Change is as good as a holiday.

Well that's bullshit crap rubbish! I mean really. Lie on a beach drinking cocktails, or sell your house in 4 weeks? Sightsee in a new city, or pack up your life in 2 days? Go skiing for a week or move to another country with a 2 year old and 5 year old?

I mean what is more stressful in your opinion?

When I moved to Sydney 13 years ago, I got to do a little work with Expatriates. I helped organise cultural training for employees and their families moving to countries in Asia and also assisted with medical insurance claims. My experience left me with 2 indelible thoughts.

  1. Expat employees are difficult, and
  2. How amazing would it be to move to another country to live and work?
My first experience with Expat families was when the company I worked for, sent two employees to the Philippines, one as the head of the business and the other in a finance role. I helped organise the cultural training for a family of 4 (2 adults and 2 kids) and a couple. I was able to sit in on the training so I understood what it was all about, and subsequently desperately wanted to move to Manila with them! 

I have visited Manila since then and perhaps it wouldn't be my first choice for an Expat assignment but the idea that I could live and work in another country seemed exciting none the less.

Now I realise that perhaps those Expats were not so much difficult, they were just stressed! Actually, some of them were probably difficult but overall I just didn't understand the head exploding stress of packing up your whole life and moving to a different country where everything is slightly or very different, you don't understand the culture and you are still expected to do a good job. 

Over the past 4 weeks Arran and I have been in Singapore I have been reflecting on how we approached this change and how this approach has helped us through a difficult period. We approached the move with excitement and possibilities. We knew that we couldn't have the same style of housing that we had in Sydney so we decided to embrace condominium living. We knew we would be living in a much smaller place so we got rid of a lot of our furniture (not enough as it turns out) but we have the motivation of people visiting us soon will get us organized quickly in our smallish apartment!

Moving in day. Rainy and humid. View from our balcony
We have a view of the pool just 4 floors down, which someone else maintains as well as a kids playground and beautiful gardens. We have apartments all around us and instead of feeling overlooked we feel part of a big busy city. Sitting on our large-by-Singaporean-standards balcony drinking wine and blogging in the humid air is bliss!

View from our balcony as the sun sets
We have both started to make contact with people with know here. Me with a lovely colleague I met when working at Coca-Cola Amatil, who took me to just the kind of place I needed for coffee, and Arran a friend (and his wife) from high school, who invited us to their "condo" for drinks nibbles and dinner (just when we were getting sick of each others company). I also have other friends who are ready to catch up when we are. Both of us enjoyed a dinner with some of my new work mates in Singapore. Networks and contacts are important and in the 4 weeks we have,been here we have missed our social life and are looking forward to seriously ramping it up.

I'm sure if you approached an opportunity like this negatively you are never going to have fun or learn from it. If you expect things to be like home, they won't be. If you expect the same kind of housing with the same amount of room, you will be disappointed and if you expect people to be the same, well you are kidding yourself. And if you expect the weather to be the same and the ability to buy the same food and clothes well I guess you should give up*

How does this to relate to your career? Well I think it relates very well. Sometimes we end up in a place where we are not happy, and we don't really know how we got there and we don't know how to get out and move forward. This is a miserable existence and when I have been there myself my health suffered and so did those around me.  In these circumstances it's hard to get positive. The ability to make a deal with yourself about what you can learn for the experience and how long you are going to put with where you are can make a massive difference. It can get you focused with purpose in the short term.

I'm not feeling this way about my career. I'm generally happy. How could I not be? I have reached a  career goal and I still have so much to learn including the best way to work with a new business leader. Everything I touch at the moment seems hard and I don't know the answer, but I guess I will get there, as I have done before. I have never set up a payroll in South Korea, but I'm learning. I have never supported employees in the Middle East or Kazakhstan but I'm learning. Actually I'm still learning to even spell Kazakhstan! What did we do before spell check?

So tell me about when your career has been hard for you. How did you get through it?

Lisa xx

*I have already felt like giving up trying to buy swimmers. I'm only human.

Do you understand your why?

Some weeks come and go without much remarkable happening. We go to work, we do our jobs and come Friday, we look forward to the weekend. Other weeks stand out because we are given a gift that was unexpected, surprising, and that changes our view of the world. I had one of those weeks this week. In the past month I have returned to my job, from being on maternity leave. My job is relatively new, both to me and the company, and I have two new managers of sorts and two new team members, one in the US and one in the UK. I'm still finding my way. What are my responsibilities? What person needs me to communicate what? Which people do I need to build strong relationships with? Who do I need to influence? What do I need to remember? I'm sure many of you can relate. 

Despite this, my week has been one of connections: meeting new people, having new experiences, consolidating my views and passions,  learning some new things, being inspired and as a consequence challenging where I am at, where my career is heading and our priorities as a family. While lots happened this week there, were two main events that stood out.

On Tuesday I attended the Simon Sinek workshop in Sydney run by Business Chicks. I joined Business Chicks fairly recently as they run interesting events and networking opportunities. When I first moved to Sydney, over 10 years ago, I attended as many free networking opportunities as I could to try and meet new people and build my contacts in what seemed an overwhelmingly big city. Not a good strategy. The only thing I achieved was eating bad food and being a captive audience for marketing opportunities conducted at 7.30am. After a couple of years of this I decided no more free breakfast networking events. As with many things in life, you get what you pay for!

A couple of other awesome 'business chicks' I know also had joined so I thought I would give it a go too. So far I have been to two events and I can say they are well organised, professional and awesome. The food has been great and I haven't been 'marketed' to. I even got out of bed to see Danni Minogue over breakfast (my first Business Chicks event). Anyway, back to Simon.

I had seen Simon's video on TED and knew he was going to talk about leadership. It was a inspiring workshop and I'm glad I went. He had some great things to say that relate to personal and career development, as well a leadership and business. He comes across as authentic and passionate and is a great storyteller. The key takeaway for me was that organisations need to understand why they exist, and it's not to just make money (most of the time that's a given). What is their purpose and why do they exist? A goal to make an unrealistic amount of money by a particular date is not something that employees or customers can connect to.

The same can be said for individuals and leaders. What is our purpose? What do we exist to do? This is really important when you are thinking about your career. The best most inspiration leaders I know are very clear about the "why" they do what they do, not what. A discussion with one of my favourite Managing Directors this week revealed that while she obviously wants the business she leads to do well, grow and be profitable, her purpose and passion is looking after the people who work in her organisation and providing a great place to do that. When you meet her she is very authentic about this. It is evident in the way she communicates, the way she leads her business, and the way she lives her life. As a consequence people want to work for her. A true leader has followers.

Yesterday I was invited to a networking event with the HR Leadership Forum.  This is the second time I have attended as a guest and they, like Business Chicks, provide interesting speakers and solid networking opportunities. They also hold their events in really nice places at lunch time. Yesterday was a function centre on Sydney Harbour and on a sunny, sparkly Autumn Sydney day like it was yesterday you couldn't help feeling positive about the world.

The first speaker was Dennis Shanahan, political editor of The Australian. He talked about the current state of Australian politics and the recently released labour government budget. Dennis obviously lives and breathes politics and his intimate understanding of all things related was inspirational. Passion is a very attractive trait. Unfortunately I just can't get excited about politics so I was hanging out for Peter Murray (Director of Operations) and  Peta Jurd (Group General Manager) from Veolia. Veolia had been featured in the Australian series of Undercover Boss and were to speak about their experiences being involved in the production. Don't you love a "behind-the-scenes" story?

When you are sitting enjoying a lovely lunch with a nice glass of wine, with a nice view of the harbour you don't expect to have your perceptions changed about waste management companies, have a laugh, empathise, be inspired and then be in tears. All in the space of an hour. However it bought home to me again (and again and again) that organisations have great responsibilities in looking after the people who work there. Veolia benefited greatly from being part of Undercover Boss. They received lots of media attention, got amazing feedback from members of the public and their Senior Managers gained a lot more insight into their operations.  The stars though, were the featured employees who demonstrated that when organisations are clear about their "why", employees will be attracted to work for them, be passionate about what they do for that company, and will go waaay outside their position description to help the organisation. It was clear that Veolia takes recycling and their environmental responsibility seriously and their employees are passionate about "why" Veolia exists. 

The trick in our life and in our career is to work out our purpose and be true to that. As Simon Sinek says "When we have a clear destination the route is flexible."

Inspire me

"When you work really hard but don't know where you're going it's called stress. When there's a destination it's called passion." Simon Sinek

Develop me

Not sure how to work out your "why"?  Check our Simon Sinek's website for tools and courses.

Just for me

If you want to learn more about Veolia and Undercover boss you can watch the episode here