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Anonymous Career Advice

Will a strict return to the office help my team get back together?

This week’s anonymous career advice question:

Will a strict return to the office help my team get back together? 

Dear Focus, Our office has been told they are expected back in the office in the coming weeks. My department’s performance has dropped and you can see cracks appear. Do you think this will help our department get back to performing? 

This is going to be a big question for many department heads and leads in the coming months. 

If there is a performance issue it’s likely not simply down to being remote and video call fatigue that we have all heard about in the last six months. 

It’s likely down to many more factors of work: 

  • The general blurring of work and life, 
  • Relationships falling apart 
  • Colleagues leaving 
  • A change to furlough or headcount 
  • A team subculture that requires more than a bandaid or an away day. 

Here are just a few categories of questions to ask yourself and your team around what the causes are and answer collectively. 

Bonding 

  • Has there been a breakdown in communications? 
  • Has there been a project, product or campaign that has failed? 
  • Has there been turnover or lack of refill of headcount? 
  • How do you propose to bring the teams closer together if there are numerous fractions or your internal influencer or secret weapon is unhappy?

Proximity 

  • Proximity is an important factor within interpersonal relationships but does it apply or add value in 2021?
  • Being close or within one office doesn’t mean better communications and the old bad habits won’t come back. 

Something I always recommend to read and develop out is the Allen curve within your business, as the study shows the closer and more frequent you are by proximity the better relationships were.

Here is a good LinkedIn post to understand more of an updated review. 

Being a good leader from anywhere 

  • Asking if this was going to be full time back in the office? 
  • Have there been consistent communications? 
  • Regardless of where your team are located your role shouldn’t have to change, often remote can be easier to manage times and interruptions 

Resentment for having to come back in

This is something many team members are expressing. 

Likely voicing their concerns or frustrations around having to return to the old way of working. 

Although it doesn’t sound to have been easy or plain sailing many people have realised this way of working works better for them and their situation. 

Can you adapt this for a team member?

Swamped in routine 

One common mistake is not mixing up routines and not listening to feedback. 

Old routines won’t likely improve the issues that occurred while forced working from home environment. 

Is this an opportunity to change the routine? I would suggest this is a great time to revisit and restructure routines.  

Cost of over-communication

Many businesses were telling teams to over-communicate, this was one of the common mistakes over the last year. 

Communications have to deliberate. 

There has to be for a reason and managed by channel. 

Can you reduce friction by reducing communication or more likely over communication? 

Ability to deliver anywhere

  • The question everyone seems to struggle with, have we set our teams to succeed and deliver from anywhere? 
  • Do you actually have one rule that applies all within your business? 
  • Where your team set up to succeed? 

Best of luck with your move towards going back into the office, as we suggested the office should be rethought as an arena and this is an important read to help reshape your office while returning to the office safely. 

Helpful Reads To Improve Your Management

Good Manager Examples

25 Bad Manager Examples

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Anonymous Career Advice

How To Get Back On Track

In this week’s anonymous career advice column, we tackle:

How do you get back on track when you feel like you have lost focus?

This is something many of us struggle with on a weekly basis, even someone who prides themselves on focus and productivity we all have times where we get off track or lose our focus and need different methods and techniques to combat “focus fatigue”.  

Short Term 

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Anonymous Career Advice

How do I get unstuck in a stagnant job?

This week’s anonymous career advice is something I am confident 99% of people have faced and a large number of people are facing today, not just because of the job market and business climate, but down to how we all face career crossroads every few years of our working lives. 

Dear Focus, How do I get unstuck in a stagnant job? 

There is a time in any job when you feel like you, the role and/or the business is stagnating. It’s one of the most common discussion points in my coaching services

One of the more painful truths in business is roles do actually slow and stagnate, one of my truths I let people know is if you feel like something is stagnating you have the power to evolve in and around a role, don’t let the company or the role hold you back.

You have the power to understand your strengths and weaknesses, you have the power to find resources online to help you (the internet has brilliant free resources), you can find an internal mentor or find an external mentor to help you develop. 

If you need help to understand your professional strengths and weaknesses, read this it’s time for a professional and personal SWOT leaders letter for guidance and how to address some of your concerns. 

If you feel like this is a professional injury or you need rehab from previous situations, read this professional injuries and rehab leaders letter and speak to your manager or step up as a leader and help those to progress around you. 

One of the most important aspects here is to uncover what is stuck, where do you feel stuck and what opportunities are there for you. This could be taking on broader projects, stepping up and taking over an area of the business that is underperforming or needs more guidance or assistance.

Something many people take on as a challenge is a side hustle or a passion project. In a lot of my own personal career, a side hustle taught me more about business and operations than many large businesses I worked in or with.

If you feel like you want to make the move away I recommend reading our recent anonymous career advice, unfinished business vs knowing it’s time to leave

If you need more help or you need help highlighting bigger issues at your company, our anonymous text helpline will help take this forward.  

Good luck and remember this is the time to step up and own your career.

Categories
Company Culture hybrid office

Prepare yourself and your HR team for difficult conversations

Since the start of 2020 we have seen a number of business changes, one important area that has not changed as much as normal is hiring and natural staff turnover. 

As we see more vaccinations and confidence come back into economies, we will see large numbers of staff reconsider the roles they are in, their role within their team and importantly within their organisations. 

We have seen in 2021 that many people are living in the better the devil you know, we are about to see this change. 

Change Is Coming

This is where business leaders have to start internal conversations around the management team table, around the exec table and bring in human resources to start preparing for the influx of difficult conversations around staff members wanting to explore their options and for some receive offers from other companies and in some cases staff leaving for complete career changes.

Get Ahead Of Turnover

If your department or team has seen turnover, do not expect this to end, action the following:

  • Gather intel
  • Create a market overview
  • Understand how the market has evolved for your department and their roles
  • Consider how you and your business will approach talent retention and career development for each staff member individually.

This period is essential to understand the motives behind wanting to leave or a desire to improve their skills and where you are placed to assist. 

Learn From The Market & Other Companies

In recent conversations; poor company culture, lack of career development and weak company strategy have all been areas raised as to why staff have wanted to leave.

In other conversations, something that many businesses have ignored is the requirement from the teams for hybrid and flexible working from home.
Do not allow your inflexibility in shifting to the hybrid office or making important tweaks including introducing hybrid perks

Not A Normal Time

This situation is something a manager or department lead experiences throughout the year, however, with summer approaching and changing landscape, we will see a rush for talent.
We will likely see more investment made into company developments and into key growth departments and more roles becoming available, more recruitment companies contact staff and headhunters going through teams and approaching them for an alternative role.

Prepare Yourself & Your Future

As a manager or department lead it is imperative to have discussions around headcount and knowing if you are likely to lose someone you will be able to replace and reshape your team. 

You will likely see more change than you want but it is essential to be ahead of this wave of change and be able to reduce any anxiety around headcount and if you are in a position to hire a way to show your plan and lead from the front. 

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Anonymous Career Advice

Knowing it’s time to leave vs unfinished business

This week’s anonymous career advice is going to be applicable for many people over the next quarter, with more people returning to offices and continuing working in the hybrid environment, we will see staff of all levels question is it time to leave or complete your role at your current company.

Dear focus, I have been in a director of role for the last three years and a director of for two years before this at another company, although I feel like I have Unfinished business, I’m not sure if it’s time for me to leave and take on my next challenge. Can you help?

You are encountering something that many people will be wrangling with over the next six to nine months. 

Regarding your specific question, there are a few layers to unpack.

Service:
The job market has shifted a lot over the last 18 months, there are many businesses rehiring, there are many companies growing and expanding headcount, there are others making the calculated risk to hire and mature their teams with more senior hires. 

Gone are the days in many markets you stay with a company for over a decade most tenure is under four years, so you have been with this company in a senior role for a good time period. 

Service and tenure can work for you and against you, one thing to ensure is ‘have you used up your social capital’ and have you become part of the furniture vs adding real value and being listened to? 

Regularly this can be understood by speaking to those around you and those above you, if your influence has declined and you feel like this is hurting your career, it might just be time to explore and get back to high performance and being valued. 

Title:
Many titles can be misleading, it doesn’t necessarily indicate your influence within the company or the level you operate at externally. 

If you are disheartened about the same title or not being able to take a V title or a c-suite title, there might be ways to ask for the timeline when this might be available. 

Is promotion an important thing to you? Are titles important to you where you are at? If yes, you need to understand the timeline and understand how you are considered internally, often this is harder to gain feedback on, however speaking to your boss, your colleagues on the same level and HR can help you understand this. Be prepared for tough questions and honest feedback loops. 

Know Your Worth?
Something an old boss used to say to me and what Netflix tells their employees, take the meeting or the interview see what you are worth or what might be out there. 

An important question to ask yourself is do you doubt yourself or have you lost some confidence in your current role?

If yes, it’s probably time to look at updating your cv/resume and start having conversations with recruiters and headhunters. 

If you have been unhappy in this role and need some help I suggest reading the professional injuries blog post to help you break down what is happening and why. 

To answer if it is unfinished business or time to leave, you will know in your own mind, you will have a feeling, unfinished business is often a reason why many people stay in their role when they don’t know what they want to do or where they want to go next. 

I would really question if you having doubts, you should start proactively making a change,  start with LinkedIn, CV and start having conversations, external conversations will help you make the right decision. 

Sometimes better the devil you know other times it takes the right step forward to catapult your career onwards and upwards.  

I recommend you to use a Risk vs benefits framework you can easily see what risks you have staying and what benefits you might have.

You can then apply the same risk vs benefit analysis for leaving. 

Once you complete the analysis you will be in a better place to answer this question for yourself and for your future. 

I always recommend writing a professional SWOT when you are at a crossroads. This is likely the time to put yourself first.

Consider introducing interview practice runs into your department as it will help your colleagues and help you prepare for what might be to come. 

If you are looking for other advice and tips for virtual interviews read this leaders letter.

My personal experience is, if you feel like you have unfinished business and you can make the changes required, you should map this out in detail and if you have the feeling it is time to leave don’t leave it too late as you will kick yourself and you may feel like your career has gone backwards. 

Best of luck with your decision, if you are asking the right question – you are on the right track. 

Categories
Anonymous Career Advice

Self-Taught Manager Issues?

 This week’s anonymous career advice comes from “middle manager with middle manager problems”. 

Dear focus, I am a self-taught manager and I struggle managing my team and manage my manager’s expectations. What is the best way to develop my management style of managing my manager and managing my team? 

There is something quite important about understanding you can improve as a manager and improve managing those around you and those you come into contact with regularly. 

An issue managers face is typically being able to create time to manage, to do their own work and manage out managers, or at least their expectations. 

Middle management is the hardest area of management, it is often the time you learn most about the work environment, the way people are motivated and what expectations truly are. 

Personally, I have a belief that management is an art form that a tiny per cent of people have managed to crack, it evolves every day and with every interaction, so this advice won’t be perfect but will be a guide to help you improve as a manager and improve communications and expectation management.

Management Advice

Managing up 

Managing up is about relationships and time management, most senior managers are time-sensitive and struggle to have much time to dedicate themselves to one to ones or one to few. 

From experience key to managing up is to communicate the most important aspects and goings-on with clear thought and in digestible chunks. Being able to have an exec summary and a list of objectives and the ways you are thinking of tackling those objectives often puts you on the front foot. 

One issue to countermeasure is handling the requests and helping your manager to know when you can take more work on and when they need to take work off you. This happens with a relationship and having clear one to ones and clear communications around hurdles. 

One problem two solutions framework will help greatly with overbearing bosses as will risks vs benefits framework when going through and managing your communications. 

Managing Around 

Managing around you is an area many ignore as managing those managers in the same position as you are is an important part of your development and building a support network. 

Managing Your Team 

Managing your team is always a challenge, something that has been a help in my career is working out the individual motivations and the way people want to be managed and compare to how you manage them. Surprisingly you will find some are motivated by praise, others are motivated by money and some are motivated by knowing they can improve. 

Being able to have open conversations, help problem-solve together and collaboratively and speak on the right level will help you have better relationships and improve as a manager, being trusted and proving you have their best interests is vitally important. This comes with time and having their back and supporting them by knowing when they need you, when they want you and when they don’t know they require support and guidance. 

An important lesson: saying my door is always open and not being available is something that upsets and frustrates your team far more than you will know. 

More actions you can take to proactively progress as a manager:

  • Hire a professional coach 
  • Ask for internal mentors 
  • Look for external mentors – costs can vary but important to know how much an external mentor will improve and challenge you differently
  • Hire a personal development coach 
  • Join a manager group – some can be particularly useful, be wary of HiPPO bias or admin bias in big groups
  • Build a management group on slack, discord or on LinkedIn to improve your skills and be able to have voice anonymous issues. I have built a number of communities that have helped greatly  
  • Write a professional and personal SWOT – this will help you spot your own weaknesses and build on opportunities you and others see
  • Read lessons from leaders this was an important set of interviews from last summer
  • Bringing those up around you will improve you as a manager, consider is it time for a co-pilot
  • Ask to co-create leadership principles to roll out to your leadership teams if this does not exist and will enable you to understand different situations and working environments particularly if you have access to broader teams, for instance: tech vs non-tech management are completely different challenges.

Leadership is not a linear journey and often you learn more in challenges than you do when everything seems to be going well. 

Keep up on knowing you want to progress and being proactive in developing out your career. 

Finally, never discount free resources on YouTube, LinkedIn and don’t be afraid to invest in books. 

Have Your Own Question?

Our book recommendations can be found 

Focus book recommendations 

5 Business Books To Read 

Ride of a lifetime  – The Disney Chairman autobiography

The Netflix Company Culture Book aka No Rules Rules – – The Netflix CEO book autobiography


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Anonymous Career Advice Friday Focus

Friday Focus – 26th March

This week’s five for Friday, aka Friday focus, we showcase our five anonymous career advice articles, we have written helping those who people who completed our anonymous career help form.

Anonymous Career Advice Must Reads

  1. Disconnected from my team, what do I do?
  2. How to prevent burnout and working when my team are sick?
  3. I’m failing to get my message across, how do I improve?
  4. I feel like my career is going backwards, what can I do?
  5. My colleague keeps stealing my ideas, what should I do?

Need some of your anonymous advice?

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Anonymous Career Advice

Complete Change In Career

Today’s anonymous career advice post is common for many people with a desire a complete career change.
Although today’s question is super-specific the recommendations apply to many other situations.

Dear Focus, I have been working offshore in the Oil and Gas industry for 13 years now. Never really worked a job on land. But I feel that this chapter of working offshore has to end. My problem is I have no idea what to do next.

Changing your career is always a big change, it can seem daunting but often it is something you can break down piece by piece.

Not knowing what to do next is not uncommon, the majority of us have no idea of what we would want to do next. You have the opportunity to build towards your next step.

One thing you should do is make the time in knowing what the next career move ideally is.

Firstly, your skills are always transferable, many skills seem specific on the surface but once you evaluate you will see how they often apply to so many roles.

Most of the skills I learnt in part-time work when I was 17 and working in QSR still applies twenty plus years later.

Your industry is a specialist industry and might seem unique however almost all of your skills are transferable and it is something for you to explore, map out and explore.

The question to ask yourself is what role do I want to do and what makes me great for that role. These are going to be the first questions the hiring manager and HR team will ask.

Below is a series of actions you should take:

Actions

  • Find areas of new work you will want to work in
  • Review places like Glassdoor for reviews of interviews and the workplace
  • Review LinkedIn for people who have these roles and their backgrounds, often you will see there isn’t always obvious steps to the roles they have
  • Create a hitlist of jobs, roles and levels you are applicable for
  • Find as many people within that sector that would make time to discuss the job and their roles with you
  • Write a detailed pros and cons list of the role and your fitting
  • Write a SWOT analysis and be brutally honest, you will be surprised how many strengths and opportunities you
  • Start writing or recording content about the subject matter and the area you would like to go into – clearer thoughts and ideas will really help you
  • Look at free online courses and take as many as possible in your spare time
  • Write a standout cover letter, explain why you are relevant, these are questions you will have to answer before they question you
  • Create bespoke CV/resume for each role – this is something many fail to do
  • Lean into the free resources available, dive into webinars, YouTube is full of useful content
  • Self-learning is essential, show how you have developed yourself and those around you

This list should help you understand the steps to take and how you will be more applicable than you think.

Best of luck.


Read The Previous Anonymous Career Advice Articles:

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Anonymous Career Advice

Career Going Backwards

In this week’s instalment of focus anonymous career advice, we cover something many of us face, is our career going backwards?

Dear Focus, I feel like my career is going backwards, I have not been promoted for two years, my manager cannot answer why this has not changed, unless my boss leaves I won’t get a title change, what should I do?

This sounds like an issue so many people face, you have hit your ceiling within your business and there is nowhere to go unless you feel like they leave.

There are a couple of sides you should consider:

– Have you evolved in the last two years?
– Are there any development opportunities within the company?
– Can you arrange a skip meeting with your bosses boss and discuss what potential steps there are?

The more obvious the question, the more important it is to answer the question.

Something that is important to keep front of mind and something you should continually ask yourself is what have I learnt and have I evolved?

Personal development and being the person who evolves your career is the easiest hack, you have the ability to learn from millions of resources online and the option to ask for specific training courses from your company. Not developing yourself in this situation is holding yourself back.

Often managers cannot answer these tricky questions, for many reasons, often this is because they are concerned for their role, for the competition from you, for losing you to another business and you are a secret weapon or hidden leader and rely on you more than know.

Many businesses have top-down company culture, meaning your boss has far more influence on you than the business around you, it is important to understand if this is happening across the business or just in your situation. Be delicate in asking these questions, for yourself and so this does not fed back to your boss.

Something that Netflix openly encourage is for you to understand your worth and take external interviews, taking an interview or interviews will help you to understand where you are at, what other companies are looking for and if you can take a step up in another business. Often this is a great way to know if you are undervalued or underachieving or frankly in the wrong business.

Ceilings are everywhere, as the number of headcount and senior people has to be limited (despite some companies feeling the opposite).
This does not mean there are not any other opportunities or leadership roles internally or options to own other projects outside of your current roles and progress within this organisation.

Many times businesses are looking for leaders to step up and move laterally to improve the company. This is common in many of the larger orgs and something I and many others have benefitted from.

The harder truth might be, to develop or gain a promotion, you will likely have to move on or wait for your manager to leave, this is not a foolproof plan.

For what it is worth: Titles do not really mean as much until you look to leave a role, often titles are overly internally focused that what internal title you have is completely different externally.

Good luck with this, I would recommend having the open conversations with your boss or bosses boss, look for interview opportunities to understand where you are and consider how you might take the step up by taking on different projects.
The key here is to be super proactive and drive your own career forward.


Ask Your Own Question


Categories
Leadership

It Is Ok To Want To Move On As A Leader

There has been much made for many years around company loyalty, the job market and being a leader and looking to move on. 

Leader Loneliness

As a leader, you are under so many more pressures than your team and colleagues realise and will even know. 
You keep it bottled up and find one or two people you can vent or download on to.

Team Before Me

Many times as a leader you have to make calls that are best for the team.
Rarely are you given the opportunity to make the calls that are good for you specifically.

Obviously bad and inexperienced managers do put themselves first.

As a leader (not a manager) you make decisions to empower those around you and move towards the department or company targets. 

Often as a leader, it can feel like you are too busy to think about your career, you often end up neglecting opportunities to develop your own career, you tend to put those around you or the business first. When you get a chance to look up it can feel like you are going backwards. 

Realisation

There comes a time when almost all leaders have that realisation. You will often realise the company is just not what it was or going where you want it to go or it’s just not for you anymore. 

This can feel more daunting the higher up you go. Especially in more recent times with lockdowns and pandemics. 

Questions From Leadership Team

You might have experienced this first hand or likely have asked it as a leader…are you committed to the company?

There is also only so many times someone can truly disagree and commit. 

Knowing when it’s your time

When you realise it is your time to leave, you are actively making the decision to improve the company culture, often when we know we are looking we have the tendency do drop the ball or have passed to the wrong player. It is also completely fine to look to leave for a better company fit for you.

So a new year can be a fresh start, you can look to leave and as many won’t suggest it is good to understand the market, understand or remember your value or worth, remember in no rules rules, Netflix actively encourage you to go for other interviews and understand your value. 

Leaders Lead

Do not let questions from other leaders or do what people expect to hold you back. A leader has to lead, and typically it has to start with yourself. So yes, it is always to leave, even if you are the CEO.

The important thing to remember is to leave your company or organisation in a great place and set them up to succeed for as possible.