that during these last few months, you’d been coping by subconsciously believing things would return to normal… You’ve realised that’s not going to happen, it might never happen… You feel shaken, afraid, lost.
Handling Unprecedented Career Uncertainty
I hear how you’re grappling with this new uncertainty. The prospects for your industry are dire. Your bosses kept you and your team busy during lockdown with current projects. But with no future pipeline to speak of, your higher-ups have warned that posts will soon have to go.
You’re barely sleeping with the anxiety about the mortgage and the bills, it’s unbelievable how much it costs to take care of a family. Thank God your wife is a teacher – at least her work looks secure at the moment…
But it’s not just that. Despite this grim outlook for your work situation, part of you is recalcitrant. Lockdown and in particular working from home has changed you.
I tell you that despite your suspicions you’re not going mad. Let’s get some perspective, we’re living through a period of unprecedented change. Even during the Second World War, schools generally stayed open.
Welcome to the VUCA world; volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. We’ve had glimpses of it in the last twenty years due to the impact of new technologies and globalisation, but Covid-19 has taken VUCA to a whole new level. There’s volatility – infection rates are swinging up and down across the world. We have uncertainty – will there be a second lockdown? This is complex – it’s not just about your industry, it’s whether the eco-system of industries that feeds your industry survives. It’s ambiguous - different people interpret the data about the key measures deemed important differently. I wouldn’t be surprised if you feel in turmoil.
Nostalgia for Career Stability
“I feel in turmoil,” you say. “And there’s something else. I’m wondering if maybe I never had it so good as in the pre-Covid world! No it wasn’t perfect, but my work seemed stable, my life was on track, we went on holiday and away for the weekend. I worked out in the gym, had a pint with my mates… and I took it all pretty much for granted.”
“So perhaps you’re feeling nostalgia for the good times?” I say, and you nod. And we agree that those times feel safe because we’ve lived through them and enjoyed them. And I hear the hopelessness in your voice when you say you feel defeated, but you’d like some answers if there are any.
And I suggest that the old normal has gone and we have no clue about how the new normal of work and the economy will turn unfold. What’s more, spending time on predicting the future environment will likely be a fool’s errand.
Career Hope Alongside Covid-19
And I ask you five questions and wait for your responses.
And I say that’s what I’m doing… and that’s all any of us can do right now.
* This is a fictionalised coaching case based on recent experience. No content in this exchange is directly drawn from work with any particular individual or individuals.
© 2020 Trudy Lloyd & Associates. All Rights Reserved.
collaborate, the soaring absence-rate and how you struggle to retain talent.
You know what you’re doing isn’t working.
I ask you what you’d like to do differently, and you fall silent. It’s a treadmill you say and you can’t change it. Your teams are exhausted, but you push them on because the CEO screams that the share price has tanked and the sales pipeline is weak.
I ask again what you’d like to do differently, and frustrated, you say flippantly "give my teams a break! A rest".
And I see the sadness in your eyes, and your exhaustion. “Maybe that’s what you need too...”
We Need New Ways to Lead
You shake your head, even the HR director simply urged you to tighten up on performance management and employ disciplinary processes if need be. You sigh. “No one sees… no one sees…”
“What don’t they see?”
“That we’re destroying it all; our reputation, our customer relationships; with poor service and after-care, and our people… We drive them like machines!”
You exhale, and you’re feeling the folly of it all.
And then you smile ruefully, and together we’re contemplating those two opposing forces in life and business. The ‘force for change’, some call will; to set goals and targets, take action, persist, achieve and shape the competitive environment. And opposing it the ‘force for acceptance’, some call love; to empathise with people and care for them, bring them together and to accept current reality in all its complexity.
We sit silently, feeling the tension between those forces and the awesome task to harmonise them and make business sustainable.
You shake your head, and say you don’t know where to start.
Leadership Requires Your Take Risks
And yet we make a plan, just baby steps, to begin to shift the balance in your division between achieving business targets and nurturing people and relationships.
And when you return you say it hasn’t been easy, but you’re now acknowledging what people have done instead of simply focusing on what’s next. You’re listening actively and engaging with your colleagues concerns rather than downplaying them. You’ve even championed people getting away from their desks at lunchtime!
But there’s pushback. Your higher–ups claim you’re losing your grip. They’re bringing forward the deadline for your division’s business plan so as to have it completed by the time the top team visit. You sigh, everyone will have to work late nights to achieve that!
You shrug and I feel how it hurts you to consider reneging on the ‘better way’ you’ve promised your teams.
And then I see your nascent leader emerging, and your passion, to make your division a place where you deliver results AND care for your people.
Leaders Need to Speak Up and Speak Out
We imagine how you might inspire them to consider change,and develop your negotiation strategy to get the deadline pushed back, including your red lines. We also work with what holds you back.
And as you leave, you smile and say you’ll give it your best shot, but the important thing was deciding.
“To listen to the voice inside, and to speak up and; change or no change, choosing to speak out.
And my heart sings at the leader you’re becoming.
© 2019 Trudy Lloyd & Associates. All Rights Reserved.
And if career change is on your mind – won’t a little brainstorming suffice?
I agree, online research can help you manage your career, change jobs, prepare for job interviews and more.
Executive Career Coaching is Personalised Help
However, perhaps you want to find a stimulating and meaningful career path where you can grow your skills over time. Or you’d like to redesign your career so that your work remains meaningful even as you grow as a person through life. Perhaps you want to stay relevant in a fast-changing world, or maximise the financial return on your skill-set and experience. HOW you might achieve these things is personal to you, and online research is unlikely to give you information personalised enough to help you and your specific situation.
That’s where the help of an executive career coach or career counsellor can transform the way you manage your career, and catapult you to higher levels of career fulfilment and career happiness.
3 Key Reasons to Invest in an Executive Career Coach
1. To Help YOU Get a Meaningful and Rewarding Role
Let’s face it recruiters’ objectives are often diametrically opposed to yours as a candidate. Success for the recruiter is achieving a low-risk hire for their client company; tried and tested – coming from the same role at a competitor is ideal; bam, recruiter’s commission assured. In short, recruiters can limit your options.
If for example, you’re trying to move out of a declining sector into a new sector to improve your long term job security or if you’re looking to move into a new function – say from marketing to HR to respond to your changing interests and aspirations at midlife, recruiters’ narrowmindedness can have you crawling up the walls. Recruiters mostly want to put round pegs in round holes… and they may see you as a square peg.
By contrast a good professional career coach sees not only your current skill-set and your career history to date, they also see you as a unique individual whose potential continues to emerge as you progress through your career. They see you as someone who has achieved a lot, but who has plenty more to learn and contribute in their career and in life. They see this even if right now, you can’t.
Because of this an executive career coach can help you to raise your expectations for new roles. They can help you think strategically about how, in your current organisation, you might progress into the kind of role you desire. They can also help you think imaginatively about how you can transfer your skills and your changing interests into new roles or functions that may be very different from what you’ve done to date.
If you feel jaded about your career, an executive career counsellor can challenge your limiting beliefs about what’s possible for you.
2.To Develop an Actionable and Inspiring Career Plan
Ultimately a top executive career coach can help you put together a highly personalised career development strategy and career plan or a career change plan. They can also help you identify any blocks to change or resistance you may have and help you to overcome them.
What’s more they can help you develop creative strategies which will mean you can leapfrog the narrowminded recruiters and reach influencers and decision-makers who will be delighted with the skills and traits you have to offer.
3. To Save Time and Make More Money
They can also keep you accountable so that you continue to move forward and implement the plan. This will mean that you will get to your new role sooner.
If it’s a promotion you’re looking for, an executive career coach can support you to make every step of the career move process more effective for you, so you get that bigger role quicker and bank that bigger pay cheque sooner. Whether it’s designing your job search strategy, writing an impactful and persuasive CV or improving your interview and networking skills, an executive career coach can keep you focused and on track.
Finally, an executive career coach is probably more interested in YOUR career than your partner or your friends and family. In fact, they’re as interested and invested in your career as you are.
A good executive career coach brings you the process, tools and knowledge to triumph with the project that is your career development. Your coach will help you think creatively so you can open up new career paths and career opportunities for yourself. Ultimately your executive career coach will work with you in an empathetic and supportive way and you’ll feel them championing you and your career!
© 2019 Trudy Lloyd & Associates. All Rights Reserved.
I hear your disappointment. You trusted, you opened up to the coaching process and revealed your deepest thoughts and feelings, but you didn’t get what you'd hoped for.
All Executive Coaching is NOT the Same
I’m saddened because I know executive coaching can be so much better. Executive coaching can transform the way you see your world. It can energise you and free you; to raise your level of personal happiness and achievement.
But this hasn’t happened for you. So here’s my thoughts.
All executive coaching is NOT the same. Many models of coaching tell us that the coachee (individual being coached) holds sway over their whole personality. Such models assume you’re in control, or can ‘take control’ of your thoughts and feelings and leverage them at will. The assumption is that you choose your goals and then you can simply mobilise your necessary resources; brain, body and emotions to pursue and deliver those goals.
'Unconscious' Blocks to Change
Now let me tell you about what some models¹ of human psychology and personality maintain – and it’s different. These models hypothesise that for most people such ‘freedom to act’ rarely exists.
These psychological models suggest that your everyday interactions, behaviour and thinking are greatly influenced by your ‘unconscious’. This is 'psychic material' that you are scarcely or totally unaware of and which has accumulated throughout your lifetime - much of it from your childhood experience. The models suggest that it’s your ‘unconscious’ which gives rise to many of your mental barriers and emotional blocks to change.
Many coaches focus almost exclusively on goal setting and action. Typically, coaches don’t concern themselves with helping you discover what YOUR entrenched mental barriers and emotional blocks to change are.
Accountability is Not Enough
As a result, no matter how much your coach ‘holds you to account’ and checks your progress, your blocks to change may triumph over the goals and plans you’ve created. You fail to achieve what you want and worse, may lose self-confidence.
Sally’s* story may help illuminate. Sally was deeply unhappy about her boss's new 'ways of working'. He scheduled early morning meetings with her – despite her having previously agreed with her employer that she could flex her hours around the school run. She also felt that her boss valued her contributions and proposals less than those from other team members.
Along with her executive coach Sally set goals to improve her relationship with her boss. She planned how to approach him, she got clear on what she needed to say to him and how. She gathered the evidence to support her case. Sally and her executive coach also worked on strategies and techniques to help her build her confidence.
Unfortunately Sally neither followed through nor achieved her goals. By the time I met Sally she was disillusioned with executive coaching. However, she was brave enough to give coaching another chance.
I worked with Sally using a psychodynamic coaching approach. Psychodynamic coaching has a broader focus that just goals and plans. Psychodynamic coaching takes into account the ‘unconscious material’ that can block our progress.
During the coaching, we discovered Sally’s ‘pleaser’. This part of her personality was terrified of confrontation and always put the needs of others before her own.
Sally’s ‘pleaser’ had developed when she was growing up, as a response to her unpredictable home life. When Sally had planned to talk to her boss, even though she had it mind to be reasonable and to put forward a well-researched proposal, the ‘pleaser’ stopped her. Her 'pleaser' was terrified of the situation turning nasty.
Sally had not been aware of this ‘pleaser’ part of her personality before. In fact, Sally learned that much of the time she was at work she was strongly ‘identified’ with her. ‘Identified’ means relating to the world through a particular part of your personality. Doing so can feel familiar and safe. However, it is our ‘identifications’ that are often the cause of mental or emotional blocks to change.
Psychodynamic Coaching Can Release Your Entrenched Mental Barriers and Emotional Blocks
A psychodynamic model of coaching can help you discover where you may be overly reliant on a particular part of your personality. We don’t all have 'pleasers'! Some people have ‘judges’ or ‘drivers’ or other parts that are ‘ruling the roost’ and preventing them from achieving what they truly want.
What’s more, psychodynamic coaching can also release you from living in this unbalanced way. By doing so you transform your perspective and your life. You gain greater self-awareness and open up more choices for yourself. You become better able to set the goals that truly matter to you and you can tap into new energy and motivation to make those goals happen.
As I said, I’m sorry that you were disappointed with your coaching and I hope in time you’ll dare to trust executive coaching again… Perhaps with a psychodynamic approach? I’d love you to experience its transformational gift.
* Name and some details have been changed to protect confidentiality
¹ Unfolding Self. The Practice of Psychosynthesis. Molly Young Brown (Allsworth Press 2004)
© 2019 Trudy Lloyd & Associates. All Rights Reserved.
Career change or career development is difficult and stressful. …And that’s on top of my heavy workload in my current role.
I hear you. You don’t like your job, some days you’d like to pack it in. But you can’t allow yourself to think that… There’s the mortgage to pay, perhaps you’re supporting children at school or university. You tell yourself to ‘knuckle down’ and just get on with it.
You feel that your job sounds good (on paper). You’ve got a great job title… Some people would kill for such a job… And yet this job is killing you; slowly, relentlessly, devouring your soul…
I Hear How You’re Feeling Conflicted
I hear you. I hear how you’re feeling conflicted. I hear how you’re exhausted by the demands of your job. The commutes feel harder than they did 20 years ago. Some days you’re not even sure if your organisation values your years of experience. All those bright young things seem to bounce round the office – fingers flying as they text, working at a frenzied pace.
It’s a tantalising idea to change or develop your career at midlife. But surely, you feel, working on changing your career will just further overload you and your ‘to do’ list?
Psst! I’ll let you into a secret. Midlife career change CAN be joyful. That was the exact word that Sarah* used to describe her midlife career change journey. Sarah had become increasingly unfulfilled with her senior role in business development. She’d led a team for the last few years and they’d delivered their targets. Now things were getting tougher. Their targets had been increased in a declining market, and though she’d fought hard, she’d not been given a penny of additional promotional spend. Sarah kept up her good work… developing new strategies and tactics… She continued to give her all. She was no shirker.
Exhale Ahhhh, Relax and Play…
But then Sarah took her summer holiday. She reclined on the golden sands of an Italian beach, and marveled at the azure sea. She felt herself exhale, ahhhh, relax, and let go of all thoughts of work. She laughed with her husband and had play fights with him in the sea. And she realised she’d forgotten how to play in the last few years.
When she returned home, we met and she told me she was up for ‘playing’ with the idea of changing her career. She was up for dreaming of new possibilities of how she could work and live. I helped her to look at the world of work with ‘fresh eyes’, and notice just how much it has changed in the last fifteen years… And how there are now many new ways to work, earn a living and contribute. During our time together Sarah got excited and inspired… And now she’s arrived at a place where she’s talking to a charity about using her skills part time to support them in fundraising. She’s also planning to set up an interior design business with a friend. But most importantly, she tells me she’s rejuvenated and excited about the next 20 years of her working life.
And now I see YOU. I see all you’ve achieved in the last 15 or 20 years; the way you’ve shown up consistently in your role; despite crises at home, bad weather and ‘off days’. I acknowledge how you’ve contributed hugely to leading and developing your team, how you’ve kept your skills up to date, and dealt with the office politics and conflict along the way.
And in this summer holiday season, I wonder, could you make the space, to exhale - ahhhh, and relax, and in your own time to get playful again… About life and your career?
* Name and some details have been changed to protect confidentiality
© 2018 Trudy Lloyd & Associates. All Rights Reserved.
“I have to change my career,” Rachel insists, her eyes burning. “I know I’ll regret it if I don’t at least try and do something where I can be more active; like becoming a personal trainer.
If this was the first time I’d coached Rachel it might make sense for us to start to explore exactly what type of ‘more active’ role might suit her. But it wasn’t the first time we’d talked, and in truth Rachel was already pretty clear that for her new career, she wanted to help people improve their health and fitness at midlife so they can have a long and happy retirement and old age.
Indeed Rachel had already developed an excellent action plan for her new career. Unfortunately, she was making little progress implementing it. I asked Rachel a few more questions and things became clearer.
The Problem of Being 'Identified' With Your Professional Role
It seemed that Rachel was ‘identified’ so strongly with being an HR Director, and also with working in a large corporation, which was what she’d been doing for the last 18 years, that deep within her it felt impossible that she could be anything else. She’d had an ‘idea’ and made a plan to become a personal trainer. However, it was as if her internal ‘space’ was under monoculture to ‘HR Director vegetation’, and there was no ‘open ground’ within her, where she could plant and nurture the seedling for her new career.
If we’ve been in a role for 10, 15 or more years it’s easy to become ‘identified’ with that role. When this happens, our role is not just what we ‘do’, but it can seem that we ARE that role… and it can hard to be anything else. Our tendency to identify with our professional role may be exacerbated if we have worked long hours at it, and also perhaps if we enjoy the professional status that role gives us.
It’s easy to identify with any role. A ‘mother’ or ‘father’ who takes a career break can become identified with their caregiving role, and then find it hard to make the transition back to their career. Being identified with a role can also make us feel alive and focused, and that we have somewhere to channel our energy.
However, identifying with a role, any of our roles, ultimately limits us. Because when we are identified with a role we are not in control; instead we are being driven by unconscious urges. This means we will likely overlook and be unable to tap into our other talents, interests and traits. This could mean that we miss out on career and life opportunities, miss out on what might make us happy at midlife. When we are heavily identified with a role and try to make career choices, there is a risk that we will make a sub-optimal choice.
Dis-Identifying from Your Role Can Help Your Midlife Career Change
Even if you don’t want to make a career change at midlife, you could benefit from ending a strong ‘identification’ with, or dis-identifying from your work role. Dis-identifying from your work role will give you a new perspective from which to make decisions. It can also release more energy as you reclaim parts of you that you might have pushed aside. Another risk of being overly identified with a job role is that, should you lose that role, perhaps through redundancy, retirement or ill health, then you could feel ‘quite lost’. It might even bring you to a crisis.
“We are dominated by everything with which our 'self' is identified. We can dominate and control everything from which we dis-identify ourselves" Assagioli.
Even if you’re working 60 hours a week at your job – you are much more than your role identity. Your role might require you to be for example organised and pro-active and ‘results driven’ among other things. But what about those other great talents you have; perhaps your creativity, your playful side, your athletic side. Is there space in your life for these aspects of you to 'show up'? By identifying so strongly as an HR Director, Rachel’s view of all the other parts of herself was blocked.
How to Stop Being Identified with your Career Role.
Ending your identification with a career role is a journey. It’s a journey where you discover your ’self’. The ‘self’ is a still, but dynamic place inside you, from which you can observe and direct the various aspects of your personality.
Only when Rachel can stand back from her identity as an HR Director or dis-identify from it, will she feel less attached to the idea of herself in that role, and realise she has more ways of ‘being’ in the world.
To begin this process I asked Rachel to practise a couple of exercises. You can download the full instructions here.
Here's a quick summary of the role dis-identification exercises.
It’s not just our work roles with which we can become overly identified. We can also become identified with our minds, our feelings and our bodies. By identifying with any of these aspects of ourselves we limit the choices we have in life.
The process of dis-identifying from our roles, minds, feelings and bodies, is something that we can work on regularly. This will not only enable us to change our career when we feel the need to, but it can enable us to open up more options for our whole lives and for us to use more of our talents.
Ultimately when we are in touch with our ‘self’, we are best placed to plan our career change or career development and most likely to succeed with it.
© 2018 Trudy Lloyd & Associates All rights reserved.
You work on your skill set, right?
Of course. It’s a must for you as a 21st century professional; to keep up with your field, with work technologies and relevant legislation. …So when did you last upgrade your skills in handling the pressure at work?
Professionals often tell me that earlier in their career they might have experienced short bursts of high-intensity working, but then things always quietened down again. However, now they feel the pressure at work is relentless.
Such pressure left unchecked can lead to workplace stress and wreak havoc on health; weakening the immune system, upsetting the digestion, disturbing sleep and more. Stress can damage relationships inside and outside of work, making people feel miserable and no longer able to enjoy life.
How Can I Combat Workplace Stress?
Clients struggling to cope with workplace stress, often ask me if they should leave their role or change career. I tell them : “You have three choices – and leaving to find pastures new is only one of them”.
Here are the other two options.
Explore with your boss or colleagues options to reduce pressure and combat stress; these might include deferring deadlines, getting access to extra resource from inside or outside the organisation, doing some work from home and cutting back on the scope of a project. Brainstorm as many ideas as you can and try to make a case.
And yes, I’m aware that speaking out at work about how you’re experiencing pressure and even stress may carry risks as to how you’re perceived, and may even affect your career progression. However, if your current job with less pressure would still suit you, then maybe it’s worth a try?
How to Grow your Capability to Handle Workplace Pressure and Stress.
Ultimately though, option two may be more fruitful: Change yourself. This means growing your capability to handle the pressure at work.
I imagine you’re already familiar with what I call ‘Level One’ stress management techniques. They include ‘self-care basics’. However, it’s easy to break these positive habits when we’re under pressure.
Advanced Techniques to Handle Workplace Pressure and Stress.
OK, but what if you’re still feeling the pressure? That’s where what I call ‘Level Two’ techniques come in.
‘Level Two’ techniques can bring about a step change in how you manage pressure and stress at work. E.g. They’ll enable you to ‘get away’ from work when you’re not there, so that you’re not recreating your 'stress response', and the attendant risks to your health, by thinking about work at home. You may need to work at mastering these techniques, but if you’ll do, you’ll reap huge quality of life rewards.
Here's a brief introduction. If you’d like to learn more, we've got an online workshop where we’ll be getting into more detail. bit.ly/2DtUHAw
Are You Too Attached to 'The Outcome'?
Are You 'Too Identified' With Your Role?
Handling pressure and avoiding stress is a key life skill in the 21st century. Perhaps it’s the MOST important professional skill - because it’s fundamental to your ability to keep on working and to enjoy your work!
If you'd like to learn more about advanced techniques for handling pressure and stress at work why not join us for this online workshop bit.ly/2DtUHAw
How have you learned to handle pressure? Share what's worked for you in the comments below!
"Karen, an account manager in a software company complained to me that she’d grown tired of her role and found it unfulfilling. She wanted work that was more ‘meaningful’.“Trouble is,” she went on, “doing something more ‘meaningful’ isn’t going to pay the mortgage or enable me to support the kids through university, is it?"
I've found it’s common for professionals in well-paid but unfulfilling roles to believe that a career switch to work that’s more ‘meaningful’ will cost them dear. However, I also know it doesn’t have to be so.
What is ‘Meaningful’ Work?
Findings from studies defining ‘meaningful’ work, point to concepts such as ‘the amount of significance people perceive to exist in their work ¹. There’s the idea of a ‘calling’ which has deep historical and religious roots and which might lead people to choosing a role within the church or a healthcare environment. Nowadays the phrase ‘calling’ is often more about an inner drive to do fulfilling or self-actualising work².
There’s also the related concept of ‘meaning in life’³. Which suggests that work is meaningful not only when it is judged to be significant, but also when it is viewed as having a distinct purpose or point.
Some argue that you don’t have to have ‘meaningful’ work, as long as you find meaning in other parts of your life e.g. through family and relationships, a hobby, using your creativity, or through your faith.
The late Susan Jeffers, renowned author and psychotherapist, encouraged us to set the bar high. If your work isn’t ‘joyful’ she encourages us to ditch it.
Ultimately, ‘meaningful work’ is a ‘career value’ which any individual will rank somewhere on a continuum from high to low, according to their own make-up.
The Midlife Crisis and Your Career
Your interest in your career may wane gradually over several years. Or, having been made redundant, you may experience a sudden realisation: ‘I can’t go back to doing that! Either way it can feel frightening when the career that may have paid you handsomely and have reinforced a positive sense of self no longer ‘fits’.
Such experiences are consistent with what renowned psychotherapist and psychoanalyst Carl Jung labelled as the ‘midlife crisis’. Jung believed such an event to be driven by a ‘search for meaning’, and attributed it to the need to ‘individuate’ at midlife, self-actualise and develop further our unique selves.
If you made your career choice in your early twenties, perhaps twenty years ago. And since then you’ve changed and grown, and the world has also changed; is it really surprising that you, your career and the world of work no longer fit together like freshly sawn jigsaw pieces?
How to Get a Better Money-Meaning Balance in Your Career
There’s no quick fix. However, by starting with these three strategies you’ll be on your way to a better balance of money and meaning in your career at midlife.
1.Update Your Understanding of YOU
I believe that everyone should enjoy meaningful, satisfying and rewarding work - work that fires you up! I am fascinated by human potential and the life journeys people make to find work and careers where they can channel and develop their skills and talents in meaningful and satisfying ways.