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How aligned are your aspirations with your career? Your success depends on it!

Stop whatever you’re doing. Ask yourself this question: How aligned are your aspirations with your career? Only when they are in sync will you feel fulfilled, centered and successful. Read on!

As simple as this may sound, it’s an issue that affects a large percentage of people, particularly women. Why? Because many of us are so busy pushing forward with our lives and professional careers that we don’t take the time to stop and reevaluate where we are and how we are feeling about it. And if we find that we are not happy, even fewer of us commit to making the necessary changes to redirect our careers.

Synchronize intention and attention. Johannes Plenio. Unsplash

Always remember to synchronize your intention with your attention. Photo Credit: Johannes Plenio. Unsplash

How to identify potential misalignments?

There are several symptoms that point to a lack of alignment. Here are a few to watch out for:

  • Frustration at not getting what you want
  • Envy of other people’s achievements
  • Anger at the huge effort you have to make to get anything from recognition to a promotion
  • Feeling frequently tired, in a bad mood, or lack enthusiasm for your job

I saw it recently in a highly educated, very smart colleague who was complaining about working too much and not having enough to show for it. When we dived deeper into the reasons why she thought this was happening, I could hear that her goals and her professional activity were not in sync. She wanted to achieve A but was putting a lot of efforts in a direction that pointed her to B. As we continued our conversation it became evident that she experienced a similar pattern in other aspects of her life.

How to do less and achieve more. A great read!
Post its with dreams by Kyle Glenn

Creating a vision board or a wall full of your dreams on post it notes can help keep you focused! Photo Credit: Kyle Glenn. Unsplash

How to align your aspirations and your career goals

There is a process by which you synchronize your intention with your attention. You see, when you are not clear about what you want, your attention is dispersed. You get pulled into a million different directions, as you have no sense of priority or what serves your purpose. It becomes more about staying busy, occupying your mind than anything else.  Now when you define what it is you want, what truly gives you a sense of fulfillment, then you develop a sharp focus.

Here’s a simple way to go about it: Spell out what you want

The best way to stop envying other people’s lives and successes is by zeroing in on what you want and how willing you are to get it. Because these two things go hand in hand. You may want to live in a four-bedroom home overlooking the ocean but not willing to do anything to change your current five-digits salary. So, grab a notebook and a pen. Sit in a quiet place. As a header write “The career I want.”

Then write 100 things that you want your career to be like. Describe in detail (one detail per line) the kind of job you want, the type of activities you’d like to do, the sort of bosses, colleagues, organization’s culture, industry, how far from home you are willing to go, and so on. The more detailed you are, the better.

This exercise works for all different aspects of life and work. You could create the same kind of list for an executive search your company is conducting or for a romantic partner.

It works incredibly well because when you’ve written down 50 things, and you think you have nothing else to add to the list, more items pop up until you have an incredibly sharp idea of what you’re looking for. What would fulfill you and what would not. It helps you keep your goals front and center and this in turns helps you make better decisions. You learn how to say no to things that would derail you and yes to things that will contribute to your objectives.

The more deliberate you are in your choices, the more your life and your career get aligned with your goals and this is the shortest path to achieving them. It also keeps the focus on you and your attainments rather than on other people and theirs. Thus reducing your envious impulses or any sense of not being good enough or deserving enough to get what you want.

Try it and then let me know how it goes. Sometimes the simplest solutions unexpectedly bring us the biggest satisfaction.

And if you’d like help with this process, consider our Step Up Program.

How aligned are your aspirations. Christopher Campbell. Unsplash

How aligned are your aspirations? Photo credit: Christopher Campbell. Unsplash

4 Steps to do less and achieve more to feel better

I’ve spent many years working long days and weekends building one company or another. Finally, I figured out how to do less and achieve more.  In the process I found my passion and time to live my life. Here are my insights.

“Do less and achieve more” may not come naturally

I had just finished my Master’s degree when I first arrived in the U.S. So not only did I have to work hard to get my career going but I also had to learn a new culture, improve my English and do it all as a newly wed away from my family. Hard work and effort was a given. I had to pave my way, pay my dues, and all that.

But the truth is that perseverance and a strong will to succeed had always been part of my DNA. I had worked hard to get good grades in school and had done a ton of extra curricular activities since I have memory. So it was only natural that I’d continue in that vein once I entered the workplace.

After I worked at a company for a couple of years my now ex husband and I purchased it from the owner. It was about to go bankrupt so it looked like a good idea to restructure and re-launch an existing company rather than start from scratch.  It wasn’t any easier, though. With the bankruptcy looming over us, it meant we had to work 16 hour-days and 7 days a week to keep the company afloat. All the while taking very little money out and investing in marketing new programs and services.

That was my first professional taste of an imbalanced life. We worked all the time.  We took no days off, no vacations. We did nothing for pleasure. It was work, work work. And when I look back, the results we got for the amount of work we did were not commensurate. Not even close.

The idea to “do less and achieve more” never even crossed my mind back then. It would take many more years for it to sink in.

So, let me save you the learning curve and share the insights I gained along the way.

You've got this. Photo Credit: Emma Matthews. Unsplash

You’ve got this. Photo Credit: Emma Matthews. Unsplash

1 De-glorify busyness

The one thing you learn pretty quickly when you enter the U.S. workspace is that being busy is considered good. It’s the only acceptable answer to the question: “How are you?” If you’re not busy people immediately think you’re not successful. So even when you are taking a well-deserved break, you may automatically answer “Busy, very busy.”

The truth is that being busy for the sake of being busy is like being famous for the sake of being famous. It’s empty. It’s shallow and it’s completely and utterly unfulfilling.

So if you want to do less and achieve more, my first suggestion is that you take a personal stand against busyness. Its only function is to occupy your time with things that may not be relevant at best and may distance you from your real goals at worst.  So, when someone asks you how you are doing, try any of the following answers:

  • I’m enjoying every minute of my life
  • I’m involved in a very interesting project
  • I’m thinking about my next step
  • I’m spending quality time with the people I care about
  • I’m evaluating my priorities so I can focus on what really matters

You will see how by training yourself to give one of these more thoughtful responses, you will give yourself permission to actually do all those things.

When you learn to do less you achieve more and find more time for what you love. Photo Credit: Joanna Kosinska. Unsplash

When you learn to do less you achieve more and find more time for what you love. Photo Credit: Joanna Kosinska. Unsplash

Learn how to flow

2 Figure out what you enjoy most in order to go with the flow

It’s not a simple thing, but figuring out what you most enjoy doing in life and for work is a cataclysmic discovery. It can throw everything upside down, that’s how infrequently you’re likely to give this any serious consideration. Ask yourself right now:

  • What comes naturally to me?
  • When do I feel I’m in the zone? In a psychological flow?
  • Where do my ability, knowledge, experience and joy intersect? Doing what?
  • If I was given five years to live and the only way to extend my life were to work in something I love, what would that be?

When you uncover what it is that you like to do and you figure out a way to enter that space, you’ll start going with the flow so you are overcome by a feeling of effortlessness. Rather than making efforts against what comes naturally (upstream efforts as Bethany Butzer calls them in her Ted talk,) you’ll be making an effort in the same direction as the current.

I tell you, many people spend their entire lives moving from job to job or developing a career someone else designed for them. Stop. Think. Decide for yourself. Start the path towards doing what you enjoy. It may take a while to course-correct to get there, but it’s worth it.

Learn to do less and achieve more. Photo Credit: Katie Moum. Unsplash

Learn to do less and achieve more. Photo Credit: Katie Moum. Unsplash

3 Start enjoying the process

You’ve heard me say before that success is a journey, not a destination. And although that may sound cliché, the idea is profound. Most of us have arrived to our definition of success through our parents, our culture, our media… We’re so focused on the end result that quite often when you achieve it, it feels meaningless. Why? Because it wasn’t you who gave that goal a meaning. You just went after it because someone out there said it was important. Or it would make you feel important.

To really do less and achieve more, you have to enjoy the process, the path that leads to wherever you are going. And if you’re the one who sets up the direction and you are doing what you like, that path will be much more enjoyable. Granted, it won’t be all smooth sailing all the time. That’s not what this is about. But even when you encounter setbacks and obstacles, you will feel okay. You will have the internal resources to help you navigate through anything. You will have a naturally built-in resilience that comes from doing something you find meaningful.

4 Share the stories you create

In the last few years I realized that because I’ve aligned what I enjoy doing with what I do, my life has gotten much more interesting. I’m having lots of fun, doing less, achieving more, and I have a lot more free time to engage in activities outside of work. I also noticed that the stars seem to align seamlessly and things fall into place with a minimum amount of effort.

What’s happening? I’ve reached a point where the only thing I do is share with those who are interested the stories of what we’ve done at my company, the Red Shoe Movement, and the impact our work has had. I don’t need to convince anyone, I let the stories do the talking. I focus on listening to what people need and then I share what we may be able to do. But I don’t push, I don’t insist, I don’t proselytize. When someone feels we are the right fit and I feel they are the right fit for my organization, things work out beautifully. Everything flows, we become great partners and then, inevitable friends for life.

Because in the end, it’s about creating the conditions that allow everyone to be their best selves and live their most fulfilled lives. Figure out what those conditions look like for you and you’ll feel that it all comes to you effortlessly.

De-glorify busyness and you'll be much happier. Photo Credit: Unsplash

De-glorify busyness and you’ll be much happier. Photo Credit: Unsplash

Beyond networking: Building Alliances

Most everyone knows the power of building and maintaining a network for your career. Today we focus on going beyond networking to build alliances. The most effective way to grow professionally.

The meaning of going beyond networking

For starters, and as a matter of course, for me networking is never about going out there to collect business cards. It should be seamlessly integrated into your daily life and not be a separate activity that you do when you need a job. Going on a conference spree so that you can meet as many people in as short a period of time as possible is never the way to go. Not only it’s unlikely to produce the results you seek, but it can become frustrating as few leads will turn out to be true leads.

People can tell when you’re under pressure or desperate to get a job. It is the worst position to be in whenever you need something. So, when I suggest that you think beyond networking, I mean that you 1) Turn networking into a lifestyle 2) Start building alliances rather than collecting business cards.

Networking for shy professionals
Going beyond networking

Develop a real interest in the people. It’s the first step to build alliances. Photo Credit: Annie Spratt. Unsplash.

Beyond Networking = Long Term

To identify current or potential allies and conscientiously develop a relationship with them you must have a long-term mindset. A mentality that sees every potential ally as someone who will be in your life for a very long time and who is worth investing in. And just as you would invest in a friend by learning about their life, their goals, their likes and dislikes, their skills, knowledge, experience and by spending time with them, you should invest time in your allies. This has been true throughout my life and career and the only reason why I’ve been able to flourish in my space. Not only Rome wasn’t built in a day. Nobody builds Rome alone.

What is an ally?

Before we go any further, let’s agree on our definition of an ally. In the context of this post, an ally is someone who can help you excel in your career and fulfill your goals. Someone who has your back and your best interests in mind.

Building mutual alliances quote

Always try to build two-way relationships.

Develop mutually beneficial alliances

Because one of the Red Shoe Movement’s methodology pillars is Mutual Mentoring, I encourage you to develop mutually beneficial alliances. In other words, identify people who can support your career growth and whose career you can support. This win-win situation is much more natural than a one-way street relationship where you expect someone to support you without reciprocating. It potentiates each party by helping both of you flourish in the organization. It’s also a contagious phenomenon. Once your colleagues see the results you get from your partnership, they’ll want to emulate you. This in turn is likely to attract more allies to you while it reinforces your leadership brand.

Who could be potential allies?

Anyone in your ecosystem is an ally candidate. Here’s a list to make it perfectly clear:

  • Colleagues who are part of your team
  • Bosses
  • Administrative & support staff
  • Members of various executive committees
  • Members of Business Resource Groups
  • Senior Management
  • Your friends & family
  • Vendors
  • Customers & corporate clients
  • Members of Professional Associations to which you belong or that your company supports
  • Members of Trade Associations

As you see, there’s no shortage of potential allies with whom to develop a strong, mutually beneficial alliance. Going beyond networking means, however, that you shouldn’t just know their names but that you get to know them well. Because time is a limited resource, it behooves you to be selective and strategic.

Networking for people who hate networking

A rising tide lifts all boats

Photo Credit: Lexie Jenney. Unsplash

How do you build an alliance?

First you must comb through your network to identify who’s already in it and with whom you may want to deepen the current relationship. Second, you must look at the above list of potential allies and decide where there may be opportunities to connect with certain individuals with whom to establish new relationships. Once these two first steps are taken care of, you can get down to the business of building an alliance.

1Be relentlessly generous

This is a basic principle for going beyond networking. If you want to build a strong foundation for your relationships, begin by thinking of ways in which you can help the other person. What can you offer them that might be beneficial? Time? Resources? Information? A helping hand in a project for which they have a tight deadline? Connections? By keeping a generous mindset, you’ll show your potential allies that you honestly care about them and their goals. This leads to trust and likely, to a desire to reciprocate. But keep in mind that to build a true alliance, generosity can’t be a one-time occurrence and it can’t be something you do with an agenda. Be relentlessly generous and your alliance will build over time.

2Include your allies in key decisions

It’s easier to get people’s support when they feel they are part of a decision you’re making. Or when you consult them about a project so that you can make the right decision. So if you know you’ll need your allies to stand by your side, it’s a good idea to fill them in ahead of time. Blindsiding anyone makes it harder for them to support you even if they would have, had you told them about your plans.

3Offer recognition whenever you get a chance

One of the best ways to nurture your allies is by recognizing them publicly whenever appropriate. Many people take their allies for granted, making it look like everything they accomplished they’ve done on their own. How about the boss who provided air cover at every turn? Or the assistant who worked until the wee hours of the morning and weekends to get the reports ready for the presentation? Or the spouse who took over picking up the kids in school for a month so that the person could focus on the project? Nobody, nobody does everything on their own. Remember this and always offer credit when credit is due. It’s one of the most valuable and inexpensive ways to maintain strong ties to your allies.

4Don’t overdo it

As with any relationship respect your allies’ time and goodwill. Just as you wouldn’t ask of your best friend to pick up your dry cleaning every time you’re out of town, avoid abusing your allies. Don’t ask for support when you could do things on your own or when you could have someone else do something. For instance, if one of your allies is an executive who helps you get high level visibility, don’t ask them to be your reference every time you’re trying to get a stretch assignment. Measure how much you ask of each ally and always try to do for them more than they do for you, so they are always willing to do whatever it is you ask.

To have a robust and fulfilling career requires you to go way beyond networking. It entails an investment in the people who will invest in you. It won’t happen overnight but once it happens, wow. Will your career take off in the most amazing ways!

Supporting each other is key in going beyond networking

Supporting each other is key in going beyond networking. Photo Credit: Hans M. Unsplash.

And as usual, if you’re looking to learn more about skills like building allies, come join our community!

 

From Peer to Team Leader: 5 Keys to Making a Successful Transition

The first promotion is a special moment. Make the most of it by having a clear understanding of how to effectively transition from peer to team leader. Here are the 5 keys to achieve a successful transition!

“Mary, I want to congratulate you on your promotion. It’s official!” This is one of the most anticipated phrases by most of us with careers in large corporations. At first, a promotion fills us with pride, feelings of accomplishment and self-realization. Especially if it is one of the first promotions in our careers. The one that propels you from peer to team leader.

In my experience as a HR executive, ambiguous feelings tend to arise for those who have been promoted. For example, the desire to lead vs the concern of being perceived as authoritarian; an interest to position yourself positively in the eyes of the boss vs. the fear of being isolated from the team due to being perceived as a brownnoser.

It’s natural to be concerned about the transition from individual contributor to leader of those who were until recently your own co-workers. The people with whom you shared common codes and an easy camaraderie. This transition is certainly a challenging process. My goal is to share 5 strategic keys for you to make a successful transition from peer to team leader.

Going from peer to team leader is an awesome step in your career

Going from peer to team leader is an awesome step in your career

From peer to team leader in five simple steps

1Establish yourself in the new role organically while securing a few quick wins

You should aim to adapt organically to your new role as a leader. That is, avoiding drastic changes that could alter the climate and team performance. Trying to impose ideas, avoiding social gatherings or showing little availability for the members of your team are some of the pitfalls to avoid. The ideal solution is to adopt your leadership style gradually. Keep in mind that the first 90 days in your new role are extremely important as they set the tone for the team as to what to expect of you. According to Michael Watkins, author of “The First 90 Days” published by the Harvard Business Review, you must secure some quick wins during this time. If you want to know how to do it watch this 2 minute-video where Watkins explains it.

2Build Your Own Leadership Style

While you should give yourself some time to adapt to the new role, it is also important to think about your own leadership style. While you figure it out, try to avoid making drastic personality changes that may cause bewilderment, anxiety or resentment among your teammates. For example, if you were known as a person with a good sense of humor, it would be odd to stop smiling or making a harmless joke here and there. You can learn more about different leadership styles by taking this quiz.

Whatever leadership style you decide to adopt, I suggest you avoid any extremes: neither too authoritarian nor so friendly that you lose your team’s credibility and respect. Positive influence, a democratic approach to decision- making and active listening are three qualities to keep in mind for a leadership style that fits well in today’s workplace.

In your career progression, you will go from individual contributor to team leader. Being prepared is a big part of your success.

In your career progression, you will go from individual contributor to team leader. Being prepared is a big part of your success.

3 Identify any teammates that may not be taking your promotion well

When a team member transitions from peer to team leader it is likely to cause changes in the internal group dynamics and in the relationships between its members. It is important that as a leader you make an initial diagnosis of the situation after your promotion and identify whether any of your former peers is dissatisfied with your appointment. Consider for example, that perhaps one of your colleagues applied for the same promotion and may now be frustrated for not having been selected. Whatever the case, it is good practice to hold individual meetings with every team member. They are great occasions to share your strategic vision for the future and let them know about your current double role. On the one hand, you will support their individual professional development and on the other you will focus on the success of the team as a whole. Finally, you have to be willing to accept that after the rules of the game have changed some people may decide to leave. This will be a sensitive issue both for yourself and for your team but rather than letting yourself be frustrated by this situation, focus on your future plans.

4 Seek the advice of those who have successfully transitioned from peer to team leader

A common mistake is to believe that now that you are a leader, others expect you to solve everything on your own. Asking for help is not a weakness. On the contrary, experienced professionals often ask for help in order to be successful at their job. Therefore, I suggest connecting with other leaders within the organization to ask about their own experiences and breakthroughs when they were promoted for the first time. You can also request recommendations for any internal training courses available for first time managers. In addition, if you have a mentor, this is a great time to exchange thoughts, share any concerns and ask for advice.

Here's a great  article to get the support of a mentor

Last but not least, your direct manager is also a key player and you should ask for his support if there are difficult or more complex issues that you don’t know how to approach.

Wearing the badge of boss proudly will involve learning how to successfully transition from being a peer to team leader

Wearing the badge of boss proudly will involve learning how to successfully transition from being a peer to team leader

5Partner with HR to learn about team management practices and policies

When you go from individual contributor to team leader, the development and management of the team becomes a priority in your agenda. Now, you will be in charge of team management decisions such as:

  • Identifying the training needs of the employees
  • Requesting the necessary budget for a job opening
  • Evaluating performance to allocate salary increases

Don’t let the new items on your agenda overwhelm you. Take it easy and learn every aspect of the talent management cycle based on need. Build a strong partnership with Human Resources from the get go to accelerate the learning curve of internal policies and procedures as well as the unwritten rules of the organization. For example, you may run into an unwritten rule when trying to get approval for a new job opening. The official procedure may be to create a job requisition through the ERP and to wait to obtain the approval in the system. But the unwritten practice may be to connect in advance with the regional director and obtain his/her approval informally before the formal request arrives at their desk. This informal practice is as important to your effectiveness as the formal procedure.

When you are promoted for the first time it may create feelings of ambiguity.

When you are promoted for the first time it may create feelings of ambiguity.

Finally, I would like to invite you to celebrate the new journey you are about to begin. Becoming a leader is extremely rewarding, and meaningful leadership is built daily. Transitioning from peer to team leader is the first step. So there’s nothing better than to start off with the right foot!

Does your personal brand open or close doors for you?

Your personal brand lives in the minds of others. Just like when you think Starbucks, “coffee” and “predictable taste and quality” come to mind, when someone thinks of you an image forms. What is it? And does it open or close doors for you?

Why is your personal brand relevant in your career? Because if, for example, your network thinks that you are “an ethical accountant with international experience,” you will be the first one they call when an opportunity arises. But if no one has any idea of ​​what you are good at, or if they have doubts about your reputation, it’s unlikely that your phone will ring.

What we call personal brand refers to a combination of elements that include your career path, your interests and your reputation. Over time these elements come together to build your image. An image that is not static but changes according to your activities, passions, and behavior.

Read more about how to find out what your personal brand is.
Your personal brand and you as a human being

Your personal brand and you as a human being

Your personal brand has as much to do with your quality as a human being as with what you do. Think of someone like Shakira. We could define her personal brand as “a talented, innovative and respected singer-songwriter, dancer, record producer and philanthropist.” But when those who might be interested in hiring her think of her, they also consider how easy it is to work with Shakira, what her work ethic is, whether she is a perfectionist, and if she is known for finishing projects on time. Does she treat the people she works with respectfully? And so on. That is, they not only think about what she does but how she does it. And that’s where your reputation comes into play.

Work until you no longer have to introduce yourself. This is the benefit of a powerful personal brand

Work until you no longer have to introduce yourself. This is the benefit of a powerful personal brand

Building your personal brand. An example for you

Here I share my own case study for you to use as an example when evaluating whether your personal brand opens or closes opportunities for you.

1My career – As with most people, my interests have changed throughout my career. I began at an educational book company where I did a little bit of everything. Gradually I started to create programs to involve parents in the education of their children, then developed teacher training, later training for professionals within companies and today I lead a women’s leadership training company. As a writer, each one of my books took me in a slightly different direction. I went from being an expert on parental involvement to an expert in education, from an expert in professional development to an expert in diversity and inclusion.

2My interests – While I have always had multiple interests, my focus has been on the education, and professional development of Latinos in the United States and in the last few years in women’s leadership. If you dig a little, my underlying personal brand has always been: “expert in helping connect the dots to success.” This consistency helps people think of me when they have an opportunity within my areas of interest and experience. Which does not happen when third parties don’t know what you do.

Here's a great video on building your personal brand.

Do others know your personal brand?

Here are the questions that will help you discover how clear your interests are to others.

If you ask someone: “tell me in two sentences what I do professionally,” can they answer? Do you often hear comments like “truthfully, I don’t know what do”? Do ideal opportunities pass you by because people didn’t think of you to carry them out?

When you look carefully, your personal brand is no only what you're known for "doing" but personal traits that remain throughout your career and life.

When you look carefully, your personal brand is no only what you’re known for “doing” but personal traits that remain throughout your career and life.

3My Reputation – Although over the years I have changed the topics I focus on, there are aspects of who I am that have remained the same. They are part of what people have come to expect of me. These characteristics are as much part of my personal brand as what I do at any given moment. They are a collection of adjectives that people use to define me when asked about me. A few of them are: Inspiring, smart, confident, innovative, high energy, solutions-driven, perceptive, thoughtful, trustworthy, goes the extra mile.  Again, What do people think when they think of you? These are the traits you develop and strengthen through your life. The reputation that precedes you. Going back to my previous example, when Shakira launched her perfume line, the “quality and innovation” aspects, which are an integral part of her personal brand, extended to her new venture. That is why, if her perfume were of poor quality, or were a copy of another fragrance, for example, her personal brand would be impacted.

No doubt your reputation is the most important ingredient of your personal brand. If it is not good, no matter how much you have done in a particular field or what your interests are, few will be willing to work with you.

Read more about how your actions can support your personal brand.

Do others know your personal brand

Do others know your personal brand

How to figure out if your reputation contributes to your personal brand

Here are the questions that will help you figure out whether or not your reputation contributes to a strong personal brand:

Do you keep your word? Do you inspire confidence? Are you an ethical person? Do you consider the impact of your behavior on others? Do you know how to work for mutual benefit? Are you known as someone people can trust? Do you have a reputation for being always late? For not delivering on your promises? For not carrying your weight in a project?

Hopefully this article will help you evaluate the type of person you are and how that directly influences the image you project to the world and the opportunities that knock on your door.

And as usual, if you’d like to solidify your personal brand to move to the next level in your career, we are a phone call away. Contact us here.