Musings

Rock star band, rock star team

I went to see Bohemian Rhapsody this week, the new movie about Queen. Yes it was amazing, yes you need to go and see it, and yes, I cried.

The film tells the story of how the band came to do be, gives some insight into the life and genius of Freddie Mercury and the meteoric rise of the band. It mainly sticks to the “true story”, with a few detours, presumably for better story telling.

Why am I talking about this here? Stay with me friends!

I was struck by the portrayal of the relationship between all the members of the band. They were an incredible team. They are all completely different, (Freddie says “we’re four misfits who don’t belong together, we’re playing for the other misfits”.) And it is because of this difference coming together, that they produce something that had never been seen before.

They also seem to have been extremely supportive of each other. So supportive in fact, that the writers included a story line (spoiler alert) about the band breaking up and coming back together for LiveAid. In real life though the band never broke up and had actually been touring before LiveAid. I guess having a group of people working well together doesn’t make for good movie drama.

It is a common workplace drama though. And it is one of reasons business leaders come to see me in my consulting practice. They need help building high performance teams, without the drama.

And Queen (as portrayed in the movie) share some valuable lessons about building a highly productive, functional and creative team. Here is what I noticed:

1. They all have the broader skill set in common (playing and writing music) but each has honed a specialist skill set within that niche.

2. Everyone knows their role on the team and plays that role.

3. Everyone is working toward a common, agreed vision.

4. The band members challenge each other, they push each other to do to more, to do better, to be better. They call each other out on their bullshit.

5. They understand that the creative process includes conflict, and can move through the conflict to produce a better outcome for the band.

6. Freddie is the band leader- that is clear. And he relies on his team to give him feedback. He listens to that feedback.

7. In fact all of the band members seek feedback from each other. And feedback is given very clearly and openly.

So there you have it. Queen- a rock star band and a rock star team. Go see the movie and see what you notice about the band dynamics. Let me know what you think. Also, think about your team. How does it function?

Freddie sums it up so beautifully in the movie. He says:

“We believe in each other… that’s everything. We are going to do great things”.

Until next week,
H

Your people need you to be their leader

In my HR consulting practice, I work with clients to craft people centered solutions to people problems. Something that comes up a lot is building a culture that increases employee engagement and retention. There is a lot of confusion about what a healthy workplace culture looks like. Often well-meaning leaders share that they want to build a culture where “everyone is family”. And I wince. 

Here is an unpopular opinion – I’m not a fan of the family metaphor.  

Think about it. Family dynamics can be extremely complex. Many of us have complicated relationships with our parents, siblings and extended family. Things are often left unsaid or swept under the carpet. There may be secrets. And families can be pretty homogeneous in terms of race and culture. 

Well, none of that works in a workplace! In fact, a healthy workplace culture that increases employee engagement and retention, strives for the exact opposite. Relationships are clear, well defined and simple. Feedback is an ongoing conversation, even when there is something difficult that needs to be shared. There is transparency and trust. And the people who work there come from varying backgrounds. 

If you are a supervisor, your people need you to show up as their supervisor, not a parent, not a family member. They need you to give clear direction about what success looks like and to give them the tools they need to get there. Your people need you to give feedback on an ongoing basis of both what is working and what isn’t. They need you to be their leader. 

I think what organizational leaders are getting at when they say one big family, is that they want people to like each other, to enjoy each other’s company, for people to enjoy coming to work and for everyone to look out for each other. 

YES! 100%! 

AND…. 

While you want to know your team as people (see my social media post from Wednesday!) and you genuinely care about them, you need to be very clear about what your role is. Your role is to be the leader, the manager, the supervisor.  This will mean letting go of any need to be liked. Because your team is not going to love everything you say and do, and sometimes it is going to be your job to make an unpopular decision. 

It is from this very clear, grounded place, that leaders can start to build healthy workplace cultures that increase employee engagement and retention.  

Until next week,

What is career coaching?

What is a career coach? I get that question a lot. Are you like a recruiter? (not really). Do you help people look for jobs (yes, and…) Is this like life coaching (sort of?)

And the most common one of them all: so, you are a career counselor, right?

Nope. I’m afraid not.

Here is how I explain it. Do you remember you career counselor in high school (Australians)? Your college counselor (Americans)? They were your guide, leading you into the unknown world of discovering what you wanted to be and helping you choose a degree that would get you there. You had all the questions and they had all the answers. They were the expert. They knew everything, and you knew nothing.

Career counselors and college counselors do amazing work. Truly. And we have a lot in common for sure, we help you work out the next step on your journey.

But in my coaching work I don’t have answers- you do. I have a whole bunch of questions. When we start, I know nothing about you, but you know everything. And so, I am super curious about you and asking all my questions helps you get curious too. And getting curious together leads you to creating your own answers. We call them goals.

And then, I keep you accountable to them.

Sure, I know how the recruitment process works – a career spent leading businesses to recruit, attract, retain and engage top talent will do that. And we will make sure you have everything you need to apply for your dream job- the kick ass resume, the cover letter, the LinkedIn profile, the glowing references.

But all of that means diddly-squat if you are applying for roles that are not in service of your broader career goals, your life goals, your vision!

So that’s where we start. We start by creating your vision of where you want to be and it’s from that place that we create materials and a job search. And once all that is in alignment, we work to get you the job that is in alignment too. To get you out of stuck and into possibility.

So that’s what career coaching is. Give me a holler if you want to know more.

Until next week,
H

On the shoulders of others

I was hanging some flyers for RARE at my favorite yoga studio this week (Charleston Power Yoga – check them out, they are the best in town) and they caught the eye of a new friend. After looking at the poster carefully she said, “the work you do is so cool- how did you learn to do it”. I am a people whisperer, people is my native language- it’s been my whole career. 

But that got me thinking. How DID I learn to do what I do? In her book Not Just Lucky, Jamila Rizvi writes about women in workplaces being over mentored and under sponsored. A mentor supports you and teaches you, but a sponsor leverages their skills, experience and relationships to propel you forward, she says. 

Well friends, it turns out that the constant in my career has been amazing mentors turned dear friends who were ALSO my sponsors. 

My first job out of school was as the receptionist for a national retailer. After getting to know me, the Managing Director decided he needed minutes taken at the weekly executive meetings and that I was the only person who could do it. I loved these meetings and soaked up every moment in there. The MD also decided that I needed to be at all the board meetings. This exposure was invaluable. I learned the business of retail, how to read sales reports, how to read a P&L, how to negotiate leases, and more. Meanwhile the GM of HR decided I was to be moved to the HR department to run the HR component of an acquisition of a new business and manage the people integration. Because of their trust and confidence in me, I was gifted a solid operational foundation which propelled me into the world of people management. 

Fast forward a few years, and at a new organization. I had a supervisor who insisted that I join her at every.single.meeting she attended. Like, EVERY ONE. After each meeting we would sit together and debrief, unpack, strategize, plan. Our supervision meetings were always about planning my career trajectory and the support and development I needed to reach my goals. Whenever there was an opportunity to work on a project with one of division CEOs or the Managing Director, she would place me front and center. 

Then there was the Vice President of a non-profit organization that I worked for later in my career. He was in a completely different division and reporting line than me but took a great interest in my work. He thought my approach was unique and critical to the organizational mission, so he invited me to speak at a meeting of our Board of Directors which was also attended by several key donors. The exposure at this level gave me an opportunity to get buy-in from key stakeholders who could help drive my projects forward. 

And there have been many others.  Each propelled me into the next chapter of my story and I am beyond grateful to all of them. So that’s how I learned to do what I do – because the people who came before me raised me onto their shoulders. Also, I worked bloody hard. 

And when it came time for me to be the leader, to manage my own teams, well, I have been focused on paying this generosity forward. I have tried to take a keen interest in my peoples’ goals, invested in their development and found opportunities to place them front and center. 

So today friends, I have some questions for you: Who are your sponsors? Have you had the good fortune to have one yet? Look around your organization now. Who can you foster a relationship with that will invest in you and propel you forward?  

And I also have a challenge: BE THE SPONSOR. Look around – who can you support to achieve their goal? Where can you leverage your skills, experience, relationships to be FOR someone else? 

Let me know in the comments below. I want to hear your stories of the sponsors in your life and how you have showed up for others. 

Until next week,
H 

 

Let’s talk about fear

In the first phase of my career coaching program, my clients work on their vision for their dream job, their dream career, their dream life. It’s such a fun part of the process. My clients are buoyed by the sense of possibility, the excitement of what could be. In this phase we are accessing their essence, we are imagining a path that brings out their greatness, we create the image of a life filled with joy and purpose. Their eyes sparkle, their skin glows. Their smile is wide.

And then we move on to phase two (there are three phases), where they are creating all of the materials they need to move towards that vision. The resume, the cover letter template, the rockstar LinkedIn profile. The testimonials, endorsements and references. And my clients freeze. Fear wraps its boney fingers around them and the joy is replaced with terror.

I see it, I recognize it, I know it oh so well, because that fear has gripped me too. I have sat on the other side of the table. I too have designed my dream job, dream career, dream life and when it has come time to create what I needed to make it real, I too have been paralyzed.

And in those times, I wished I had my own people whisperer by my side.

The thing is, the fear is probably not going to go away. Sorry guys, I wish I had better news, but it just isn’t. Creating your dream life is big stuff. Shedding the old is major big stuff. Creating a huge shift in your career IS scary.

So, the practice is acknowledging the fear, being with the fear, feeling the fear and DOING IT ANYWAY! Crazy right?!

That’s what I help my clients do. I help them make friends with the fear. We invite it to walk alongside us on the journey while we keep on walking, rather than having the fear stop us from walking at all. You gotta keep walking baby!

Susan David PhD– an award-winning psychologist who writes about emotional agility, illustrates this perfectly. In a recent interview with Osher Gunsberg on his podcast (it’s one of my favorites, you can check it out here, episode 254) she reminds us of the children’s book and nursery rhyme- Going on a Bear Hunt. Do you remember it from when you were a kid? “You can’t go over it, you can’t go under it, we’ll have to go through it”. YES! We have to move through the fear to get to the big goal at the end- your dream life.

Feel the fear and do it anyway.

To be honest, that’s what this blog is for me. My vision for my dream career includes an awesome blog that shares all of my people whispering with the world. And putting myself out there like that is terrifying.

But I’m doing it anyway. Thanks for joining me.

Until next week,
H

Welcome, it’s nice to have you here

Happy Friday friends,

Today I launch my blog and I am thrilled to have you here.  

This will be a place for me to share my thoughts, insights and expertise on all things people. Some weeks I will focus on themes and trends that have emerged from the work I am doing with my business clients. Other weeks, I will offer career coaching insights, tools and exercises. This will be a place where you can count on me to share relatable, strategic, people focused take-aways. 

But I am getting ahead of myself. Let’s get to know each other. I’ll go first – I’m Helen Slucki, founder of RARE – a people practice. 

After spending over a decade in Australia building a career in people management and organizational development, leading teams in top 200 public corporations and privately owned retail brands, I moved to Charleston, SC in 2013. 

I am a people whisperer. I partner with businesses to craft people centered solutions to people problems, and work with ambitious people to help them land the job of their dreams. 

Now it’s your turn. I would love to hear from you, so leave a comment introducing yourself, and let me know what topics you would like to see me write about. 

That’s enough for now. Tune in every Friday for people focused musings from your favorite people whisperer.  

Best,
Helen