and allow empathy and understanding rather than make assumptions and give our own advice.

Developing this ability to listen and support another person’s thinking processes is a more synergistic and democratic approach to workplace relationships than you find in more traditional settings. It requires a paradigm shift in what both leaders and peers can achieve up, down and diagonally across an organisation.

Nancy Kline’s influential work on the Thinking Environment suggests that the behaviour in the listener is “more important than IQ, education, experience or background in the thinker”.  By holding the space for people to resolve their own problems and arrive at their own insights we can be more emotionally intelligent and effective colleagues, peers and leaders.

I have witnessed complete strangers employ just a few of these skills and unleash surprisingly innovative and insightful solutions to issues they have been grappling with at work. Try them out and see what works for you.

Seven skills which can help you develop deeper, more generative listening relationships:

  1. Spot the invitation – the pregnant pause or tone of voice which signals that a person might be willing to share their thoughts or explore an idea with you
  2. Check your environment is a comfortable and safe place to have the discussion
  3. Turn off your back seat driver, the voice inside your head that has the answers and knows the best way to fix this issue. Hold those thoughts until the individual has run out of their own steam and needs your input
  4. Go over to the other side and really listen to the story from their perspective, rather than your own. Imagine what it’s like for them, and don’t overlay the situation with your own assumptions
  5. Ask curious, open questions which start with a What or How rather than Why which often leads people to judge over analyse or close down their own thinking
  6. Silence is golden. I once heard an interviewer say he allowed five seconds before he asked his next question,  because the real gems often come after a pause for thought
  7. Know when the moment is over and you have gone as far in supporting the other person’s exploration as you can. It may be time to lighten the mood, offer some of your own feedback and ideas or return to the process in another time or place.

What else do you notice about the conversations which allow others to do their own quality thinking?

 Acknowledgements and resources:

Christina Breene  http://www.timetothink.com/coach/christina-breene/ for her inspiration in writing this article and pointing me to the Listening Project on Radio 4 http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04c9xcn

To bring more creative thinking and problem solving into your team or organisation see Generate Coaching Partnership

 Photocredit: Quinn Dombrowski, Creative Commons

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