career moves

Transition with Ease and Grace. 3 Powerful Coaching Questions to Ask Yourself

golden gate cloudyOne of my potential clients is going through a major transition and called me to inquire about executive coaching.

She is a new mother of 15 month twin girls and is having a tough time balancing her work and personal life.  After working in a senior role for 15 years in a major company, she felt compelled to put in her resignation.  She needed time to rethink her career, finances, and family life and hopefully find a family friendly employer.  She is now in the process of winding down and closing this chapter of her life.

Transition times are tough and can be very stressful.  There is a sense of loss, maybe some humiliation, and a lot of anxiety about the unknown future.  There is also a tinge of excitement and anticipation about creating something new.

You may find yourself in the midst of a major transition.  Here are some coaching questions that could help you during these times.

  1. As you go through this process, notice how you are feeling.  Label it and acknowledge your feelings of the moment.  Do not judge or make this feeling wrong.  Whatever you are feeling is yours and you are entitled to this. Notice the change in your feelings as the transition progresses.  Do not be alarmed if it gets tougher before it gets better.
  2. Notice your thoughts.  What would you like your team and colleagues to remember about you?  What would you like your transition theme to be?
  3. Who are you being throughout all this process?   I’ve been through several transitions throughout my career and continue to do so during my encore career.  We moved 17 times and lived in 3 continents, all transitions have been very stressful, some more than others.  I have a theme or mantra that helped me tremendously whenever I am in transition and that is — “Move with Ease and Grace”.  I meditate on these words every spare moment I have and it never fails to center me.  It keeps me calm and greatly influences how I behave.

Transitions are wonderful, they give us hope, enable us to change to have a better life.  When I think of my major transitions, I was fortunate to have a coach guide me through it.  My coach helped make a cloudy and foggy journey clearer and certainly made me aware when I have reached my destination.

Building Your Global Team

qed header 2 I was delighted to speak about global leadership in Prague last November at the Empowering Teams 2013 Conference.  Here’s the abstract of my keynote.

Today’s working environment is more virtual and global than ever. Leaders who are not prepared to build and develop their teams and deal with multicultural challenges are likely to make costly mistakes for their company and negatively affect business success. Employees, board members, managers are increasingly multicultural, and so are your customers. Companies spend millions to send local talent internationally to develop local markets. Without training or coaching, you will not be equipped to build effective teams and handle the pressures and challenges of communicating with your international colleagues.

Liza Sichon will share the findings of the latest research on successful team leaders.  A new model of leadership for today’s complex multicultural environment is called the Transglobal Leader. Based on the research and book, Winning with Transglobal Leadership by Sharkey, Cooke, Razi and Barge, a transglobal leader works with ease across countries, across cultures, across boundaries.  Their focus is on building healthy and sustainable teams wherever they are with whoever is on their team.  A transglobal leader exhibits leadership behaviors that make them successful in a multicultural environment.

If you are leading a global team today or preparing for an international assignment, one of the questions that you need to ask yourself is do you currently think and behave like a transglobal team leader?  Are you developing your team members to succeed in our challenging global market? Do you know how to identify, assess and coach your team members in a multicultural setting?  Liza will provide practical examples of doing business in a multicultural setting based on her own experiences of over 25 years in a global environment.

 

 

The Power of Intention in Developing Your Career

family airplaneOne evening, I was pondering my next career move and thought it would be cool to take the kids on a trip to Europe the next year.  The idea grew on me and before I knew it, I entertained a string of “What If” possibilities for my career and my family.

What if we actually move to Europe for a couple of years? What if I take an international assignment in Europe?  Wouldn’t that be really nice?  The more I thought about it, the more attractive the idea became. I started thinking of what is possible: new experiences , new learning, meet new people and all the tangible and intangible benefits that my family and career could have.

That night, I did not sleep at all. I planned, strategized and got really excited about the possibilities.  This desire and intention continued to grow day by day, a seed was planted and it started to grow.  I shared the idea with my husband – he thought I was crazy.  I shared it with my trusted colleagues and a few months later, I was offered the job to lead human resources International – responsible for the regions outside the United States.

I cannot forget my boss’ words to me – you can live anywhere, as long as it is outside New Jersey (our headquarters). I narrowed our choices to London, Singapore and Brussels and eventually chose Brussels.  It is where our company’s European headquarters was located, a central location between Asia and the US and a more convenient time zone to connect globally.

My husband saw the possibilities and with his support, we were on a plane to Belgium a few months later.

The entire preparation and move was of course, complex and difficult, and we focused to get it done. I do not know if it was desire, focus, intention, God’s will, family support or a combination of all that made it happen.  The intent was strong enough to handle any hurdle or obstacle that came our way. If you find yourself wanting something more from your career, here are a few things to think about:

1. Think and Dream It – What is it that you really want?.  Visualize it and see the picture in your mind.  Stay with the dream.  If it is strong and coming from your heart, continue to think about what is possible.  Eventually your heart and mind will align and focus on the dream.

2. Speak It – Share it with your loved ones, your supportive colleagues, your mentors.  Speak your career aspirations to others, no matter how outrageous it may sound.  Ask for advice and listen.  Filter your listening to what is possible.

3. Work It – Take the first step to get closer to the goal. Ask around, pursue some leads. Take some phone calls.  Work on the details.  Work hard at it and do not give up.

Moving our family to Europe and back was not easy.  It was exhausting, the experience tested our resilience while we attended to the many details of the move, selling our home, moving our stuff to storage, giving away some items, settling down and going though the repatriation process after two years.  It was well worth it. It was one of the most enriching experiences for our family and my career on all fronts.

If you have the desire for a career shift, listen to that inner voice and work with a coach to make your career goals happen.

 

Define Your Non-negotiables Part 3: Career Flexibility

work life balanceWe have been discussing the importance of setting priorities and non-negotiables for work life success.  Having a set of priorities helps us make choices.  Being clear with our non-negotiables, free us from stress and indecision.  We realign our priorities as our lives and needs change.

An important non-negotiable for high achieving women is career flexibility.  This is the ability to be fully present at home when needed while having a career that supports your personal needs.

Georgia Smith, corporate executive and one of the women I interviewed for my forthcoming book – You Can Be It All, Secrets of High Achieving Women (current working title), was able to achieve career flexibility, working full time while raising her son.

Georgia always knew that she was going to be a working mom even before she got married.  Georgia and her husband discussed what they would be willing to do for each other’s career and where they will live.  While her husband was raised in the East Coast,USA, his preference is to work and live in the West Coast. They knew that they may have to pass up advancement opportunities by making this decision.  Georgia did not regret this decision. She knew that she would forego  making a lot more money and would take longer to get to executive ranks, but it was more important to her that she felt good about the positive contribution that she was making at work, still made good money and lived comfortably close to her extended family.  The ego was probably the only thing impacted by these non-negotiables and this was not an issue with her.

When she had her son, she had the classic struggle of all working women: “How can I be a full-time mom and a full-time professional and give everything needed to both, without short changing either?”.  Her husband traveled most of the time, so balancing childcare and her own career demands rested primarily on her.  She was fortunate to be able to explore different roles within a company that recognized her skills and potential.  When she  wanted to have flexible hours, she decided to stay in the same company and changed  to field work.

Georgia’s non negotiable is career flexibility. While her son was young, she benefited from a flexible schedule on the road as a Sales Account Manager. She had the ability to be in the field and would take the time to watch her son’s sporting events.  As her son moved to high school, she decided to finish her college education.  They had dinner together every night to catch up on their day and studied together after dinner.  As her son moved on to college she shifted to a regional role and was able to do more travel.

She considers herself fortunate to be have a career that met her personal needs and did not give anybody less than they deserved.  Her son is now an accomplished lawyer with his own family and never felt short-changed having a full-time working mom.  He remembers that she was with him for all the important moments in his life.  

Georgia’s non-negotiable, career flexibility, enabled her to be the best mom that she can be while achieving career success.  Georgia is a high achieving woman.  Do you know a high achieving woman?  What is she doing?  What is your non-negotiable and how has it served your needs?

 

4 Ways to Prepare for Your Career Conversation.

young employee meeting w managerMy client is ready to move to another role within the company after only a year in the job.  Although there continues to be a lot of valuable work sent her way, she feels that she is not learning anything new; she is not challenged.  She is concerned about bringing up the topic to her manager, someone she greatly respects. She wants to stay in the company, in her current location, but she is ready for something new.  Here is how we prepared for this conversation.

1. Do your homework before you meet with your manager.  Figure out your bigger picture, where do you see your career 5 to 10 years from now?  This is not an easy exercise; you may need to take a couple of weeks or even months to figure this out.  It does not need to be accurate and perfect, you can tweak and update your vision along the way.  The long-term career vision is critical to help you decide on new skills and experiences you will need. My client sees a few possibilities in her career: Country HR Manager, Vice President Human Resources of a business unit, Corporate Human Resources role in headquarters.

2. When you have this picture in mind, figure out the relevant skills and experiences that you need to acquire to get you there.  My client has developed strong analytical and financial skills over the past 10 years and has a master’s degree in Human Resources.  Due to her strengths, she continues to be tapped for similar planning and analysis roles. She would like be in other areas of HR: talent management, business partnering and organizational development to round-up her portfolio.  She will review specific roles with her manager and seek guidance on how to acquire these competencies for current and future roles.

3. Have a transition plan and timeline in mind.  She has a rough idea of how work will get done when she transitions into a new role; she also has a timeline.  While these are not definite, your proactiveness will relieve your manager’s initial concerns about backfilling your responsibilities.

4. Be confident and ask for what you need.  You will be surprised how helpful and supportive your manager can be once you share your career plans and request for specific assignments.

Your career journey is as important, fulfilling and fun as achieving your career goals.  While keeping the end state in mind, be flexible and welcome the occasional twists and turns that may come your way.  These are opportunities for you to consider and don’t be afraid to step into unknown open doors or knock on new interesting ones.

Through our coaching conversation, my client became more prepared and confident to speak to her manager.  I am so excited for her and can’t wait for our next coaching call.

3 Ways to Make it Easy for your Contacts to Help you find a Job

job listingsMy client is job searching and gets disappointed when some of his contacts do not have time to meet for coffee or for a networking phone call.  I asked him why he wanted to meet with one contact in particular – she has an influential role in a reputable global company.  He said it was to seek advise on his job search, though he was not aware of a suitable role in her company for him.  We worked on a plan to be more purposeful in his networking.

The reality is – your contacts are extremely busy.  They are juggling job and family pressures and although they want to help, they simply don’t have time or honestly don’t know how.  Here are 3 ways to make it easy for them to help you:

1. Research their company or industry.  Learn what is going on in their company and be relevant. Are they going through a growth or downsizing phase?  Are they expanding into new markets or divesting off pieces of their business.  If you find a recent interesting article about their products, market, or competition, send it to your contact.

2. Apply on-line at their job site for roles best suited to your experience and background.  Send your contact a note that you have applied for this posting and ask if they are willing to put in a good word for you.  Give them a brief summary of why you are a perfect fit for the role.

3. Be very specific on what you need from your contact.  Do you need a recommendation, an introduction or  a reference?  A recommendation is a request to say something positive about you to the hiring manager. An introduction is a connection via email or phone to the hiring manager then you take it from there. A reference is requested by companies at the later stage of the job interview process.  This is appropriate if your contact has directly worked with you and can attest on your work ethic, talent, skills and/or abilities.

I suggest sending a request via email followed up by a phone call.  If you do not get a response, try again 2-3 times depending on your comfort level.  Don’t be offended if you do not hear back, simply move on to the next contact in your network or try again after a couple of weeks.

My client followed this targeted approach and successfully engaged his contact on a specific job within her company.  She was so delighted to send a note to the hiring manager and even asked that he keep her posted.  Purposeful networking is being respectful of your contact’s precious time and yields better results.

My Husband is a STUD. 7 Tips to Make Your Career Transition Smooth

 

husband movingI read that relocation is one of the top stressful changes one could experience, third to death of a loved one and loss of a job.  I’ve mentioned before that we moved 17 times, across 3 continents in our 30 plus years of marriage.  Every transition is a family decision.  We discussed and agreed on the merits of the move, and did not look back.

It was not easy, especially with children in school, but my husband made it easy. While I adjusted to the new job, Danny looked for an ideal home location, researched schools, oversaw the movers and transacted the sale or purchase of our homes.  He has very good instincts in choosing locations and never settles until he has found the perfect home that met most of our needs.  We handled all our transitions smoothly and I did not worry, until I accepted an expat assignment in Belgium.

In my new role, I was responsible for the regions outside the US and knew that I’d be traveling extensively.  Once our daughter was happily settled in international school and we were all moved in, I was concerned about how Danny would adjust to a new life in a strange country.  Although we tried really hard to learn French, it is not an easy language for us.  My concerns quietly nagged me until I read about the STUDS.

On a business trip, I came across an interesting airline magazine article about this group called the STUDS – Spouses Trailing Under Duress Successfully.   They are husbands of expat wives hanging out together supporting each other through their transition in Belgium.  I got so excited about the possibility of Danny meeting new friends. Typical guy, he did not seem that excited nor did he contact them.

Browsing through their website, I saw that they had a biking and golf group.  I sent a note to the email address pretending I was Danny and he very quickly invited me to play golf the very next day. Danny had a great time! He enjoyed their company so much; they met for golf every day from Monday to Friday.  Occasionally they would invite the wives and organized wine tasting events, trips or picnics and I always looked forward to these events.  I met equally busy and high achieving expat women who were just as excited to have some kind of a social life in a foreign country.  The STUDS are fun-loving, very helpful husbands from all over the world.  They exchanged recipes, compared dry cleaning prices and commiserated on common experiences about living in a foreign country.  They made our expat experience delightful.

You may find yourself in the midst of a career move with a trailing husband/partner and children.  They may not be as eager and excited about your move, or they may be actively complaining about each strange new experience.   As the initiator of the move, you feel responsible, guilty, sometimes helpless about their adjustment.  Here are 7 tips to get your family happily settled in a new location.

  1.  Honest Talk – Before accepting the new role, discuss the pros and cons of the move with your spouse/partner.  We had spreadsheets, lists, metrics to aid us in the decision.  As we got better at this, we also asked each other how we felt.  I learned to read Danny’s body language and used this as cue.  He may say yes to a move, but I sensed his body and facial expressions said otherwise.  Once you are aligned, and only when you are aligned, call a family meeting.
  2. Have a Family Meeting – discuss the advantage of the move for your family, career and each member of your family.  Hear the concerns from each member and together work on a plan to resolve their concerns.
  3. Take advantage of all that your company or new town offers: attend cross cultural training, language lessons, employee assistance programs and orientation.  Check local listings for neighborhood meet ups.
  4. Invite family and friends over for a visit. Most will say yes, but only a few will actually make it.  It’s ok to cast a wide invitation and schedule them based on your availability.  Likewise, book your vacation back home so you have something to look forward to.
  5. Explore and Discover.  It’s ok to prolong your tourist status indefinitely. Seek groups that have similar interests as yours.  Break up the empty calendar by booking your leisure time with discovery appointments. Book tickets to his favorite games, restaurants, art shows or parks.  Sign him up at the local basketball, running, cycling or golf group.  Join a dancing or painting class together.  Actively explore your new location together and learn something new.
  6. Encourage him to establish a daily routine. Danny kept himself busy by managing our finances, household, post office – yes, this is a big deal in Belgium, licenses – another big deal and all items required to settle down in our new home.  He had his own home office space equipped with a TV, PC, printer and all his files.
  7. Proactive Therapy. At the end of the day, realize that you cannot truly make someone else happy.  Your spouse/partner needs to sincerely want to make your new location work for your entire family.  I booked my family including myself to proactive therapy sessions before the move.  I prepared the kids for what therapy would look like and sent them in one by one to see the therapist.  After their meeting, I curiously asked how it went and all they said was – “its confidential Mom”.  If you sense resistance, passive or otherwise, some proactive therapy could help.

Career relocation can be tough.  It can also be one of the most rewarding and broadening learning experience for you and your family. Are you considering a career relocation or have experienced one?  Feel free to share what helped.

 

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