“The main benefit from working with Challenge Consulting is the guarantee of finding the best possible person for the position required.”

Wendy Tunbridge – Uniting
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For more information:
Stephen Crowe

Managing Director

Ph: 02 8042 8907

[email protected]

workplace

Does the idea of approaching colleagues you’ve never mingled with before make you nervous? Not sure how to ask the right questions and give the right answers? Chances are, you’re not alone. Even for the most confident people, networking can be a daunting prospect. It’s even more terrifying when you’re an introvert. When you’re shy, taking that first step into the unknown can be difficult.

However, networking is one of the most effective and least expensive methods to raise your profile and advance your career. When done right, you’ll find that it’s all about communicating passions and connecting with others who share those passions. It’s about listening, figuring out what others need and connecting them with people you think can help, without any designs for personal gain. The most successful networkers build genuine relationships and give more than they receive. They go beyond thinking, “What’s in it for me?” to ask “How can I help?”

To follow this approach, here are five ways to network successfully and have fun doing it:

 

 

Start small

Start with people you know, then expand to their acquaintances and finally strangers after the process becomes second nature. It’s not necessarily a bad idea to dive into the deep end and immerse yourself in a room full of people you don’t know, but networking is one of those skills that you will need for life so don’t hesitate to take the time to ease yourself into it.

 

Stop apologising

Drop the habit of apologising needlessly! It is easy to apologise when asking for help if you see networking as an imposition and not as exercise in relationship building. You are not asking anyone to do you a favour, so believe that you are worth their time. It could demonstrate your lack of professionalism and confidence, so don’t have to apologize for asking for help. Don’t have to apologize for wanting to learn more about the individual with whom you’re networking. One day you may be able to help them out.

 

Have a plan

The best networkers are always prepared and have a plan. Grab a notebook and bring it with you while networking to refer to some pointers or to take some notes.

Since every person has value, it’s essential that you know what yours is. Take the time to clarify what talents, strengths, skill sets and connections you can bring to the table. Map out what you want to talk about, particularly how you may be able to help other people, either now or in the future. If you’re attending an event specifically to network your way to a new job, have your personal pitch ready, anticipating questions you may be asked, such as why you’re looking for a new job, and have clear, concise answers at the ready.

If you’re afraid you’ll freeze up or get tongue-tied in a social setting, think of ice-breaker questions you can ask people you meet. You can try:

-Commenting on your surroundings – you’re all in the same location so use it to your advantage. Ask if they’ve ever been here before and it could lead to finding where they work and what they do. You could also talk about the food that’s provided!

-Humour – Everyone loves a laugh and it’s a great way to move past any initial awkwardness and kick-start a fun conversation. Make a silly joke and see where it goes from there. You could either be remembered as the one with the bad jokes or the good jokes, either way you’ll be remembered.

-Finding people who look a little lost or lonely – these people might just be like you and are unsure of how to approach new people. Walk on over and introduce yourself – they might just be waiting for someone to come and talk to them. They would appreciate the gesture and would be more likely to open up to you for a chat.

-Compliment people – Point out an accessory someone could be wearing like their watch or necklace. People typically enjoy others noticing their efforts to look good, and these interactions are a friendly way to start a conversation.

 

Relate, don’t promote

Forget your personal agenda. Instead, make it your goal to be open, friendly and honest, and to forge connections between people who may be able to help each other. Generosity is an attractive quality and it’s something special that people will remember about you. Good professional networking isn’t about selling. Instead, it’s about building relationships and creating friendships. At business networking events and conferences, ask lots of questions and most importantly, listen rather than talk too much. Find common ground and connect, and remember what’s being said. This will help build your credibility when you follow up and people see that you’ve taken the time and effort to remember them and your conversation.

 

Follow Up Respectfully

If you told someone you’d get in touch with them, do it and reaffirm your intent to assist in any way you can. After an initial meeting, follow up with your contacts with a ‘thank you and nice to connect’ message. Based on your conversation, send them an article or other information they might find helpful. Make it a priority to follow up promptly so you’re fresh in their mind, and invite them to connect on LinkedIn or a similar industry networking platform. These simple methods can be highly effective for building your connections, ensuring any future approach is more warmly received.

If you promised to introduce someone to a person you know, take the time to do it. Everyone is busy these days with jobs, families, events, commitments — even so, it takes no more than a minute to shoot off an email to introduce two people you want to connect. They can take it from there and do the work — just enjoy being the bridge. Little things like that mean a lot to people and just one introduction can end up changing someone’s life for the better.

 

workplace

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.

 

workplace

As we approach winter, and the days get colder, flu season approaches. Just as a bout of flu can decimate an office so can the Affects of a toxic employee.

Toxic employees are like a contagious sickness that spreads through the workplace. Like a sickness, if not addressed, more and more people are affected.  The costs of this behaviour are detrimental to your business.

Each day at work we all have many interactions with others.  These interactions have a bigger affect, either positive or negative, on another’s emotions than we may think. Harvard professor Nicholas Christakis and political scientist James Fowler discovered that an emotion does not just spread between the people directly involved in an interaction.  The interaction has a ripple effect, where this emotion from people spreads to their friends, to their friends’ friends and so on. So, one person’s toxic behaviour affects many others directly or indirectly.

Toxic employees create a negative and unhealthy working culture among the team. The negative atmosphere generates an imbalance in the team.  Instead of focusing on work, a disgruntled employee’s cognitive resources are likely to be spent on analysing their de-energising relationship with the toxic employee and how best to navigate around the issue. As a result, employees experience more conflict among each other, less cohesion and trust, which decreases the ability to solve problems and overall team performance. This level of disruption can be difficult to resolve if the negativity is prolonged or is not addressed.

One of the major ripple effects from toxic employees is employee turnover, where the sense of dissatisfaction in the workplace, not only reduces motivation, but can increase people’s intentions to leave. Top performers are more likely to exit, because they view negativity as a roadblock to their progress. According to a 2015 study by talent management company, Cornerstone on Demand, 54 percent of high performing employees are more likely to resign when they work with a toxic employee.

Toxicity not only affect’s current employees, but also prospective ones. Prospective employees can be deterred from working for an employer if they do their homework on the employer’s working culture (via sites such as Glass Door) before applying or accepting a job offer. Additionally, the hiring and training costs involved when employers inevitably replace the toxic employees is something to be considered. The maintenance of the employees who have been affected by the toxicity is also an additional cost that will take time to restore.

Hence, it is vital that employers attempt to quickly rectify any signs of toxicity in the workplace.

workplace

Work life balance is now a double threat – it needs to be demonstrated to attract staff and delivered to keep them

A new report from best practice insight and technology company CEB has exposed another consequence of poor work life balance, – staff attrition.  Since the 2011 edition of CEB’s Global Talent Monitor work life balance has been the number one driver of attraction for employees. The latest edition (recently published) shows it is now also a key driver of attrition, i.e. employees will choose to leave an organisation that does not meet their work life balance needs.

There are an ever-increasing range of factors that are negatively affecting work life balance for employees, especially those in large cities like Sydney. They include commuting time, housing costs and child care costs to name a few.  Technology is a double-edged sword, on the one hand it is hugely invasive seeping work into every hour of every day through smart phones etc, but the other edge is that technology can also give us the flexibility to work productively from home.  I know people who used to be tied to their desks until late at night who now go home, have dinner, put their kids to bed and then log on and get their work done.

So, who is responsible for an employee’s work life balance?  What role does the employer play in the equation?  Well an old-fashioned employer might be recalcitrant, look to the past and not be willing to change.  But in a world where skills are scarce that is not a sustainable position.

I think the role of the employer is to create an environment that enables employees to be the best they can be.  That might mean providing training and tools to enable them to do their job effectively.  It might also mean providing the infrastructure to allow them to work effectively away from ‘their desk’ when it is applicable.

But the individual has a responsibility as well. They must work at being effective, to use their time productively, to make smart decisions about their priorities, so that they meet their obligations to work, family and friends.

The fact is that competition in business has never been fiercer and it is unlikely to ease up.  To be able to compete businesses need engaged productive employees.  To be engaged and productive employees need to be able to deliver on the demands of family and community as well as those from work.

It isn’t simple and we won’t get it right all the time.

workplace

Are you bored with your job? Looking to switch careers? Wanting to expand your skill set? Or maybe you want to dip your toes into an area of study without making a full commitment just yet. Look not further.

Finding ways to upskill has never been easier or cheaper. In fact, you can learn all kinds of new skills and develop knowledge in endless subjects for nothing or very little money. So more excuses – here’s the low down on six killer ways to increase your employability at little or no cost:

Udemy

Udemy gives you access to 30,000 courses in just about any subject you can think of. Courses cost range from $0 up to $500. All courses have star ratings and you can read feedback from former students. You can also see how the courses are structured to make sure that they cover what you’re interested in.

Coursera

Coursera’s courses are short – mostly between four and fifteen weeks. They’re all free and cover subjects such as business, accounting, computing, writing, psychology and lots more.

Codacademy

Codacademy specialises in teaching computer-coding skills for beginners. Their courses are interactive and free. With Codacademy you can learn just about everything you need to build your own website from scratch.

Udacity

If you’re interested in technology, Udacity has courses ranging from beginner to advanced. You can learn things like working with data, creating computer animations and how to create your own application for the web.

Short Udacity courses take two weeks to two months to complete and they’re free. Longer courses, called Nanodegrees, are estimated to take six to nine months if you study for 10 hours per week. They cost $200 per month.

Khan Academy

All of Khan Academy’s courses are free and there are plenty to choose from. Are you interested economics and finance? History and the arts? How about maths and science? It’s all there for you to delve in and out of as you please.

Open2Study

Open2Study courses are also free. Unlike the other online courses we have covered so far where you can work at your own pace, Open2Study courses all run for one month and they have start and end dates. You can also read reviews from former students to gauge if a course is right for you.

We live in exciting times. Never before has it been so easy to study what you want, from almost anywhere and for so little. What would you like to know more about?

workplace

If you’ve been working for a while you will have amounted a healthy set of skills and a level of professional expertise that you can be proud of. You didn’t achieve it all on your own though – many people helped you along the way by sharing the gift of their knowledge either through formal training or less formally on the job.

Now it’s your turn. Share what you know with less experienced colleagues and discover that, it’s not only the recipient who reaps the benefits of shared knowledge, you do too. Here are three great ways it can be done:

Brown paper bag lunches

Brown paper bag lunches are a wonderful way to share what you have learned during your working life with your co-workers. The way that brown paper bag lunches work is for a group of co-workers to get together at lunchtime with their take-away lunches at regular intervals – say weekly or fortnightly.

Each time the group meets with their lunch, one member in an informal, relaxed way, shares something they have learned that others may not know about. Let’s say it’s your turn. You may have been reading up on something interesting that could be applied to a work situation, or you may have attended a conference that featured an interesting speaker, or maybe you have used a piece of technology that others haven’t and you think that they might find it useful.

You can share information from a past position or something that relates to your current role, it really doesn’t matter so long as it potentially helps your co-workers in some way. Brown paper bag lunches are also ideal for getting to know people at work better and promoting collaboration.

Lessons learned

Lessons learned is a retrospective process traditionally used in project management. It’s designed to capture both the negative and positive lessons that were learned during the execution of a project. A project can be anything from implementing new technology systems and creating training programs to organising a conference.

The point is that during any project some things will have worked well and others may not have. Sharing lessons learned with others who are about to undertake similar projects helps the new team to avoid some of the pitfalls of past projects and to leverage on some of the positive aspects. If you’ve worked on any type of project, you can share your lessons learned in this way.

Mentoring

One-on-one mentoring can be immensely satisfying for both the mentee and mentor. The mentor–mentee relationship is essentially a conversation between two people. Because everyone comes to the table with their own set of professional and life experiences, as mentor you’ll soon realise that your mentee isn’t the only one who is learning in the relationship. As you progress with mentoring your colleague, your knowledge will expand, deepen and become more ingrained.

Mentoring is also a great way to establish your reputation as an expert, demonstrate your leadership skills and advance your career. What’s more, mentoring can be a lot of fun and many mentoring relationships have been the start of long-lasting friendships. So look for opportunities to mentor others because the benefits to you are tenfold compared to the time and effort you put in.

workplace

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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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?

workplace

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?