Archive for the ‘coaching’ Category

This is just a made-up term I use when my delivery of a presentation doesn’t go well, and I wish there was a “delete” or a “redo” button I could hit to pretend it never happened. The ultimate outcome of today’s presentation was positive, but my delivery of it took me back to when I was in school, and early-career, experiencing shortness of breath, shaky voice, and an overwhelming urge to run out of the room to try to center myself. I thought I had overcome this particular challenge in light of more recent successes in giving presentations, leading workshops, and delivering speeches. This today was a presentation given for our organization’s Executive Director, who I have never had any particular trouble speaking to in the past, one-on-one, and in less formal situations. Not sure what it was, but maybe the combination of standing in front of the room (containing a 30-foot conference table) holding a clicker and going through PowerPoint slides had something to do with it.

nervous-public-speaking-clipart-1Embarrassing yes, but even more so, interesting. Interesting in a few ways: 1. How I got through the first couple of slides with no problem, and then something kicked in on the 3rd slide, the slide with a ton of text on it that I would have to go through in detail -as I’m writing this, I’m thinking that may have also contributed to my “deer-in-headlights” moment. 2. How the fact that there was very little time to prepare/rehearse goes against how anyone, but especially introverts such as myself like to go into a presentation. 3. How making small adjustments can make a significant difference, like sitting back down towards the end of the presentation helped create a more relaxed atmosphere, helped me speak more confidently, and hopefully reclaim the moment.

The other attendees tried to reassure me that it wasn’t nearly as bad as I perceived it to be. But my familiar pattern is to beat myself up over things like this. After a sufficient self-flogging, I can usually move on and focus on whatever a new day brings. What’s more, the ultimate result was positive in that the Executive Director reacted favorably to our ideas put forth, with good likelihood of them being implemented. So in light of that, and the fact that this can serve as a teachable moment, would I really want to “undeliver” the presentation? Great question. I guess the answer is yes….and no.

In closing, here are some tips to conquering presentation anxiety. Also, keeping our sense of humor can go a long way in this or any trying situation. Check out How To Add Fun to Your Business Presentations to help maintain a healthy perspective.







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Having a profile on LinkedIn is a great start. But it’s just that – a start. Now that you have that, what do you do now? I’ve coached a lot of individuals on this very thing, and they’re usually surprised at how much they can do on LinkedIn beyond the basics. The first step of course is to make sure your profile is complete and current (including a photo in business professional dress). Also, don’t overlook the Summary section: this is a great opportunity to highlight in a concise manner your most relevant work experience, education, skills and accomplishments. Keep in mind that potential employers often view your profile as a basis for hiring decisions.

Building-RelationshipsOK, moving on. What next, now that you have an awesome profile? Ask for a few recommendations from former supervisors and co-workers, as well as past and present professors, for example – really anyone who can attest to your skills, qualifications, work style, etc. is a potential recommendation for you. But as in other networking situations, it’s important to be willing to reciprocate and offer to write a recommendation for those same individuals (assuming it makes sense to do so).

You’re making progress: got your profile up, with a couple recommendations. What now? Get active. Join some of the groups related to your target industry, or perhaps your school’s alumni group. for starters. And now that you’ve joined, what’s the next step? See who the group members are with whom you can potentially connect. Participate in the discussion forums by posting relevant articles and commenting on other members’ posts. This is a great way to get better known by group members.

What else? LinkedIn can be a valuable tool when it comes to informational interviews. How does this work? Do a search on an organization you’re interested in, and Linked will show you which of your connections have some sort of association with that organization. Requesting informational interviews from 1st degree connections is usually relatively straightforward, but with 2nd degree connections, try to get an introduction from one of your mutual contacts if possible.

So this is just a small taste of what you can do with LinkedIn, but hopefully this will get you moving in the right direction if you’ve been wondering about some of the next steps to take with your networking strategy. Final thought: LinkedIn is a very effective way to network, but don’t forget about all the other great ways. Use a combination of strategies that works best for you.

Oh, and what if you’re not on LinkedIn at all? Well there’s no time like the present to start!

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I just finished reading Andre Agassi’s best-selling book called Open. It’s one of those “hard-to-put-down” books which offers some valuable life lessons. One of the underlying themes is that life is full of contradictions. Agassi talks about how he was pushed into the sport of tennis by his father, and partly because of that, he resented the sport, and never really liked it to begin with anyway. As a kid, he was never permitted to explore any other interests because his father was laser-focused on him excelling at tennis.

Agassi as a kid: practicing vs.”the dragon,” a ball machine built by his father that fires balls at 110 mph.

But his tennis career gave him the opportunity to realize and fulfill some important life goals. He met fellow tennis pro and the love of his life, Steffi Graf early on in his career. He also was lucky enough to eventually realize his true passion in life, which is education. (His own education was cut short due to the demands of a professional tennis career.) He went on to open up his own charter school to serve and educate kids at risk. And even though he hated tennis, he continued in the sport into his mid 30’s because it provided the means to raise enough money to open up the school and start an education foundation, which is still thriving today. Hence, the contradiction: he spent a lot of years doing something he hated, but it opened up a whole new world where he could start living his passion.

As a career coach, I would have a hard time recommending someone do something they hated. But Agassi has provided the exception to this rule: if you have a solid plan that brings you to a fulfilling and personally meaningful career and transforms your life, then I can definitely see the value in that. This was (one of) Andre’s contradictions. What’s one of yours?

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For those who don’t know, I’m referencing the movie, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, where the uninspiring high school teacher is trying to keep his students interested …and failing miserably due to his dull and monotone delivery. Many managers face similar challenges in keeping employees engaged and motivated. Even though the cause of disengagement is different between the scene in the movie and a real-world employer, the results are pretty much the same – low morale and the potential breakdown of the organization. 

To summarize Torben Rick’s article, the following are, in my view, some of the top ways to be an effective leader in your organization and help keep employees invested:

1. Show employees the big picture. When we know that our work is important and how it impacts the organization as a whole, this can help motivate us to keep doing good work and make a valuable contribution.

2. Encourage open communication. Consistently solicit feedback and ideas from your employees. Knowing that you’re listening and their input matters is a great motivator for them. Go a step beyond and show specifically how their ideas are being used within the organization.

3. Give timely feedback. Don’t wait until annual review time. Frequent and periodic feedback is more productive all the way around. And this includes positive feedback as well!  Positive reinforcement is one of the great motivators, although sadly not implemented nearly enough.

4. Support employees’ professional development. Support employee growth and development by providing education and learning opportunities, cross training and coaching. When employees know that you care about their personal growth, it can be a very effective motivator and create a sense of belonging.

5. Collaborate and share on finding solutions: Instead of single-handedly resolving all issues, give team members the opportunity to take responsibility and work through problems or issues on their own or collaboratively. This will help them gain a sense of empowerment and increase overall engagement.

For a good laugh, here’s the scene from the movie.

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As a career coach, I’ve been able to work with a wide variety of individuals and provide the tools necessary to get them to their next job/career. Along with the work I do with them on resumes, interviewing, networking, career direction, values, etc., part of my job is to be as encouraging and motivating as possible. As to be expected, job transition involves an emotional component, one where the job seeker often feels depressed or hopeless, or at the very least, discouraged and frustrated. Coaching is not psychotherapy, and coaches should not attempt to do therapy with a client. With that said, sometimes all a client needs is, like I said some extra encouragement and motivation.

In between coaching sessions, I recommend  that job seeking clients ask a close friend or family member to be their “support buddy”  – someone they can trust to check in with them every day (or every other day) to give an extra shot of encouragement. A little can go a long way. And if they can find someone who has been through a job transition or has been laid off in the past, even better (in terms of being able to relate.) I also think it’s important that a job seeker’s support network not only care about what he or she is going through and can appreciate the challenge of it, but also be able to express that to them.

Is there a job seeker in your life that you can lend a little moral support to?

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I really enjoy being a career coach and helping others find their passions and fulfill their career goals.  Part of the reason I became a career coach in the first place was because I was seeing so many people in unfulfilling, mind-numbing, and soul-killing jobs (me included) and thought I could do some good to help turn that around. And fortunately, I’ve been successful at doing that with those I’ve coached.

Dating back to childhood, I’ve always been interested in geography. I used to (and still do) get wrapped up in looking at road maps and atlases, not for any specific reason or school assignment, but just for the fun of it. I would do things like design make-believe subway systems on paper, and draw plans of make-believe cities, plotting out where everything should be located. OK, I’ll be the first to admit that I was a bit of a geography geek…but proud of it!

When I started college, I took several Geography courses and for the most part enjoyed them very much. When it came time to select a major, however, I opted for Economics. I concluded that it was smarter to major in something more practical that would help me land a job more easily after graduation, without having to get a more advanced degree. (At the time, I didn’t imagine myself going on to grad school.) I found Economics generally interesting and got good grades in my courses. Did it help me land a job after graduation? I believe it did. Was it my passion? Not really. Looking back, I would have double-majored in Geography and Economics.

In any event, my career has taken numerous twists and turns along the way and I’ve gained experience in a variety of fields and industries. And again, being a career coach is very fulfilling and makes good use of a lot of my strengths. It’s interesting, though, that recently and seemingly out of the blue, feelings of “what-if” have been creeping into my head. What if I had stayed true to my career passions and pursued Geography as a major, and something Geography-related as a career? Who knows? The odds are I would be loving it, but there are no guarantees, and I could very well be looking for a new career now.

The point here, though, is that career passions never die. But many times, for one reason or another, they get tucked away and forgotten about for a period of time, sometimes even years.

But as experience has shown, they reappear when we least expect them and will continue to tap us on the shoulder until we pay attention to them. What if we’re in mid or even late career? Is it too late? No. That’s the good news. It’s never too late to somehow incorporate our innate career passions into our lives, whether that means going back to school for formal training and making a career shift, auditing a course at a local university, or merely reading books on the subject. The key thing is that we’re nurturing ourselves by doing what we love, in some capacity. I plan to start by catching up on geography topics through books and online resources.

Hopefully you’re already living your true career passions on a daily basis, or at least part of the time, to one degree or another. If however you’re not, or even worse, you find yourself in one of those unfulfilling, mind-numbing, soul-killing careers, then it’s time to consider taking steps to change that. Otherwise, that tap on the shoulder will most likely keep tapping. And in my work now as a career coach, I feel that going through this experience will help me be even more tuned in to those who are in search of their true calling.

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I’m about to leave for a 2nd day of facilitating at GWSB’s MBA Institute. As part of the Institue, incoming MBA students get the opportunity to strengthen their job interviewing skills and learn what makes an effective resume in the eyes of employers and recruiters. If the 2nd day is anything like the 1st, it’ll be an easy day. And I say that because the students in my group are not only energetic, respectful and engaged, but also eager to help their fellow classmates and receptive to both their input and mine.  I’ve facilitated groups in the past where I’ve had to spend a lot of time encouraging group members to contribute to the conversation, reminding them not to interrupt when someone else is speaking, or keeping up their energy levels late in the day. No signs of any of that with this group…they are definitely making my job easy. The biggest challenge I guess is keeping on schedule since there is so much enthusiasm in the room!

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