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Performing at your best

Engagement impacts performance and productivity. Yet at the recent World Business Forum (WBF) in Sydney, a number of the speakers referred to the alarming statistic that only 16% of employees are engaged at work – the rest are transacting. There are many reasons: response to significant change, uncertainty, lack of control, lack of trust or poor leadership. Organisations effectively use leadership programs to engage and retain their people. Yet what actions can you take to stay engaged and perform at your best.

Drawing on our experience and insights from the WBF expert speakers, here are five suggestions and links to the research:

  1. Understand your strengths and weaknesses: you grow and learn most when delivering work that play to your strengths. What are they? How can you do more of that? Statically if 20% of your work is doing what you love (not just do) then burnout goes down. Any less than that, burnout goes up. (Marcus Buckingham). Use our personal SWOT to help remind you where you can make the greatest  contribution.
  2. Take charge. Be accountable for the choices you make. Have you talked to your manager about an opportunity that you have seen or inhouse project you’d like to contribute to? What actions are you taking to build networks, keep learning, take on interesting challenges? Research has found people in teams are statistically more engaged – is there a team you’d like to be part of?
  3. Identify the barriers. Who or what is interfering and holding us back? Is it mindset, beliefs, skill gap, structure, people and importantly, what needs to happen to shift them? “Do you see change as an opportunity or a threat?” (Charlene Li) Who within the business can help you?
  4. Be emotionally agile. Deliberate tweaks to our mindset, motivation and habits can make a powerful difference. Be less self-critical and acknowledge your and others emotions in response to change, stress, challenges. It’s okay not to be positive all the time but it’s important to adapt. This emotional agility impacts performance and engagement. The key is to know how to gain critical insight about how you react to situations and interactions and use them to make changes and bring your best forward (Dr Susan David). 
  5. Get a fresh perspective. Not all of these suggestions are easy. Leverage your relationship with your formal mentor, coach or identify someone who you trust and respect to test ideas and discuss strategies on how to achieve this. If you’ve done psychometric assessments such as Hogan or LSI, reflect and share the findings on what motivates and drives you.

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11 surefire ways to get power and make a ton of money

Cindy Gallop, former Chairman of ad agency BBH, risk-taker, TED speaker and plain-speaking champion for women’s rights shares her top tips for women in business:

  1. The only person who can make things happen for you is you. People can help you (i.e., champions), but you need to make it happen. 
  2. You’ll never own the future if you care what other people think.The fear of what other people will think is the single most paralyzing dynamic in business and life.
  3. Don’t just look for mentors but for champions as well
  4. Never give anything away for free
  5. Manage your own mind. Mind management tip: of all the things that stress you out every day, pick one thing and address only that one stress that day.
  6. Be totally unashamed of wanting to make a ton of money
  7. One of the quickest ways for women to make a money is to invest
  8. Don’t let anyone tell you what to do with your own money
  9. Social sharing can help make sh*t happen for women
  10. If you are working at a place that does not welcome and celebrate your talent, somewhere that does not allow you to disrupt and innovate in the way that you want to, get out, get another job.
  11. There is always a way over, around, under or through every obstacle. You just need to be creative about what that is. Take micro-actions.

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Make it happen because no one goes to bed at night worrying about your career.

I spend a lot of my week listening to people discuss their careers & lives: their first job, the path travelled to their current role, what they like about it, what’s challenging and what’s next?

This year we have worked with barristers, farmers, retailers, lawyers, engineers, and executives from organisations in the performing arts, museums, finance, construction, insurance, mental health and aged care. I love listening to people’s stories and the choices they have made along the way.

It’s safe to say that the people I meet in these programs are top of the pops and future leaders of our nation’s key institutions and corporations. They are well educated, hardworking and have leadership ambitions. Some are pure genius, terrifyingly charismatic and have leader in their DNA, but that’s about 5% of them.

The rest are focused and committed people trying to do big jobs – lead large teams, bring about change and keep their own lives, health and families on track. They seek mentors for inspiration, accountability and support to define and meet their own professional goals. They are looking for tips on how to progress their careers, manage challenging people and situations, and stay focused on the organisation’s vision.

The thing that strikes me about most of us, and the chosen emerging leaders in this group, is that we spend quite a lot of time worrying about our careers, but not much time doing anything useful to improve them. I guess career planning can fall into the same category as diets and exercise, we all dream about that magic pill that enables you to run a marathon without much training or lose weight without changing our diet.

So, here’s my tip: no one goes to bed at night worrying about your career. Your boss is rarely planning your overseas post to Paris with a bonus, the tap on the shoulder for that board role only happens to the same 50 people in Australia and that start up selling green suede stilettos will not get investment until you ask for it.

You need to make these things happen and there are plenty of people willing to help once you ask, including your boss, mentors, or people from your broader network, but they are not mind readers and may not know that you are desperate to move to digital marketing when you have been in finance for ten years. I know we can all get overwhelmed by the apparent brilliance of other people’s careers and lives, but we all have choices and when you break things down into smaller goals, they become achievable.

Four years ago I bought this business and started to run in half marathons. Possibly they were connected. Both involved serious anguish, self-doubt and too much introspection for months leading up to the event or the decision to buy the business, but once I passed that threshold, it was fun and exciting. I realise now that once you commit to your plan and say it aloud you just get on with it, people support you. With the business I set goals, sought a lot of advice, got myself a mentor, actually three and the results have been positive. We have a terrific team, have moved premises to the city, exceeded our financial targets and built an online platform one2one to support our programs.

Perhaps the running has followed a similar pattern. Five years ago I trained for a 9km fun run with a few friends, terrified that I wouldn’t be able to finish. It’s hilarious to think that anyone would care about that fact, but the fear of failure holds us back from doing lots of hard, challenging but sometimes fabulous things. I finished, sprinted to the finish line, and was hooked. I’ve since done 4 half marathons and am now training for the full 42km in November. I’m almost 48 so it’s definitely a mid-life crisis thing, but it gets me out of bed, stops me drinking too much and I love the physicality of running and the events. I enjoy the setting of these short term goals and planning to achieve them.

So have a go, make it happen and try just one of these ideas in the next week to kickstart your career. As my mum used to say ‘What’s the worst thing that can happen?’

  1. Set goals & make a plan. Ask yourself what you need to feel happy and successful? Do you want to be working in a different role in 12 months’ time? How can you make that happen? Make a plan.
  2. Get advice, seek mentors and ask for feedback. Do some preparation before you fling yourself on others, it will be a much more constructive meeting. Look for people who have the skills, experience, interest and time to assist you. Access programs in industry organisations, people in your own organisation or McCarthy Mentoring if you want access to experienced mentors with executive experience.
  3. Identify your strengths. What motivates you? What gives you energy? Are you currently in a role that uses your strengths? If not can you change or develop other skills?
  4. Expand your networks. Who in your workplace or industry knows you and would support you for a promotion? Do you have a profile outside your immediate business unit? Do you have sponsors or mentors in your organisation? Have you considered joining an industry or professional organisation? Identify 3 people you should meet to progress your career
  5. Communicate and share your goals, strengths and plans with your team, your partner, boss, mentor and network. You will be pleasantly surprised at the response.

Best wishes,

Sophie McCarthy


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New online program to guide, support and inspire

one2one is our new online program that will further engage and motivate mentees and mentors on their journey. Designed to support the unique one2one relationships, the structured 10 month program explores key leadership themes important to career success. The program features interviews on key topics with inspiring Australian leaders such as John McGrath, Sally Loane, James O’Loghlin and Wendy McCarthy AO and provides carefully selected resources, interactive exercises and practical advice on making the most of the mentoring experience.

one2one draws on our 18 years of experience to provide organisations and industry groups with an affordable online tool that allows scale and reach for their programs.

“One2one is a roadmap that is useful in ensuring that topics are covered” – mentee; “The one2one platform has given clear focus for conversations” – mentor 


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