3 minute leadership

Welcome to 3minuteleadership.org and thanks for visiting.
Over the last few years, we have been observing different forms of leadership and management and thinking about what works in today’s workplace.

Striving to be a good leader myself and create an environment where individuals can thrive, I have spent much time pondering how to help people to achieve and deliver to the best of their ability.  

Through this site, I plan to share leadership lessons in bitesize chunks of 3 minutes or less.  I hope that the blog can provide a space for likeminded people to share thoughts and ideas on leadership for the 21st Century.

By doing this, I hope that we can change the way we lead and transform the workplace, developing people that are inspired and empowered to make a difference in the world.

 

About the elephants…

I’ve chosen the elephant image because the matriarch influences the herd more than any other.  She has a quiet and confident leadership style, setting the direction and allowing others to follow.
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Featured post

Help people find their ‘flow’ and make every day feel like Friday

Have you seen the new Lucozade ad?  The energy drink brand has decided to shake its image as a hangover cure and look for a new audience amongst busy professionals.  The campaign, titled ‘find your flow’, features normal people in everyday situations performing beyond their best thanks to Lucozade.

“Flow. The unmistakeable feeling of unstoppable. Of no problem that can’t be solved. Of no-one else can do it better. That whatever the day throws at you, you simply take it in your stride because you’ve found your rhythm. You’re on top form.” (Lucozade 2015, Find your flow)

The ad company responsible, Grey London, have taken inspiration from psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi who created the concept of ‘flow’ after extensive research on the topic.  It’s the feeling of being completely ‘into’ what you are doing.  Of being wholly absorbed in a task or activity and of losing yourself in a moment.

Csikszentmihalyi describes ‘flow’ asbeing completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.” 

That’s what I want to feel when I’m at work and what I want my team to feel also.  I’d like them to love what they do so much that they can immerse themselves in their tasks and spend most of their time ‘in the zone’.

Why should we aim to help individuals find their ‘flow’ in the workplace?

I’m really conscious that people spend a lot of time at work.  Over a lifetime, it’s around 90,000 hours if we work full-time from leaving school to retirement.  This is time that many people would rather spend doing something else such as sitting in the garden, playing with the children or walking the dog.

It’s an ambitious aim but I want the people in my teams to enjoy what they do almost as much so they are focused on delivering great things for the organisation rather than wishing they were somewhere else.  My view is that if I can help them find their ‘flow’ at work, I can help them to maximise their contribution to the organisation and enhance their overall life satisfaction.

How do we create an environment that supports individuals to find their flow’?

Based on 10 factors which are known to accompany the feeling of ‘flow’ here are 8 things that leaders should seek to provide in the workplace to allow employees to immerse themselves in their activities:

1)      Set clear goals that are challenging but achievable

2)      Allow people to concentrate on their goals and focus their attention

3)      Ensure their work is rewarding and ensure recognition of their efforts

4)      Create an environment where they feel secure and not self-conscious

5)      Give feedback

6)      Ensure tasks are achievable and suitable for the individual’s level of skill whilst providing a healthy challenge

7)      Allow ownership of a task or responsibility

8)      Minimise any distractions that will prevent the individual from focusing on the activity

 

Do you agree that helping people to find their ‘flow’ is an important goal?  Have you tried to create this kind of environment in your workplace?  Let us know your experiences by posting in the comments below.

 

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Photo credit: Pixabay

 

How Managers can use positive psychology to help individuals smash their goals and reach their potential

Positive psychology is an area of behavioural science which focuses on individual strengths and explores how these can be used to help people build fulfilling lives. For a long time, the study of psychology has examined techniques for fixing what’s wrong with people in an attempt to make it better. Positive psychology concentrates on what’s right and seeks to build on that in a way that enhances life satisfaction and fulfilment. 

How can we use positive psychology to ensure wellbeing and satisfaction in the workplace?

How often do Managers give feedback on people’s work by focusing on what’s wrong and needs to be improved or what they think could be better? The problem with this approach is that it’s very subjective for a start – what one Manager thinks is amazing, another could see as not good enough – and it also zooms in on failure & shortcomings.  Individuals easily become unmotivated and disengaged if all they ever hear is what they are not doing right.

Positive psychology requires that we turn this on its head to focus on the good things and how they can be improved even further. For me, it requires that we identify what that individual does really well and what skills or expertise they bring to the team and how that can be maximised to enhance organisational performance.

A popular formula within this school of thought is know as ‘the golden ratio’, developed by Barbara Fredrickson who believed that in order to thrive, we must have three positive emotions for every negative. That means the balance of feedback when speaking to staff should be three positives for every negative. When energy is concentrated on the good, the not so good is less noticeable and easier to handle with out impacting levels of satisfaction and motivation.

Managing people in this way makes them feel great. When they feel this way, they will work harder, be more loyal, have greater respect for Management and perform at their best for the benefit of the organisation. Doesn’t this sound worthwhile?

So why do so many Managers still insist on highlighting weakness and telling people what they should do better?

Personally, I think there is a link here with hierarchy and the inherent need to reinforce power. To hold power in a hierarchical system, you need to create a dynamic where you know more than others and the way to achieve this is to tell them how they should be better. 

As a Manager, I see my role as one of supporting others in the team. My aim is to help those individuals to be the best they can be and make sure they can use their strengths to contribute to the organisation’s overall objectives. That for me is the starting point; I am equal to the others and my role is to support, facilitate and coordinate so that the team as a whole delivers for the business.

Imagine this conversation in your monthly 1-1’s: ‘Wow Sam! You have done fantastic work this month, you must be really proud of your achievements! What are you goals for the coming period and how can I support you to smash them?’.
Do you have conversations like that with your team? If not, could you try and see what difference it makes? Let us know your thoughts and findings by posting in the comments below.


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Why it matters that we finally have a woman playing The Doctor

It’s been a long time coming but many women across Britain have finally realised a dream which I wasn’t sure would ever come true a female lead in the British cult series – Dr Who.

A few years ago, I remember talking to a producer of Dr Who and asked the question ‘when is the Doctor going to be a woman?’. She advised me that it would never happen because the fans didn’t want it and the ratings would fall if that decision was made.

We now get to find out if that is a valid concern or indeed if the change means the series can inspire a whole new audience.

Why does it matter whether we have a female Doctor?

It isn’t just a nice thing to do for women, it really matters that we have female role models who are visible and leading the way. Being able to see women in prominent roles and breaking new ground is an inspiration for girls everywhere. It tells our daughters that anything is possible and they can actually be whatever they want to be.

Role models help to raise aspirations and show girls they can succeed. Whether it’s leadership, media, engineering or something else, we need to see that women can achieve in whatever they choose and this character provides someone for our girls to look up to.

For those girls watching Jodie Whittaker taking on the Daleks, it tells them they can have leading roles, become action heroes and achieve what seems impossible if they want to. We see far too little of girls having adventures so many of us are cheering this turn of events and hope that it marks the beginning of an era where girls can get right in the thick of it too.

Typically, women are seen as not having power so hopefully having a woman play an extraterrestrial Time Lord who zips through time and space to solve problems and battle injustice across the universe will help to change this.

Do women have equal opportunities in the media?

It’s been a big week for women with names and salaries of the BBCs highest paid stars being published in a bid to improve transparency of the public service. Reading the news articles ahead of the release, I was disappointed to see this quote: ‘It’s good to see some women on the list too’. This is the type of attitude that creates inequality in the first place and allows it to continue. It’s shocking to discover that women account for just 1/3 of the list and men exclusively hold the top 12 highest paid roles.

What impact does a lack of female role models have on wider society?

An article published by Forbes explains the need for role models perfectly:

“Seeing few people who look and act like them in industries like science and politics discourages girls from pursuing their interests if those interests are not popular. This robs the world of future talent that has massive potential to feed innovation, create change, and boost the economy”

When young women and girls see Jodie Whittaker or other leading lights taking on new challenges and succeeding in the chosen field, they think ‘if they can do it, so can I’. So thank you to the BBC for taking diversity seriously and finally appointing a female Doctor to show our girls they have options.

What can you do to help ensure we have good role models for girls to look up to?

You can be visible – if you have any kind of role that challenges gender stereotypes, do what you can to make it known to others so you can inspire girls coming though.

You can be the change – when you secure a role in an area where women are under-represented, you can help to create a space where women are welcome and judged on their own merits.

You can help others – if you make it to a position of authority or even achieve something that others admire, you can share your story and experiences to help others do the same.

If you have any thoughts about what more needs to happen to promote female role models or have an experience to share with us, please post in the comments below.


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Photo credit: Pixabay

Is a decent salary and good pension really enough to motivate people?

After watching a video on motivation shared by Harvard Business Review, there were some points I wanted to share.

Firstly, The Explainer: One more time, how do you motivate employees? says that force is the first thing not to use if you want to motivate employees.  It seems widely accepted today that ordering people to do something is not the way to inspire people and get them on board.

One of my early blogs focused on Daniel Pink’s thoughts on motivation, set out in his book Drive.  He says that the basic need is salary so employers should ‘pay enough to take money off the table’.  This video says something similar, setting out Hertzberg’s ‘hygiene factors’ of salary, working conditions and job security.  These factors echo Maslow’s theory of motivation which suggests that motivation requires people’s basic needs to be met as a starting point.  I’ve worked in organisations where the belief seemed to be that paying a decent salary and good pension is enough to motivate people.  Instead, I would suggest that these basic factors encourage people to stay with your organisation and so come to work every day but they are not enough to make people perform.

What we need to be thinking about as leaders is how to get people to take responsibility and move forward on their own.  This next layer includes factors such as challenging work, autonomy, recognition and advancement.  These things get people interested and fired up to push things forward so that they achieve high performance.

As a manager, I believe that achieving this is about taking a more hands-off approach and giving individuals space to try things and learn from them.  To avoid things taking a long time or moving in the wrong direction, I provide clarity around the overall aims and objectives, advice and guidance on how to complete the task and parameters for the work.  This includes my thoughts on the best way to go about things, how I envisage it will look or feel and time allowed for the task.

For me, this all takes the form of a discussion where individuals can challenge my views and share their own ideas.  Once we have agreed the requirements of the work, I leave them to carry on with it, checking progress on a regular basis and offering support so they know where I am if they have questions or need advice.

This approach requires trust and humility; it requires me to let them be expert in what they do and accept that they might know more or have better ideas.  The more I can let them act on their own beliefs and draw on their expertise, the more happy, satisfied and motivated they feel in their work. It has always seemed to me that it increases loyalty, respect and commitment as well.

Furthermore, I would suggest that motivating people requires an appreciation of the individual and respect for a diversity of views and opinions, spending time as a team and allowing space for relationships to develop, celebrating success, encouraging them to push forward and supporting them to achieve their personal goals.

Do you use any of the techniques above? How do you achieve motivation and performance within your team? Share your thoughts below.

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In the most important election of our lifetime, who will be first past the post?

As we are approaching election day in the UK, I am one of many people still undecided about who to vote for.  My previously staunch Labour family are seriously considering changing their colours and people up and down the country are wondering who best to lead what have the potential to be disastrous Brexit negotiations.

It’s going to be a tough job so you have to wonder who would want it!

In terms of contenders, it’s really a two horse race thanks to our first past the post-election system which keeps the other parties in their place.  Whilst I would like things to be more fair, the fact is that many voters are thinking Corbyn or May and if you’re not sure, then it’s a pretty tough choice.

Corbyn carried the can in many ways for the remain campaign defeat as he was accused of failing to provide a strong voice for those who wanted the UK to stay in the European Union.  Media articles suggested that he actually wanted to leave himself and who doesn’t accept that the union needs reform but the British people decided to go for broke so if he is elected, he’ll have to navigate some tricky negotiations to try and get a decent deal for Britain.

Theresa May’s position was that we are better ‘in’ but when challenged on her ability to lead the nation towards independence given her personal views, she answered “we gave people the choice and the British people decided to leave. Now we have to deliver on that choice and respect the will of the people”.  The role of Prime Minister now is to deliver what people want.

This chimes with a previous blog post which considered the role of elected representatives and whether once elected they should do what they think is best or what the electorate want.  Maybe it is better that these negotiations are led by someone who can deliver the will of the 52% leave voters but protect the concerns of the 48% who voted to remain.

It’s a difficult choice in this election and I have a feeling that the Prime Minister will get the mandate that she is looking for from the British people although if the polls are anything to go by, not with the majority she hoped for.

So why does she seem like such a strong candidate?  Apart from the systemic issue previously highlighted, Corbyn divides his own party so how can he unite a nation at a particularly turbulent time?

My husband came home from work recently and asked me ‘why don’t people like Corbyn?’.  For me, it’s because he doesn’t look ready to do the job and whilst I know it shouldn’t be about that, I wouldn’t hire someone who turns up for a job interview not looking smart so I’m not keen to have a Prime Minister who can’t dress for the occasion.  What would he consider appropriate for an important diplomatic meeting?  I can’t be certain and that concerns me.

Watching interviews with Andrew Marr and Jeremy Paxman, I was pleased to see he did dig a suit out of the wardrobe.  He also seemed considered in his responses and I found that he had good points to make and I wanted to listen to him.  He might have some positions which are controversial but I like his policies on the living wage, zero hours contracts and public services and he is clearly a socialist to the core.

May on the other hand was ‘on message’ with the Conservative vision for the future which she says will be secure and have a strong economy.  Will the public services be safe? Who knows. Her focus, she says, is on getting a good deal in the Brexit negotiations and strengthening the economy overall.

She did have a very clear call to action for all those people able to have their say in this election and that was for everyone to go out and vote regardless of their colours.  As the Prime Minister herself said “this is the most important election of our lifetime” so make sure you turn out on Thursday and make your voice heard.

 

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How elected representatives can make good decisions and keep everyone happy

In February this year, Wales Online reported that there were calls for Bridgend MP, Madeleine Moon, to resign after she went against the electorate’s wishes and voted against the triggering of article 50 in a constituency that voted to leave the European Union.

It chimed with something I’ve been thinking about recently around the responsibility and accountability of those elected to a role.

As a Trustee of a membership organisation, I was elected to the Board by a body of representative members.  According to the ‘governance jigsaw’ published by the Charity Commission, the main duties of a Trustee include acting in the charity’s best interests, ensuring the charity is carrying out its purposes for public benefit and managing resources responsibly.  It seemed that some of my colleagues found themselves conflicted in fulfilling these duties as they struggled to make decisions that they thought might go against what they considered to be the wishes of the organisation’s members.

This conflict was particularly evident when we tried to take forward recommendations arising from a review of governance procedures.  It was as controversial and divisive as the Brexit vote as we sought to take forward reforms that had been developed by a panel of volunteers through consultation with the membership. 

The aim of the governance review was to modernise and encourage more members to become involved in the decision making process.  Changes proposed were designed to make it easier for committees to operate, streamlining their structure and allowing flexibility of roles.  Included in this, was an overhaul of committee roles in an attempt to make them more attractive for the next generation.  It was also hoped that the raft of changes put forward would ensure greater consistency across the organisation in how volunteer committees deliver the organisation’s charitable objectives. 

When I saw a television interview recently with the former Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, I noticed that when he was asked about his own decision making process, he said ‘in the end, all you can do is be true to your own values’.

Arguably, this is what Madeleine Moon was doing.  In her response to her critics, she said ‘fears over employment, workers right and trade deals were at the forefront of her mind’ and that she ‘tore herself apart’ coming to that decision.      

Moon appears to have taken the view that her role is to protect the long term interests of her constituency rather than represent their views. 

In my opinion, the electorate were given the chance to indicate what they wanted to happen in terms of our relationship with the EU.  As such, Moon should have voted to trigger article 50 because her constituency was clear in its desire.  Where her discretion comes in is in providing the necessary scrutiny to ensure proposals will deliver the best deal possible for her constituents.

In making a decision as a Trustee, the same judgement call needs to be made to ensure the members are represented and protected whilst you do your job as a leader of the organisation, setting the direction and supporting the charity to deliver its mission in the best possible way whilst securing the future of the organisation. 

Issues occur when members are against a decision that you as a Trustee believes is the best thing for the charity.  In this instance, Trustee’s must demonstrate their leadership skills and look to persuade members, bringing them along on the journey.

 

Have thoughts on this article? Been in a similar situation yourself? Share your views in the comments below.

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How treason, ping pong and pensions can help you master the art of public speaking

Earlier today, I delivered a workshop on speech writing for Local Government officers. The session explored the language of persuasion by looking at a range of speeches from leaders around the world and throughout history.

It made me think about the importance and power of oratory and how great leaders use this skill to build a following. The blog ‘The Art of Manliness’ describes the difference between public speaking and oratory like this:

If public speaking is fast food, oratory is a gourmet meal. Not in pretentiousness or inaccessibility, but in the fact that oratory exists above the ordinary; it is prepared with passion, infused with creativity, and masterfully crafted to offer a sublime experience. Oratory seeks to convince the listener of something, whether that is to accept a certain definition of freedom or simply of the fact that the recently deceased was a person worthy to be mourned.

Oratory is not mere speaking, but speech that appeals to our noblest sentiments, animates our souls, stirs passions and emotions, and inspires virtuous action.’ (Resurrecting the Art of Oratory, July 2008)

Now let’s be honest, many of us can only dream of achieving that level of public speaking, it’s far more likely that speaking in public in any situation fills us with dread. In fact, according to the World Economic Forum, in 2014, public speaking ranked America’s no. 1 fear, coming ahead of heights, bugs, snakes and needles.

Scary as it might be, presenting thoughts and ideas in public is one of the key skills that leaders have to master. They have to be able to stand up in front of an audience and persuade them of a new point of view, changing the way people think about things. If you can do this and win hearts and minds, then you have mastered a major aspect of leadership.

If you are someone who watches great public speakers and wishes you could get your message across so effectively, then the good news is that you can learn! No-one starts off being an amazing public speaker, they just take the opportunities that com along and work at getting better.

One of the ways to develop your technique is to observe how others do it and then try to emulate the aspects that you like in order to develop your own style. To get you started, here are some examples that inspire me:

1) Mhairi Black – the youngest MP in Westminster, this is one of her early speeches in the House of Commons, which criticized the Government’s position on pensions. What I love most about this speech is the way Black makes this issue relevant to everyone by drawing a comparison with mobile phone contracts. She also reaches out to her audience, attempting to bring them together to pursue a shared goal.

2) President Obama – in 2009, the President delivered an address to students across the country to talk to them about the importance of education. In this address, he reaches out to different student groups to recognize their experience. This makes them all feel like he is speaking to them personally.

3) Nelson Mandela – in 1963, Mandela and others were tried for a range of crimes including sabotage, treason and conspiracy to overthrow the Government. In the opening of his defence, Mandela read a speech where he shared his vison for equality and said that the ideal of a democratic and free society where all people live together in harmony and equal opportunities was “an ideal for which I am prepared to die”.

4) Martin Luther King – in 1963, approximately 250,000 demonstrators gathered in Washington DC to call for civil rights. It was here that King delivered his “I have a dream” speech.

 

And for some light relief…

5) Boris Johnson – at the hand-over party following the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the Mayor of London gave his memorable ‘Ping Pong’ speech.

 

Are there any speeches that have inspired you? Or tips that you would give to others who want to develop their public speaking skills? Add your thoughts in the comments below.

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Preparing for a positive personal review

Earlier this week, I chaired a discussion on ‘preparing for a positive personal review’ at an event run by the Women’s Network in in my organisation. Recently, our review process has been high on the agenda with a new system launched that aims to ensure a high quality conversation during this important annual one to one.

It was particularly timely to be holding the event this week as Recruiting Times published an article on Monday which suggested that “ditching the annual review” is one of four key HR trends for 2017. It seems that a number of major private sector companies such as Deloitte, GE and Adobe are taking this step and so part of our event explained why we are bucking this trend and choosing to continue with a traditional  approach.

Our panel consisted of two senior members of staff who have been leading on the development of a new personal review process, which is currently finding its feet within the organisation. The policy now asks managers to facilitate a conversation which is centred on the individual, asking people to think about what they want to achieve in the coming year, what support they need what training and development they think would benefit them going forward.

During the event, our panel shared their own experiences of personal reviews, complete with success stories, and they demonstrated how this process has helped them to achieve the positions they are in today. They were both very clear that the annual review has been extremely valuable in their own career development and encouraged participants to take time before the meeting to consider aspirations and development needs to make sure they are in a position to have a worthwhile discussion.

They set out number of questions to consider when preparing for you annual review:

  • What’s gone well over the last 12 months?
  • How well have I met my current objectives?
  • What am I enjoying about my role?
  • What do I find challenging?
  • Is there anything I am struggling with?
  • What do I want to achieve this year?
  • What hasn’t happened and why?
  • What are my career goals and aspirations? And what skills or experience to I need to help me achieve them?

Our panellists were also stressed that the review is something that is relevant throughout the year, rather than once every 12 months. The meeting is an opportunity to set your goals for the period but needs to be reviewed on a regular basis to ensure you are making progress. The advice was to make sure you keep a copy of your goals somewhere you can find it easily and keep reminding yourself of your aims to ensure you remain on track.

Finally, when asked to provide one ‘takeaway’ or key piece of advice for participants at the event, this is what they had to say:

  • Own it – this is your personal review so it’s up to you to make sure it goes well and achieves for both yourself and the organisation.
  • Be honest – your line Manager can only help you if you are honest about what you want to get from the role and what you can contribute. Don’t just tell them what you think they want to hear but be honest so that you can have a truly constructive conversation.

 

How does this compare with your own experiences of annual reviews? Are you in favour of this approach or do you prefer something different? Do you have any further tips to share to make sure these discussions are worthwhile? Please share your thoughts below.

 

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7 steps that will help you reach the next level in your career

According to research published by the University of Scranton, 92% of people set goals for the New Year but never actually achieve them.   

The first study of goal setting was carried out by British philosopher and industrial psychologist, Alec Mace, in 1935 and his work has informed many of the basic principles that we use today. Later on, researchers Edwin Locke and Gary Latham developed a theory of goal setting after finding that when people set specific and challenging goals, they achieved higher performance 90% of the time.

It seems clear that if you want success in your career, then goal setting is of critical importance. However, difference between the 92% of people that fail to achieve their goals and the 8% that do is a commitment to achieving them and doing everything possible until they get there. So, not only is it important to define your goals but also to take the action required to ensure you make progress towards them and continue doing so until the target has been reached.

Here are seven actions you can take to help you reach the next level in your career:

1. Be clear about where you are going – if you have a career goal, then you probably have thought through your aspirations and ambitions. However, I have come across a number of people in my work who know they want something but not sure exactly what. They might be frustrated about their situation and feel they have yet to reach their potential but have no idea what would make them feel more fulfilled. My point here is that if you do not know where you are going then how can you possibly get there? For help setting objectives which are specific and achievable, try mindtools.com – Personal Goal Setting.

2. Look at job descriptions and identify any gaps – once you are clear about where you want to go, you need to make a plan to get there. The best first step is to look at some job descriptions for the kind of roles you are interested in and identify any gaps in your knowledge, skills and experience.

3. Make a development plan – after you have identified the areas you need to work on to secure the kind of role you are interested in, then you can make a plan to gain more experience or develop skills in these areas. Practical ways to fill the gaps include courses or qualifications, voluntary work or job shadowing.

4. Become a charity Trustee – a great way to gain experience at a strategic level is taking on a Trustee role with a charitable organisation. Many charities require volunteers at this level who can contribute views on the direction of the organisation and make decisions about strategic direction. Trustee roles require knowledge across a range of areas such as finance, risk and governance so a great way to demonstrate the ability to think strategically. Recruit 3 is a good place to look for Trustee vacancies in Wales or Third Sector Jobs for UK-wide opportunities. 

5. Get some coaching or mentoring – all the best leaders have had a coach or mentor at some point during their career journey. Both are processes that can help you think about your skills, find a way to develop further and ultimately, help you to reach your potential. My recommendations include Empower’s Step Up programme which offers support for third sector professionals looking to secure a leadership role or Compass for professional coaching. 

6. Ask for feedback – this is absolutely key for me in making sure you are developing in the right way to achieve your career goals. Whether you have submitted and application and not been shortlisted, had a job interview and not been successful or looking to progress internally and facing barriers. Ask for feedback and act on what you find out.

7. Don’t give up – most of all, if you really want to take the next step, then whatever barriers or knock backs you face, do not give up because if you remain committed to following the previous steps, you will succeed in the end.

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