“The relationship is a two way partnership built on trust.”

Bob Mulcahy – Uniting
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Stephen Crowe

Managing Director

Ph: 02 8042 8907

[email protected]

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“I want to discuss my salary package”

“Can I have a raise?”

These two phrases can cause a lot of frustration and uncertainty in the workplace if not handled sensitively.

 

 

First of all, it isn’t easy to ask your boss for a pay rise.  A lot of anguish, thought and hopefully research has probably occurred before the employee has come to you.  So, if you know an employee is due for a pay review take the initiative and raise the discussion before they feel they must.  But if they beat you to it, give each request a lot of respect.  Listen to the case presented and take time to consider.  This will usually mean not giving an immediate answer so agree on a time and date to meet to discuss your decision.

From an employee’s perspective getting a pay rise is pretty simple, have I performed well enough in my job to deserve it?  From the employer’s side things appear bit more complex.  Apart from performance, employers need to consider how the salary compares to the market generally, how the salary compares to others in the team, whether the company is in a position to give a pay rise and does the requested pay rise fit within the companies’ policies?

If you’ve decided not to give an employee a salary increase how you communicate it is pretty important.  Of course, every scenario will be different but usually the outcome you are looking for is similar; although you are not going to reward the employee with more money you want them to stay focused on their job and maintain or improve their performance.

This isn’t a comfortable situation for the employer or the employee.  The answer though is to be tactful and honest.  If the employee’s performance wasn’t where you wanted it to be, carefully explain where they were below expectations and, if possible, use data to illustrate.  Then try and plan a clear performance path to the point where you would be able to give a pay rise. This should be as transparent as possible so the employee can easily understand if they are on track or not.  If the employee’s performance has been adequate but the businesses situation does not allow you to give a pay rise or the employee is already well paid in market terms again, be open about why you can’t pass on a pay rise at the moment, but also look for alternatives that will be seen as a reward.  These alternatives may include training, flexible working arrangements and additional holiday days.

Salary negotiations are sometimes tough to handle, but it is pivotal that employers plan for this process, as it is inevitable. The more proactive you are now, the less reactive you will need to be later.

 

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Building effective teams is on the to-do list of nearly every manager I know and an effective team can be more productive than an average team. One of the tools often offered to managers to enhance their team performances is off-site team building exercises. The sort of exercises I’m talking about are those that are supposed to enhance your trust, communication, problem solving etc. by attempting team based physical or mental challenges. But do they work?

Well my opinion is a decisive, yes and no. I think that there is value for newly formed teams or teams with new members, but not because the exercises are effective at changing the long term behaviour of members or that they uncover previously undiscovered personality traits. I think the value comes from the participants spending time together outside the work environment completing a focussed task. In short I think the value is in the fact that they get to know each other away from the pressures and preconceptions of the office environment. They get to know the person not the position or role they play at work. This has the potential to break down barriers and to speed up the relationship building process and this can result in a team that is more tolerant of each other and communicates better.

In saying that the value is not in the exercise, I do think the nature of the exercise is important in that it establishes the environment for the team to communicate. A session of paint ball does not foster open communication.
I’m not alone sitting up on the fence though, a quick scan of articles on the internet shows that are just as many people fiercely in favour of team building exercises as there are against.

So how do you effect change to an established team that is not operating effectively? Well I think the answer is, the old fashioned ways, careful selection of team members including consideration of their personality types (e.g. using Myer Briggs Type Indicators), establishment of clear roles and goals, public celebration of team success and private counselling when things don’t go as planned.

There have been hundreds of slogans used to motivate and recognise the value of teams by many notable people over hundreds of years but I think at the end of the day what counts is hard work and a common determination to succeed.

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Have you been a mentor to others?

Is it something that you have ever considered trying before?

Last week I looked at the benefits of mentoring from the mentee’s perspective, this week we are reaching out to those that are more established in their careers to explore the benefits of being a mentor.

To find out more about being a mentor and the value of providing mentorship I went straight to my mentor, Anthony Duckworth, an Events Team Leader at PwC who I attended the MEA Mentoring Program with a few years ago.I could tell Anthony enjoyed being a mentor because the moment I outlined that I was in a fairly new role in a new industry; he couldn’t help but ask me, ‘What next?

I began the conversation by asking him why he initially volunteered his time to be a mentor. At the time of signing up to be a mentor Anthony was already working in a role that had a heavy emphasis on coaching others, but he had a real passion for helping individuals on a broader scale, rather than just individual assistance for their daily tasks.

‘Being a mentor for me is about passing it on – about reaching a point in my career (& life) and being able to turn my hindsight into someone else’s insight. Being a mentor is a privilege and is the most rewarding role I could be asked to play. Its a connection driven by a motivated mentee where no task based answers are sought – its more a relationship built on different perspectives, experiences and open dialogue.’

For those of you who thought that a coach and a mentor were the same thing, I have listed similarities and differences below:

Coaching

  • Task focus (current and future)
  • Skills and performance Focus
  • Empowerment and accountability for results is shared
  • Usually a line manager role
  • Agenda set with coach
  • Focus on short term (6-12 months)
  • Initiated by line manager
  • Coach provides solutions
  • Feedback to participant
  • Fosters co-dependence leading to independence
  • Deals with factual information
  • Promotes Self Esteem

Mentoring

  • Discovery and development of capability and potential (future)
  • Empowerment of participants to develop their own abilities
  • Can be a non line manager role
  • Agenda set by participant
  • Focus on long term (1 year plus)
  • Initiated by participant
  • Solutions are set together
  • Feedback by participant
  • Fosters independence
  • Deals with feelings and factual information
  • Promotes Self Esteem

While a coach is valuable for resolving on the spot issues and directing your current position and tasks, the mentor will be valuable in helping you decipher the ‘what if’ scenarios of your future and how you can turn those dreams into a reality.

Can anyone be mentor? Of course!

Anthony told me about his first mentor. Very early in his career, Anthony was attending a conference where one of the guest speakers really inspired him. He wrote a hand-written note in an attempt to make a connection with the individual. He had no idea whether he would get a response or not, but he used his initiative. The mentor was so touched by the hand written note that he shared this note with his family and he was very moved by Anthony’s personal touch. And would you believe it, Anthony still meets with this mentor to this day – many years later!

So what is the value in becoming a mentor?

For Anthony, the greatest reward is being energised by being with an individual who is eager to learn, motivated, enthusiastic and follows up.  Someone who can communicate, challenge you as a mentor through open questions and is genuinely seeking the mentor’s guidance. He feels that he is really able to help, but at the same learn so much himself through the process.

This of course is all subject to the relationship that you build with a mentee, and as a mentor you must be as open and willing to build a relationship with your mentee as much as they are willing to seek you out for your support and guidance.

And I can comfortably say that there are a lot of mentees out there, whether they are new to an industry or a recent graduate, and they may not even be seeking someone in the same industry, just someone who can provide them with a fresh, creative and wise approach to their future.

I haven’t had a chance to be a mentor to others, but I can say that if I had the opportunity I would certainly take it.

Do you have any stories about the benefits of mentoring or what you have learned from your mentor?

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Stephen Bradbury was a four-time winter Olympian whose story may have ended there had it not been for luck. In a race where he seemingly had no chance he won the gold medal. Not any old gold medal, Australia’s first gold medal at a winter Olympics. How many opportunities are you creating for luck in your career?

It turns out the luck of Stephen Bradbury is not the exception. So often I hear from clients “I just wish I was one of those people who know what they want to be, like nurses, or doctors, or teachers”. Personally I have had many moments when I too wished I was one of those people. It turns out that while these people may seem to be in the minority we are all in fact just as lucky. Over the last decade empirical research has consistently shown across populations, age, socio-economic backgrounds, race, and gender that upwards of 80% of us state that chance or luck has paid a significant part in our career .

So I took this question to you, our cross-section of the Australian population and you replicated this finding, with more than half of you stating that your career was decided by chance:

  • “I was temping and only supposed to fill in for one day. I was asked to stay on and apply for the full time position which has taken my career from strength to strength.”
  • “I originally wanted to be a hairdresser, and then decided to become a teacher! Neither of those careers worked out so I was looking for a job and started as a call centre rep, working my way up and am now Program Ops Manager 15 years later – and in finance no less. A career that was never on my radar!”

Of course it is not luck alone that leads to career success. Stephen Bradbury didn’t get to that dais purely by chance! Stephen Bradbury represented his country at four winter Olympics because he worked extraordinarily hard and made many personal sacrifices. This hard work was what led him to that day where luck played him a card. He owned his role in creating that luck:

  • “Life can take you in many directions, circumstances and plans change, unexpected opportunities arise.”
  • “Patience, resilience, dedication, seizing on-job courses opportunities, diligence but above all great relationship building skills.”
  • “I was employed by this firm in 1963– I’m still here — I now own it!”

Stephen Bradbury didn’t idly stroll across that finish line; he raised his arms in the air and owned his success, owned his hard work, and owned the part he played in that lucky day. Isn’t it time you too owned your career success – the chance, the luck, and all the hard work?

We would love to hear your career stories – how has chance, luck, and hard work played its role in your career success?

Did you know that Challenge Consulting helps clients with Career Guidance? Contact Susan Kealy at [email protected] or 02 9221 6422 or visit the website to find out more.

______________________________________________________________________________________________

Bright, J. E., Pryor, R. G., Chan, E. W. M., & Rijanto, J. (2009). Chance events in career development: Influence, control and multiplicity. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 75, 14-25.

Chen, C. P. (2005). Understanding career chance. International Journal of Educational and Vocational Guidance, 5, 251-270.

Guindon, M. H., & Hanna, F. J. (2002). Coincidence, happenstance, serendipity, fate, or the hand of God: Case studies in synchronicity. Career Development Quarterly, 50, 195-209.

Hirschi, A. (2010). The role of chance events in the school-to-work transition: The influence of demographic, personality and career development variables. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 77, 39-49

 

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It appears that our crisis of identity is moving from midlife to quarter-life. Last week we asked your thoughts on this quarter-life crisis – myth or reality?

Some of you said yes, it is a reality – there is increased pressure to achieve it all by 30 – but it is up to you what you make of it. Reality – –

– Career, travel and relationship goals all compete for time and attention in a world where we are told that we can have it all and do it all. Females have added pressure – reach those career goals before you choose to have a family. Quarter-life crisis, been there, done that. But I think I came through it with a better outlook and knowing a bit more about what is important to me – and that makes me a better employee (and person too).

– It really depends on the person and what they want in life. Right now I have finished my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees, secured a full time job, have been working hard for the last year to launch a new business and brand, and to top it off build a duplex on the land that I purchased two years ago! All for the glory of having it all by 30. With so much opportunity and things to have and do, I guess it is up to you to make the best of it!

Whilst others felt that it is self-imposed myth, and in fact we don’t need to have it all by 30. Myth –

– A myth because today’s generation are constantly changing jobs more often than previous generations, so any uncertainty in the form of a life crisis shouldn’t really affect someone’s career path.

– Advertisers have discovered the one’s self-image becomes stagnant at 30. So when a 50 year old looks in the mirror, they see themselves as they were 20 years ago. To exploit this, marketers cast actors in their late 20′s for their advertising. This helps perpetuate the myth that turning 30 is a death sentence.

According to my age bracket, I am due to soon hit this quarter-life crisis.

But do we really need to achieve it all before 30?And does putting a cut-off on these goals really make your dreams simpler to achieve or simply add more pressure?

I have set many goals in my life. The first of which was establishing a career and a name for myself the moment I left high school. I dreamed of working in Events and during my further education, I worked in various temporary and voluntary roles before securing the permanent role I had “planned” to be in – working in an exciting, action-packed role in Events. Little did I know that only a few years later I would change my career path, become a home owner, and now rather than encouraged to continue to achieve career success, am being constantly reminded to take advantage of the spare time I have before I “settle down” and my priorities/responsibilities in life change.

According to a recent article in Guardian, I am probably somewhere around Phase 2 to Phase 3 in the typical “quarter-life crisis”:

Phase 1 – defined by feeling “locked in” to a job or relationship, or both. “It’s an illusory sense of being trapped,” said Robinson. “You can leave but you feel you can’t.”

Phase 2 – is typified by a growing sense that change is possible. “This mental and physical separation from previous commitments leads to all sorts of emotional upheavals. It allows exploration of new possibilities with a closer link to interests, preferences and sense of self.

Phase 3 – is a period of rebuilding a new life.

Phase 4 – is the cementing of fresh commitments that reflect the young person’s new interests, aspirations and values.

But is this process of review new or even unique to quarter-life?

Perhaps this process of review is reality but the importance of an arbitrary deadline is the myth. This may mean setting aside what society expects, and instead achieving goals in a time frame that is realistic for you.

From my perspective, we get too caught in a constant cycle of information overload and seemingly endless opportunities at our grasp. We appear to be getting caught in a cycle that we must pursue it all at once instead of focusing on one thing at a time. The downfall with putting unrealistic deadlines or by adding pressure on achieving everything by 30 is that I am creating stress in a time that everyone keeps telling me I should be treasuring!

And in the end, life doesn’t really end at 30, does it? Perhaps rather than being the end, the best things in life start at thirty because you learn from life’s earlier choices and you become wiser in your decisions about what is to come.

I am looking forward to the adventure!

Haven’t had your say? We would love to hear your feedback below. Or you can take part in our recent poll: Did you choose your career or was it by luck/chance? Remember, if you fill out the poll you increase your chances to win a Hoyts Cinema Double Pass!

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Have you ever wondered as an employee if you were given the opportunity to be ‘the boss’ for your workplace, what you would do differently? Would your approach to the role be even more remarkable than just managing tasks?

On the other hand, you may also be in the position of ‘the boss’ and have your own methods and qualities that you have learned over the years that you have found to work really well in the workplace.

Regardless of where your position is currently, in last week’s poll I listed what I thought to be some key qualities which were:

  • Strong leadership qualities
  • Someone who has the ability to be diplomatic in difficult situations
  • Someone who can motivate their staff
  • Someone who can adapt to changes in the workplace
  • Someone who is reliable

Of course the list of qualities can be endless depending on your personal preferences, however, based on the list above, the top two choices that received the highest votes were: Someone who could motivate their staff (76%) and Strong Leadership Qualities (74%) with reliability coming in third.

I was also happy to read your responses to see how important you found the value of having a close relationship with your employers, having someone who is ‘genuine’, ‘approachable’, ‘trustworthy’  and with strong ‘listening skills’ when it comes to their staff. Someone who can also promote their staff, developing them within their roles by being a mentor and sharing the company vision.

‘The most outstanding bosses I’ve ever had, don’t generally see themselves as ‘the boss’. They see themselves as one of the others and act accordingly. Obviously they put on their boss hat when needed and can mentor me and guide me, but we can then go to lunch and laugh together about common things.’

I remember once in a previous role, an email was sent out with different levels on management CC’d in the correspondence about a particular event that I was running at the time. The person who distributed this email had made a comment, which appeared almost like an accusation, about a situation that had not been handled properly directed at myself without first corresponding with me on the situation.

As we all know, tone can often be misread in emails, but needless to say I felt humiliated, especially since higher levels of management were included on this email and I did not have a chance to explain myself before being blamed for something that was actually a false conclusion.

Without even having to ask, my boss responded with a ‘Reply All’ to that comment, as I had been liaising with her on all aspects of the event, and in a very professional and assertive manner explained the accurate details of the situation and put that staff member in their place. We later had a meeting with that staff member and we never had a miscommunication on email again.

I know how busy employers can be, but wow did I ever feel valued as an employee that day. I was very lucky to have such open environment for communication with my boss because otherwise who knows what the outcome of that situation would have been.

A recent article posted on www.inc.com listed ‘The 5 Qualities of Remarkable Bosses’ as the following:

  1. Develop every employee – not just reaching targets, but providing the training, mentoring and opportunities that your employees need and deserve.
  2. Deal with problems immediately – Nothing kills team morale more quickly than problems that don’t get addressed.
  3. Rescue your worst employee – Before you remove your weak link from the chain, put your full effort into trying to rescue that person instead. Find out what is going on and work together on improvement strategies.
  4. Serve others, not yourself – If it should go without saying, don’t say it. Your glory should always be reflected, never direct.
  5. Always remember where you came from – In the eyes of his or her employees, a remarkable boss is a star. Remember where you came from, and be gracious with your stardom. If an employee wants to talk about something that seems inconsequential, try not to blow them off, as they are seeking you for a reason.

I personally like number five. Sometimes we have been in a particular role for so long that we often forget that we were once in a junior position. We forget how important it was to seek someone that we looked up to who could guide us in the right direction, especially with our future careers. How can we ever know what potential the junior staff have if we do not allow them the opportunity to seek that advice so that they can grow?

So maybe the strongest quality of all as the boss is to be ‘human’. If employers can’t relate to their staff and are just trying to reach deadlines, more will be at a loss then what you could gain through working together. If interaction/communication is lacking, then all employees may as well be ‘robots’ in the daily grind. Fortunately, as individuals, we are much more valuable then machines.

Haven’t had your say? Please do not hesitate to express your feedback below, otherwise I have launched our new weekly poll: Would you hire someone based on potential or experience?

The results for this poll will be published after 10th April 2012 as I am off to New Zealand to take part in my walk for charity so stay tuned and have a wonderful Easter! If you have time this weekend, feel free to have a look at the progress of my team The Bush Ramblers.

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This week’s Online Poll Results: “What is the main reason you are a temporary worker?” 

  • Temp work is what I am doing until the right permanent job comes along – 48%
  • Temp work offers the flexibility that suits my lifestyle – 26%
  • Temp work enables me to develop my skills base – 9%
  • Temp work exposes me to a range of industries – 9%
  • Temp work is all I can do due to visa restrictions – 9%

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First, my heartfelt thanks go out to the wonderful Challenge Consulting temps who took the time to contribute their experiences and insights to this blog post! 

Overall, it seems that being a temp is a mixed bag of experiences, good and bad. 

Whilst the results of last week’s online poll (above) clearly demonstrate that the majority of respondents are temping until the right permanent role comes their way, this is obviously influenced by whether or not the respondent is a permanent Australian resident or a traveller on a working holiday visa. 

The traveller temps who provided me with their feedback via email were overwhelmingly positive about their temping experiences. One responded with the following comments: 

“The advantages to me of being a temp are:

1. I have the opportunity to work in a variety of industries and ‘try them out’ before I return home – this will allow me to make a much more informed career direction decision.

2. Most of the time, I have been able to pick and choose the location of my temp assignments which is great in terms of travel time and cost.

3. I meet lots of new people all the time, which makes being a stranger in a new city much easier!”

It was interesting to learn about the experiences of temps who are not travellers, who choose temp work as a way of developing their skills base and widen their exposure to different organisations and industries before steering their career along a particular path or, even more interestingly, because the notion of committing to one position or one industry for the duration of their career is ‘daunting’: 

“I love being a temp as I feel as though it combines a sense of security with a degree of flexibility. I personally feel as though it would be daunting to remain in one position my whole life without experiencing other employment fields. The most exciting thing about being a temp is that I am currently working in a field which is completely unrelated to what I am studying at university. It is a career choice that I have considered in the past but have not had the opportunity to explore until I attained this position. At such a young age, I already feel as though this temp position has exposed me to a whole new world and I can say with confidence that it has been an experience which has provided me with knowledge that I hope to retain for the remainder of my working life.”

Another temp responded from a slightly different perspective. Having had wonderful experiences temping in England, she has returned to Australia and is still temping … 

“I started temping because I wanted to live overseas for a while. I was temping in England and had a great time. The rules of temping are very different over there! You can get paid for days off (up to 20 days per year when I was there – this has since increased to 30 days per year). This started to cover public holidays, but expanded to cover planned time off. 

I did not plan to temp on my return to Australia, but unfortunately this has been the only work available to me. My experience and qualifications do not seem to be recognised and so temping here has become a frustrating experience. I am getting roles not relevant to my skills and knowledge, for example, I am being offered reception roles when I have the qualifications and experience to do PA work. This has only led to the inability to secure a permanent role in the area I would like as I now have no “current” experience as a PA. So, from my experience, temping overseas was a much more rewarding and fulfilling experience!” 

There are always, however, practical considerations, too, when it comes to being a temp and choosing which assignments to do. In fact, it’s not always a matter of choice, but necessity: 

“Due to the restrictions of the visa, it’s hard to find a 6 month contract by myself, so temping with an agency ensures I have some money coming in – I have regular bills to pay, so need a regular income!” Another commented: “Temping through a reputable agency means you get paid on time and you can ask advice from your recruiter regarding tax forms, superannuation, etc at the end of employment.” 

And it’s not all fun and games being a temp! Several temps referred to the uncertainty of never knowing if you will have work from one week to the next, as well as not being paid for sick leave or holidays, which can eat significantly into savings and create extra pressure to work even when you’re feeling desperately unwell. 

One temp also expressed her frustration with the lack of response from some recruitment agencies: “no matter how many times you call and remind them you’re there, you are never contacted for jobs. It’s also hard to make yourself ‘stand out’ sometimes. You want to make a good impression to ensure you are called often for work but you can feel like ‘just another number’ at times … this has a lot to do with the size of the agency, though, and they relationship you are able to develop (or not!) with your recruiter.”

And, of course, people being people, being a temp means you often get thrust into bizarre places and situations you would not normally have exposure to: 

“Working for a counselling not-for-profit organisation on the reception meant I had some over-flow calls and I would often get people thinking I was a counsellor. They’d often go into their life stories and share particular detail on their health problems, some of which were pretty gruesome. This was a weird daily occurrence I could have done without!”

Still, it’s all “character building” as they say …