Brenda's Blog

All articles from March, 2009

Executive Challenge #4: “I’m Struggling With an Extremely Tough Decision.”

What are the biggest challenges facing successful business people today? In my work as a certified executive coach for C-Suite Executives, Directors, Managers, and Entrepreneurs, there are many recurring themes that seem to surface. One at a time, I’ll be sharing with you 12 of those top challenges along with hints, tips, and steps you can take to avoid or eliminate altogether these key issues that might be holding you back from achieving the kind of success you are aiming for.

As a senior manager or executive, you’re constantly faced with making difficult decisions. Most of the time, you can make those decisions based on experience, on financial analysis of the situation, on input from a colleague or your boss, or even perhaps based on pure instinct. But once in a while – and this happens to us all as executives – you are faced with a truly gut-wrenching decision that simply has to be made, and there doesn’t seem to be any “right” or “obvious” choice anywhere you look.

Read the rest of this entry »

Executive Challenge #3: “I’m Unsure Where My Career Is Headed.”

thumbnailaspx1What are the biggest challenges facing successful business people today? In my work as a certified executive coach for C-Suite Executives, Directors, Managers, and Entrepreneurs, there are many recurring themes that seem to surface. One at a time, I’ll be sharing with you 12 of those top challenges along with hints, tips, and steps you can take to avoid or eliminate altogether these key issues that might be holding you back from achieving the kind of success you are aiming for.

Let’s face it: These are tough times in the lives of executives. The markets are topsy turvy, layoffs are rampant, stock options are under water, and people are running scared. For expatriates, add in the complexity of living outside your home country, and all of this can leave you wondering where you’re headed and worried about a future that is increasingly murky and unclear.

If you’re like most executives, it’s hard to find the time to sit down and contemplate where your career is going. You’re busy taking care of day-to-day operations, and there are only so many hours in a day. It takes time and effort to focus on your future, and it’s easier just to live from one moment to the next.

But, if you don’t make the time to determine your future, who will? At the senior manager or executive level, you are – yourself – the best person to look at the big picture and set the direction for your next move. You are no longer at a level where you can leave your fate to “the powers that be” at headquarters or to your immediate boss.

If your future career direction was any other type of business challenge, you would face it head-on, wouldn’t you? You’d spend time working on it, approaching it from all angles, enlisting assistance, and putting a plan of action into place. Well, the future of your career is no different – it deserves the same time and effort.

Your “Career Mini-Retreat”

As a coach, I see executives every day who have put off reaching their full potential. They put everything else ahead of long-term career objectives. So, I suggest you take a “career mini-retreat.”

Set aside as many hours as you need to focus on nothing but your career. Make sure the kids are gone and that your cell phone is off. Find a quiet space where you won’t be interrupted, not even by e-mails. During this time, focus on answering the following questions honestly and in depth:

1. Look at your career from a 35,000-feet-in-the-air perspective. Where are you in the big-picture scheme of things? If your entire career were a project timeline, where in that project do you find yourself now? Are you still in the early stages based on what you had hoped for yourself? Are you just a few years from retirement and have not yet achieved what you wanted?

2. Now, focus on your current position at work. What do you enjoy most about the position you hold now? Why? Likewise, consider what you dislike and would change tomorrow if you could. Why? Make a complete list of both.

3. Next, look back into your career history, and compile a list of all of the key positions you’ve held in the past. What did you learn from each of those jobs? What skills did you pick up along the way? What were your failures, and how did you evolve and grow as a result of them? What did you enjoy most, and what did you dislike about each of these positions? Make a complete list for each former key position.

4. Finally, allow yourself to think about the future, but don’t focus on possible “job titles.” These can limit your thinking and put you in a box. Instead, think of what skills you’d like to develop. What interests have you not yet explored in a work context? What new experiences in your industry or career would compliment your existing portfolio? What elements of your own personal development would you like to improve at this stage in your journey as a senior manager or executive?

5. Armed with this complete and constructive self-analysis, list all possible options that you could explore as a next step, such as:

a. Stay in your current position, and focus on improving one particular area of your own management development.

b. Stay in your current position, and add another related area of responsibility that will help grow your portfolio.

c. Find a new position within your current company that carries more responsibility or which will bring you new challenges to help you grow as a leader.

d. Find a new position in a new company, marching to the beat of a different drummer altogether.

Some clients learn through coaching that they can reinvigorate the way they feel about their current position with just a few minor alterations, while others discover that they have outlived or outgrown their current firm. They may decide it’s time to move on to a completely new environment with challenges that ‘fit’ them better. Others come to the conclusion that the corporate environment is no longer appealing, and it’s now time to start their own business.

Whatever you find out, you will never move forward unless you take the time to evaluate where you are compared to where you want to be. Take all the time you need to do it right.

Executive Challenge #2: “I just can’t seem to find time to exercise.”

What are the biggest challenges facing successful business people today? In my work as a certified executive coach for C-Suite Executives, Directors, Managers, and Entrepreneurs, there are many recurring themes that seem to surface. One at a time, I’ll be sharing with you 12 of those top challenges along with hints, tips, and steps you can take to avoid or eliminate altogether these key issues that might be holding you back from achieving the kind of success you are aiming for.

On the wheel of balance, this is one of the areas that busy executives and entrepreneurs seem to neglect the most. The truth is that if you aren’t physically fit, you aren’t “fit” at work either. Without regular exercise, your health can be compromised, leaving you less alert and less energetic in both work and play. And let’s face it: If you aren’t taking care of yourself, you won’t do anyone any good – not your business, your staff, your spouse, or your children.

Most of the people I work with genuinely want to be healthy, but making the changes necessary to get there seems daunting to them. I hear often, “I know I should exercise, but there’s no way I can make it to the gym every day.” Or, “There’s simply no room in my schedule for a full hour of exercise.” Well, here’s the good news: when it comes to exercise, a little goes a long way, and you don’t have to commit to becoming a Schwarzenegger-esque muscle builder to be reasonably fit.

If you don’t have an hour a day, seven days a week to exercise, that’s fine. How about 15 minutes three times a week? Whatever exercise you can add to your schedule will help. In fact, consider this: In a study conducted by the University of Virginia, USA, both men and women completed fifteen 10-minute exercise routines each week for just three weeks. After only 21 days, the study participants increased their aerobic fitness to being equal to people 10-15 years younger. And, in strength, muscular endurance, and flexibility, they were equal to people 20 years younger! John Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland, USA studied inactive adults and found that short workouts were just as effective as longer ones. So, remember: Exercise is not an “all or nothing” proposition. You don’t have to schedule in hours and hours of working out per week in order to make a big difference in your health.

Make It Habitual

Fitting exercise into your schedule isn’t about replacing an old habit. It’s simply a matter of adopting a new habit that works within your lifestyle and that can help you reach small goals.

Where do you begin? Just like achieving greater balance in your life, start small. You will find the new habit much less daunting if you don’t require too much of yourself in the beginning. As you experience success, you can add more small steps to your overall goal. Once you begin to see the great results you’ve gotten from just a little bit of effort, you’ll be surprised to find new and unexpected ways to increase exercise over time.

Get out your calendar right now, and block out 15 minutes for exercise – starting tomorrow. Set those 15 minutes aside, and guard them fiercely. Block out another 15 minutes in two days and yet another 15 minutes two days beyond that.

As you can, and whenever you’re ready, add another day and another day until you’re exercising 15 minutes every single day. As you begin to enjoy your routine, add more time each day if you’d like. Slowly inch your way up until the habit becomes very natural. But remember: If you can’t find the time, you don’t have to exercise an hour every day! It really isn’t necessary in order to improve your overall fitness level.

Here are some more easy ways you can exercise daily – even while you’re traveling:
• Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
• Walk all or part of the way to the office.
• Take a 15-minute walk during lunch.
• Use a pedometer to gauge how many steps you take each day, and try to increase that number every day.
• Do jumping jacks for 5-10 minutes in your office, at home, or in your hotel room. (A 150-pound person can burn 90 calories in one 10-minute session of jumping jacks.)
• At home, as you watch TV, do some arm exercises with small hand weights.

Find an exercise buddy. It helps to have someone else to be accountable to for reaching your goals, whether it’s your spouse, a work colleague, or a personal trainer.
Whatever you do, don’t do a form of exercise that you don’t like. You’ll never be able to keep up the habit. Make your exercise time fun by trying different types of exercise until you find something you enjoy. By doing so, you’ll be much more likely to stick with it.

Executive Challenge #1: “I have no work/life balance!”

What are the biggest challenges facing successful business people today? In my work as a certified executive coach for C-Suite Executives, Directors, Managers, and Entrepreneurs, there are many recurring themes that seem to surface. One at a time, I’ll be sharing with you 12 of those top challenges along with hints, tips, and steps you can take to avoid or eliminate altogether these key issues that might be holding you back from achieving the kind of success you are aiming for.

I consistently hear this comment from executives, but I’ll tell you the truth: I’ve never really liked the phrase “work/life.” It makes it sound as though our totality is reduced to: (a) work, and (b) the rest of life. Think about it: A two-legged stool would never be able to balance! No, in reality, “life” includes so many things… relationships, health, finances, home, family, hobbies, and on and on. After all, “work” is just another part of “life,” right? So, because we are multi-dimensional, I believe true balance comes from keeping all key areas of your life in optimal shape. That’s why I use the phrase “wheel of balance” instead.

Read the rest of this entry »