Archives for posts with tag: Career Progression

ImageI’ve spent the day deep in conversation with the Chief Executive of the Wilderness Foundation UK designing the course content for a leadership development programme we’re delivering later this year.

It was great to start with a blank sheet of paper – and a big pile of post it notes! – and brainstorm what we think would be the key areas for the leaders of tomorrow to focus on. As the programme is being delivered by the Wilderness Foundation, there is a heavy emphasis on nature based learning – using a variety of outdoor exercises to explore leadership skills and abilities. You might have seen in an earlier blog the fun I had hugging trees in an exercise on trust, teamwork and observation – it’s activities of that sort that we’ll be weaving into the programme.

After spending the day up to our armpits in post it notes and felt tip pens, we had an overall plan for the structure of the programme. We’d come up with some great thoughts for the detailed activities that will make up each day of the course.

Tomorrow we’ll be putting some meat on the bones of that structure, designing sessions and outlining activities. I can’t wait to use the opportunity to be creative, finding new and exciting ways to help the participants to discover the leadership potential within themselves.

Have you undertaken any leadership development training? What sorts of activities, tools, models or techniques really resonated with you? Are there any that you put into practice in your life and how effective have they been? Did any involve the great outdoors? I’d love to hear your experiences.

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ImageAlongside the work I do with my lovely wife as part of Miller & Miller Consulting Ltd (check out our website for more information on the services we offer), I have been keeping an eye out on the job scene and applying my standard career development approach: applying for anything that looks interesting, challenging, and that I feel I could convince the recruiter and myself that I could do!

It was following this approach that I came across and applied for a role that I felt I had the skills set to be able to succeed in, though not necessarily all the desired experience. It looked like a really interesting and definitely a very challenging role!

So I thought “what the heck?!” and put in an application, thinking no more of it. Not long afterwards, I got a call to tell me that I had been short listed. I was a bit amazed, I have to tell you! But delighted as well, of course, so I set about preparing for the mammoth recruitment day. 

It was a bit like the Krypton Factor – the only test missing was the obstacle course! (Suggestion: don’t actually make that joke to your prospective employer, I got blank looks!) We had to lead two group activities, attend a couple of meetings, prepare for and deliver a case study interview, go on a tour of the site and, finally, have an interview. Phew!

During the day, I got to know the other 4 short listed candidates and was filled with ever increasing trepidation. They were all at least 15 years older than I, with more than double the work experience, and most of them had extensive experience in the job in question, or something very like it, or at least the appropriate sector. Uh oh. 

You know those property TV programmes where a couple go on and say “we’d like to buy a 3 bedroom house, with a large garden, in the middle of a (specific) town, and our budget is £x”? And then the hosts choose them 2 or 3 houses that meet that criteria at least more or less and take them to see them?

And then there’s always one “wildcard” property they chuck in at the end to try to sway them or show them other options if they’re willing to bend on some (or all!) of their criteria? And that wildcard is usually a barge moored up somewhere 50miles from their target area, no garden, no room to swing a cat, but COME ON! It’s a BARGE ferchrissakes! The whole countryside is your back garden!?

Well, that was me. 4 well-proportioned, mock Tudor, detached properties in suburbia with large gardens, off road parking and room for a pony. And me – a houseboat. 

Ah well, I thought, nothing to lose here but your dignity! Give yourself a talking to, pretend you’re confident, look everyone in the eye, and just give it your best shot. It’ll be great experience, if nothing else, but only if you try your hardest. 

So, with my loins duly girded, I carried on throughout the day, and – amazingly enough – made it through the whole process without making too much of a fool of myself. Hurrah! A success, and I could go home happy.

ImageIt’s the night before I start a new three month commission and I’m feeling a mixture of nerves and excitement. Happily, there’s not a hint of the Sunday night blues I discussed at length in an earlier blog post. It’s been a while since I had a regular role for a number of months as we have been primarily undertaking shorter commissions and working on building the business, so I’m looking forward to the regularity and order of a routine for a while.

I must confess that there will be downsides – setting the alarm every morning and having to get dressed every single day are the two that immediately strike me! But on the whole, I’m really excited about the opportunities the role will provide me with. Opportunities to add value to the organisation and to learn new things, adding to my experience. I’ll be undertaking a process improvement role and, as I previously mentioned, I’m currently undertaking a Six Sigma process improvement online training course. So this will provide me with the perfect opportunity to cement my learning and learn by doing, which I believe is a really powerful way of learning.

I mentioned nerves too. It’s always a bit nerve-wracking just before you start something new, isn’t it? That fear of the unknown – Will you be good enough? Will it be what you expect? – is universal, I think. The trick is to channel it into positive energy; transform it into excitement, and rather than thinking of them as “unknowns”, think of them as opportunities that await you.

And the other big part of preparation for something new, is being relaxed and rested. So I will end this rather foreshortened post for today in favour of packing my lunchbox and getting some much needed beauty sleep.

ImageToday I had the opportunity to watch my wife at work. She was delivering a training course on project management to employees of a national charity. As we run our business together, obviously we have worked together and participated in meetings together quite a lot, but this was the first time that I was in effect an observer to her in full flight, doing one of the many things that she does best.

I loved it! It was great to see her building relationships with the participants and taking them through some key points, approaches and techniques to help them to be able to more effectively manage the myriad projects they have responsibility for. Her knowledge, confidence and ability to think on her feet to adapt to issues as they arose, tailoring her approach to the context of the organisation were fantastic, and made me feel very proud.

After taking participants through an exercise to plan a fictional project to decorate a room (which included such crucial activities as sourcing tea, coffee and biscuits and having plenty of breaks!) in order to demonstrate the techniques to them, she led them through applying these techniques to their own work. This meant that by the end of the day, they had the bare bones of a project plan that they will actually use in their day jobs. Putting learning into practice right from day 1 – I believe that’s the most effective use of training. That way, it can immediately be directly applied to the day job so that benefits are seen straight away, making it far more likely that the new approach will swiftly become embedded in participants’ working lives.

She’s heading back to the organisation tomorrow for day 2 of the training course and this time I won’t be able to be there, which I’m really disappointed about. It was great to be able to step away today and just soak up the experience of watching someone (especially someone so important to me) do what they’re good at. I think that’s one of the main things I’ll take away from today (along with some brushing up on my project management skills, courtesy of my lovely wife!) – how helpful it is to step back every now and again and take on the role of spectator.

It’s so easy when you’re running your own business to feel too busy to not be proactively doing something, achieving something, ticking something off the to do list every moment of every day. But making time every now and again to sit back and learn something from observing someone else at work is definitely going on that precious to do list!

boomtown ratsFrom The Boomtown Rats (I Don’t Like Mondays) to The Bangles (Manic Monday), via the Mamas and the Papas (Monday Monday) and New Order (Blue Monday), countless bands have tapped into a seemingly universal theme that Mondays are best avoided.

Meanwhile, a trawl of my musical memories and numerous list-based websites don’t turn up much in the way of positive Monday themed songs. The possible exception of Monday Morning by Fleetwood Mac starts off so well with “Monday morning you sure look fine”, but turns out to be about a doomed relationship so, in hindsight, it sits firmly in the gloomy pile.

“Every other day of the week is fine, but whenever Monday comes you can find me crying all of the time”. Ring any bells? Do you get that familiar Sunday evening dread washing over you as time moves relentlessly towards the morning and that first alarm of the working week, signalling that your waking hours for the next five days no longer belong solely to you?

If so, is it inevitable that the rest of your working life will be defined by a dislike of at least one day of every single week? I say, no, it doesn’t have to be this way. Bob Geldof pleads for someone to “tell me why I don’t like Mondays”, so why not give it some thought for yourself? Perhaps you feel that your current job doesn’t make the most of your skills, or that there is no room at your organisation for your career potential to be fulfilled, or your boss simply doesn’t appreciate you.

I have certainly had all of these negative feelings – and many more! – at least briefly during my career and I know just how soul sapping it can be when you are unable to see a way out of that situation. That inevitable curtain of gloom descending gradually over you as time ticks down towards Sunday evening seems to be unstoppable at times. But it just doesn’t have to stay that way. There are lots of things that you can do to help reclaim a positive Monday morning feeling.

Some things can be done for yourself relatively straightforwardly. For example, if you have reached the realisation that your current job simply isn’t for you anymore, it is entirely within your control to start the process of seeking a new one. But it can be difficult to reach this point alone, or to identify things that you can do to improve the situation within your current role. Sometimes talking things through with a friend or family member can be invaluable. A third party is very often able to bring a new perspective to a situation that seemed to you – from your position underneath that gloomy curtain – to be irresolvable.

Sometimes, though, that friend or family member may be too close to the situation to feel able to help or indeed for you to want to ‘dump’ all of your woes onto. So what else could you try? One potential solution is coaching. Some people think that coaching is something that is only useful for those right at the top of the tree, but that is no longer the case. More and more organisations are introducing coaching programmes to support staff at all levels because they recognise the value that it can bring to everyone.

Spending time with an independent party focused solely on you might be the edge you need to take you from The Boomtown Rats to Happy Mondays. So why not invest some time in yourself and your Mondays? Just don’t go twisting my melon, man.

For more information about the services provided by Miller & Miller Consulting Ltd please visit our website at http://www.millerandmillerconsulting.co.uk

ImageIn recent years, there has been a tendency for people to assume that, because there has been so much positive progression in the UK since the days of suffrage, there is no longer a need to focus on supporting women in reaching their full career potential.

Women can have any job they want – surgeon, pilot, soldier, lawyer – nothing is off the table.

Women can have a career break to have children, receive maternity pay while they do so, and return to their job with full protection.

Women (and men) are protected within law from being discriminated against at work based on their gender (and age, pregnancy and maternity status, marital/civil partnership status, race, religion or belief, disability, sexual orientation or gender reassignment).

So what’s the problem? Why the continued discussion of positive discrimination, enforced ratios of women in certain roles or at certain levels, etc.?

Well, to start with, although women can now enter as many fields as men, their average pay remains 19.7% lower than men’s average pay. I hope it goes without saying that until average salaries are not distinguishable based on gender, there is still work to be done.

Secondly, it is still the case that there are far fewer women in senior roles in most industries than there should be. As women make up approximately 50% of the population, they should make up around 50% of the work force at any given level, right?

Currently, the gender make up of far too many organisations in far too many sectors shows that the vast majority of the lower paid roles are women, and as you go up the organisation this ratio reverses until in the top tiers the vast majority are men. The so called “glass ceiling” is still well and truly in place, preventing many women from progressing as far as their equally qualified male colleagues.

For example, there are only a handful of female Chief Executives of local authorities in the UK and only 2 female Chief Executives of FTSE 100 companies. Across the 200 or so world states, there are just 12 female heads of state (excluding the world’s 3 female monarchs).

Unsurprisingly, then, I feel passionate that more should be done to encourage and support women to reach their full career potential. And it’s for this reason that Miller & Miller are working with the Wilderness Foundation UK to deliver a leadership development programme for young women. The programme aims to support participants not just in developing tangible leadership skills, but – just as crucially – in developing their expectations of themselves in the workplace. For this reason, there will be as much emphasis on coaching and mentoring the participants as there will be on delivering taught content.

We look forward to carrying out more programmes of this sort, working with more young women and other underrepresented groups within leadership. Let’s smash through that glass ceiling and see that the sky is truly the limit.

For more information about the services provided by Miller & Miller Consulting Ltd please visit our website at http://www.millerandmillerconsulting.co.uk