Sometimes in mid-career (approximately 15-25 years into a career), after the inevitable knocks, it can be challenging to see with fresh eyes what about our own career path makes us unique and the potential impact we can still have.
However, if we can find clarity in assessing our journey and connect to our passions, this can be a very rewarding time. By now we’re competent, we know our strengths and we’ve learned how to work with others. We may even have more than one occupation under our belt.
Also by mid-career, there are secondary areas of interest and competency in our lives. This may be music, carpentry, floral design, cooking, teaching yoga or martial arts, coaching little league, serving on a non-profit board. This secondary pursuit is typically values or passion-based and may or may not be income generating.
What’s rewarding about being in this phase of our lives and careers are the possibilities that emerge when we connect the threads together to create unique opportunities.
Now, back to the math at the top of this post (The mid-career multiplier effect: When 20+5+4=29²)
Those numbers are my numbers!
20 represents number of years I spent developing my first successful career in media (film, television and digital).
4 represents my second career, now 4 years old, as a professional certified coach (PCC) with more than 600 client hours under my belt.
5 represents the years I have served as a board member at the non-profit BAYCAT. (BAYCAT tackles the lack of diversity in digital media)BAYCAT is changing not only the stories that get told but who gets to tell them, by tackling the lack of diversity in digital media.BAYCAT is changing Adding those years up, 20+4+5 gets us to 29.
So, what about the ² part?
Recently I launched a program that weaved together the multiple threads of my own career, and that’s where the multiplier effect comes in.
The new program brought Coaching (my second career) to the Young Adult Internship program at BAYCAT (where I serve on the board). I’m committed to the Internship program because as an Executive Producer (my first career) I hired interns of a similar age and experience. I know what it takes to stand out and be hired in the competitive media world, and I know the mix of hard skills, soft skills and support these young adults from diverse and often underprivileged backgrounds will need to help them succeed.
Through my coaching community I was able to secure 10 professional coaches to partner one-on-one with the interns to support them through the completion of their internship. Factors like unstable housing have caused some of our youth not to make it through to graduation in previous years, which is hugely disappointing for the individual intern and for the whole BAYCAT team.
My multiplier effect
My 29 years of career and service are being multiplied as I write. The amazing coaches who are taking part in this program are dedicated professionals, doing great work pro bono. The young adult interns are experiencing something new in partnering with a professional coach. Foremost my vision for the coaching partnership is to ensure successful completion of the internship program. Beyond that, the interns are being encouraged to dream big while at the same time building the resourcefulness, resilience and self-discipline it will take for them to succeed in the workplace. It remains to be seen what the true multiplier effect will be but the program is already having an impact on the lives and careers of these young adults.
Here’s some feedback from three interns:
(my coach) “has helped me solve a lot of issues I was struggling with, both personal and career wise. And it has been amazing to have her as my coach.”
“I really enjoy my relationship with (my coach) and having someone invested in me to keep me accountable and motivated.”
“The coaching sessions have been helpful to me, and (my coach) is very supportive. I always look forward to the next time we can chat.”
What’s your multiplier effect?
So, what are the skills and competencies you’ve built in your own decades in the workplace, and how do these connect with your current values and interests? What would be meaningful in your life and at the same time have a positive impact on the world around you? What support will you need from your partner, friends and community to help you give your time to something significant in this stage of your life and career?
This isn’t the time for the career blues– it’s a time to pull together all your know-how, savvy and experiences and make an impact in a way only you can!
It’s foggy and cool around my home in the San Francisco Bay Area. That means it’s August and Labor Day is just around the corner.
Which has got me to thinking about what’s next. Where will I choose to put my energy? What’s important now? How will this inform my primary focus for the remainder of 2017? There are many options and realistically only so much time and energy.
How about you? How is the last stretch of 2017 sitting with you? Is there work to complete, work to generate, or are you already looking forward and planning for 2018?
Here are some DIY coaching questions to help you consider what’s next for you in 2017:
Clarity This is my favorite place to start, with my clients and for myself:
What’s top of mind for you right now?
What options are you considering?
What’s not yet clear?
What’s getting in the way of seeing clearly?
What, if anything, are you avoiding?
Work-Life Integration This is a good place to turn next next, looking at work, home/family, community, personal well-being and health:
What needs your attention most?
What causes your stress levels to rise?
What can you dial up, or dial down, in terms of your health and well-being?
What do you need to say ‘no’ to, at least for now?
How can you be more supported as you move forward?
Presence Here, we’re looking at authority, emotional resilience, confidence, sincerity, and also at external factors like body language, tone of voice and how you’re dressed.
How are you showing up now in your work?
What changes do you want to make?
Who are the professionals that will help you in your transition?
What do you need to start doing, or stop doing, to keep you on track?
How will you handle the predictable distractions and bumps in the road?
Action Finally, we’re focused on moving forward:
What’s a useful next step?
What’s an even smaller next step, towards that next step?
What will be the signs that you are moving forward?
How can you create good habits?
What will help you persevere and keep up your momentum when the challenges hit?’
How will you celebrate your success?
Here’s how I walked myself through this exercise today:
Clarity–I’m sitting with competing priorities. But, as I sink into this question I am being pulled in one direction more than the other.
Work-Life Integration–I need more energy to propel me through to the end of 2017. I know what works for me in terms of exercise, rest and intake. It’s time to put this front and center to create a stronger foundation.
Presence–I will pay more attention to how I can roll with the punches when things get stressful.
Action–I need to create structure, a specific project outline and then a plan. Executing is less challenging for me once I’m well set up.
If you’re ready to dig into the rest of your calendar year drop me a line! There are many ways for the team at Business Presence, LLC to partner with you to ensure you end the year fulfilled– from career, business and leadership coaching, to media training, image consulting and headshots. Contact us today for a complimentary Discovery session!
Photo by Johannes Plenio on Unsplash
Between us (Marianne andMarilyn), we’ve spent decades successfully training executives to be ready for media opportunities. The hardest part of doing this work with an executive is getting their time, focus and buy-in. Once we have those three elements in place, we can begin work on five key areas for development:
Understand the medium: There are different techniques to master for different environments–broadcast TV and radio, online video and podcasts and print media–so be clear about what you’re preparing for. For example, if you’re an executive appearing on TV to discuss quarterly earnings results, knowing the studio background and the framing of the shot will inform yourappearance and other non-verbal communications. If you’re in a podcast or radio studio, you’ll want to learn the dos and don’ts with microphones.
Know your audience: While you likely speak to many different audiences as an executive, be clear about the needs and expectations of your specific audience. This will help you focus on both your messaging and delivery. For example, if you’re a CEO delivering the quarterly results your audience will expect you to present your financials with personality, enthusiasm and vision. However, if you’re a CFO your audience expects something different–namely numbers, data and trends, presented in a way that generates trust and confidence. Developing your persona with your audience in mind is key.
Master your narratives: Company narratives, product narratives and your personal narrative are all vital for any media appearance. Being clear about your content, what you’re looking to communicate, your positioning and guidelines will help you stay on track during an interview. This work should be done well in advance of any media appearance and you’ll likely have a team of people from various departments helping to develop your content and create the soundbites that will resonate.
Build range in your vocal techniques: Once you’ve mastered your content you’ll need to work on your delivery. You want to be engaging and interesting to listen to. This requires an understanding of vocal dynamics, and that you to hear yourself the way others hear you. Watching and listening to ourselves is generally an uncomfortable experience, but we’ve found it a useful technique in building self-awareness and correcting bad habits.
Make time to practice: Being prepared to answer whatever question comes up requires hours of practice. If you’re not well rehearsed you’re likely to be guilty of one or more of the following:
a) talking your way into your answers b) ‘motoring’–talking without taking pauses
c) not knowing when to stop talking
d) not having strong, concise, soundbites at the ready
e) not sticking to your key messaging
Some of these mistakes could get you into trouble with an intrepid reporter or host, and others will result in your audience zoning out.
We coach media training one-on-one with senior executives, leveraging their existing talents and strengths to improve their communications skills. We also coach in small groups when appropriate. Typically the engagements are a half-day commitment–we understand that executives’ time is tight. Developing a more confident, self-aware and engaging version of yourself is valuable for all presentation and media opportunities.
Let’s start with a metaphor of a building needing a solid, strong foundation to support its structure. Without it, the building is vulnerable to damage and collapse. Or, we could visualize a tree whose roots must grow deep in order for the tree to grow strong and beautiful.
In life then, our foundation is our anchor, our stable base, our place of safety that supports everything we do.
When did you last check-in with your foundation?
At its most simple, a foundation check-up is a reality check on our health and well being. Are you eating well, having enough good sleep, exercising regularly? Do you have a good emotional baseline, supportive friendships and relationships, and are you making time for things that bring you joy, either inside or outside of your work? Without a solid foundation, it’s not possible to be your best self, live your best life, or do your best work.
Beyond these basics, our foundations will also be specific to our stage in life and our specific role at work.
One client, a small business owner, has lived with a foundation of chaos for more than 20 years. She’s been able to successfully navigate her life despite the chaos–until now. After a year’s separation from her husband, she craves order. During a recent session she blurted, “I need to get on with divorcing my husband!” Living in an in-between state is not serving her. Creating a foundation of order vs. chaos will enable her to focus more on her priorities, such as building her new business, which she is very driven to do.
A second client is undergoing a profound shift this year that is shaking her foundation. She’s a successful entrepreneur, a big character with an outgoing personality. She can’t help herself from collecting people and projects. At a foundational level, this year she feels the need to pull back, to be more reflective, gather fewer distractions, and reduce her social media activity, where she’s been feeling some heat. I challenged her not to say ‘yes’ to anything for the next month. She’s taken up the challenge with a smile on her face.
Another client works at a media company. He’s not at a senior level but nevertheless feels that he’s always-on, putting out fires constantly. He needs more time to exercise, get good sleep, be creative and more social. After three sessions we’d identified that his foundations are unsettled, and the impact is that he’s neither at peace within himself, nor confident at work.
Here’s a framework to prompt your own foundational check-up:
What’s your life stage?
Early in our careers connecting with our foundation will likely include exploring our core beliefs, personal values, skills and talents. It will also include building personal and professional relationships. Our foundation may shift as we become more independent, moving out of home and being fully responsible for money management.
In mid-career checking in with our foundation may include a hard look at the competing demands of work and family. What’s our priority? If we’re looking to stay on the career track where do we want to go from here? How much risk do we want to take? How can we push ourselves to create a vision that inspires us, rather than settling and trying to make the best of it?
Later in our careers a foundation check-up will look at both the big picture and our finely tuned skills and passions. How is our health? Can we afford to work less if we want to? What’s the work we’re so good at and still so passionate about we simply must keep doing it? And do we have extra fuel in the tank for speaking engagements, volunteering or for taking on advisory or board roles?
What’s your role at Work?
Another lens for our foundational check-up is to look at the role we play at work. For managers and leaders a foundation check-up may mean a reality check on our state ofburnout. If we’re burned out, our performance will be negatively impacted and our relationships will be compromised. It may also include a review of our hard skills, presentation skills and emotional and social intelligence.
For individual contributors a foundation check-up should include scoring our level of satisfaction with our work. Are you doing great work, learning new skills, winning awards, sharing our knowledge, having an impact?
For a small business owner checking-in with our foundations would include looking at our technology, systems, processes and people. Do you have a good space to work in and a good method for staying organized? Are contracts and forms and modern payment methods in place? Do you have collateral that speaks to what you do and your unique way of doing it?
These are just some lenses to look through as you undertake your own foundational check-up. Taking your foundation for granted, will not serve you well. You’ll end up struggling to find your way. Instead, take some time for your foundation check-up and tune-up. This can be be most effectively achieved by partnering with a leadership, career, business or life coach.
Make some time to connect with your life, work and well-being by Contacting Us for a complimentary consultation!
If that title makes you feel uncomfortable, it should!
We all hide. We procrastinate. We avoid. We duck.
And, life goes on.
But hiding is likely impacting you personally and professionally in ways that are holding you back from achieving your goals.
One of my clients is avoiding the fact that her parents are getting older–she literally ran out of the room when her father tried to talk with her about the plans they’re putting in place for the future. She’s in her mid-40’s.
Another client is hiding from speaking up in meetings. He’s comfortable one-on-one but in large groups he becomes anxious. He also hides behind email, preferring it as a method of communication over speaking with colleagues directly.
Another client hides behind her spouse when it comes to money. She’s not comfortable making decisions about money, even though at work she’s a professional and a leader. Avoiding money has become an Achilles heel for her at work as well–by avoiding jobs that require budget responsibility she’s dimmed her career opportunities.
A stimulating, time-consuming job can enable you to hide from taking care of yourself–exercising regularly, eating well and sleeping enough.
Other common things we hide from are giving presentations; having a difficult conversation with your boss to request a raise or promotion; growing your business; making a job transition; or winding down your business or career.
If we’re hiding, it’s because whatever we’re hiding from feels difficult, daunting, frightening or simply impossible. It can feel like there’s a mountain to climb, and we can’t see what’s beyond it.
So, how would it be to stretch, pull yourself out of your comfort zone and reframe your fear as a challenge for 2017?
We offer 3 approaches:
Connecting to our fears and anxieties is one approach. If you let yourself move towards the fear, what’s there? Where does the Saboteur, (or inner critic), energy come from? How long have you been holding onto this way of thinking, and what’s the impact on your life? What would open up for you if you could stop hiding?
Another approach is to be bold and look for opportunities to say “yes” where previously you said, “No way!”. Build new skills, practice, don’t dwell on your failures, and then take baby steps or even a big leap. Put yourself forward to speak up in meetings, give a presentation, ask for a promotion or look for a new job or start a business. You can build confidence and competence as you go.
This approach comes from my colleague Diane Garga. She says: “Imagine you’re already there!” Think about a ‘brilliant’ moment that you’ve experienced where you were visible and not hiding, where everything was going well, you were happy and being your best self. Ask yourself: “Where was your focus? What did you let go of in order to be present? What did you notice about how you were showing up?”Knowing what your qualities are that make you shine can help unlock yourself. And, being fully present lessens your fear about extraneous things.
So, what’s one step you can take from here? What’s possible in your life and in your career?
Recently we worked with an internal PR team at a Fortune 500 technology company. They are a progressive technology organization that heavily invests in media training for their executives.
Business Presence, LLC was hired to assist with certifying executives as company spokespeople, bringing our expertise in both content and presentation. We recorded video of each interview for playback and review.
One of us took on the role of ‘reporter’, interviewing each executive for about twenty minutes with a set of prepared questions. The content covered both the broad company narrative along with communications around their particular areas of expertise. We also scattered in some trick, pass/fail questions to keep them on their toes, simulating an interview with an intrepid reporter. For example, executives are trained by the PR team to pivot away anything related to company financials unless they are on the finance team. Thankfully nobody went to PR jail!
Overall, we were most engaged by the executives who used plain speak versus jargon and who were relatable, passionate, and easy to follow. When a reporter is able to break through the predictable, linear narrative and get sound bites that connect at a human level, their stories are more engaging to their readers.
After the twenty minute interview we moved into the playback and review process. This is always the most uncomfortable part of the certification process for an executive. It’s not easy for any of us to watch ourselves on camera, and it’s even harder in front of a group of experts poised to give feedback. Many spoke very quickly and needed to take more time to disseminate and explain the content, especially when it was technical. Some of the most common issues were being repetitive or buying time at the start of an answer with “great question!” Or they persistently used uh’s and um’s. Adding more color and details via customer stories to illustrate points was another area of improvement. These are problems we can help them overcome. There were a plethora of small notes from the PR team about content, such as how to say something differently, better use of metaphor and when to cut an answer shorter.
Ultimately the executives will pass or fail based on the scores given by the internal PR lead/certifier. About 30 percent didn’t seem ready to speak with reporters. There’s room for them to grow: taking charge of the interview, being less scripted, nailing key messages and giving good soundbites. They can also work on using more range in their vocal dynamics.
Those who pass are in command of messaging and storytelling, and, thanks to our coaching, now have the confidence and experience to communicate with journalists on behalf of their company.
Being an effective company spokesperson requires mastery of both content and presentation, they’re inseparable, one without the other and you’re only half-way there.
We enjoy this kind of work. The content is typically stimulating and we get to bring our expertise around both content and form, and tap into our journalistic backgrounds.
Seems like it should be an easy question to answer. But often it isn’t.
In our lives and in our work there are many barriers to uncovering a clear picture of what we want.
Tension and anxiety may have us in their grip. Or, we may be so interwoven with another person or a team it can be hard to detangle and separate out our own wants. We may have a tendency to get focused on what we can’t have — or at least not yet — either because our own saboteurs are in control or because we’re struggling to push through the limiting words and attitudes of others.
But, let’s suppose that you can identify what you want. What if this dream means a radical change? What if it doesn’t sit easily with your colleagues and friends, or causes concern in the people you love the most? What if you don’t feel ready for it, or can’t fully imagine the change? These are all reasons why we push down our wants and carry on with the lives we’re living now.
We’re nearing the end of the year, a point in time that is the perfect motivation to connect with your inner ‘wanter’. Is it time to discover your true purpose for this stage of your life or career? Is now the moment to try again at something that’s meaningful to you but which doesn’t come easily? Is it time to look at a past disappointment and take another run at it? Is this the stage in your life for working less, more, differently or elsewhere? Or, is this finally the moment to be free from a job or relationship that no longer serves you?
Take some time over these next few days to create space, connect with your intuition, your passion and wisdom, and ask yourself what you want. Listen. Be curious. Sense it. See it. When the vision of what you want comes, ask yourself what having it will do for you. Finally, ask how you’ll know when you have it. Then park it. If it comes back to you over the days that follow you’re onto something to be explored more fully!
Today I completed a three session clarity package with a client looking to make changes to her career and life heading into 2017.
The client had quit her career in public policy work nine years ago, early in her career, to take on the family business. It was a decision she felt pressured into making. Recently, she’s been missing the intellectual challenges and the sense of ‘making a difference’ that accompanied her work in human rights. To prepare for an upcoming shift she delegated a number of day-to-day tasks to a management company. But, she’s not looking to leave the family business fully yet, as it will provide her with a good income while she navigates what comes next.
In our initial consultation we did an exercise to provide more context for her desired changes. What surfaced is that her health is a concern and needs to be factored into to her thinking. It’s always useful to get the bigger picture going into any coaching engagement. Sometimes a client may want to make a change in one area but other parts of their life may not be lined up to support them.
In our first full session we uncovered her values. Advocacy, community, learning, connecting, making a difference, and her recent marriage were all important. It turned out that several of her values were being honored in her current work but some scored low in the assessment. Through discovery and scoring we got an honest snapshot of her current situation.
Some of the proposed actions that came out of this session turned out to be premature. At the start of our second session the client indicated that she needed to do more self discovery and research about potential opportunities before moving into action. In short, she needed to slow things down. Her timeframe shifted from being a few months to at least six months, and she now realized that there would be fewer hours in the week to give to a different type of work (5-10 hours rather than 20 hours). Often, our Saboteurs — or inner critic voices — awaken when we’re looking to make changes in our lives, and they can put lead boots on us that slow down progress. However, with this client I sensed a re-frame, that rather than a big shift in her career she was looking to pursue her passions more incrementally.
So, next we shifted to her role and purpose. She came up with the phrase ‘change agent’ in one of the visualizations, and that resonated with her both professionally and personally.
Our final session started with some positive updates. After connecting with friends and relatives she had signed up for an orientation class around learning a new technical skill, specifically a computer programming language. She’d also connected with an online nonprofit matching service where she could offer her professional services for a few hours at a time. These were two ways she could honor her values more fully. She saw potential obstacles around prioritizing her new goals versus family, but she also felt a high level of commitment to fulfilling them.
The focus of the third session was to create a vision for 2017. I asked my client to provide a headline for the year ahead: “Restructuring and reinvention – in that order!” she replied. By putting structures and systems in place within her existing business she would be creating more freedom and space for reinvention. And, by digging into personal finances, estate planning and home improvements she would be honoring her relationship with her new spouse.
Ultimately, she completed the Clarity Package with specific goals for 2017:
“I am clear that I want to get my house in order in 2017. I’m clear that I want to learn something in technology. I’m clear that I want to give back, and that I want to learn more about myself.”
The next step is to follow up with some assessment tools to help her with discovery around her personal strengths and blind spots.
In April and May, we were on retainer to prepare a CEO for an important milestone — giving his first commencement speech. It’s an honor for anyone to be asked to speak on such an important occasion and it’s out of the ordinary for a technology executive who more typically speaks about company products and strategies.
As we reviewed the executive’s on-camera performances at the start of the project — we could see that he was a passable speaker but he had some habits that kept him from being truly entertaining or inspiring. We set out to achieve three goals: a) to identify with the audience of graduates; b) to feel ‘within himself’ as he communicated from the heart; c) to create a vision about the world in front of them and the opportunities and challenges they face.
Up first was to develop a script that would connect with his audience of several thousand graduates. As expected, this took several iterations over many weeks. It needed to be personal, which meant we needed to keep digging and prodding. Finally we landed on the themes of embracing change, taking risks and learning from failure. It’s not easy for a successful executive to speak about their failures, especially when they’ve gone from being a self-made millionaire to being broke, all within 5 years, but as journalists we knew this would connect with his audience, and give him credibility.
Once the script was in good shape we started rehearsals. We first mirrored back what we were hearing — his speech was slow and fairly monotonous. This is always profound work, getting our clients to hear themselves the way we hear them. Once they can hear it, they’re motivated to find a better version of themselves. We also used a technique where we marked up his script, providing direction for emphasizing words, pauses, breaths. He found this very useful and became skilled at hitting his marks.
Finally, as we reached the last week, with graduation day in sight and with the core messaging in place, we took the script to some lighter places. Marilyn is a stand up comedian and she’s worked in Silicon Valley for decades, so that was a useful combination. Not all the jokes made it into the final draft but it helped the executive find his own path to some lighter moments.
As the executive spent time with the script in the final days before delivering the speech, he made it his own. This really helped him gear up for the big day. He had the words, he had the techniques, and he now he’d found the heart of what he wanted to communicate: that success and failure go together, that failure shouldn’t stop you from trying, that taking risks will lead to both success and failure and that we all learn from both.
The audience loved him and he soared in his presentation. We were thrilled to have helped shape it.