Something weird has happened recently. Well maybe it’s not weird. Maybe it’s inevitable. You see I have started to have some “millennial” experiences and they have made me feel like an old person. Generally I don’t consider myself an old person. I have pink hair! I have started training for triathlons! Actually both those things put me squarely in middle-age. Sigh.Read More
A few weeks ago Arran and I traveled to Bintan, Indonesia, an hour’s Ferry trip from Singapore, to compete in Tour de Bintan. I use the word “compete” loosely . Very loosely. Tour de Bintan is like Tour de France in that it’s a cycling event but perhaps less glamourous (not as much French accents, beautiful scenery and cheese and wine for my liking), much shorter (it’s not a grand tour) however it is professionally run and a qualifying event for the UCI World Championships (for those who are actually good at cycling).
I was going in part to support Arran with some of his business and job interests and because it was a goal in my training diary. Last year I participated and my goal was to complete the 55k event, which at the time was a big goal. I don’t think I had cycled that far to date and the course is very hilly, in comparison to flat Singapore where I had been training for less than 3 months.
Last year my goal was to finish the full 55km without getting heat stroke and ending up in hospital! Pretty inspiring hey? (smacks myself in the forehead). Reaching for the stars right there. For 2019 my goal, without thinking about it too much, was to beat my last year’s time. I never even thought about heat stroke! Look at that progress hey? Anyway I beat my time by over 10 mins with more hills than last year and at a faster average speed. Was pretty pleased with myself except for the bit where I hadn’t been able to train for the week after, and had to spend close to $200 on a physio for my sore knee. Details, details.
Anyway this was not the point of this post. The point of the post is that we travelled to Bintan without the kids which was pretty nice. This meant that on the Saturday while Arran was competing (and he actually was because he is a good cyclist) I had some time to myself. My coach had set me an hour ride to “blow out the cobwebs” on Saturday before the big event on Sunday. Yes I have a long suffering coach who perhaps doesn’t appreciate my lack of athleticism, but does appreciate my sense of humour! Apart from that I had planned a facial, a massage and some reflection time.
It would be fair to say that I haven’t completely found my career groove back in Singapore. I love being back in the Country. I love the weather and the opportunities for my kids and Arran and I, but career wise it has been a struggle. I have worked hard and been given some great opportunities which I am very grateful for, but they haven’t been a perfect fit. Being alone in Bintan was an opportunity to reflect on what would make my heart sing. I created a mind map, wrote some statements and some actions to work on over the coming weeks.
This felt like a really important thing to do as I’m going on a Knowledge and Study tour with Business Chicks to LA at the end of April. It was a significant personal financial investment, a time investment away from the family and had to take precious annual leave, which I never seem to have enough of.
The next week I met up with a Singapore friend for some wine. We were both feeling a little the same about work and life and needed to chat. Part of the chat was that she wanted me to help her run an event with her. I love running events. I must have been an event planner in a former life. I love thinking about the experience of the participants, what will inspire and challenge them, what they will learn, how they will interact with the other participants. I love running leadership training and diversity events and helping people to network beyond swapping business cards over beer and wine. Finally I love helping women being better and stronger and tell their story.
For International Women’s Day this year I was given the opportunity to interview two amazing women athletes, an Olympic mountain-biker and an ultra-long distance runner, for International Cycling Executives in Singapore. I loved helping them tell their stories. And it wasn’t just on the night. I loved thinking about how their stories related to the themes of International Womens Day, and which parts of their stories the audience would resonate and connect with and how to best organize the questions to pull everything together. I try to spend at least a couple of hours with the interviewees to ask lots of questions and really understand them. I love putting together “curated” conversations.
My friend wanted me to run an event with her, because she knows I love running events. She is truly passionate about her cause and had a compelling reason as to why I should be involved. But over the next few days I remembered back to the last Business Chicks event I attending in Fiji, where one of my favorite speakers Layne Beachley talked about that when opportunities come to you, what is your first reaction? Is it “hell yes” or “shit no”. I’m just going to take a little side bar that I got to swim with Layne (7 times world surfing champion) in the bay of the Marriot resort in Momi Bay in Fiji. Was one of the coolest unexpected experiences.
I loved my friends enthusiasm and wanted to collaborate with her, when I thought about the things that make my heart sing and how little time I have to do the things I love, unfortunately because my reaction wasn’t “hell yes” at first and wasn’t “hell yes” on reflection, I had to say no.
I have used “hell yes” or “shit no” when coaching leaders and it’s great because it helps guide conversations to make good decisions. A recent session was with someone trying to make a decision about a new role and whether the leader should accept it. She told me she was interested in the role, but the money on offer was a lot less than her recent corporate job paid. My first question to her was what was her first reaction when offered the role? It wasn’t one or the other! She wanted the opportunity to do something different from what she had been doing for many years. She wanted the General Management opportunity on offer and the different experiences it would give her. But the money was rubbish. Really rubbish and I never encourage women to accept less money than they are worth. I’m usually helping them to negotiate up (gender pay gap and all).
We were able to establish that the opportunity was a good one and she wanted to accept, so we focused our discussion on what she could negotiate on that would give the company what they wanted and needed and what could work for the leader. We talked about timelines and non-negotiables and she was able to have a good conversation with her future employer and accepted the role. She may not do this role long term but at least now she is clear on what she wants to learn, why she accepted the role and where her career is headed.
I love “hell yes” and “shit no”, not just because it focuses you on what’s really important and captures your first instincts about an opportunity, but because it allows discussion of options and helps you work through decisions that may not be black and white.
This week someone in my network asked me to review their resume, which I gladly accepted even though I don’t think I’m an expert on resumes. It’s flattering to be asked and maybe I could give some helpful feedback? The resume was very good. Clearly laid out and clean looking. One thing I noticed though is that for each position she had included the reason for leaving. Is this the best idea? Find out my advice….Read More
Back in June I posted this article about what I had learnt from training for triathlons (so far). It was my first sports related post (which I related to developing your career) and it has made me realise the many parallels between sport and business. I can’t believe I’m talking about sport (again) in a blog post. WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME??
So it wasn’t my most popular post by a long shot but there was a different quality of engagement. People have recognised me in Singapore at a couple of events and wanted to talk to me about my post. Kind and curious people who wanted to know how my training was going and was I loving triathlons? (1). I got to meet people I have connected with on LinkedIn but never had the opportunity to meet. I love the cross over from social media to actual social.
And I have learnt so much more about myself and training for something I didn’t think I could do.
You need to have a growth mindset
When I’m not training to be a mediocre triathlete I’m working in my day job. Recently I kicked off our new graduate development program. Our leaders welcomed the new graduates and gave an overview of the program. As part of the meeting, like all meetings we started with a “moment”.
The “moment” is part of the culture of the business and links to safety, compliance, people and other elements of running a business. They are short snippets of information that can take the form of lessons learnt or things we need to be reminded of. It’s quite a cool thing that is well embedded in the culture and a real organisational habit.
We have a catalogue of these moments to choose from or you can come up with your own. I chose a “moment” on having a Growth mindset because I thought it was relevant to being a new graduate. I liked the theme around just being smart is not good enough. Having good university marks is great but attitude will make the difference in their ultimate success.
As with most things there are unintended consequences. Good ones. As I was preparing to present this “moment” it got me thinking that I was a bit stuck in a fixed mindset at work. Feeling like my career was a bit in the toilet and not getting to work on things that give me energy and feed my soul, and there was nothing I could do about it. And you know what? A couple of the other leaders in that kick off session were feeling the same way. Business had been tough recently and many of our leaders are feeling anxious about what the future may hold and what their part in that future might be. A number requested a copy of the powerpoint deck I used. I suspect the “moment” did more for me and the leaders in the session than the graduates!
Triathlon training is the same. You have to approach it by having a growth mindset. You have to believe you are going to get better. Some days it’s hard though and I definitely haven’t had a growth mindset every day.
I have been going to track running sessions on Tuesday nights for 6-7 months. I’m still in the slow group and I’m still the slowest, or at least one of the slowest. Last week I felt that I was never going to get better because I finished the session last. There were definitely others who opted out of completing the full set but I was still running around at the end which kinda made me feel like a loser. Of course I have improved. I know this because:
- I know I can do the full set every Tuesday night (despite my brain working against me sometimes. Self-sabotage is strong.)
- When I finish the set I don’t feel completely spent
- I can now sleep after a Tuesday night track session. When I first started it would take me hours to get to sleep because of over exertion or too much adrenaline or something
- I don’t feel completely exhausted for two days after the Tuesday night session
- My fancy pants triathlon watch tells me I’m getting better
You have to keep stepping it up
I have learnt or perhaps it’s better to say, been reminded, that it’s better to be with people who are better at things than you. It’s fair to say that nearly everyone I train with is better than me.
A few weeks ago one of my friends who plays a leadership role in running one of the largest cycling group in Singapore posted on Facebook about a women’s only ride on a Thursday morning. It looked like something I would enjoy, but would I be able to keep up? Am I fast enough yet? Would I be able to ride in the group well enough? What if I slow everyone else down or am so slow I lose the group and get “dropped” (2)?
One of the great things about cycling is that it can be pretty social. Generally you ride in a “bunch” which consists of pairs in a formation that rotates, so while you are cycling along you get to meet and chat to other people. At the end of the ride there is often coffee! To be honest I like the social bit, but at the moment it would be better if I could just focus on not running into the person in front, listening to the shouts of what’s happening in the group, paying attention to what the cars, buses and trucks are doing around me and remembering to unclip my shoes at the traffic lights (yes I have moved to the dark side of clip in pedals).
So the people in this group ride together a lot and know each other well. They manage the group safely and are the most professional organised group I have ridden with to date. Just changing lanes was amazing. Completely coordinated and felt super cool to be part of this group.
The thing is I have been doing other organised rides and picking the slowest group to ride with. These groups are great for when you start out and have never ridden on the road or with a group. They help get you out there and give you confidence. But the last few rides I have done have been a bit scrappy to be honest. Clearly I have improved and need to go a bit faster with a more experienced group, but have been scared I wasn’t ready or fast enough. I was the best out of this group and it wasn’t doing me any favours.
So I stepped it up. I went on the ride. At the start I thought I wasn’t going to be able to keep up. I was running a bit late and in the dark, we took off from the meeting point fast and I was thinking I might just drop off the back, peel off, head home and get back into bed. Luckily the pace settled down and I thought “I’ve got this”. Then we got on a highway and really started to move. All my concentration was spent on focusing on the wheel in front and not running into anyone. Then we started to rotate in the group (changing riding positions so each person had a turn at the front) quite fast. Ahhhhgggg!!! There was talking and calling out and trucks beeping and whizzing by. It was scary and confronting and fun and crazy and sweaty and great. And then we stopped for coffee. Phew!
It was so much better to ride with this group and I learnt so much. At times in our career we don’t always have the best people around us to learn from. At the Business Chicks Movers and Breakers conference this year in Fiji, one of the speakers talked about having a “dream team”. A group of fantastic fabulous curated people around you that support, challenge, give advice and have your back. What a great idea! I have all these people I have met throughout my career who have developed me and challenged me and I could still contact and I know would help me. In 2019 I need to formally get my dream team together!
Having goals are super important
This year I completed 3 triathlons. Two shorter “sprint” distances in April and May and an Olympic distance in September. I got to October and had nothing planned for the rest of the year. And what happened to my training? It dropped off somewhat because I wasn’t working towards anything except making it to the end of 2018 (which is an ok goal in itself).
Switching back to work, we have kicked off the annual performance review cycle, which most people hate. It’s hated because we set goals at the start of the year and then rarely look at them until the end of the year. Sound familiar? I find it pretty frustrating as if the process is used well it’s a great business tool to get everyone in the organisation working towards the same things. That’s really powerful.
Where it falls down is that without people giving regular feedback it’s just a big waste of time and completely useless. This year we are trying to instil a continuous feedback culture and are asking Managers to think about giving feedback often. Each time doesn’t need to be an hour session where you deep dive into KPI achievement. It can just be a walk to get a coffee with some questions about how the work is going? It could be a regular weekly catch up on the phone.
People training for anything sports related get this. They don’t set goals at the start of the year, get on with training and then wait 6 or 12 months to see how they are going. That would be completely stupid wouldn’t it?
When you are training for a sport including something as nuts as a triathlon (3) you need constant feedback. Every time I do some sort of training I get feedback. It comes from the watch I wear which is telling me my heart rate, how far I’m going or how fast I’m pedalling or how long I have been training. I go to group training sessions where I get feedback in comparison to others (not always good) and feedback from the coaches and others around me. I get feedback from the data my watch produces and I speak to my coach every couple of weeks! And I get feedback from how my body is feeling during and after the training and how my clothes are fitting week to week. Finally I get feedback when I attempt to complete a race. *
Each piece of feedback is usually small and super helpful. Some examples include the running coach on Tuesday night telling me after running an interval that I am only 3 seconds behind the group in front. How motivating is that? Or my Coach telling me to walk through the aid stations during a triathlon. Mentally this gives me something to aim for during the run and a short break in what is my hardest leg of the race.
Imagine how powerful it would be if we could get leaders in organisations to do this? Give small snippets of useful tips and feedback. Imagine the impact on engagement and results? Unfortunately, (in my opinion) there are a couple of things that prevent this from happening. Firstly many organisations are not willing to invest in the time and expense to train managers and leaders on how to have effective conversations. The second is there is no redundancy left in most organisations. The ones I have worked for over the past five years at least, have cost-cut so deeply that there is little time and space to reflect beyond getting the immediate job done. Conversations are probably one of the most difficult skills to learn in organisations, but the most important. They help us build trust and create community. They help us connect and share. They help us give feedback and learn from our mistakes.
To be honest I didn’t realise I would learn so much from training and doing triathlons and I didn’t realise how much it would relate to my everyday job. I thought there might be learning how to swim, cycle and run but other stuff has been really great. Would love to hear about something you have been doing with unintended consequences like being able to apply learning from one situation to another.
(1) No I didn’t smack them in the forehead and no I can’t say I’m loving them. I love how my body feels after exercise and I love that my clothes are less tight.
(2) it’s like getting dropped by your boyfriend when you are 16 but you are older, less fit and wearing lycra and stuck on a road and don’t know how to get home.
(3) honestly I could have chosen just one sport to be bad at but no that wouldn’t be as fun as training for three I’m bad at would it?
If you follow or are friends with me on social media will know that I decided this year to train for a triathlon. You can read about that here. Most days I feel a little crazy for attempting it. I have never been athletic or sporty so it has been quite a confronting experience. It’s confronting from the equipment you need, to trying something new, to looking silly trying something new to being really unfit to having to get out of bed early a lot, to thinking you might vomit while training to being too fat, to having to wear lycra and so on…..Read More
A little while back, I wrote a post about getting and having part-time work. Despite the fact that I think part-time work creates more hassles than any flexibility you gain because you get to work and still do all the home/child related stuff. Despite the fact you can end up working longer hours than you get paid for. Despite the fact that most organisations organise important meetings during the times you don’t work and so therefore exclude you. Despite the fact that it’s rare you would be considered for promotions. Despite the…..ok. I’ll get off my soapbox. I know part-time work is important for some women (and men for that matter) and you should pursue this if it is. And I did write a pretty good post about it!Read More
Need a push? Have your new year’s resolutions fallen by the wayside?
Last year in November I teamed up with Margie Warrell and we ran this great event together called Live Brave Night Singapore. Margie bought along her special energy and inspired 55 women packed into a very nice wine bar.
Margie is running another event. Read on about the event and how I’ve entered a triathlon. Gulp.Read More
Parenting can be hard. Very hard. And then there is bed bugs....Read More
There’s this song by Des’ree which I think relates a lot to developing your career. The lyrics go like this:
You gotta be tough, you gotta be stronger
You gotta be cool, you gotta be calm
You gotta stay together, All I know, all I know, love will save the day......
I think it’s like this in your career. You have to be brave and tough and strong and all those things. And you have to love what you do. Here’s my thoughts on 7 things to try to be brave in your career.Read More
I feel like it's time to organise another event in Singapore. Something to connect people. Something that would provide a way to have great conversations and something that would inspire. Something in the evening with lovely wine and food in a great space.Read More