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Ask Alan - Effectiveness


Q - I am totally fed up with my current job, and feel trapped because I earn a good salary.  How can I start to make a complete career change?

A - You are not alone.  Many of us follow a career path that we think will make us happy and successful, only to realise that we have taken the wrong path.  Firstly, work out what is the bare minimum income that you can survive on, what would be comfortable and what is ideal - this will be key when looking at new careers.  Next take some time to reflect on your strengths and the areas of your current work that you enjoy.  What is it about your job that you don’t like?  Are you happy working for someone else or do you want your own business? Then you can look at alternative careers - start with those that you are instinctively attracted to, and do some research to find out how closely they match your needs.  If you find something that appeals, the first step is to ‘re-brand’ yourself so that people know your aspirations.  Change that Linked In profile, network with people you want to work with - always being cognisant not to affect your current career until you are ready to make the move.

- I haven’t seen my boss in years.  They are based in the US and we speak every week, but I am concerned about a new idea I have won’t be accepted by the US.  What can I do to improve my chances of success?

A - Work out who are the key decision makers and influencers for this decision.  Put yourself in their situation to understand what they need to hear and how they would make that decision.  Establish who can help you influence those people, and then agree a joint strategy to move ahead.  Ultimately you are likely to have to present to them in the US if you want to be successful.

- We have recently been acquired by a much larger company and I am struggling to work effectively within the new organisation.  I no longer get the information I need to make decisions and they are typically imposed on me from above - can I resolve this or should I leave?

A - This is a very common situation, especially with smaller companies being acquired by corporations.  As a leader in a small company you probably just speak to people every day to find out what is going on.  A business update meeting for your board is a regular thing.  In a corporation the same information is there somewhere, you just need to work out where and how you get access to it.  I suggest you meet with your new boss and explain the key information you need to know in order to make decisions, and ask them to help you find it.  If there is nothing obvious then create a ‘dashboard’ of information and make it available to your peers (you can’t be the only person struggling).  Also discuss your role in decision making versus your boss - be clear about the authority you have, and then use it (sometimes go over it to test the boundary, as asking for forgiveness is easier than asking for permission!).  Ultimately you want your autonomy back, so go and get it!  If you can’t, that’s the time to think about alternatives.


Q - I struggle to say no when I am asked to take on more work.  The result is that I often feel overwhelmed by the volume of work I have to do and I don’t get much help from my manager when I raise the issue.  How can I manage this better?

A - People who struggle to say no usually want to do a great job - for everyone.  The problem is that by taking on too much you are likely to work extended hours, become less effective and the result is that you please no one - which makes you feel worse.  

The key is to prioritise your work (and your manager should be able to help with that), to make sure you focus on the key projects.  Review the priorities every week to see that you are on track and to spot when priorities change.  Celebrate success when you complete a project, even in some small way, as it will remind you why you do your job.

Also allow some ‘reactive time’ for those urgent, unplanned activities that the MD wants done yesterday.  If you find you don’t reach the lower priority projects then they should either be delegated to someone else (your manager may need more resource) or stopped.  

Once you see how this approach allows you to deliver better quality projects you will no longer feel bad about saying no - or asking which of the high priority projects any new piece of work should replace.


Q - I feel constantly over-worked.  How can I get my life back without letting my team down?

A - Being a manager can be extremely challenging and stressful. It can require you to work long hours while constantly trying to whittle down your list of overwhelming tasks and prioritise other responsibilities, but it doesn’t have to be that way. With just a few simple steps you can have the work/life balance you have been yearning for without feeling like you are letting anyone down. Get all the simple steps by reading by blog. 


Q - Is it better to take notes in a meeting or just listen?

A - Whether you take lots of notes or no notes at all, the key thing in meetings is to listen – ACTIVELY. That means engaging in the discussions to develop your, and others, thoughts and ideas. To read more click here


Q - Do I have to respond to calls / emails immediately?

A - A leader I was coaching answered their phone while we were discussing an important area. Not surprisingly, their action plan contained a challenge to reduce their interruptions, in particular not to answer the phone in meetings. They were asked to observe what happened. The leader was delighted to tell me they had been able to concentrate on key tasks and deliver quality work much faster. To read more click here


Ask Alan enables you, our clients, to ask any questions that arise following our work together, or any people related issues that you face in your day to day work.

If you are happy for us to contact you to discuss the issue in more detail remember to include your contact telephone number.

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