“Challenge Consulting have added considerable value to Energetics for our long term needs”

Matt Wilkin – Energetics
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Stephen Crowe

Managing Director

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[email protected]

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A recent report by Deloitte Australia, has highlighted that jobs requiring soft skills are projected to grow 2.5 times faster than occupations where the need for soft skills are less in demand. It would appear that it’s no longer enough to impress employers with your extensive qualifications and technical experience; employers are increasingly expecting candidates to bring a strong set of soft skills to the table.

What do we mean by “Soft Skills”?

According to the Oxford English Dictionary “Soft Skills” are “personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people.” These attributes or qualities typically include social and communication skills and emotional intelligence. Employers often find that candidates with strong technical skills and capabilities do not hold equally strong soft skills. The good news is that it’s entirely possible to develop new soft skills and strengthen those that we have already have through our experiences both inside and outside the workplace. Whilst hard skills may get you through an employer’s door, it’s your soft skills that will ultimately help land you the job!

To help you we have highlighted some of the most highly sought after soft skills that employers come back to again and again.

Communication Skills

We can’t emphasise strongly enough the importance of communicating confidently, professionally and articulately. Recruitment agents and potential employers will make an instant judgement on the strength of your communication skills. Don’t lose the job before you’ve started by mumbling, appearing disinterested or using poor language. Employers need candidates who can communicate with colleagues and clients and be strong representatives of their organisations. They want candidates who can communicate ideas and plans and drive their business forward.

Adaptability

Having the ability to be flexible and adapt to changing requirements and circumstances is an essential soft skill in any employee who wants to succeed especially within a fast-paced workplace. Employers are looking for employees who are resilient in the face of change and competing demands.

Self-Starters

The best employees don’t need to be spoon fed everything. Whilst employers are happy to provide training and development opportunities they are also looking for potential employees who have initiative and a drive to seek out answers, opportunities and add value. They want candidates who have a strong work ethic with motivation to give their best at all times.

Stakeholder Management

The ability to manage your time and workload under pressure is a fundamental soft skill. Equally as important and perhaps more demanding however, is the ability to effectively manage stakeholders. By understanding requirements, setting boundaries and negotiating or pushing back when necessary, you will be able to effectively manage expectations and deadlines. This is very much a soft skill that develops with knowledge and experience however employers will most certainly be looking to see your potential on this front!

Emotional Intelligence

The ability to read situations and people and react appropriately is a highly rated skill by employers. Whether that be cheering up or calming down colleagues, choosing the correct moments to speak or be silent or being able to deescalate a confrontation – these moments require you to manage your emotions and often the emotions of others. Having strong self-awareness and self-management and applying these to your interactions with others will allow you to successfully navigate the workplace.

 

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In a world where skilled staff with the right skills, experience and attitude are scarce and time to hire seems to be more drawn out than ever, how do you compete for the people that are going to secure the future for your company?  How do you get ahead of the game?

What if you identified the roles in your organisation that were crucial for your success (now and in the future, say in 2 years time)?

What if you had a picture of the competencies, skills and experience you required for each of these roles?

What if you used your business plans to estimate the number of staff you were going to need in these roles to hit your business goals?

Wouldn’t this would give you a staffing target to aim for?

Now, if you then assessed your current team against the criteria for each role and looked at your staff turnover history you would have a gap analysis of the talent you will need to hit your goals.

This is the first part of a solid talent map.

The second part is researching to find where the people you are going to need in the future are now.  Are they studying, or working with competitors?  Are they available locally? Are people with the skills you need available at all, will you need to train them?

Now you have a staffing strategy to enable you to deliver your business plan.

Why would you want to invest in this?

Many organisations have found that a good talent map has dramatically changed the success of their recruitment and hence their companies results.  The talent map allows you to get ahead of the recruitment game.  It gives you the information you need to start identifying people now that you may need in the future.  It means that when you do have a vacancy to fill you may already have a target list of people to approach.  It also means that vacancies are filled quicker with people who have a better chance at success. More sales are made and more customers are kept happy.

Talent mapping is not the domain of big companies. It is the domain of all companies who are planning to be successful.

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There’s more to networking than a free glass of wine while you meet some new people. Effective networking – getting together with others with the aim of building a strong set of connections – is an art that can be learned.

A strong professional network can lead to new clients, business deals, connections with great people, finding the perfect employee or getting a great job offer. But first, you have to build your network. As marketing strategist and author Dorie Clark writes, those are side-effects of relationship building.
1. Attend the right events
There’s certainly a place for social media networking, but we have all probably relied on it to the detriment of networking in person. Get back into attending organised networking events through professional associations, business chambers, conferences, alumni associations and through Meetup groups. Then connect with the people you meet through LinkedIn or other networks. Using in-person networking to enhance networking on social media, not the other way around, leads to more powerful and authentic connections. The exception is where the events have a social media channel set up for attendees to connect beforehand. If that’s the case, use it to research people with whom you have something in common and those who you would like to meet before the event.
2. Build common ground and a personal connection
Be prepared. Read the news, think about what you might say about a book you have been reading or somewhere you have visited recently – a trip, a cafe, a gallery, a sports match all make good and genuine conversation starters.
I read a ‘tip’ that said one should ‘network for net worth’. And yes, they meant financial worth. My first thought was that I wouldn’t want a person who thinks that way in my network. Everybody is worth more than their bank balance. Making a genuine connection with people you meet will lead you to the kind of people you want to interact with in future. And remember too that not everybody will like you – and that’s okay.
3. Ask questions and listen to the answers
Starting off with your ‘elevator pitch’ or a marketing statement for your brand can be off-putting. A better approach is to ask genuine questions that you are interested in hearing the answers to, and to listen – really listen – to the replies. Don’t be looking over the person’s shoulder in case somebody more important turns up. Give them your full attention, and be aware of what you can add to a discussion. When it’s time to end a conversation, do so gracefully, making eye contact and telling the person it’s been nice to meet them.
4. Give more than you ask for
You’ve no doubt heard it said that you have to make deposits before you can make withdrawals in your professional life. We can’t say it enough: building relationships takes time. Go into the session with the mindset that you are there to help others, not to find ways to promote yourself. Think you have nothing to offer? How about introductions to others in your network, publicity for a person’s new venture, an offer to share their blog posts with your network or to promote their product on your pages?
5. Get out of your comfort zone
It’s a networking event, so don’t spend all your time talking to the three people you already know. Get out and work the room, meeting and talking to as many people as you can. Everybody is attending with the same purpose, so there’s no need to feel awkward about approaching a total stranger.
Your body language says heaps about you before you say a word. To look approachable, your stance should be open, your hands at your side, and your body turned towards people who are moving towards you.
6. Don’t forget to network within your own organisation
Making new connections in your own organisation can help you to get things done innovatively in your present role through understanding what others do, and ultimately can help you to progress within the organisation. Don’t confine it to drinks and seminars; getting out and getting fit is also a great way to network with your colleagues. It’s also a good, non-threatening environment in which to practice your networking skills, making you more confident, improving your listening and questioning skills and revealing new insights from the people you meet.

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Being motivated brings many rewards – it compels you to take action and pushes you to succeed. Advice about how to become more motivated is plentiful but if it’s not directed towards your personal motivation style, it might not be all that useful to you. When you know your motivation style, however, you can better direct your efforts.

Your motivation style affects how you behave as well as how quickly and successfully you achieve your goals. Usually people fall into two broad categories – those who are motivated towards achieving their goals and those who are motivated by fear of not achieving their goals. Both styles are effective as long as you understand which is your style and how to work with it.

Towards motivations

If you’re the type of person who is motivated towards goals, you tend to spend time thinking about what you will gain by achieving them. You love goals that come with incentives such as a bonus, promotion or pay rise. You also like goals that give you a sense of accomplishment especially when it’s coupled with positive feedback from others or, better still, an award.

As a towards motivation type you are an optimist and you usually see the world in a positive light. It’s a good way to be – just watch that you’re not spending all your time dreaming. Try to maintain a balance by making sure that you take the actions needed for achieving your goals.

Away from motivations

When you spend your time thinking about what will happen if you don’t reach your goal, you’re motivated by fear. It’s all about the consequences. Let’s say you’re studying to get a qualification. A towards motivation type might be thinking about graduation day and celebrating their academic achievement; you will be thinking about how disappointed you’ll be with yourself if you fail, and how embarrassing it would be to have to tell your family and friends.

Although as an away motivation type you tend to be a little pessimistic, you can make it work in your favour. This is especially true when it comes to wanting to change. You’re so good at imagining what your life would be like if you stay where you are and being fearful of stagnation, that you work hard to make the necessary changes.

The most important thing about understanding your motivation style is to use your style to its best effect. Once you do that, you open yourself up to growing both professionally and personally. Feeling motivated?

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FOUR TOP TIPS FOR REACHING YOUR GOALS

It’s great to set some goals for the future – they give you a sense of purpose and a roadmap for where you’re going. But setting goals is just the beginning – you also need to achieve them. Here are our four top tips:

  1. Lay down plans

Well-laid plans are well played plans. Break your goal down into milestones to give you a sense of control. Milestones are the steps to your goal and can be further broken down into tasks.

Let’s say your goal is to find a new job. Ask yourself, what do I need to do that? You might decide to start with updating your resume – that would be your milestone. Then ask yourself, what do I need to do that? Maybe you can start making notes on some of your recent achievements or research on the internet for some tips on resume writing – they would be your tasks.

Write down all of your milestones, their corresponding tasks and a definition for how you will know when you have completed them. Give yourself a timeframe for each and tick off each task and milestone as you go.

  1. Create new habits

Very often the process for coming closer to your goal means doing a particular task on a regular basis – it’s like building up a muscle. Each day you work on it, it gets a little stronger. If you’re looking for a new job, a regular task might be to keep checking job sites and honing your skills in writing engaging cover letters.

Make a habit of doing the necessary tasks. They say it takes three weeks to form a habit, so stick with it safe in the knowledge that it will get easier. When you’re starting out, put aside some time each day, then tell yourself that you only have to do your task for fifteen minutes and then you can stop. Nine times out of ten, you’ll find that you’ll be happy to keep going.

  1. Focus on the process

Research has shown that our brains tend to focus on the most difficult part of any task. Consequently, we’re often tricked into thinking that it’s all too hard and finding excuses for putting it off. And if we put it off for too long, we can give up on the goal before we even start.

To help us, we frequently hear advice telling us to visualise having already achieved our goal. Unfortunately this type of visualisation often results in fantasising about a future and procrastinating about doing anything about it. Better, more motivating advice is to visualise doing the processes you need to go through to reach your goal.

  1. Commit to the weekly weigh in

Each day ask yourself, what did I do today to get me closer to where I want to be? This question makes you accountable for your actions towards your goal and will help to keep you on track.

Another way to make yourself accountable is to tell someone what you are going to do over the week towards your goal. Be careful who you tell though because some people won’t be interested. You need someone who will give you a hard time if you’ve procrastinated about following your goal plan.

When you get to the end of your week, write a summary of everything that you achieved. If you’ve kept yourself accountable, you’ve probably achieved quite a lot and you’ll feel energised for the next week.

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Performance reviews are an opportunity to get some feedback on your work over the past year, but they’re also your chance to have your say on how you think you could become a better professional. Here are eight ways to do so:

  1. What you like about your job

Tell your boss what you like about your job. It helps them to understand who you are and how to keep you motivated and happy. Happy employees are more productive and contribute to a healthy workplace culture.

  1. What you want to learn about

Let your boss know what you’re interested in learning about. It helps them to plan where you might fit in a growing company. Employees who are continually learning continually increase their value in a business.

  1. What you would really like to work on

If there is an upcoming project that you want to be a part of, tell your boss about it. It shows your interest in what is happening in the business. Employees who work on projects that they are interested in are more passionate about their work.

  1. Where you see yourself in the future

Tell your boss where you see yourself in the future with the company. It shows that you are goal orientated and are keen to be a part of the business in the long term. Employees with a vision for the future are motivated towards achieving their goals.

  1. How you would like to contribute to the company’s success

Let your boss know what you would like to do to contribute to the company’s success. It shows that you are a team player and that you’re dedicated to common goals. Employees who want to contribute have a high morale.

  1. What support you need to do your best work

Tell your boss what support you need to do your job well – be it training, new technology, better communication, an extra pair of hands or anything else. If you don’t tell them, they may not think to offer support. Employees who speak up about what they need are more likely to get help.

  1. What isn’t working

Be honest about what isn’t working – be it a process, procedure or a type of technology. Managers who aren’t working with the systems may not be aware of inefficiencies and appreciate insights from the ‘trenches’. Employees who give feedback can help to streamline business processes.

  1. What ideas you have for improving practices

Suggest solutions for what is not working. It shows that you’re creative and insightful. Employees with ideas for improving practices show their leadership potential.

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Do you love your job and want to get better at it? Are you thinking of moving into a more interesting role at your current workplace? Or are you looking for your new dream job? If you’re serious about making some changes in your career, stop thinking about it and start putting some goal-setting strategies together.

Setting yourself a few time-bound, specific, challenging goals will give you the direction you need to find your way to where you want to be. Here are some strategies:

  1. Be specific

Give yourself clarity and vision. State in detailed, specific terms what you want to achieve. This type of goal setting ensures you won’t settle for less and be tempted to convince yourself that it’s ‘good enough’.

  1. Make it difficult

Make your goals challenging but achievable. You don’t want to set yourself up for failure by making your goal too difficult, but you do want your goal to challenge you enough to stoke your enthusiasm for getting there. Remember, there is no such thing as an easy goal – if you never challenge yourself, you will never change.

  1. Set deadlines

Deadlines are great motivators – they keep you committed to your goal because they make you focus on what you need to do. Deadlines help you to break down your goals into tasks and milestones that will set you on the road to reach your goal.

  1. Understand the why

Understanding the why of your goal gives you the energy to persist when times get tough. It also gives your goal greater meaning and purpose, firing up your passion and inspiration.

  1. Prepare for the ifs

Rarely does the journey towards a goal come without a few twists, turns and bumps in the road. That’s why people have ‘what if?’ plans. There’s almost always more than one way to reach a destination and, as all scouts know, it’s good to be prepared.

  1. Keep your eye on the prize

Sometimes you need to close your eyes to see yourself. Try it. See yourself in your mind as being there already with your prize for reaching your goal. Breathe it in and let the feelings wash over you. Now go for it…

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Leadership takes on many responsibilities; it can be very busy and even tiring at times and therefore motivation levels can fluctuate. However, in this role you need to be able to keep yourself motivated because in turn it keeps the rest of your team motivated and thriving in the business.

It starts with keeping in check your own personal motivation – your passions, continuing to challenge yourself with various projects and remembering why you committed to these goals in the first place. What you are trying to achieve?

Sometimes the quickest way to lose motivation or even exhaust your level of motivation is to spend all of your time and energy trying to motivate and please the needs of your team. The truth is motivation is personal and you cannot force it upon others. Instead, leading by example through your own motivations, you can inspire others to motivate themselves and drive them to perform better. It’s showing the way towards success.

Methods for self-motivation can include:

• Learning new skills – What is needed for your current role? Where can you obtain these skills? Is there anyone who you can consult with for direction or advice?

• Taking appropriate leave breaks to relax & rejuvenate – Clearing your mind of distractions (and resting), taking the time to find out more about yourself or pursuing a personal goal or hobby.

• Spending time developing a self-improvement plan and setting goals – Where do you see your role developing in line with your business goals? Where do you see your team going and what do you need to do to help guide them there?

• Investing in courses and training that can lead to growth and development – Are there any conferences within your local area that are providing information on areas of development? Have you looked into local educational institutions and what courses they provide? Are there any online resources that you could review outside of business hours?

Building your own motivation by developing our skills and abilities also provides the knowledge and insight to pass on to others. If others within your team are seeking your advice or direction, you can provide recommendations and information on what you have looked into previously, helping direct others toward their future success.

Make sure to also keep following up on your personal progress and what motivates you, whether it is every month or six months. That way you can help keep your motivation levels consistent and on track.

If you are currently in a leadership role, what motivates you? More importantly, in what ways do you keep your drive and motivation consistent?

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When you look up the term ‘leadership’ or ‘leadership roles’, you will find many articles on what to do to become a great leader. It is also important to be aware of bad habits that can hinder progress.

I know I have been guilty of at least two of the items listed below, but the first step is being aware of these habits so that you can find the ways to improve your leadership performance:

  1. Taking credit for others’ ideas and contributions – We all know the famous term, there is no ‘I’ in ‘Team’. It is very exciting when members of your team make a contribution that takes the organisation in a positive direction. However, the biggest failures one can make as a leader is to neglect to recognise and acknowledge individual and team contributions. If you are taking credit for someone else’s work, chances are you will start to notice your team working against you and not for you because they do not feel appreciated or valued.
  2. Using a position of power to control and intimidateothers — This autocratic style of leadership will often leave the team with a low level of autonomy. This can prevent creative ideas being presented as team members feel they do not have the right to contribute.
  3. Blaming others when things go wrong – It is important to recognise with the team when mistakes are made and that they have negative consequences in order to assess better solutions for the future. However, singling people out, pointing fingers, or making others carry the full weight of the failure is not reaction a leader should take. A leader needs to stand by their team no matter what, accept responsibility of when things go wrong, keep track of team members and progression, and have an ‘open door’ for team members to approach if they are experiencing struggles on tasks.
  4. Clinging to traditional methods and old ideas –In order to thrive in society most leaders need to think outside the box, take risks when needed and use innovation to be one step ahead of competitors. While traditional methods may have worked in the past, if you find you are constantly using the same strategy when the rest of the world is changing, you may fall behind. This includes those that refuse to learn new skills and tools to keep up with today’s market. If you are not trying to learn and adapt, you will fall behind.
  5. Failing to keep promises – Leaders who make promises but do not follow through risk loss of personal credibility, trust and the goodwill of others. If you have let down your team more than once, it can often take a long time to earn that trust back.
  6. Actingalone – Leaders who do not consult, collaborate or solicit input from others often fail to make enlightened decisions. Leaders also need to make sure they delegate tasks within the team appropriately so that they can stretch their teams’ abilities.

Failing to effectively manage issues – Leaders who dismiss the need to address, manage and resolve issues, place themselves and their organisation at risk.

What are some of the experiences you have learned in a leadership role? What were the learning curves that you have experienced?

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Leading teams requires great commitment and looking outside of yourself to meet their needs. We have provided some tips below to help set you on the right path to a great leadership experience: If you are new to a leadership role they might help guide your way and if you have been at it for a while they may serve as a useful reminder.

1. Brush up on Your Communication Skills. Having clear and precise communication is important, and being honest and open with your team helps build a level of trust. Making sure all staff understand what the goals and expectations are and giving them the opportunity to contribute their thoughts and ideas for feedback is important.

2. Be Committed to Your Goal. Not only should you be explaining the importance of the company goals to your team, but you need to show by example that you support the goals as a leader. This involves setting out the tasks, having follow-up meetings and making sure that your team is on track with what needs to be achieved.

3. Give Verbal Recognition. Verbal recognition for efforts and praise show your support towards the staff member’s accomplishments. It also boosts morale and positivity that encourages a mutual support among team members.

4. A Team Leader Should Lead by Example. A great leader is someone who shouldn’t be afraid to get their hands dirty or dig in to help when the team requires additional support. Someone who can encourage team members to take risks and support them when they do.

5. Invest in Staff Careers. To ensure your staff are up to date with the skills they need for their role, you may need to invest in training, invest time mentoring or finding the right mentor, invest time to discover what they really need and want in order to do a great job.

6. Resolve Conflicts. Any conflict within the workplace needs to be handled promptly and assessed by leaders as soon as it arises. Appropriate measures need to be taken to find resolution or negotiate a mutual agreement. Whether it is conflict in a task or between co-workers, leaders must step up to the plate to take action and problem solve the best way that they can.

7. Teach Adaptability. The effective team manager should teach adaptability and flexibility to all their team members. This results in better communication, a greater sense of empowerment among staff and a faster exchange of information.

8. Build Pride in Your Team. Positive reinforcement on success is a proven way to keep staff motivation high and build pride in your team. It will increase productivity amongst the team and encourage drive towards goals. You are also creating a positive working environment that employees are happy to be a part of.

9. Give Your Staff New Responsibilities. Just as you have developed into your role of leadership, your team are looking for development opportunities. It is important that you help them by giving them the opportunity to take on new responsibilities as the opportunities arise.

Have you lead teams during your career? What were your first experiences when it came to leading teams? What did you find was most successful? What did you learn from the experience?