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The unwelcome guest


I had an unwelcome guest over Christmas. In fact they were never invited.

The guest was fear. It visits me every year around this time, the ‘in-between zone’ between the festive season fading and the business world waking from its slumber.

It paralysed me for over 5 minutes; I could feel it camping in my body.

The negative self-talk started: “What if everyone ‘sits on the fence’ until after the general election – that’s over 5 MONTHS?!!” “What if lack of business confidence means no decisions are made?” “How will I deal with the fast pace of increased competition and technology?”

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh! Panic set in.

I noticed myself doing a displacement activity to sooth myself. Luckily mine is very productive and inexpensive rather than doing drugs or shopping – I started filing business cards A-Z!

That made me chuckle. And then the fear started to shift and the positive thoughts moved the negative ones to one side out of view. I picture cheerleaders carrying pom poms – not sure why!

‘Rachel – you have been self-employed for over 17 years. Most small businesses fail in the first 1-2 years.’

Rachel, you are in the 1% of the population who embraces risk and change, imagine how other people feel? Focus on them, you can help them.’

Rachel you have a portfolio career, look at trends, have many useful skills and are resilient.’

The unwelcome guest left.

There is no question we live in uncertain and disruptive times. So what IS the best way to manage fear?

10 tips to manage fear

1. Observe/sit with the fear until it shifts
2. Adopt/imagine a sense of curiosity about the future
3. Believe that you will work it out and it will be a positive learning and growing experience
4. Create a focused personal career vision, mission, strategy and plan
5. Remind yourself of what you have to offer
6. Understand yourself
7. Keep taking action to move forwards, one action at a time
8. Put aside 10% of your salary for retraining, coaching and/or a financial cushion
9. Invest in your personal & professional development and marketability
10. Define a focused sustainable niche for success

What tips would you add?

Useful resources to manage fear

• You
• Me
• Susan Jeffers books: ‘Feel the fear and do it anyway’ & ‘Embracing uncertainty.’

What next?

Here are 4 actions – why not choose 1:

Download our free report:

Put ‘Energise career coaching gift voucher’ on your gift list for this year.

Read our client testimonials:

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PS If you are ‘sitting on the fence’, here’s a thought. If you start coaching or our career e course now, you will be ready to move forward by the general election result. Ready? What have you got to lose, except 5 months of inaction and a sore arse? Get in touch!

Original reflection?

Question mark in maze

Many moons ago in my youth when discos were part of my social repertoire, I was on the receiving end of a wonderful chat up line.

‘Why are you wearing your Granny’s cardigan?’ this voice in the noisy dark asked me.

I was wearing a cream Aran cardigan – not very boob tube and mini-skirt brigade I agree, but then being in fashion with me has always happened by chance and accident rather than planning.

What a refreshingly wonderful non-cheesy line! We had a good chat and a laugh.

In a world where everyone is writing about everything, originality can be hard.

I have been working for over 27 years and am nearly 50, so the prospect of yet another New Year tips blog does not ignite me with passion! In fact, browsing the web recently, I found a web site dedicated to questions to ask yourself to reflect upon the year with lots of followers!

So this blog, #2 in a series of 3 in the run up to Christmas shares 4 different questions to the average – I hope!

How will you let more of yourself out in 2015?
What inner change needs to happen to enable outer change?
What’s the question you most need to ask yourself?
How will you know when you have found career fulfilment?

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Are you clear on your talents? Downloading our free report will help you to liberate them:

Your 2014 headline

Older gentleman (2)

My late 95 year old grannie came close to falling off her rocking chair at Christmas. A plate of mince pies nearly became flying saucers. The culprit was a question.

The question I asked was:

“What are the top 10 highlights of your life so far?

Her no 1 life highlight was being proposed to on Waterloo Bridge – sweet!

The question I asked her is a BIG question, isn’t it? I mean there’s incisive questions and there’s incisive questions.

Open incisive questions are useful for purposeful refection, ideal in a full-on world.

The slowing pace after Christmas and before New Year is a good time to reflect, ask yourself big questions and plan.

I start by going through my diary and remembering what I have done and then reflecting to mine useful insights and plan actions.

This is the first of a series of 3 seasonal blogs to help you do this.

#week1 – headlines

Question for you.

What headline best sums up your 2014?

Here’s some examples:

• Fought tooth and nail for fair budgets and recognition
• Drowned in a sea of overwhelm and procrastination
• Lost time mindlessly doing social media
• Clung on by the skin of her teeth
• Quit the rat race
• Built a foundation for future success
• Created a portfolio career
• Became self employed
• Pushed out his comfort zone
• Had a life changing paradigm shift
• Played safe and stayed put

What would your headline for 2014 be?

A final 2 questions:

What would you like your headline to be for 2015?

What steps will you take to create this?

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“The future depends on what you do today.” Mahatma Gandhi.

Wasted at work

Fed up woman with pile of paper at desk
My eyes opened more widely recently, more than usual, and I am not talking mascara.

It was a discussion in a workshop of high growth microbusinesses about waste.

Waste is everywhere, sometimes obvious, sometimes hidden until you shine a light on it.

Common waste includes:

• Having a gym membership and not using it
• Buying too much food and throwing it away
• Meetings with no agenda where nothing is decided
• Houses where nobody lives when many are homeless
• Procrastination because of fear and worry
• Lack of focus when spreading yourself thinly
• Queuing – for anything
• Cars on the move with one passenger stuck in a traffic jam
• Energy worrying about things you can’t influence

A lot of the time, waste in many situations is preventable or reducible.

What is your biggest waste? What is it costing you?

Time, money, potential?

Waste of talent in business and in careers is scarily common too:

• Talented mothers leaving careers because of inflexible working practices
• Employees feeling disengaged because their skills are being underutilised or promotion prospects blocked
• Graduates doing a menial job because there can’t get one of a higher level
• Cruising in a dead end job because of lack of confidence or fear of change

What would you add?

No wonder self-employment and portfolio careers are growing!

Research recently got my brain ticking over faster than a lawnmower’s first outing in Spring. Employee churn is reducing, employee engagement reducing, stress increasing, trust in management declining. So where are the policies for job redesign, where do portfolio careers fit in workforce planning? Where are the career conversations around an individual’s values? From the outside looking in, hasn’t the world of work as we know it passed its sell-by date?

Do you feel your talent is being wasted, for whatever reason?

If so, isn’t it time we talked? My job is a talent liberator; I do what it says on the tin. Get in touch.
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“It isn’t where you came from; it’s where you’re going that counts.” Ella Fitzgerald.

A ‘waste of time’ is in the eye of the beholder

Woman juggling clocks
What is ‘a waste of time’ and who decides?

I went to an interesting workshop this week about ‘achieving more for less.’ A catchy phrase for efficiency and effectiveness and how to waste less time. Big trend that one in business as I am sure you have noticed, and sometimes a short term myopic one.

As someone who works pretty expediently thanks to a super organised family gene, a portfolio career + Stephen Covey’s book ‘The 7 habits of highly effective people’ being the closest I get to a bible, I was very hungry to gobble up more tips.

I remember having a battle with a home/office organiser who I commissioned to ‘sort me out’ when I moved from London to Oxfordshire 7 years ago. Apparently unbeknown to me, I had a very ‘creative’ filing system = new insight!

Super office organiser tried to browbeat me into having a big household bin near to the back door so I wouldn’t have far to take it to the dustbin and not empty it very often. No. No no no. I dug my heels in and we had a standoff.

I was really frustrated that she didn’t take time to ask me questions and understand my needs but instead imposed her map of the bin and rubbish emptying world onto me. I explained that I preferred a smaller bin that was emptied more often located further away from the back door so that:

a) I didn’t trip over it and end up in A&E
b) It was less likely to smell as it was emptied more often
c) I had more trips to the dustbin = exercise & escaping from my PC.

She acquiesced. I was the client after all.

So ‘a waste of time’ IS in the eye of the beholder and stakeholder. The currencies of ‘waste’ are diverse aren’t they? Money, time, energy, sleep, thinking, relaxation, chat, rubbish et al.

A lot of other things have benefits when another person e.g. your boss might perceive it as ‘a waste of time’. My afternoon naps aren’t a waste of time; they make me more productive afterwards. Creatives need space, percolation and varied stimulus to spark off an award winning idea. Others observing them might think they are doing nothing but a lot of chewing pencils, staring into space and drinking wine and coffee.

I spend a lot of time thinking, reading & writing sitting on trains = very productive. E.g. I chose to go to St Austell recently for its 11 hour return journey for thinking and planning and to hit some key deadlines.

So what time are you wasting or is it just how you or others are perceiving it?

What 1 change would make all the difference for you?

One change I am going to make following the workshop is halving the amount of reading I optimistically take to London, fail to read and lug around before bringing it back. But then again, maybe I won’t because it’s an alternative to weights in the gym.

So what is the moral of this story and is there one? I guess it goes back to good old marketing principles – find out your client’s needs and don’t make assumptions.

If you would like a free copy of:

‘How to do absolutely nothing’ (which I might re-name)
‘Addiction to busyness’
‘The danger of making assumptions’

e mail me at

PS We do gift vouchers which make a practical and thoughtful Christmas present. Please ask for details.

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Finally if you are twiddling your thumbs today, I found this web site sharing links to Pointless sites so you can waste some time.

Hope is not a strategy – part 2

To do hand written checklist
The world of work is changing fast. Are you ready for it?

Here are 6 trends from a digest of a MPF trends seminar I attended recently by Rohit Talwar of Fast Future. @fastfuture

This blog is the second in a series about world trends and how they will affect the world of work and business.

Change the Board agenda: Most businesses focus on 1 year, so changing the order of items covered on a Board meeting’s agenda is a simple way to get management thinking, planning and having conversations for the longer term

Up technology spend to compete: Businesses need to up their spend on technology e.g. typically companies spend about 1-3% of budgets on technology whereas disruptive small businesses are spending about 30%

Build employer brand: Businesses need to be created so that they attract talent to choose to work there

Reinvent business DNA: Businesses need to create a new game and think about how they can recreate their ‘DNA’

The new business way: New style firms have a clear ‘spine’; a) technology will become the core of the firm, b) project and business management will be separated, c) expertise will be used to serve clients and also other firms

SMEs and technology create disruption: Technology and hungry, nimble entrepreneurial market entrants are eating away at the heartland of traditional slow moving business and firms

How will these trends affect you?

What’s your first step to reflect on this?

To follow Fast Future on Twitter:

For more insights and tips to help you liberate ALL of your talent, follow us on Twitter:

PS We do gift vouchers – they make an ideal present to reflect, take stock, plan and make your career future-proof. Get in touch. #savesshoeleather

Hope is not a strategy

Globe of world in Oyster shell

The world of work is changing fast. Are you ready for it?

Here are 6 trends from a digest of a MPF trends seminar I attended recently by Rohit Talwar of Fast Future. @fastfuture

Old style businesses could become extinct: There is a big ‘clash’ between the old and new worlds. This is magnified for traditional businesses and where technology is changing fast/creating disruption

Change and uncertainty is certain: Accelerated speed of change with uncertainty the new ‘normal’

Quality thinking a must: To succeed, firms and businesses need to create time and a structure for thinking

Danger of stress inhibiting clarity of thought: Stress of downturn pressures has created fatigue – can affect clarity of thought/decision making when quality thinking is becoming more vital

Plans with 3 timeframes: Three different timeframes need to be considered for businesses to stay ahead; longer term ‘radar’ (4-10 years), medium term vision (3 years), short term – clear goals for 12 months

Diverse minds needed in tandem: Different individuals and mind/skill sets are needed to be responsible for these 3 different timeframes and issues

How will these trends affect you?

What’s your first step to reflect on this?

To follow Fast Future on Twitter:

For more insights and tips to help you liberate ALL of your talent, follow us on Twitter:

Are you singular or plural?

a life (2)
Portfolio careers are growing fast – because of need and want. More information below if this is a new concept for you.

A career portfolio or portfolio career has many pros. I have thought of over 70. Here are 10 of mine for now:

1. Doing what I want
2. No week ever the same
3. Always learning
4. Planning my own tasks around the sunny weather
5. The ability to be spontaneous
6. Taking a day off if I feel like it
7. Avoiding rush hour
8. Avoiding queues and busy times in shops
9. The variety and stimulation of varied work
10. Getting better value train fares from travelling off peak

What would be your biggest pro?

For more insights and tips, follow us on Twitter:

Below are two analogies for managing your career portfolio:

Comparing a portfolio career to Doctor Who:

Managing a portfolio career like investments

Are you plural or singular?

Who’s marketing you?

Brand you
Do you hate marketing yourself? Many people do especially women; it makes them feel very uncomfortable. With more competition for jobs and the trend to freelance and portfolio working growing apace, marketing yourself is something that cannot be ignored.

Rather than write lots of words, I thought you would appreciate some questions to ponder.

Here they are:

My desired outcome from marketing myself is …………..

I dislike/resist marketing myself because……………….

Ways I currently/historically have avoided marketing myself are ……………..

Ideas to market myself that feel more comfortable to me are ………..

The top 3 key stakeholders to my career success are ………………


Three S.M.A.R.T. actions I will take to market myself are ……………


If you found these questions, just imagine how useful coaching would be to help you market yourself.

For more useful insights and tips, follow us on Twitter.

Women in advertising – liberating their talent

Hands releasing butterflies (Individuals site Energise image)
Globally women make more than 80% of purchasing decisions, choosing everything from the family’s food and clothing to holidays and cars. So it seems only logical that their professional contributions would be essential within the advertising industry – an industry estimated by The Work Foundation to have added more than £15.6 billion pounds to the UK economy in 2008 with those figures only increasing year on year.

Advertising as a profession is primarily about calling attention to a brand’s products or beliefs to help shape consumer’s perceptions and encourage sales. But it has the power to go much further, to tackle difficult issues in society. Advertising can be a powerful force for social good encouraging changes in behaviour such as smoking cessation and avoiding drink driving or by holding a mirror up to unhelpful or out-dated societal norms, as with Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty.

For all these reasons, advertising is a lucrative and fascinating industry that attracts talented women at all levels. However, it is facing a serious challenge. In the UK women represent 55% of staff at junior levels but this figure drops drastically to approximately just 15% at senior levels. If advertising is directed primarily at those women making 80% of the purchasing decisions, it’s ridiculous not to have women involved in the creation of that advertising.

This career guide considers how women’s networks inside advertising agencies are stepping forward to try and tackle this ‘brain drain’ – the loss of senior women within the industry – and to encourage the career success of women working in this creative and fast-paced industry.

Publicis Groupe, founded in Paris in 1926 is now is one of the four largest holding companies in the world, owner of 1,306 creative agencies globally. The company saw that, as with other holding companies, throughout their agencies senior women were leaving or not advancing to board level and determined to look into why.

A taskforce was established to try and address this loss of talent. After much research and consideration it was decided that quotas or targets were not the solution. Women wanted to be promoted on merit alone. But they needed support and for the management to develop a greater awareness of the issues they faced in the workplace.

So in 2011 a women’s network – named ‘VivaWomen!’ in honour of the holding group’s French heritage – was publically launched at an event at Google’s offices in central London. More than 150 women and men from multiple Publicis Groupe agencies attended. Since then VivaWomen! has been rolled out globally and now reaches more than 2,000 women.

Before the launch of VivaWomen! many companies had small women’s initiatives or mentoring schemes, but the creation of a global network, personally encouraged by the group’s chairman, Maurice Levy, added both gravitas and a more centrally organised way to offer networking, learning opportunities and cross-referrals. To date more than 500 women from different agencies have actively participated in VivaWomen! initiatives.

Interestingly, as VivaWomen! operates across many corporate cultures, and indeed, countries, many different approaches have been observed. Some say that in the US women are focussed on getting through the glass ceiling and achieving board room status whilst in Asia, a key concern seems to be achieving work-life balance and promoting a more healthy approach to the number of hours worked. And in the UK some say women may be most concerned with issues of promotion and long-term success. Across all cultures women are concerned with equal pay, flexible-working conditions for parents of both genders and by the so-called ‘unconscious bias’ whereby men hire and promote in their own image.

The integrated network VivaWomen! attempts to help address all these issues, even if only by creating awareness at first. Organisers set up mentoring schemes, invite in inspirational speakers, organise group coaching or training sessions and generally share information, encouragement and resources.

But it was at digital agency Razorfish that the idea for a network like VivaWomen! first took root more than three-and-a-half years ago. Insights Director Nancy Rowe recognised that the company was losing key female talent – both in terms of women moving to other companies in order to advance their careers and in those who did not return after having children. What began as an informal discussion amongst female colleagues about the challenges facing women in a largely male organisation solidified into a small task force. With the support of Razorfish CEO Chris Mellish, Nancy began researching the issue. What she presented back to the UK board was crystal clear: businesses with gender-balanced boards perform significantly better financially and demonstrate much higher levels of staff satisfaction. Chris and the rest of the management team asked Nancy to suggest what could be done, and thus the precursor to VivaWomen! was born.

“Employer organisations, including advertising agencies, without 50% representation of women at senior levels and without a women’s initiative in place should be asking themselves why.” Nancy Rowe, Insights Director, Razorfish.

When Publicis Groupe too became concerned, they looked to Nancy to help guide their efforts. Indeed, she still takes an active role in VivaWomen! both at Razorfish in London and globally, sharing the responsibility for managing the larger group with colleagues from across the network including founding member Sarah Baumann, Managing Director of Atelier, part of the Leo Burnett Group and Mallika Basu, Director of Corporate at MSLGROUP.

The benefits of VivaWomen! events are clear. Attendees have reported a greater sense of being valued by their employer, a strengthened loyalty to their employer, and an increase in the confidence necessary to seek promotion and to actively discuss their career needs and ambitions with their managers. Human resource managers have reported enhanced employee retention and goodwill for the employer brand. It is funded by voluntary contributions from the individual agencies within Publicis Groupe.

The VivaWomen committee plans to build on the success to date by the creation of a bespoke on-line hub to centralise research, articles and other helpful materials; by curating events featuring more senior creative role models (creative departments employ the least number of women per capita) and by inviting additional volunteers to join in and share their own ideas for other projects and initiatives.

Networks like VivaWomen! ‘light fires’ that ignite potential and make a big difference over time. It’s inspiring to see that even a single person, spotting an area ripe for improvement can, in just a few years, make a tangible different to so many.

In 2014, I (Rachel Brushfield) was invited to do 3 events to support VivaWomen! on: ‘Career strategy and planning’, ‘Personal Branding’ and ‘Blowing your own trumpet’. Like Nancy Rowe, I was originally an account planner/strategist working in advertising. It is vital for women to identify insights and take responsibility for their own careers, with the help of initiatives like VivaWomen! so that they can liberate their talent and realise their full potential. VivaWomen!

This article is one of a series about women in advertising as part of a ‘Women at work’ feature by The Telegraph Media Group out 26 August 2014.

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