Who Moved My Cheese?

Who Moved My Cheese? is the title of a very popular business book written by Dr Spencer Johnson the best selling co-author of the One Minute Manager. The subtitle of Who Moved My Cheese? is An Amazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and Life.

Change is a given in our workplaces and at times these changes are testing. Often our first response when we perceive a change to be negative is to consider looking for another workplace, based on the principle that the grass is greener on the other side.

Leaving your workplace is only one of a range of options, and in fact may be the least productive option or last resort in terms of your career.

Paul Stevens of Worklife provides a list of ten actions which can be taken: remain in your current job; develop your current job (enrichment); seek promotion (vertical); test out options(exploration); move sideways (lateral); move down (realignment); change business section (relocation); change career field (redirection); create a new job (proposal); and finally change employer (external). Being aware of other options for career development allows you to be in control rather than allowing your circumstances to control you.

Learn the lesson of Who Moved My Cheese? Be proactive about change. Assume responsibility for your own career development. See your current job and organisation as your “classroom” and become a learner. Are there new skills you need to develop? Who can help you? Are there projects where you can contribute? How can you extend your network in the organisation?

If your take a proactive approach to your job and your career you are less likely to be derailed, sidelined or distracted, and if you do finally choose to leave your employer then you will be doing it for a good reason – your own career development.

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Action Plan

We sat at a table in the local deli. He talked about his situation and his aspirations. I listened. Matt, who had left home to take up a two year training course, had just finished the final year with several assignments to complete to satisfy the course requirements. Wiping the cappuccino froth from my mouth I began to map out an ACTION PLAN for Matt on a serviette.

Matt’s Action Plan (MAP!)

This year I will review and reflect on the past, and clarify my direction for the future.

With this picture in mind my goals are:

Goal #1: Obtain fulltime employment

Objectives:

· Email a copy of my resume to my mentor for comment by…

· Deliver a copy of my resume to the following employment agencies by…

· Prepare letters of application for two advertised positions by…

Goal #2: Complete my study program for the award of a Diploma

Goal #3: Pay off my credit card debt

Goal #4: Reside at home

Goal #5 Meet regularly with my mentor and coach

A personal ACTION PLAN is a valuable tool. It only takes a few minutes to put pen to paper. Enlist the help of a friend.

1. Write a brief statement which describes the overall picture or vision for a period of time. In Matt’s case 12 months was more than adequate.

2. Establish a few clear goals which if achieved will help move you toward your picture or vision. Matt’s number one goal was to obtain fulltime employment so that he could support himself for the 12 month period.

3. Break each goal down into simple action steps or objectives. Use plenty of action words. SMART objectives are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-based.

A simple plan has several benefits. It:

· Clarifies and orders your thinking

· Maps out the important actions you need to take

· Focuses your thinking

· Directs your energy toward achieving an outcome

Matt had achieved Goal #1 within several weeks when he gained employment as a HelpDesk Operator for an internet service provider. He decided not to continue with Goal #2 at this stage, and he is continuing to work on Goals 3, 4 and 5.

If we fail to plan, we plan to fail. Act now!

What Price Encouragement?

It quickly became obvious that I had one excited young man on the other end of the mobile. I had already guessed but allowed him to give me the news. He had landed the job, junior administrative assistant in a local solicitors’ office.

What made the difference?

The whole process of seeking employment reveals, tests and, if we choose to, shapes our skills and character. We can learn the skills to search for and obtain employment however, longer term gain takes place with one’s character. It is character which enables us to enjoy life and weather its storms. encouragement is essential to character building. Find people who encourage you.

The search for employment requires courage, acknowledging that you may be fearful or anxious, but still taking the appropriate action to achieve your goal particularly after a period of not being successful. To maintain COURAGE seek out people who will consistently provide you with appropriate ENCOURAGEMENT.

Contact with job agencies, preparation of a suitable resume and letters of application, job prospecting, personal presentation and interview techniques are all very important in the job search. However, these need to be surrounded with lots of encouragement.

After first discovering the young man’s progress with his job search I confidently stated, “We will have you in employment by the end of May.” A SMART goal, Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-based. I didn’t know how it was going to happen but from that point we began to rally our resources majoring on ENCOURAGEMENT.

Living on the Growing Edge

Living on the Growing Edge is the title of a book I read some years ago.

The author recalls meeting a remarkable teacher, “…one of those gifted people who realises that she is not teaching subjects but persons. In her classroom young people not only mastered learning skills, but began to understand themselves and life. This teacher was able to consistently encourage her students and help them excel.”

Her method, a concept common in education, was to discover the ‘growing edge’ of each of her students, where the student is ready and able to learn. Beyond that the student is not able to cope, and behind that the student is easily bored.[1]

Since launching into a consulting career in 1993 after many years of secure employment I have been acutely aware of my ‘growing edge’. Private practice has been my ‘teacher.’ It’s definitely never been boring; although at times I have thought I have extended myself beyond my ‘growing edge’ and have wondered how I would cope.

I have coped and more than that my professional practice has benefited. I never cease to be amazed by the events that transpire to bring me home.[2]

I practice under the banner of Bruce Staley & Friends, Consultants to Management. The demands of the responsibilities associated with management are exciting. They act as a crucible where the character of the person is revealed, tested and shaped.

My own character has been exposed, tested and shaped by the professional experiences arising from my work with aspiring or experienced managers.

Purpose

A clear statement of purpose has helped me define my business activity and services. Although a little cloudy initially the statement of purpose of Bruce Staley & Friends has become clearer.

Bruce Staley & Friends provides career development services to facilitate the competence of people in management.

These services come in the form of career consultation, executive mentoring, conflict coaching, management training and project management.

Parthenon

The Parthenon, the many-columned ancient Greek building provides an insight into building a private practice – Ensure you have several sources (columns) of income to sustain the business.

The services of Bruce Staley & Friends have evolved, out of the stated purpose, where they now include career development, conflict coaching, executive mentoring, management training and project management.

People

A good friend advised me to build around me a ‘Board of Management.’ The people do not have to know that they are on your ‘Board of Management’; however they need to people with who you can confidently and confidentially discuss aspects of your business.

I conducted a management development program with a professional colleague for a local government organisation. His insights and encouragement were invaluable, contributed enormously to the success of the program. We were invited back over a period of four years to run the program once again.

Professional

Two aspects of the word ‘professional’ need to be considered. The first is ongoing professional development and the second is the need to adopt professional procedures.

While I am an avid supporter of professional development programs such as the excellent program provided by the AACC I look forward to each day and the learning it may bring.

Professional development is an attitude rather than something that I have to do or others provide for my benefit. Every day brings with it the opportunity to learn something new, a situation presented by a client, an article in a journal, a comment from a professional colleague, or a tense moment in a negotiation.

The activities associated with conducting a private practice need to be managed professionally. These include membership of relevant professional associations, appropriate insurance coverage, such as public liability and professional indemnity, maintaining a diary, fees, taxation, GST, planning and promotion of the business.

Place

At times I’ve thought, “I’ve been everywhere man.” Consulting has taken me into workplaces across Australia, and across a variety of industries, education, financial services, retail, transport and distribution, manufacturing, local government, health services, hospitality and tourism, personal services and agriculture.

Where are the services of your private going to be delivered?

How will prospective clients gain access to your services?

I’ve loosely adopted the four ‘P’s’ of the marketing mix, Product (or service), Place (or distribution), Price and Promotion. You’ll find the latter two if you look carefully and I’ve added a few others.

Finally, the value of Perseverance cannot be ignored.

The Apostle Paul wrote that perseverance produces character, and character, hope.[3]

(This article was published in the Australian Career Practicioner, national Magazine of the Australian Association of Career Counsellors Inc, Volume 18 Number 3 Winter 2007)


[1] Larson Bruce, 1968, Living on the Growing Edge, Zondervan Publishing House, Michigan

[2] Adapted from the movie, Apollo 13, distributed by Universal Studies, 1995. Words ascribed to Commander Jim Lovell portrayed by Tom Hanks.

[3] Romans 5:4