Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Organisational politics

What do most people mean when they talk about organisational politics?

Wiktionary defines politics as, "the practice of responding to conflict with dialogue" []. This appears to be the most appropriate definition for the context of work and careers but the everyday labelling of politics within a company often has negative connotations, i.e. political behaviour = unhelpful and obstructive.

The labelling of certain behaviour as political also depends on the perspective of the people involved. What may be obstructive from one viewpoint can just as easily be seen as essential to survival from another.

Politics and political behaviour occurs within an organisation where there are differences in strongly held opinions and/or beliefs. Response to these differences through dialogue is labelled by some as political. For the individuals doing the labelling, the desire to act or change the agenda is felt more urgently, hence the frustration that more dialogue causes.

Ultimately, the success of a business and the individuals within it presents the acid test for the health and continuity of its political environment.

And if that is an unsatisfactory conclusion, then let the debate continue...

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Umbrellas go up when it rains

Managing your career in a negative growth market is not an easy task. Difficult career situations like unemployment and redundancy aren't subjects that this blog takes lightly but it is worth noting that even in tougher economic times, new jobs are started, promotions are won and work has the same potential to satisfy.

Whatever the economic outlook, managing your career should never be an exclusively inward-looking exercise carried out alone. Pursuing personal success through a clearer understanding of your values, talents and goals ensures that you gather external perspectives and evidence [from friends, trusted advisors, employers and so on].

In order to be valid, a career direction needs to be tested and ultimately supported by what you can achieve in the open job market. The way others interpret your values, talents and goals is a critical factor in your personal success. In a negative growth market it is even more significant that career planning does not place isolated, long-term objectives ahead of everyday opportunities to succeed.

What has this got to do with rain and umbrellas? Not everyone is waiting for the sun to shine in order to make progress.

Monday, 28 July 2008

Leadership II

There are a number of ways to measure the effectiveness of leadership in business. Many experienced business people will tell you that the ultimate measures for leadership success can be found on a balance sheet [profit/loss, resources, people, etc]. Such measures are not up for argument in this post but the fact there is more to successful leadership than a balance sheet can measure is.

The most impressive leaders I have encountered not only pass the balance sheet test, they also approach leadership as an opportunity to create value. Value to customers, value to staff, value to communities and value to themselves. Such leaders are successful in their business objectives but they are also successful personally. In other words, they know why they are in their job and why it is meaningful to them.

Who are the best leaders you have worked with and why? What singled them out in your opinion and how did they contribute to your career? Like all of the subjects discussed on this blog, the conversation on leadership is an open one! 

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Public, Private, Not-for-Profit

How easy is it to have a portfolio career? Can you really have a foot in more than one camp and remain effective? Have you had any experience of crossing the above divides? Will some people ever get the meaning behind not-for-profit? Do you have a personal example of a related skills/career/work situation that others might learn from?

I have worked with people whose experiences have been all the more interesting for their diversification across some or all of these sectors. There is no definitive answer but the example of those who have done this successfully could also be viewed as individuals improving their definition of personal success and finding their work more meaningful as a result.

Any and all opinions are welcome!

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

What can be achieved

I have been party to an interesting course of events and it seemed worthwhile recording the facts. It is also in recognition of a significant achievement that I write this post. It is also because this story (as well as its anonymous hero/heroine) is a great example for anyone experiencing career change.

The individual in question is smart, talented and successful but, due to changes in a career that had been stable for some time, there has been more than a little uncertainty of late. What impressed me most during this time wasn't the patience, thoughtfulness, adaptability, emotional resilience, intelligence or courage - although all have been present. Most impressive has been this individual's ability to deal with every situation positively and with an eye for the opportunity present for all involved.

How has this been demonstrated? In situations that many would have given up on, a distinct 'win-win' outcome has been created. No issue or request has been too big or too small to attempt to resolve. Frustration and disappointment have not been allowed to take over, even at the hardest of times. No opportunity to learn and develop has been avoided or missed, even if that has meant dealing with difficult subjects head on.

Anyone and everyone has the ability to achieve when opportunities are approached and managed as they have been in this example.

Congratulations are well in order. Keep up the great work!

Monday, 21 July 2008

The trouble of thinking twice

Before doing something about feeling unhappy at work, a lot of us have probably been told to think twice. Depending on your situation and how you act upon it, this can be good or bad advice to follow.

Thinking twice is sometimes bad advice because it can be all the encouragement we need to do nothing. To suppress feelings of discontent and dissatisfaction can lead to inaction and create resentment further down the line. Ignoring the feeling that you could be happier elsewhere avoids the question. Similarly, if you ignore the feeling that you might be more fulfilled doing something else because changing jobs is difficult or because a new job might be worse, an important opportunity to learn more about your relationship with work can also be lost.

Thankfully, thinking twice is not all bad news because, when nudged in a different direction, thinking twice is probably the best advice you can follow. Feelings of dissatisfaction or discontent are never a solid career strategy on their own so taking time out to explore where they come from is a good thing to place ahead of re-writing your CV or worse still walking out on your job.

When you think twice, consider questions like: "What is frustrating me about my current job/career?", "Are any of these frustrations temporary or down to me?", "What do I like about my current job/career?", "What other jobs/careers will let me do more of this?"

The list of individual questions is pretty much endless so thinking twice can be difficult for knowing where to start. If this is where you feel you are right now, here are the favourite three questions of this blog to offer a starting point and begin a lasting conversation around your values, talents and goals: What is important to me?, What am I good at? and What keeps me going?

If you have a question of your own or anything else that you would like to say, send an email, leave a comment or take part in our new reader poll at the top of the page!

Friday, 18 July 2008


Finding the time to ask ourselves what we want from our career is never easy. Plenty of everyday priorities outrank or outweigh a question like this. For a lot of us the subject only becomes important when career decisions are imminent. The trouble is, pressurised situations rarely allow us enough time.

Setting time aside to define personal success is not a priority for everyone. If you are in a job you enjoy and have a career direction you are happy with, there is little need to have this conversation urgently. However, if your job and career are offering little by way of enjoyment or satisfaction then this question begins to demand some of your time.

If change is something your career will need to face in the future a simple equation is worth considering. The more time you spend on this question now, the more your answers will support you when they are needed most.

Wednesday, 16 July 2008


There are as many opinions on leadership as there are leaders. In the business world, leaders and opinions on leadership are highly valued commodities. Leadership also has a direct connection to personal career success but what does it ask from us in that context?

Leadership is essential to personal career success because without it a clear direction can not be defined. Leadership in the career context is taking personal responsibility for your overall direction and what you would like to achieve. It is also about developing an awareness of the factors that define and influence success and applying good opportunity management to convert situations and events into progress.

This blog has discussed career direction, opportunity management and decision making in a number of previous posts. Leadership is a newer theme but I have the feeling that its relevance will grow in the future. That is of course unless anyone can suggest a better person to entrust with the leadership of their career than themselves!

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Job satisfaction

Job satisfaction is tricky to define. You know when you have it and you are all too aware when you don't. Two people could do the same job but only one might find it satisfying. It is even sometimes referred to as a sense ("Does working long hours give you a sense of job satisfaction?").

With something so difficult to put your finger on, it's not hard to see how job satisfaction can prove elusive.

Despite being hard to define, individual sources of job satisfaction can be better understood. What might or might not make you happier at work is too valuable a subject to ignore, leave to chance or accept glib, handed-down opinions on.

Explore the subject of job satisfaction yourself and see what you find!

Monday, 14 July 2008

What does personal success feel like?

This question came up in conversation recently. Previous posts on this blog have discussed personal success and how it is best defined by an individual's values, talents and goals but this question is a new one.

The short answer is that personal success probably feels different for each individual. For this reason alone a single answer might struggle to hit the mark. Hopefully there will be enough stories about personal success on this blog over time that a common answer will emerge. To get the ball rolling in that direction, here is how I have had the feeling of personal success described to me in the past:
  • assuredness that I have made the right choices
  • satisfaction that my experiences are being valued and utilised
  • not feeling that I am being held back
  • contributing to the best of my ability
  • I'm more aware of opportunities and know better when to act
Of course this is by no means the full picture but I hope that you agree it's an interesting place to start. How would you define the feeling of personal success?

Thursday, 10 July 2008

What would you like to be doing 5 years from now?

The question above is an old interview favourite.

There is often debate as to how revealing the answers to this question are but most interviewers and interviewees agree it's a tough one to answer.

For me it's a tough question because there are so many issues affecting the answer. This is complicated further because these issues can be rooted in any aspect of our work and lives.

The best answers I have heard to this question are easy to understand. They are also as individual as the person who delivers them. What also appears to be true is that the simplicity of these answers often hides the care and preparation behind them. The best answers aren't learned word-for-word in advance either. The best answers are guided by a clear sense of direction and an assured calm that says, even when there are obstacles, I can continue with steady, gradual steps.

The individuals who answer this question well are aware of the direction that they would like their career to proceed in. They are also aware of how this needs to be tested and supported by opinion and evidence. In the context of work/life fusion, these individuals are pursuing personal success through a clear understanding of their values, talents and goals.

Try answering this question and see what you find!

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Learn how your answer to this question can evolve over time at

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Making progress II

Career planning is difficult for a number of reasons. It forces us to deal with complex issues that have their root causes in all aspects of our lives. 

Using the example of changing jobs: At the very least, changing your job means a new routine for you and the people around you. In more extreme cases a new job can mean moving home, sacrificing a partner's career or having to study for new qualifications.

Whether the changes are large or small it is difficult to avoid the fact that career decision making affects more than just work.

Approached in the right way, complex issues can be changed from dilemmas into opportunities for progress. Admittedly, the solutions aren't any easier but the ability to interpret situations and make informed decisions can be considerably improved.

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Making progress

"If I have done my homework* all I need to do is get myself into situations where people are asking me questions†. Whatever happens from there I make progress‡."

* In the context of work/life fusion, your homework is understanding your values, talents and goals.

† The people asking you questions can range from your current boss to an interview panel. They could just as easily be your spouse or other family members and friends. You can also question yourself.

‡ As for making progress, if you don't get the promotion or the new job, be sure to ask why! If you are not happy with the direction that your career is going in, work/life fusion will help you make progress. If you do get promoted and if you are moving towards personal success, I would argue that you have made worthwhile progress indeed!

Monday, 7 July 2008

Making contact II

Because not all career situations, questions or comments are suited to being dealt with publicly, you now have the new option of emailing worklifefusion[at]googlemail[dot]com and speaking 1-to-1.

Anything sent to this address will be treated confidentially and will not be published on the blog.

The hope is that direct contact will encourage new conversations. The subject of work/life fusion, personal success and everything associated with it, will continue on the blog as they have done before!

Friday, 4 July 2008

Making contact

I wrote a short article about job seeking a little while ago. In fact, it was one of the first things I wrote when my own career was going through significant change. A conversation I had today reminded me about my experiences and of one particular point in the article which was about job search success.

It was on the subject of how hard it is sometimes to call people when there has been a gap in communications. Quite often it is a genuine pleasure on both sides when you catch up with an old friend or colleague but making the first call can sometimes be difficult. The point that today's conversation reminded me of was this; not speaking for some time is very different from not wanting to speak.

Work and life move fast but more often than not the reaction to a call out of the blue is pleasant surprise and not confusion or hostility. Of course you can always choose not to call but if you are undecided, why not pick up the phone or send a note to someone from your past who doesn't necessarily have to remain there.

Have a great weekend all and a great 4th of July if you are reading from the US!

Thursday, 3 July 2008

What you want and how to get it

The title of this post has been a well used device in career and business writing over the years. Its meaning is simple, to the point and easy to remember. It is therefore a useful way to approach career planning and there are many people who would look at a statement like this and say that resolving it was part of their success. My challenge is not a direct one to this statement but I do believe it can be more effectively applied.

The suggestion is that a greater opportunity for success lies in placing equal importance on the 'What you want' half of the equation. Most of the books I have read spend more time on 'How to get it'. According to what you have read you might have been encouraged to emulate the habits of successful people, win friends and influence people or even appreciate the significance of the whereabouts of your cheese. Methods such as these can deliver success but the relevance of that success to the individual has fewer guarantees.

So here's the argument. With a little more time and effort focused on exploring the 'What you want' question, the greater the opportunity for success with personal meaning. If anything, all that is required is to approach both sides of '
What you want and how to get it' with equal rigour.

If you have a personal experience or opinion, feel free to share it!

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Redundancy - A personal view

The need for redundancies can be a time when corporate values hide at the back of the room. I worked at a company that liked to describe itself as a family to its people. During a previous economic downturn almost half of this family were made redundant. As you can imagine there was little mention of family during this time.

Thankfully, corporate values have come a long way. As exemplified by Alex in yesterday's blog post, although it is undeniably difficult, redundancy can be a time for professional and personal growth. It can also be a time for organisations to evolve in a similar way. During difficult times companies can learn more about their values and face searching questions about past conduct and behaviour. The way a company treats its people defines it as much as any values statement. Possibly more!

As individuals and companies face new redundancy situations it is wrong to say that the news is all good but it is encouraging to think that it is not all bleak either. When difficult situations such as redundancy are brokered honestly and with the interests of all parties receiving fair consideration, opportunities for future growth can be present also.

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Update on Alex - Outplacement Success

I checked in today with a good friend and old friend of this blog whose past experiences can be found in the post Alex's story.

The good news is that Alex is still enjoying the same role. His experience and expertise are moving the business forward in its aims. He is enjoying making new contacts as well as renewing older ones. There is no more security than he had previously but Alex is far more secure in the progress that he has made since redundancy last year.

It didn't take too long in our conversation to realise that Alex is valuing the things that are important to him. He is utilising talents and making progress towards goals that mean something to him also. If you were to ask, Alex would tell you that none of this has been easy and a lot of hard work has helped. However, if you also asked him whether what he is doing now feels more rewarding? Well, I can't speak for Alex but the smile on his face rather speaks for itself.