leadership

6 curious facts about decision making that may be holding you back

Better decision making keeps you more successful with Amanda Blesing Leadership Coach small.jpg

Decision making is something I struggled with as a young woman. I'd agonise and procrastinate, always waiting for a better offer or for a more perfect opportunity to come along. Meanwhile the things I was meant to be deciding on passed me by and life got on without me. 

Who was I kidding? I didn't just struggle - I was lousy at it.  

My work around was to schedule my life within an inch of it's life so that my calendar and work commitments forced me to make decisions by the very nature of a looming deadline.  

'I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.' ~ Douglas Adams 

Spring forward 25 years and I'm now married to a decision making expert. 

The irony.

The pressure!

Yes, the gods must truly be laughing.

But things have definitely changed. With the wisdom of age I now practice the art of defencelessness, letting go of the need to be right. 

As a result I've become far better at decision making, far faster with less agonising and with far more comfort about course correction as needed.  After all, as my resident decision making expert says "any decision, even the wrong decision is better than no decision".  And I've learned he is right.

In fact, one of the reasons I'm really interested in gender diversity came from my own struggle with decision making. This drove an interest in male and female brain biology which, combined with data that demonstrates that organisations make better long term decisions with equal numbers of men and women on the leadership team, has shaped this significant part of my career.

WHAT HAVE I LEARNED?
Many people and organisations struggle with decision making. Despite the negative stereotype that women change their mind more than men, paralysis by analysis is not limited to women.  I'm hoping the following six curious factoids, based in research, will help you make decisions more easily. 

1. Decision overwhelm is a thing. Ever gone onto Airbnb thinking you'd spend a quick 15 mins to book your weekend away, only to give up 60 mins later because there were too many properties to choose from?  That's decision overwhelm, where you are presented with too many options so it's far harder for you to make a decision. 

We live in an era where we're spoiled for choice, but quite possibly it's slowing us down and making us less effective. The fix? Give yourself only a few options to choose from. You'll have your holiday booked in no time, with no regrets as well.  You can thank me later.

2. We make better easier decisions in morning. Yes, we are prone to decision fatigue. It impacts on the quality of our choices as well as our ability to make a decision. That's why it's far easier to make healthier choices in the morning, and far easier to sit on the couch drinking red wine, eating dark chocolate and watching reruns of Jane the Virgin, when you know you should be out working on your networking strategy! 

So what does this mean? If you've got a big decision to make in the evening, make a decision to sleep on it!   Make the big decision the next morning instead. Schedule important decisions or options in the morning when your decision making muscle is stronger and your willpower isn't wilting. You can thank me in the morning when you've slept on it.

3. Gender, decisions and stress - under intense pressure, women tend toward safer decisions and men tend towards riskier decisions.  Fascinating. Two things spring to mind here

  • Proactively manage your stress and wellbeing so you don't have to deal with the impact of stress on your decision making. Prevention is always better than the cure.

  • Keep this in mind next time your significant other makes a decision that appears either outrageously cautious or outrageously risky to you.  It may not be their fault, but the fault of their biology instead.


4. Time limits increase likelihood of making a decision 
- hmmmm, apparently I was onto the right track as a young woman. I've always known I performed well to a deadline.  After all, work expands to fill the time allocated, so when you give yourself time limits you'll be able to make a decision more easily. I love the Pomodoro technique as a tactic to tackle projects far more efficiently. 25 mins on followed by 5 mins rest x 4 cycles. Work. Rest. Rinse. Repeat x 4.  Because when we know time is short we're able to prioritise far more effectively and in just under 2 hours we can get far more done than we might do in a full day with no deadlines. Time limits will help you prioritise. Prioritising will help you make decisions more easily.

5. We tend to throw good after bad if we've already heavily invested - whether that's time, money, energy or ego.  This is called the sunk cost fallacy.  When we're heavily invested, we're more likely to keep going in the direction well past what might be sensible to an outsider. For example, you've already invested heavily in a particular direction in your career (you've told your boss, you've spent money, you've exhausted yourself every weekend doing it and wasted a year already) so you might as well keep going, even though you're desperately unhappy and potentially making a silk purse out of a sows ear. 

The fix? Get another perspective, and practice that defencelessness I mentioned earlier. Being aware of the sunk cost fallacy will help you make better decision anyway. And remember, it's okay to change your mind despite the negative stereotype. Sometimes you simply have to cut your losses and move on. 

It’s not failure, it’s data
— Dorie Clark


6. Things that are undecided take up mental ram and emotional energy - yes this sounds a little woo woo, but those who make more rapid decisions, move on more rapidly too. They're already scaling the next mountain, and we haven't yet bought a ticket to Katmandu because we couldn't work out which airline to go on! 

When we procrastinate on undecided items, it causes friction and slows us down, personally and professionally. The freedom of a freefall, that comes from making rapid decisions, is liberating. Because it provides more data that helps you progress far more easily. You can always course correct later as you need.

There is an old saying - action precedes clarity.  Combine this with the fact that success is really closely correlated with more rapid decision making and you begin to get the picture.  When we replace perfecting, proving, pleasing and polishing with purpose, passion and progress, life becomes a whole heap easier anyway.

And that success you are searching for?  A whole heap closer.

Your thoughts? What helps you make more effective decisions?  Drop me a note and let me know.

PS you might have noticed I've had a fabulous new photoshoot. The header image features "the bees knees" and other fun ways of reminding yourself that you're actually doing okay. Looking forward to sharing more with you in coming months. Why not follow me on Instagram as well?

#executiveimpact #leadingwomen #LookOutCSuiteHereSheComes


Share if you dare, to inspire another woman somewhere!

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Feel like your leadership journey has stalled? Email ablesing@amandablesing.com to set up a 30 min one on one to learn more. Helping clients shift from feeling invisible to becoming invincible in just 12 months

18 Powerful Cover Letter Tips That Cut Through The Clutter

18 Powerful Cover Letter Tips That Cut Through The Clutter with Amanda Blesing Career Coach small.jpg

I've been vetting a bunch of cover letters this week. Well done to everyone who gave it a crack! It's hard I know. Writing about yourself as though you are the best thing since sliced bread, when sometimes you don't feel like that. 

But the higher up the food chain you go, the fewer and further apart are opportunities. Plus data tells us that people stay longer in c-suite roles so it's going to be even more competitive. 

Your cover letter skills will have significant impact on your ability to land an interview, in addition to working your network. 

But the differences between 'killer cover letters' and the 'works in progress' are extreme.  Works in progress include passive language, compliant statements rather than confident positioning, going above and beyond.  Ask yourself, what would a confident more leader-like version of myself do? How would she apply?

As a result, here are a bunch of thoughts in no particular order to help you get your cover letter mojo back on.

  1. The purpose of your cover letter is to get your CV read - not to win the job, or even necessarily to win an interview. But to get someone to go "Wow, she sounds ideal. I need to read her CV". 

  2. Think of it as a business case - helping you develop the justification for your application. Why should someone invest in reading your CV? Not because you deserve it, but because your experience and expertise sounds like it would add value, that you have the potential to be awesome in the role and here's why....

  3. It needs to tick off on key criteria in the advert - don't just provide examples from your work that you like or that sell the sizzle. Provide examples of your work that match the criteria they're asking for. Don't worry, you can do the value add near the bottom of the letter. Don't start with the value add or they'll think you're over qualified or not the right fit

  4. It needs to address any big elephants in the room (ie you live in Sydney but the role is in Melbourne and you're keen to relocate). 

  5. You need to help the reader to see why you're ideal for the role with as many exact match credibility builders as you can (without going over 1 page, or cramming too much on the page via a smaller font or too wide margins)

  6. You also get the opportunity to add a FEW non critical assets in that you think might sway the argument your way - Boards, Awards, Accolades & Opportunities, Global blue chip experience, high profile brands you've worked with or MBA/PhD or equivalent. Don't stack the cover letter with these. But one or two that help the business case.

  7. Matchy matchy - use the exact wording of the advert or PD. Don't get creative and find different ways of saying it. They're either in a hurry skim reading, or sending it through a software scanner so it needs to be exact

  8. Buzz word bingo - don't be afraid to play buzz word bingo with the acronyms, key terms or vernacular expressions that are required in your industry

  9. Captain Obvious - you may feel like you're explaining the obvious. What might feel obvious to you, may be totally mystifying to a reader who doesn't know you, your current company or the sort of work you do. Don't make people read between the lines. Don't be cryptic.

  10. Sound confident. Confident is mistaken for competence. Confidence is queen. Ask yourself - what would the confident Rockstar me do? How would the confident Rockstar me write this cover letter? What examples would she use?  Nice is not enough. At this level of your career it needs to next level.

  11. Avoid trying to sound funny - research tells us that funny doesn't work for women when someone doesn't know us. It works for us when people know us, but not before. 

  12. Avoid trying to sound privileged - privilege works for men, not women. (Private schools, prestige clubs etc - I know, it's unfair but until times change don't run the risk) The assumption is that if you're privileged you'll not be hungry enough so you are more likely to "lean out" or take career breaks. 

  13. More is not necessarily better - Keep your business case succinct. If you get to interview, then you can expand on your examples. White space on a cover letter makes it easier to read as well

  14. It must include relevant factual examples from your career history - a credibility booster

  15. Anchor examples with time, job title and company - this builds credibility even more. We're addicted to time and place narrative form (once upon a time in a land far far away). It makes us feel safe. So the reader will feel far safer if you include these anchors in your cover letter.

  16. Don't be apologetic or start negative. - don't start your cover letter saying that while ouu don't have XYZ experience they ask for, you do have ABC experience. 

    On that note I want you to remember my brother. A couple of Xmases ago he sent an email home to mum saying he couldn't be there for Xmas. Of course that's the bit that mum read and remembered. She had an initial disappointed reaction. It was some time later that she went onto read that he would be there for the 5 days prior to Xmas. 

    You don't want a reader to do that with you or they might simply dump your business case/cover letter before they get to the bit with the good news.

    So start with the positive and the good news before you get address the elephants.

  17. Always be sending cover letters - even if you need to use PDF Pro to add it to the front page of your CV to submit via a web portal.

  18. Keep it professional - no need to refer to hobbies or other activities in your personal life unless it's something they've asked you to address or enables you to demonstrate a great fit - ie they're asking for someone with grit and determination and the best example you have is your recent ultra-triathlon win. However use sparingly.

I'm sure there are more, but this should give you a great head start.

And good luck! 

#womenofimpact #LookOutCSuiteHereSheComes #career

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Feel like your leadership journey has stalled? Email ablesing@amandablesing.com to set up a 30 min one on one to learn more. Helping clients shift from feeling invisible to becoming invincible in just 12 months

Funny, not funny - how humour is good for men but bad for women at work

Funny is good for men but bad for women?!? 🤣😱😳 

Yet another way that sexism can suck the fun out of being a woman at work! 

A recent study showed that women are penalised for being funny at work especially by those who don’t know her. 

“This is the most annoying study ever” ~ to quote Jessica Stillman on Inc magazine 

Humour can be viewed 

  • as "functional" or 

  • as "disruptive" 

The clincher? ALLEGEDLY men's humour is perceived as functional and women's as disruptive. 

Despite most women being conscientious, diligent and more compliant, the stereotype is that we’re more easily distracted, and given career breaks, less dedicated to our career. 

We’re busy “barely coping”, while men are perceived as more strong, dedicated and determined. 

LouiseWilliams_190318_Amanda_WEB_019.jpg

“When a woman cracks jokes, therefore, she's judged to be less dedicated because that's what many people are primed to see” 

There is an upside. 

The study assessed how strangers view women's humour. 

However, when it comes to dealing with a team over time, being hilarious may be a real asset. 

YOUR TURN - Have you seen humour help or hinder? And no, this is not an April Fools Day joke. I'm happy to be a disrupter 🤣 

Photo: Amanda Blesing - via Louise Williams Photographer 

 
Feel like your leadership journey has stalled? Email ablesing@amandablesing.com to set up a 30 min one on one to learn more. Helping clients shift from feeling invisible to becoming invincible in just 12 months

Why asking for help is a super power, not a weakness

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Never apologise for asking for what you need. If you don’t ask - the answer will always be no.
— Rachel Wolchin

Why is it that asking for help is so hard? 
 
As someone with a fierce, independent blueprint, I frequently don’t know I need help, nor how to ask for it, until it’s almost too late
 
This leaves me overwhelmed, ready to throw in the towel or running on empty.
 
I'm not alone. Many strong, amazing, ambitious, executive women share with me they also feel this way. Examples include:

  • feeling as though we ought to muscle through the work life juggle all on our own

  • when we land a new role and bury ourselves, head down, backside up, as we attempt to prove our worth

  • when preparing to negotiate for an increase in salary

  • when we're stuck in a role that we've outgrown or with a boss we've bypassed and we don't know how to navigate through

  • when we're in over our head with professional and personal commitments because we don't know how to say no

  • or when we've simply run out of puff at the end of a big week and started to believe that we're simply not enough.

When we leave a problem too long it can escalate or turn into a crisis, which could have been averted far more easily.  

Or we miss out on what's potentially available because we couldn't see the wood for the trees.
 
And that’s a waste.
 
Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, ignorance, laziness, that you aren't independent enough, or that you are lacking in some way.
 
It could simply mean you are smart and know how to leverage time and resources well.  
 
Research also tells us that we underestimate how willing others are to help out by a whopping 50%

“There's basically nothing human beings do that's more rewarding and gives them a bigger boost of self-esteem than being helpful” says researcher Heidi Grant

Being strong independent women who are proud to celebrate #IWD2019 doesn’t mean we have to go it all alone.  In fact, when we all work on this together, we’ll get a better outcome anyway. 
 
Asking for help is not a sign of weakness - it’s a sign of strength
 
Learning to ask for help in the right way, might just become your new super power
 
YOUR THOUGHTS? Why do we hate to ask for help? Or is this your super power? Drop me a note and let me know ablesing@amandablesing.com 
 

And happy International Women's Day on Friday.  

#IWD2019 
#BalanceforBetter

#executivewomen #womenofimpact #lookoutCsuitehereshecomes 

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Feel like your leadership journey has stalled? Email ablesing@amandablesing.com to set up a 30 min one on one to learn more. Helping clients shift from feeling invisible to becoming invincible in just 12 months

Celebrating strong, fierce, tough, talented and powerful women in sport who inspire us to greater heights

With International Women's Day 2019 just around the corner maybe it’s time to get revved back up again and focused on what we can do, rather than what we can’t.

So much we read about what women, women leading and feminine ambition is focused on what we can’t do and keeps us playing small.

Loved this inspiration from the #IWD2018 World Triathlon

(You can thank me later ☺️)

Three amazing and athletic women in my network who set the standard high!

  • Victoria Symes

  • Samantha Phillips and

  • Lisa Walton

I’m sure there are many others but these three were top of mind.

Who is a strong, fierce, tough, talented and powerful woman who inspires you?

#IWD2019 #womenofimpact #inspiringwomen

 
Feel like your leadership journey has stalled? Email ablesing@amandablesing.com to set up a 30 min one on one to learn more. Helping clients shift from feeling invisible to becoming invincible in just 12 months

How comfortable are you taking a position?

What do you stand for Amanda Blesing.jpg
When you stand for nothing, you fall for everything.

When it comes to self promotion, it's much easier when you have a platform to stand on.

No, I don't mean your soapbox, or your high horse. I'm talking about a cause, a purpose or a mission.

Research tells us that, for women in particular, when we self promote around a cause, a purpose or a mission, we more easily depress the impact of the modesty norm which normally makes us feel self conscious. 

Additionally others are far more forgiving of us if we get it slightly wrong or if the activity is perceived to be not as per the feminine stereotype. This means we more effectively circumnavigate negative judgments and social penalties or even the backlash effect.

A definite win win!

In a nutshell, we're more likely to get out of our own way and flagrantly self promote when it's for a cause, a purpose or a mission. 

Your UVP
Another way to self promote is around your unique value proposition - and that means you need to be able to take a position. You need to back yourself and your own ideas and claim that unique space between your experience, your expertise and those things you are most passionate about.

So my question to you is - how comfortable are you in taking a position?  

Most of us cringe remembering the uncomfortable conversation at a dinner party once where someone dominated the conversation with their dogmatic "position".  

Let's not even go there. Simply remember the Buddhist principle of care deeply, hold lightly and you'll be fine.

Although, at the other end of the spectrum there is the person who is almost like wallpaper, fading into the background, and people wonder why they are in the room.  

As a leader, or aspiring leader, being able to stake a claim in the sand and to take a position, is part and parcel of your journey because it will help set the vision and bring others along on the journey. 

How can I work out my position?
Here are my four go to questions that help you work out what your position is on any issue

  • What do you stand for?

  • Why is this important? 

  • How does this add value? 

  • What's in it for the intended listener/audience?

In fact, you could even create a presentation or a LinkedIn post around those four bullet points alone, and it would go a long way to helping others remember you! 

Once you are comfortable articulating all four, self promotion becomes a breeze.

Is it even worth it? Surely there are no new ideas left
Yes it is worth it. Remember it's not what you know or even who you know, but it's who knows what you know.  You cannot sell a secret so you do have to share your ideas with others.

Sometimes a new voice can bring a fresh perspective and helps to solve old problems in new ways.  Diversity works, because of diversity - of ideas, of thinking, of approaches, so don't even begin to think your position doesn't have any value.  

Digging deep into your sense of why will help you do this. Why do you turn up to work every day? Why do you work in this industry? Why do you do good work? Why is this work important? Why is this perspective important?  

Asking yourself why is nearly always a game changer.

Letting go of the need to be right
Another key element of position taking, is the practice of defencelessness. When you let go of the need to be right, or even letting go of the need to know everything, expressing your opinion is far easier.  

Jane Caro, media commentator, comedian and speaker taught me this as I was about to head on stage one day and debate against some extremely clever PhDs and journalists on the topic of gender salary. The best bit? Her advice was fabulous. My team won the day ... by being funny, not necessarily by being right. 

Quick and Easy Wins
Some quick and easy tactics for you to try once you've worked out what you stand for ...

  • Take a stand and express your opinion in meeting where you normally let others do all the talking

  • Craft a compelling argument in an online forum

  • Providing smart and persuasive commentary at an event or ask a smart question from the back of the room

  • Comment "on brand" on LinkedIn on other people's posts

  • Publish or share "on brand" on LinkedIn 

  • And does your leadership team and/or Board, not just know about you, but know what you represent and how that adds value to the organisation?  If not, go create an opportunity for decision makers to see that you have value to add. 

When the rubber hits the road
Now that you've worked out what you stand for and have a roadmap for helping yourself to stand out for all the right reasons, go and put an appointment with yourself in your calendar to make sure it starts happening today.  Practice makes perfect and you have to start somewhere. 

Then remember Avril Henry's rallying cry ....
"No-one cares as much about your career as you do. So do something about it"

YOUR THOUGHTS?  When do you find self promotion easiest?  What challenges you the most about self promotion?  What have you wished you could be given the opportunity for but no-one else knows and you haven't told them about it either? What can you do differently?
Drop me a note and let me know how you're going - ablesing@amandablesing

AND SHARE IF YOU DARE TO INSPIRE A WOMAN SOMEWHERE

#executivewomen

#womenofimpact

#executiveimpact

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Feel like your leadership journey has stalled? Email ablesing@amandablesing.com to set up a 30 min one on one to learn more. Helping clients shift from feeling invisible to becoming invincible in just 12 months

Are your perfectionist tendencies keeping you stuck between a rock and a hard place?

Confessions_of-a_recovering_perfectionist .jpg

Confessions of a recovering perfectionist

Balance is something I’ve fought for all my life.

I use the term “fight for” deliberately, because I haven’t found it easy and my other extreme is putting my head in the sand.

As a recovering perfectionist, sometimes I feel that if I can’t do something properly, I shouldn’t bother at all.

It’s either perfect, or it’s the worst thing ever made and everyone is an artistic failure, including myself. (Yay, emotional extremes!)
— Felicia Day

Yet this is a furphy. After all, 3 x 10 min walks around the block is better than nothing, and recent research tells us that it’s even better than 1 x 30 min walk around the block on some markers!

Throughout my career I’ve felt I’ve needed to choose between

  • Doing everything or doing nothing

  • Going at it like a bull at a gate or not even trying

  • Effort or ease

  • The Masculine or The Feminine

  • Feast or famine

  • Flat out like a lizard drinking or lazing around on the couch ... drinking! 🤣

  • Always on or always off and

  • Never giving up and always letting go.

My perfectionist tendencies have kept me constantly choosing between a rock and a hard place, and feeling guilty when things didn’t work out.

Balance will only come when I make peace with this part of myself and with that comes real impact.

CONFESSION TIME - Does this sound like you? How do you find the balance between on and off? Do you have any advice for others? Or do you need help with this?  Drop me a note and let me know - ablesing@amandablesing.com - or share to inspire another woman somewhere.

#executivewomen #womenofimpact #lookoutCsuitehereshecomes 

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Feel like your leadership journey has stalled? Email ablesing@amandablesing.com to set up a 30 min one on one to learn more. Helping clients shift from feeling invisible to becoming invincible in just 12 months

Are you a legend in your own lunchtime? And if not, why not?

Legend_in_your_own_lunchbox by Amanda Blesing.jpg
You have to believe in yourself when no one else does.
— Serena Williams

Is being a legend in your own lunchtime a good or bad thing?

Here in Australia, the expression legend in your own lunchtime is alive and well. For those of us who indulged in school yard trash talk back in the 70's or 80's, you may remember it as legend in your own lunch box. Either, either. They both mean the same thing. The expression is not exactly positive. It's a bit like saying you've got tickets on yourself and that you're too big for your own boots - in fact, a braggart or boastful.

But maybe we got it totally wrong.

Maybe to succeed in corporate or business Australia, we actually do need tickets on ourselves. Quite possibly we need to be a legend in our own lunchtime - because if you don't think you're any good, no-one else will either. 

We know from various studies that executive women struggle with the following

  • Self advocacy 

  • Self promotion 

  • Owning and claiming their expertise

We also know that executive women tend to

  • Downplay their own achievements

  • Underestimate themselves, and 

  • Second guess themselves and hesitate in taking risks with their career.  

Which ultimately leads to other people thinking we're only as good as we're saying we are, which isn't necessarily very good anyway.

For those with leadership aspirations but who are naturally modest or humble, learning to become a legend in your own lunchtime, may just be a prerequisite.

In this era of #selfpromotion, you are your own marketing department, and that requires a healthy dose of positive self belief.

Self belief >> Self confidence >> Self advocacy >> Self promotion >> Legend in your own lunchtime

  • You don’t fly around the globe solo Amelia Earhart style if you don’t believe in yourself

  • You can’t become the most powerful female tennis player of all time, a la Serena Williams, if you don’t have healthy self confidence

  • You wouldn’t become the 1st woman PM in Australia, facing all the trolls, criticism and constant media scrutiny like our own Julia Gillard, if didn’t have positive self belief

And you cannot lead a company if you aren’t prepared to self advocate, self promote and to own, claim and share your expertise. 

In a world that confuses confidence with competence, you’re going to have to fake it til you become it anyway. 

Being a legend in your own lunchtime is simply a prerequisite. 

YOUR THOUGHTS? Have you found positive self belief to be helpful or a hindrance?  Drop me a note and let me know. 

Vive la révolution! #ambitionrevolution #LookOutCSuiteHereSheComes #feminineambitionrocks  #executivewomen #careerfutureproofing

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Feel like your leadership journey has stalled? Email ablesing@amandablesing.com to set up a 30 min one on one to learn more. Helping clients shift from feeling invisible to becoming invincible in just 12 months