Leading Thoughts

Studying managers in transition

I was delighted to graduate with honours from Middlesex University in 2015 and receive a Master’s in Work Based Learning Studies (Professional Practice).  It is my hope that my thesis, ‘Developing a Coaching programme to facilitate transition into a managerial role: A Black African Perspective’ will make a contribution to the improvement of the success rates of newly appointed managers. I founded Capital Assignments, a pioneering executive search firm specialising in the Financial Services industry in 1995, just after South Africa’s first democratic elections.  With the introduction of Employment Equity legislation at that same time, we went into business keenly focused on identifying and helping to develop Black talent for leadership roles.  Over the past decades, it has been frustrating to see the slow rate of transformation in organisations despite the pressure of the legislation.  It has also been frequently distressing to witness fine talent failing after promotion into managerial roles. The failure of a new manager leads to serious costs all round.  The company suffers from low productivity, wasteful disruption and high recruitment expenses.  More often than not, the incumbent takes a staggering personal blow that is hard to recover from.  Bearing witness to this, both in the industry we work and other sectors was certainly part of the motivation for me, some years back, to become a professional coach.  Capital Assignments began to offer coaching services to our clients so that both line managers and incumbents could be properly supported in the wake of a new appointment.  In pursuit of my Masters in Coaching, it was a natural step to devise a work-based project that could contribute to the research into better ways to help new managers succeed. It is my view that coaching, training and mentorship are worth considering as interrelated interventions for managers in transition.  I believe that a holistic approach that combines training to address skills-related competencies, mentorship to foster organisational socialisation and coaching to support new appointees would be a powerful model to enhance the success of new managers.  Within the academic boundaries for my thesis, I decided to focus the study on researching the coaching experiences of new Black managers. Although transitional coaching plays an important role in the development of leaders globally, there is still a dearth of academic research on the topic of executive coaching; and research that focuses specifically on the impact of coaching on Black managers is even scarcer. I developed the work-based research project, using an autoethnography approach, to gain insights into the coaching experiences of newly appointed Black managers in order to contribute to the understanding of how organisational transitions in South Africa can be managed more effectively to improve employee retention, productivity and engagement with the organisation. I have subsequently used the findings from my study to develop ‘How to coach your managers in transition’, a bespoke modular training programme to help Line and Human Resources Managers to develop basic coaching skills so that they are empowered to properly support their new managers and increase their chances of success. Should you be interested in hearing more about my training programme, please contact me at 021 419... Read More

How to sail through the probationary period

The probationary period for a new employee, typically 90 days, can often be tense and fraught with misunderstanding.  Some experts claim that as many as 1 in 5 don’t make it through their probationary period; a definite and significant lose-lose scenario.  It’s an issue that, in some cases, can be addressed by companies adopting better on-boarding practices.  But is there anything that a new employee can do to avoid pitfalls and get through this tricky and critical job stage? At Capital Assignments, our executive search service extends to the provision of coaching to both the new appointee and the line manager during the probationary period to support both parties in finding their way with each other.  In our experience, this is a two-way street, and there are effective ways for the new employee to influence their success. Keeping a positive attitude – Some new appointees are consumed with the idea that they are ‘on trial’ during the probationary period which makes them tense and jumpy.  In this state of anxiety, they cannot present the best of themselves and they lose perspective of what’s at stake during this time.  Yes, you are ‘on trial’, but there is a context for this, and you are actually not alone.  It is in the interests of both parties for the probationary period to be a success.  It is true that you need the job, the salary and the career progression.  But the company also has high stakes invested in your success.  The cost of recruiting you was significant to your new company, as this includes all the costs associated with not having a person in the position you came along to fill.  If you fail, uncomfortable questions will invariably arise as to the effectiveness of their organisational processes.  If you fail, they will incur more significant costs.  Therefore, you could re-frame the idea that you are alone ‘on trial’.  If you can see yourself and your new company as being in the same boat, you might better be able to relax more, present a positive ‘can-do’ attitude, roll up your sleeves and help yourself and them to make this time successful. Committing to professionalism – It may come as surprise to those who imagine that an incumbent would naturally be vigilant about their professionalism in an ‘on-trial’ circumstance, but many managers report the tardiness and absenteeism of their new employee during the probationary period as the reasons for ending the relationship.  You cannot possibly make a favourable impression if you don’t turn up, and on time.  Of course, there can be unavoidable circumstances that result in lateness and taking sick days during the probationary period.  If this happens, you need to make very sure that those affected really understand the dilemma you faced and that they are convinced that you would have wanted this to be different. In the same vein, presenting a wholly different physical impression during your probationary period versus your interview stage is not a good idea.  Yes, it is possible that your new company may well accommodate your dress code quirks, but probably only after you have well-established your value. The probationary period is too soon to be experimental and to push conventional professional boundaries. Maintaining balance – It can feel like walking a tightrope.  You want to make... Read More

What Tips Your Scales – Career Growth or Remuneration?

Once upon a time we simply worked to earn money.  Today, an increasing number of people want a lot more from their work.  Our careers have become vehicles to get us to the lofty self-actualizing pinnacle of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.  Our daily jobs have become fields of possibilities where we search for inspiration, exercise our array of talents and play to our personal bests.  Of course, compensation is still one of the driving forces of our career decision-making – it impacts not only on our life security but also on our day to day sense of being valued and appreciated. However, more and more job candidates are thoughtfully weighing up the bigger picture of a prospective career move and the imperative for career growth opportunities needs to be considered by companies who want to engage the best people.  Today’s graduates and job seekers are encouraged to reflect on what they want from a job beyond their monthly salary and to take a long view of their careers.  Companies are expected to assist with career planning and to support managed career development in a way that marries the needs of business with the aspirations of individuals. There are benefits to both the employer and the prospective employees in properly weighting career growth during the recruitment process.  By satisfactorily exploring career growth opportunities during the interviewing process, the candidate will get a reasonable idea of whether the company is mostly looking for an urgent fix to a current skills problem, or whether they are genuinely interested in a potentially long-term relationship with a whole person who is surely going to acquire more skills and expertise over a period of employment.  In the same conversations, the interviewer will be able to ascertain whether the candidate is mostly interested in the position as a solution to current career dissatisfactions, or whether they have a potentially long-term interest and willingness to be engaged in the business.  This is important because when it comes to employee engagement, it is well-proven that money is never enough. However, the importance of talking about and reflecting on career growth goes beyond the explorations of the recruitment process as it plays such an integral part in talent management and retention.  If an employee cannot foresee their path of career development within their organization they will mostly likely jump ship at the next opportunity. The organisation needs to be aware of and facilitate the kind of growth that is important to the individual.  This includes: A relevant work profile – the profile of the work of the employee must be well-attuned to their current capabilities. The work profile should not be pitched too high or too low. Synergy with personal goals – an employee’s work responsibilities should help them to also attain personal goals. We all work for ourselves as our priority, and then for our company. If an employee is not satisfied with their personal growth, they will not be making a sustained contribution to the growth of an organisation. Training and development – Many employers still hold tight reins on training and development with the fear that they will not realise return on investment. Despite anecdotal evidence, the research shows that a business should not limit the resources on which it depends.  Potential training initiatives may include... Read More

5 ways to get past the demand for work experience

If you are returning to the work-force after a long absence, wanting to switch careers or are a first-time job seeker, chances are you will come up against the ‘work experience required’ barrier. It can be incredibly disheartening and frustrating to see the job of your dreams advertised, in which you just know you would do well, and feel that your life circumstances have disqualified you from applying or competing for the position. However, you are not helpless. Of course, employers are trying to get the most qualified and experienced person they can for a position, and they advertise as such. However, they also know well that those two criteria are not the only qualifiers in searching for the best person. Here are five strategies to help give you a fair chance of getting the job you want, even if you lack the experience required: Build your personal brand online – Use professional social media platforms such as LinkedIn to establish your personal brand. Be honest about your lack of experience but compensate for this by demonstrating your enthusiasm and interest in the industry where you want to work. Learn as much as you can about your chosen industry and share views, opinions and information that shows that you know your stuff. Posting regular blogs and publishing articles on reputable platforms creates a body of work that shows the breadth and depth of your interest and knowledge. Highlight your soft skills – Focus on the personal abilities and characteristics that you have that you believe will enable you to be successful in the position you want. We all develop a set of soft skills from a variety of life experiences. These include the capacity for teamwork or leadership, as well as traits such as being very well-organised or having a drive for innovation. Think about all the team, school, college and community activities that you have been involved in and list your top soft skills that are relevant to the job you want. Develop true anecdotes that would demonstrate to an interviewer how you applied these skills to deliver the required results. It does not matter that the context was not a work environment. A good prospective employer is most likely to take into account your life experience; the key is to be relevant by accurately matching your top soft skills to the position you want. Look for volunteer opportunities – Even if you are not in a position to do this full-time, actively look for opportunities in non-profit organisations, community organisations or small businesses where you can gain hands-on experience. Studies have shown that even part-time volunteering can be a highly effective way to increase your chances of employment. Many prospective employers give weight to the experience gained through volunteerism, and consider your perseverance in gaining experience in a positive light. Working as a volunteer also increases your network. Enhance your job skills-set – Even if you have recently graduated with what you believe is the latest and greatest qualification in your desired field, it cannot hurt your chances to be even more qualified. Analyse the jobs you want to apply for and determine the full set of skills needed. Assess whether you have any shortfalls or other weaknesses. Consider short courses and other training opportunities. If your... Read More

Thinking twice about the counter-offer…

By the time you decide to accept the offer of a new job, you have already put a significant and clear distance between yourself and your current employer. You believe that all that’s left is for you to resign, pack up and say goodbye before entering the new chapter of your career that you have decided would be good for you. When it’s time to resign, you will have probably visualised how you want this last stage to go, thought about what you will say and imagined how you will feel. That’s why receiving a counter-offer can lurch you into a sudden and unexpected state of confusion and indecision. With two offers on the table, what should you do? If your intention to work for another company has made your current boss suddenly realise your value and now acknowledge that your company needs and wants you, you may feel that you are in an ideal position to negotiate and solve the reasons why you wanted to leave in the first place. They might be open to promotion and increased remuneration; better responsibilities, improved work and working conditions. It might look like this may well be more beneficial to your career, over the long-term, than the new offer you just decided to accept. In general, most executive search specialists advise against accepting the counter-offer. You may believe that this is because they have a vested interest in you taking the job they headhunted you for, but it’s not as simple as that. Hiring experts are well-aware of the pitfalls of accepting the counter-offer. It is one of the most precarious scenarios you can experience in your career; and the risks need to be carefully considered as you weigh up which of the two offers might work out best for your career. Here are 4 common pitfalls that you need to think through: 1) Will you become a ‘fidelity risk’? It might not seem fair in this age where career mobility is often seen as an acceptable and even, desirable indicator of one’s ambitiousness and competitiveness, but perceptions of your loyalty may still hold a lot of clout. If your current employer and team members regard your offer of resignation as evidence of your lack of loyalty, you may find yourself mired in a hostile work environment, shut out of the inner circle, and in a situation that can seriously compromise your career success. Being regarded as a ‘fidelity risk’ is a common reason why those who accept the counter-offer soon fail. 2) Are you agreeing to be the ‘stop-gap’? Counter-offers can often be made in a moment of desperation. Faced with the possibility of sudden loss, your boss has sprung into action and made a fast agreement to keep you in place, for the time being. You need to assess whether you really believe that your current company has had an epiphany about your value, or whether they may be buying the time they need to find your replacement. 3) Is the counter-offer truly a ‘fix-all’? You had your reasons for looking for a new job. It may seem that an offer of advancement or an increase solves all the problems that you had with your company; but is this true? Reflect back on all your reasoning that led you... Read More

The Perils of Paying Lip Service to Work-Life Balance

It’s true that the responsibility for maintaining a decent work-life balance largely lies with the individual who is making the choices about how to spend their time. But that said, there are many instances when the politics, culture or workings of an organisation can relentlessly derail the best work-life balance intentions of their most responsible leaders and employees. Therefore, it is important that an organisation that purports to support work-life balance also actively enables it. We know well that achieving work-life balance is good for people. Operating from a position of being well-rested and well-rounded makes one happier; more productive, efficient and innovative; healthier in every way and more resilient. If it’s good for people, it must be good for business It stands to reason that every organisation would reap benefits from having a consistently, highly productive, efficient, innovative, healthy and resilient workforce. Yet, relatively few businesses set up the infrastructure, policies, practices and culture that enable work-life balance – ironically, especially for those in the most demanding and expensive leadership positions. For some, the very phrase ‘work-life balance’ contradicts all that they believe business is supposed to be – tough, competitive, sacrificial and survivalist. The maxim that there is virtue in ‘hard’ work endures strongly in the 21st Century and let’s face it ‘work-life balance’ does sound somewhat gentle and accommodating. While this is not a conundrum for the high-flying dot.coms that welcome life into innovative workplaces, it is a challenge for the more traditional corporates that are still inclined to separate and sanitise work so that an employee’s sense of engaging with life can only happen in the preciously limited ‘after hours’. Employees are people juggling family, work, personal and community responsibilities. Your interest may only be in their contribution to work, but the quality of their contribution to work is affected by the quality of their contributions to all the other key aspects of their life. Supporting their capacity to deliver in all areas of life is how you support their capacity to deliver to you. Enabling work-life balance might sound ‘soft’, but it has some serious spin-offs. What are the benefits for companies enabling work-life balance? • Reduction of absenteeism • Avoidance of the burn-out and loss of top talent • Reduction of recruitment costs • Higher levels of employee engagement • Enhanced company culture • Less reliance on employee assistance and wellness programmes • Improved talent attraction and retention • Increased productivity • Stronger, more attractive employer... Read More

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