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Aug 16
Let It Go: Emotional (And Physical) Baggage is Bad for Your Health


Author: Georgina Barrick

Recently, I (like many of my contemporaries) have helped my elderly parents move out of the home that they inhabited for almost a lifetime. To call the process fraught would underestimate the toll it took on all of us. For nearly 40 years, my parents lived, loved and experienced life in this house, collecting memories – and stuff.
Sorting through it, this detritus of a lifetime, and watching my parents unable to let it go, was a powerful lesson for me, forcing me to look at how we all carry baggage (both physical and emotional) that weighs us down. Letting go of this baggage can set us free…

We all carry personal baggage.
For some of us, this baggage is physical. Like magpies, we pick up, collect and fill up our spaces with things that bring us joy or that we know we’ll ‘use someday’ and believe we simply can’t do without. And, as it fills up our lives, this stuff brings comfort – a physical safety blanket.
Others carry emotional baggage. The unresolved past emotional traumas, issues and stresses that occupy our minds and spill over, colouring all of our new experiences or encounters – and giving rise to prolonged feelings of guilt, regret, shame, anger, fear or stress. It’s the critical inner voice constantly telling us that we’re not good enough or can’t change the outcome.
While we might not all hoard stuff, we certainly all carry some form of emotional baggage. 

Like an overfull backpack, emotional baggage cannot be contained indefinitely.
It overflows, impacting the carefully crafted new reality that we’ve created for ourselves.
Sometimes, it manifests physically, causing health issues like unexplained back pain, headaches or stomach problems. Prolonged stress is a known trigger for cancer and heart disease.
Emotional baggage can also become a barrier to making healthy lifestyle changes. If we’ve dealt with past trauma by developing bad habits – like smoking, binge drinking or comfort eating – it can be really hard to break the pattern and stop. And, carrying our personal perceptions of past (bad) experiences into our relationships or workplace can negatively impact our connection to others or prejudice our career ambitions.  

So, how do we ‘unload our backpack’ and slip out from under our emotional baggage?

The first step towards letting go of emotional baggage is to understand it – and what caused it.
Think deeply about situations that have upset you, made you feel uncomfortable or stirred up negative emotion. Try to identify what made you upset – be it unexpressed feelings of hurt, unresolved anger, regret or grief. If these feelings haven’t been allowed to run their course, they’ll hang around, repeatedly causing issues in your life. 
You may need to talk to a therapist or trusted friend for help with this process.

The ability to understand the reality of a situation, without needing to fight it or change the outcome, is acceptance. If we’re able to look at a negative experience without emotion or expectation and view it pragmatically, we remove our need to be tied to changing the outcome – and can start the process of acceptance.

We’re human – and we make mistakes. We all feel guilt, regret and shame over our actions – but, sometimes, we hang onto these feelings as a way to punish ourselves.
And, while we can neither change the past nor predict the future, we can let these feelings go and forgive ourselves (and others). Accept your choices. Learn from your mistakes. Own your truth. Stop the retroactive self-judgement. Remember that you’ve done good and can be proud of the many positive things that you have done in your life.

Channel Your Anger…
Often, we’re taught that being angry is bad and that, when someone wrongs us or we observe injustice, we should ‘turn the other cheek’. But, hanging onto anger can be deleterious. 
Allow yourself time to rant or cry. If you can, explain your anger to the person who caused it. Understand your role in the situation and determine whether you could have done anything better.
Channelling your anger positively can be very empowering. 

Be Mindful…
Sometimes, we are so caught up in our past experiences that we forget to simply be – to live right now. Practising mindfulness involves accepting your thoughts and feelings, without judgement. To be mindful is to live in the present moment, rather than reliving the past or imagining the future.

If your baggage is more physical, than emotional, it’s important to make time to declutter.
As good place to start is with Marie Kondo, the Japanese organisation expert, who created a system for simplifying and organising your home by getting rid of physical items that do not bring you joy. Kondo believes that, to thrive creatively, your home should be filled only with items that you cherish.

Whether your baggage is physical, emotional or both, letting it go can set you free. 
And, ensuring that you don’t allow emotional baggage to overwhelm your life going forward is a good goal. 

‘Choose not to be harmed and you won’t feel harmed. Don’t feel harmed and you haven’t been.’
Marcus Aurelius

Georgina Barrick, MD of Cassel&Co and The Working Earth, all divisions of ADvTECH Resourcing (Pty) Ltd. Georgina has over 25 years of recruitment and executive search experience.

Jul 23
The Certainty of Uncertainty


Author: Georgina Barrick

Death and taxes. Life’s only two absolute certainties, according to Benjamin Franklin.
Human beings have lived with uncertainty for millennia – which doesn’t mean that we’ve got anymore used to it. 
Quite the opposite, in fact. But, in uncertain times like these, the only thing that’s certain is that more uncertainty lies ahead. We can’t change, manage or control this. But, we can moderate our response to it…

We live in an age of unprecedented uncertainty, where everything seems unpredictable.
Since 2008, the global economy has been shaky, susceptible to shock and lacking in resilience. 
We’re working harder and longer than before, often for less. Political upheaval is the norm – think Brexit, global trade wars and a world leader who governs by Twitter. The effects of climate change are widespread and frankly scary – flooding, drought, our beleaguered oceans. 
Social media makes us more connected than we’ve ever been. Yet, we’ve never been more disconnected from what really matters. And, as a result, many of us are suffering the effects of stress-induced illness. Mental illness in the workplace seems on the rise.
Most days, merely consuming the news requires a deep breath and a stiff drink. 

Yet, as the world becomes more unpredictable, we’re mostly coping – and many of us are thriving. It’s true that periods of massive change, while alarming, also create opportunity.
Uncertainty induces anxiety, stress and frustration. But, it also brings challenge, which leads to growth, satisfaction and strength. It’s cliched, I know, but challenge helps us understand that our limits aren’t limiting and, out of this understanding, we build resilience and become open to possibility. 
So, how do we get this right?

Acknowledge that uncertainty is a part of life…
Total certainty is an illusion. We’d like to believe that we have total control over what lies ahead. But, the truth is that, while we have some control, it’s far from total. Accepting that uncertainty is a natural part of life – and doesn’t necessarily mean that things are going wrong – can help to ease our anxiety around change.

Understand that uncertainty doesn’t (always) equal a bad outcome…
If you’re a worrier (and many of us are), it’s likely that you mostly equate uncertainty with a bad outcome. However, ‘bad’ is just one of a few possible outcomes – along with ‘neutral’, ‘good’ and ‘excellent’.  
You could accept a new job that turns out to be a bad career move. It’s also possible that a new job could energise your career and expose you to new learning. 
Try to steer clear of ‘better the devil you know’ thinking and be open to all outcomes. 

Control what you can…
So much of life is out of our control. 
We can’t single-handedly grow the global economy or rein in the bad behaviour of world leaders. 
However, this doesn’t mean that we have no influence over how life pans out. 

Rather than focusing on what you can’t control (which heightens anxiety), focus on what you can. 
Or, as the Serenity Prayer says, accept the things you can’t change and have courage to change what you can – while hoping for the wisdom to know the difference. 

A good idea is to start by determining whether you have ‘no control’, ‘some control’ or ‘total control’ over what is making you anxious. Then, focus only on what is in your control. 
Another idea is to take action and, in small ways, give yourself options. Learn a new skill, monetise your hobby, save money or network to build new contacts. Small shifts can make a big difference and give you options (and breathing space).  

Take care of yourself…
It should go without saying that, in a stressful world, self-care is vital. 
Make time for exercise. Get good sleep. Meditate. Seek out support. 
If you’re running on empty, it’s very hard to see the wood from the trees.

In a world where uncertainty is the only certainty, it’s still possible to thrive. As Eckhart Tolle said, ‘When you become comfortable with uncertainty, infinite possibilities open up in your life.’
May you be open to possibility.

Georgina Barrick, MD of Cassel&Co and The Working Earth, all divisions of ADvTECH Resourcing (Pty) Ltd. Georgina has over 25 years of recruitment and executive search experience.

Jun 19
Honesty: The Lonely Word

magnifying-glass-1607160_960_720.jpgAuthor: Georgina Barrick 

I’ve always been passionate about truth, honesty and transparency.

So, listening to the Zondo Commission findings, watching all of the layers being peeled back and realising just how much we’ve been lied to, is sickening. From outright lies to the avoidance of the truth, we’re seeing the whole spectrum. 
But, I believe that truth is important – and will prevail. And, that it’s better to be honest from the outset…
Watching the recent coverage of the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings, I was struck by the veterans’ stories. Alongside a recounting of what they had done on that fateful day, many spoke, with searing honesty, about the fear that they had felt and the horrors that they had witnessed.
Some mentioned that they were doing so to highlight the brutality of war, in the hope that future generations would learn a lesson and work to avoid conflict.
For me, their heart-breaking honesty was refreshing.

Today, we live in a world of untruths, fake news and hidden agendas. 
We seem to be bogged down in lies and corruption. Honesty is a rare commodity. A ‘lonely word’ as Billy Joel lamented. ‘Truth’ is whatever I (or social media) says it is. Images are photoshopped to hide the ugly truth. Politicians lie to serve their own best interests – and lie some more when the Zondo Commission finds them out. Corporations misstate results or use ‘spin’ to sell you a dream. Steinhoff, Enron, Thanos, Madoff – and, more recently, Tongaat Hulett – come to mind. 
Facts are immaterial, truth is inconvenient and honesty has suffered. 
And, we’re living with the consequences.

Without honesty, we have no trust, no transparency and no accountability.
It’s hard to build lives and companies without it. It’s impossible to deliver on promises made.
The ‘Silent Generation’ D-Day veterans would tell you that honesty is ‘the right thing to do’.
Billy Joel would say that it’s ‘mostly what I need from you’.
So, how do we cut through the ‘fake news’ noise and live (and work) with honesty and truth?

Practice (Radical) Honesty
It’s not always easy to be honest. Sometimes, it’s simpler (or it works in our favour) to keep quiet – like when a waitress forgets to charge us for a meal. But, truth matters – and it starts with the small things. 
Honesty builds transparency and trust. Make honesty a personal habit and foster a culture of honesty in your team. Reward transparency and come down hard on untruth. The road to transparency isn’t always straightforward and can be lined with criticism – but if you stay strong and have the courage to tell the truth, trust will follow.

Temper honesty with kindness. The bald truth can hurt, so how you deliver feedback is important. Be mindful of your delivery.

Own Your Mistakes
Tiger Brands learned this lesson the hard way. After CEO Lawrence MacDougall denied responsibility for the 2018 listeriosis outbreak, claiming that there was no direct link between any deaths and Enterprise Food products, the company lost R5.7 billion in value, spent R377 million on a product recall and is now facing a class action suit.
Take accountability for your actions and those of your employees. Remember that you’re accountable to your employees and that they rely on you to be honest – especially when you’ve made a mistake.
If you’ve messed up, get out in front and own the mistake. Apologise and make things right. 
Encourage your staff to own their mistakes by reframing mistakes as learning experiences. 

Also, stand up for what you know is right. If you witness improper behaviour, don’t keep quiet – even if speaking the truth puts you in the firing line. Remember that bad things happen when good people do nothing. 

Facts, Facts, Facts
Base your decisions on hard fact – not feelings. 
Decisions based on fact leave no room for misunderstanding and can be tracked and easily reviewed by all. So, stick to the facts – and encourage your staff to do the same.

Being honest isn’t always easy, popular or welcomed. 
But, at the end of the day, it’s all we really have to offer. Work hard to be a wo(man) of your word. You and the world around you will be better for it. 
Speak truth always. Stay strong.

Georgina Barrick, MD of Cassel&Co and The Working Earth, all divisions of ADvTECH Resourcing (Pty) Ltd. Georgina has over 25 years of recruitment and executive search experience.
May 16
Stick to Your Knitting - Or Not!

Facebook post 2 20.jpgAuthor: Georgina Barrick

Have you ever been presented with an opportunity that, on the surface, looks like a really good idea? The concept is fresh. The numbers are solid. It could open up new growth streams. The only issue is that it would require a shift off your company’s core focus. Do you, as Richard Branson would say, ‘screw it, let’s do it’? Or, do you walk away?

Single malt whisky. Single origin coffee and chocolate. Accountants and Recruiters who understand the intricate rules and workings of their specialist niches. Orthopaedic surgeons who only operate on hips or shoulders. Gone are the days when to be a ‘jack of all trades’ was prized. 
Today, we live in the age of hyper-specialisation.

It’s said that the further you venture away from your core focus, the greater the risk. 
Get it right – like Apple or Netflix – and you can create new revenue streams that may, with time, overtake your current core business. Apple did this with the launch of iTunes, shifting focus from hardware to services and spawning the legal music download industry. Today, the company makes more from Services ($10.9 billion last quarter alone) than many of its other business segments. Netflix’s move from streaming to content creation (think ‘Stranger Things’ and the ‘Queer Eye’ revival) reduced the company’s risk exposure by giving it complete control over (some) of the content on its platform.

But, get it wrong and you risk becoming distracted by the new initiative, leading to brand dilution, customer confusion, a drop in management focus and quality of offering, loss of target market share and, ultimately, lost revenue. Richard Branson’s Virgin brand has launched over 400 companies over the past 50 years (including music stores, airlines, alcohol and underwear businesses). Today, the privately-owned brand owns 60 around the world. 
So, in a world captivated by novelty, how do you balance your need for growth and innovation with your tolerance for risk? Or, put more simply, how do you identify the ideas that would mean real change for your business from those that are really just shiny new objects?

Explore your core… 
Start by fully understanding the opportunities available in your core business.
Is there potential for further growth in any of your business segments? Are there any ‘adjacencies’ (related business segments) that, if developed, could reinforce the strength of your core? Can you create new needs among your core customer base? Are there any internal functions – like talent acquisition – that you could outsource to free up time to focus on core issues? Make sure that you’ve wrung all that you can out of your core, before you make a move away from it.

Have a good reason…
Is your core business reaching saturation point, with limited growth opportunities? Is there a disruptive technology breaking into your space that’s forcing you to rethink strategy? Would you be ‘early to market’ with a non-core concept and have the chance to snap up market share? 
Whatever is making you consider a break from core, ensure that your reasons are sound – and grounded in fact, not emotion.

Gather data…
‘Screw it, let’s do it’ might work for Richard Branson, but it certainly doesn’t cut the mustard with shareholders. Take time to educate yourself about the new initiative and its impact on your core business. Assess the risks, potential outcomes and competencies you’ll need to manage both.
Before taking the leap, it’s important to ask the hard questions and gather all of the data.

Test the idea to minimise risk…
Is there a way to test the new concept, with minimal risk? Form a new business, with separate branding, resources and office space, to try out the idea. Steer clear of areas where you lack expertise or where the market is flooded with players who have the specialised skills that you’re missing. Do everything that you can to prevent diluting your focus, energy and accountability.
That way, if the idea fails, your core business is protected. 

Set clear goals and accountabilities…
Before you start, set realistic goals (including measures of success) for the new venture. 
Make sure that your staff is clear about what needs to be achieved in your core business – and who is minding the store. Someone needs to be accountable for keeping everyone’s eye on the ball. 

Business growth involves taking calculated risk. 
The choice whether to drive growth from within your core business or stray outside of it sits with you – which is both a burden and blessing. Whatever you decide, choose wisely.

Georgina Barrick, MD of Cassel&Co and The Working Earth, all divisions of ADvTECH Resourcing (Pty) Ltd. Georgina has over 25 years of recruitment and executive search experience.

Apr 15
I Get By With a Little Help from My Friends

business-3421076_960_720.jpgAuthor: Georgina Barrick

Looking at the news out of the UK, I can’t help wondering if Brexit would be going any more smoothly if Theresa May had been able to build better alliances with key players ahead of time. Or, if the same key players were a little less self-interested and more willing to pull together to deliver a solution for the greater good. This started me thinking about how, as leaders, we can build better, stronger alliances in our working worlds and how we can encourage others in our circle of influence to do the same – to our mutual benefit...

In the corporate world, I’ve seen, first-hand, the benefit of having allies, particularly those outside of my normal chain of influence. A good ally will work with you to achieve your goals, support your views or causes and become a sounding board (offering a different perspective on issues), when you need it. In hand with performance, a strong ally can be a real career differentiator.
The secret is in being able to identify the right partners (both up- and downstream in your chain) and, being able to build simpatico with these people over time so that, when you need help, you’re not out in the cold.
No matter how good your performance, or how important your mission, you’re unlikely to achieve what you set out to without help from others. Like any good relationship, building an alliance requires an investment of time and effort. But, if you’ve chosen your ally wisely, it’s likely that the more you put into building your connection, the more reward you will reap, with time. 
It’s also important to have more than one ally, perhaps across different disciplines. That way, if your ally leaves or falls from grace, you’re not sent back to square one.  
So, what key areas should you focus on to cement your relationship? 
Effective communication…
Is the foundation of any positive work alliances. 
Talk openly, listen deeply and share important information with your allies.
When opinions differ (and they will and should), respect your allies’ points of view and work to resolve any potential conflict quickly.
Keep the lines of communication open always.   

Always do your best…
Be willing to go above and beyond to produce work that others are proud to support.
Foster a culture of helping others (a ‘we’re in this together’ attitude) by being generous with your time and attention. 
Become a resource to others. Helping your allies with their needs long before you need help yourself is a great way to stimulate collaboration, build trust and strengthen connection.

Spend time…
Strong relationships are built on shared experiences.
Be available when your ally needs you. Meet often – and, if you can’t, try to stay in touch with emails and messages.

Keep your promises…
Do what you say you’ll do – always. Never over-promise and under-deliver. Rather, be honest and turn down assignments that you know you can’t deliver on. Each time you make and keep a promise, you build on your reputation for reliability and dependability – which builds trust.
The opposite is also true. 

Pick your battles…
Sometimes, you have to lose the battle to win the war. If you give in on smaller decisions (or those that mean more to your ally), you’re more likely to win support for decisions that are important to you.
Also, never blindside or betray an ally. Rather, discuss any issues with him or her directly because, if you go outside of your little circle of trust, it’s possible that you will damage your alliance irreparably.

Express support and appreciation
Humans respond positively to being made to feel valued and appreciated.
Publicly express your support for your ally. Demonstrate professional courage by speaking out early, before you know which way the wind is blowing on his idea or cause.
Recognise good work. Give praise. Say thank you. Give credit, where due. 
Doing so builds reciprocal goodwill.

As Napolean Hill said ‘It is literally true that you can succeed best and quickest by helping others to succeed’. As leaders, fostering a culture of collaboration and trust starts with encouraging alliances across teams. May we all find strength in our allies.

Georgina Barrick, MD of Cassel&Co and The Working Earth, all divisions of ADvTECH Resourcing (Pty) Ltd. Georgina has over 25 years of recruitment and executive search experience.

Mar 18
Should I Stay or Should I Go?

away-1991864_1920 (003).pngAuthor: Georgina Barrick

Recent high profile – and very different – leadership changes (think Maria Ramos, Stephen Koseff and Karl Lagerfeld) have got me thinking about how, and when, leaders should grapple with the idea of letting go of the reins to make way for a leadership refresh…

Very few leaders (beyond presidents and others in public office) serve for a fixed term. 
For many of us, knowing when we’ve served our time and need to move on is entirely our own decision – there is no blueprint. But, the time comes (and it’s different for every company and individual) when making way for fresh blood is both inevitable and necessary.
It’s up to us to be alert to the signs. It could be that we’ve achieved all that we set out to achieve, or that we’ve seen the organisation through a difficult transition, or (even) that we’ve run out of ideas.
Regardless of the reason, as leaders, we’re expected to know when to bow out gracefully.

The truth is that, even good leaders, who have achieved a lot during their tenure, can outstay their welcome.
Some – like Maria Ramos – believe that leaders should be ‘systematically replaced to allow for a regular refresh’ – meaning that the best leaders don’t stay too long. Others believe in long term continuity and stability – being able to stabilise, evolve and grow a business, while seeing medium to long term projects through.  Although, this train of thought can sometimes backfire if the leader becomes the company and any indication that he or she might step down leads to volatility.

So, how do we recognise the signs that we’ve served for long enough and that the time is right (both personally and for the companies that we run) to step aside? For that matter, how do we time any organisational change correctly so that it’s good for all? 

You’ve become complacent…

You’ve always been bursting with new ideas, but start to feel that the well has run dry. 
You realise that you haven’t done anything new – or encouraged any new ideas from your staff – in a long time. And, while you might not yet be in ‘we’ve always done it this way’ territory, you’ve certainly become way too comfortable with the status quo, and perhaps even feel a little stuck.
If you’re feeling this way, you can bet that your team do too – which means that an organisational shake up is probably needed and that you might need to step aside to make way for new thinking.

You no longer feel valued…

Where once you were a vital part of the leadership team, you’re now feeling like an outsider. 
Decisions that you would once have been a big part of are made without your input, meetings that couldn’t happen without you now take place in your absence or senior leadership/ the board fails to support you on important issues.
The signs are there that your opinion no longer carries the weight that it used to – which means that it’s time to move on.

You can’t do what needs to be done…

You’ve put your heart and soul into your start up and it now needs to grow to reach the next level – but you don’t have the skills needed to take it there. Or, it’s time for your company to make a significant (but much needed) change in direction – and you know that you may not be the right person to lead the charge. You could also come to realise that the vision that has sustained you no longer aligns with that of your organisation. Often, the skills required to turn a business around or get a new project off the ground are not the same skills required for the day-to-day running of a business.
It can be difficult for leaders, who feel irreplaceable, to acknowledge that the best course of action is to make way for a new generation of talent with fresh perspectives and skills.

You know that it’s time to play to your strengths…

Microsoft’s Bill Gates was 45 years old when he shocked the business world by stepping down as CEO to resume a tech role. And, while he’d made his fortune and could afford to take a back seat, Gates also understood that the skillset that had helped him to found Microsoft could be put to better use in another role, allowing him to stay in touch with what really excited him and devote time to building his foundation (another passion) - all while being in the best interests of Microsoft.
As leaders, we spend the first years of our careers honing skills that we lose touch with once the day-to-day intricacies of management take over. And, sometimes it’s best – for us and the teams that we run – to step down and return to what excites us.

You know it’s time…

Leadership is a high-pressure job. Few people can handle the long hours, stress and responsibility needed. Managing competing stakeholder demands is a delicate balancing act that requires sustained energy, innovation and stamina. 
Sometimes, leaders just come to realise that it’s time. Perhaps it’s because their health starts to suffer or because the talent that they’ve developed has more energy or fresher ideas.
Regardless, sometimes they just know. 

As Eckhart Tolle said ‘sometimes letting things go is an act of far greater power than defending or hanging on’. As leaders, we need to be alert and open to the need for organisational change – even if it means that we leave a job or company that we have sweated blood to build, to make way for fresh ideas, new directions and growth.
May we all recognise the signs in our own lives, when they come…

Georgina Barrick, MD of Cassel&Co and The Working Earth, all divisions of ADvTECH Resourcing (Pty) Ltd. Georgina has over 25 years of recruitment and executive search experience.

Feb 21
Counter-Offers: Cautionary Tale or Cause for Celebration?

Author: Georgina


Working in recruitment means that I’ve handled a lot of counter offers over the years. And yet, this is the first time that I’ve really written about them.

In truth, I write about issues that touch or affect me all of the time and, while counter offers undoubtably touch me and my business, I’ve shied away from sharing my thoughts before.
The reason is simple. It’s mostly because almost every Recruiter seems to have posted about this thorny issue before – which, I think, can create the impression that we’re warning our candidates more for our benefit than theirs.
Which isn’t the case - hence my discomfort.

It’s true that, in a tougher economic climate, candidates are often swayed by money – whether it be from their existing, or a potential new, employer. As Recruiters, our job is to help them to navigate what can be a minefield and make a rational decision, based on all (positive and negative) factors that could influence their career. 
With this in mind, I think that it’s time to look at both sides of the counter offer story…

If you google ‘Counter Offer’, the search results pages are littered with cautionary tales - ‘#SayNo To Counter Offers’; ‘Beware of Counter Offers’; ‘Should You Say No to a Counter Offer?’. 
The consensus, often borne from years of (painful) experience, is that accepting a counter offer is a bad idea.  

Yet, they remain a fact of life. And, while accepting a counter offer can (undoubtedly) be what I call a ‘CLM’ (‘Career Limiting Move’), there are also circumstances where staying where you are can be a good thing. The secret is in being able to tell the difference...

In my experience, you can make accepting a counter-offer work for you if you feel undervalued – but your employer isn’t aware of your issues…
Sometimes, good performers get overlooked. If you’re showing up and doing a good job each day, your contribution may go unmentioned – particularly if you work in an environment where the management team is always busy putting out fires. 

Your resignation could serve to highlight your value to your boss and reopen channels of communication, leading to better opportunities and more responsibility than you currently have. It may also give your company the chance to make changes to the environment, which could improve your overall working conditions and reinvigorate how you feel about your job. Counter offers sometimes include a move into a new role or project that may serve to address some of the reasons you considered leaving in the first place. Accepting a new opportunity with your current employer can mean working on something new, within the security of an environment that you know.
However, if your only reason for looking for a new job is because you need to earn more money, agreeing to stay won’t really change the status quo. The reasons that pushed you to start looking at alternatives in the first place won’t magically disappear overnight. If you were unhappy and unfulfilled before, you’re likely to feel the same once the initial glow (and the salary increase) wear off.

Accepting a counter offer from your current employer can lead to diminished trust and questioned loyalty. 80% of the senior executives who took part in a recent Heidrich & Struggles survey cited diminished trust and compromised reputations as major negative repercussions of counter offer acceptance. Many highlighted that the consequences can extend to colleagues, who may view the increased salary or new projects you’ve been offered as special treatment, leading to a change in the dynamics of your team. On the flipside, in close-knit or niche industries (and, let’s face it - in South Africa, that’s almost all of them), you may suffer reputational damage as a result of accepting, and then reneging, on an offer. Recruiters will tell you to look at the statistics.Only 5% - 25% of counter offers that we deal with work out well in the end. 

This leads to what I call ‘counter offer casualties’ – which occur when the counter offer acceptor re-enters the job market within 6 to 12 months of declining a job in favour of staying with his current employer. In these circumstances, a counter offer can be just another version of the long goodbye.

As a Recruiter who has lived through many, many counter offer situations, I can tell you that no two situations are alike. Sadly, the outcome often is.
My advice, therefore, would be to not let your work issues/ discontent get as far as resignation. 
Rather, spend time understanding and mapping out why you’re unhappy in your current job.
Then, use this knowledge to engage with your boss and explore how you can resolve the issues – almost like giving him or her the ‘right of first refusal’. Do this a long time before you start your recruitment process and raise expectations with a potential new employer. 
You’ll get peace of mind and can look at outside opportunities, knowing that you’ve done everything possible to make your current job situation workable.
And, it’ll make the decision around whether to accept or reject any counter offers a no-brainer.
Good luck!

Georgina Barrick, MD of Cassel&Co and The Working Earth, all divisions of ADvTECH Resourcing (Pty) Ltd. Georgina has over 20 years of recruitment and executive search experience.

Jan 23
The Sandwich Generation: Are You the ‘Filling’?

Family Tree 2.jpgAuthor: Georgina Barrick

I’m not a big fan of ‘New Year’s Resolutions’.
I prefer to work with a set of enduring and broad themes – or guiding lights to use as waypoints as each year unfolds. In 2018, my focus was very much on how to live more mindfully – how to manage stress better, get more sleep and live more consciously.
While I didn’t always get it right, exploring ways to live more mindfully has certainly improved my overall quality of life. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, ‘life consists in what we think of all day’.
My mindfulness journey continues in 2019.

As 2019 kicks off, I’ve been thinking about friends and colleagues who are paid-up members of the ‘Sandwich Generation’. Today, thanks to advances in medicine and health, we’re all living longer, while our children are growing up in a world where it’s harder to get (and maintain) financial independence. Actuaries are predicting that people who are now in their 40’s will be the first generation to live to 120 and beyond (a scary thought when retirement age is still 65).

The burden of managing this delicate generational balancing act falls on the Sandwich Generation – who sit in the middle and care for aging parents, while bringing up young children. This burden often comes at great personal, physical, emotional and financial cost.
Research by the American Psychological Association found that nearly 40% of adults aged between 35 and 54 feel overextended and suffer extreme levels of (poorly managed) stress as they try to balance the needs and demands of growing children against those of aging parents.
And, this stress is taking a toll, with 83% reporting that relationships with their spouse, children and family are their biggest source of stress, making it difficult to take better care of themselves.
In South Africa, a survey by Old Mutual found that 28% of urban adults take care of their children, while also supporting parents, siblings and other family members – a statistic that is growing by 2% (on average) per year, making the ‘Sandwich Generation’ a reality for many South Africans.

If this is what life looks like for so many of us, how do we find a balance between all of our dependents so that we’re not meeting the needs of one to the detriment of others?
And, how do we make time to take care of, and nurture, ourselves?
Identify (and Manage) Your Stressors…
I’ve found that being able to identify what triggers stress allows me to respond more appropriately.
Also, unhealthy behaviours – like drinking or eating too much – aren’t helpful.
Try to explore how you can replace this behaviour with healthier ways of coping and how you can incorporate stress-reducing activities – like exercise, socialising with friends or meditation – into your daily routine.

Practice Self Care...
When you’re running on empty, you can’t properly take care of others.
It’s important to make time to take care of yourself. Get good sleep, schedule time for exercise and do the things that you enjoy and that nourish you.
For me, it’s about taking time to have a massage or catch up over coffee with good friends.
The world won’t fall apart in your absence – and you’ll return refreshed and better able to cope.

Find (and Lean On) the Right Support...
Even if you’re Super(wo)man, it’s not possible to do everything yourself.
Think about what you need and ask for help. Whether it be siblings, older children, friends or professional caregivers, help is available. Share the load. In my experience, people want to help.

Manage Your Finances…
Many older people shy away from talking about money, believing that it’s ‘not the done thing’.
Given that 41% of respondents to the Old Mutual survey rely on their children for financial support, understanding the true state of your parent’s finance is key to being able to put together a financial plan that works for everyone.
Start by getting everyone’s finances out in the open so that you can properly plan.
It’s also a good idea to get your children involved so that they can learn to become financially independent themselves.

Live in the Moment…
Truthfully, being the ‘filling in the sandwich’ is sometimes no fun.
It’s important to live in the moment. Love your loved ones. Prioritise what matters and let the little stuff go. This too shall pass – and you may miss it when it does.

And finally, I believe that there are two gifts that you should strive to give…
First, make your children truly independent. Focus on giving them a good education and ensuring that they understand how to become financially independent.
Then, ensure that you remain financially independent as you age and make all of the big, necessary life decisions around retirement ahead of time so that you don’t burden your children.
Good luck!

Georgina Barrick, MD of Cassel&Co and Insource.ICT/ IT Edge, all divisions of ADvTECH Resourcing (Pty) Ltd. Georgina has over 20 years of recruitment and executive search experience.

Nov 27
Show Up and Be Present: Just Say No to Multi-Tasking

How often have you found yourself reading emails, while doing homework with your children?
Or, taking important business calls while driving to your next meeting – and looking up to discover that you’re driving in the wrong direction? Perhaps, like me, you switch between tasks while waiting for something to download on your laptop.

The truth is that we’ve all done it. 
When I was younger, like a true Generation X’er, I prided myself on being a ‘Multitasking Master’. 
X’ers were really sold on the belief that performing more than one task simultaneously was key to optimising productivity and efficiency. 
This belief was reinforced when Microsoft launched Windows in the mid-80’s. Suddenly, you could open multiple windows on screen – all dedicated to different tasks – and work on (and switch between) them all seamlessly. Multitasking had become mainstream.
Today, with the help of science, I’ve come to realise that there really is no such thing as multitasking – and (like carbs and sugar) my brain and I are better off without it.

Why does Multitasking have a Bad Rap?

Multitasking really means that we’re ‘switch-tasking’.
Because our brain can’t process similar functions (like reading a book and listening to music lyrics) simultaneously, it unconsciously switches between tasks, rather than trying to work on more than one task at a time. And, when we switch from one task to another, the transition between tasks takes time as our brain needs to shift attention. While this might feel seamless, each switch takes tenths of a second, which adds up when you’re switching back and forth frequently. Studies have shown that multitasking takes as much as 40% more time than focusing on one task only – which is why it’s inefficient, ineffective and impacts productivity.

Multitasking means more mistakes…
Because the brain never really focuses on any one task, multitaskers have more trouble tuning out distractions, make more errors, remember fewer details and take longer to complete tasks than those who work only on a single task at a time.
Most of us generally shift attention every 3 minutes. But, as it takes 15 to 18 minutes of concentrated work to enter what’s called a ‘flow state’ (the state of deep consciousness where we work at optimal levels), we’re unlikely to ever enter ‘flow’ – and perform better.

Multitasking affects brain health…
Evidence has shown that chronic multitasking can impair cognitive function, affect short term memory and increase anxiety.
A 2009 Stanford study into the effect on cognitive function found that multitaskers struggle to filter out irrelevant information, have greater difficulty switching between tasks and are less mentally organised. Even when chronic multitaskers focused only on one task, their brains were less efficient.
And, because switching rapidly between tasks spreads our attention thinly, tasks aren’t given the attention they deserve (or need) in order to be properly bedded down in memory, with the effect becoming more noticeable as we age.
Interrupted work increases anxiety levels. Researchers at UCI found that the heart rates of workers with access to email were consistently higher than those without email access. For me, this is as good reason as any to switch off email and social media alerts!

Multitasking inhibits creativity…
Forcing our brains to process multiple tasks in rapid succession rewires the brain, inhibiting creativity. When we spread our attention across too many tasks at once, we use up the brain’s working memory, leaving no space for truly creative ideas and concepts.  
Also, as overload makes us more anxious, we start to rely on the more primitive ‘fight or flight’ area of the brain, instead of using the frontal lobe, which controls creativity and critical thinking.
This all makes us more likely to follow (rather than challenge) conventional thinking. 

Multitasking stands in the way of making connections with others…
Jumping from task to task means that we never really spend enough time building deep connections with others. When we read the news, while talking to our children or respond to emails in meeting, we’re never truly in the moment. Our colleagues, families and friends sense this, which impacts our connection to them. Truly connecting with others is a source of deep human fulfilment – which no task can give.

Just Say No
Having realised the impact that multitasking has on my brain, health and life, I now try to focus on two simple rules that help me to ‘just say no’.

Prioritise only one thing each day.
Each day, try to focus on only one task at a time, for a length of time. This helps to avoid switch-tasking and opens up the possibility of entering a flow state. If you can’t set aside a whole day per task, try to set aside blocks of time (an hour or more is ideal) to work only on one thing. 
Schedule (limited) time in your day for admin tasks – like answering emails – and switch off email and social media alerts. Try to limit unnecessary meetings.
For me, understanding that I don’t need to respond to everything has been life altering.

Do creative tasks in the early morning.
If you need to write a report, design a strategy or conduct an annual goal setting session, set aside time first thing in the morning, when you’re fresh and rested (and before your mind gets cluttered), to get creative tasks done.

Multitasking is the art of doing twice as much as you should, half as well as you could. 
Go forth and focus (on one thing at a time!)
Georgina Barrick, MD of Cassel&Co and Insource.ICT/ IT Edge, all divisions of ADvTECH Resourcing (Pty) Ltd. Georgina has over 20 years of recruitment and executive search experience.

Nov 09
Stress: Is It All Too Much?

‘Don’t stress over what you can’t control’. ‘Keep Calm and …’

We’ve all heard the trite memes. I even seen t-shirts emblazoned with ‘If your dreams don’t scare you, they aren’t big enough’. While these sayings are meant to motivate, it’s difficult to live the sentiments when you’re feeling overwhelmed. 
Rather than encouraging and giving us hope, these memes can paralyse us, as we try to rationalise how we’re really feeling against what we believe is expected of us. 
October 10th was World Mental Health Day. Against the backdrop of gender-based violence, crime and an economy that is simply failing to thrive; many South Africans are struggling with anxiety, depression and stress.

Speaking to colleagues and friends, it seems that many around us are overloaded and feeling overwhelmed by the demands of life. Some have to balance the needs of elderly parents, alongside managing a young family. Others cope with ill health – our own or those closest to us. South Africa’s declining economic growth – the latest petrol price hike being just one consequence – affects us all.
As leaders, we have the added stress of always needing to push the envelope. In corporate companies, meeting shareholder expectations means that each year has to be better than the last. 
And, while we sign up for this race when we take on a leadership role, it’s a challenge to constantly be reaching, chasing and improving.

But, is stress necessarily a bad thing? We know that it’s essential for survival. 
The body’s natural defence against danger – the ‘fight or flight’ mechanism – releases cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline. This prepares our bodies to respond to dangerous situations by slowing normal bodily functions (like digestion) and increasing heart rate, heightening muscle preparedness and raising alertness. 
However, when the ‘fight or flight’ mechanism is triggered too often, too easily or if there are too many stressors at one time, our physical, mental and emotional health suffers.
Too much stress can lead to heart disease, high blood pressure, lowered immunity, issues with sleep and can put us at a greater risk of developing cancer. Emotionally, it makes us more prone to angry outbursts, at greater risk of developing drug or alcohol problems, impacts appetite (either by making us eat more or less) and affects our relationships.
Undoubtedly, too much stress is debilitating and should be avoided.

In the right and appropriate dosage, stress can be a motivator. 
If managed properly, it can make us more resilient. South Africans, who have long lived in a constant state of uncertainty around our political and economic future, have become used to stress and, rather than hindering us, it has propelled us forward, to a certain extent.

The secret is to find a balance - as my 85 year old mother always says ‘everything in moderation’. 
Today, we’re all more focused on our heath and on being mindful and more present in our lives. Most of us try to achieve work/ life balance and know, as I explored in last month’s blog, that sleep is key.  But, how do we guard against these concepts becoming like wallpaper – there, but not seen? How do we manage our stress so that it helps, and doesn’t hurt, us?

Learn to accept where you are right now.
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a great fan of Oprah’s SuperSoul Sundays and listen to her podcasts whenever I can. Recently, I heard her speak to spiritual teacher, Eckhardt Tolle, about how to live a stress-free life. Tolle’s message – that stress is about wanting something to be the way it isn’t – really resonated with me. Too often, when we find ourselves in a difficult situation, we immediately jump into worst-case scenarios, using negative mind talk.  
Instead, he believes that, when we find ourselves in a stressful situation, we should accept it – look at the situation without labelling it and understand (and accept) that this is what our life looks like for now. He calls this accepting the ‘is-ness’ of life.
Tolle also believes that even negative situations can have a positive outcome. 
When Arianna Huffington collapsed in her office from lack of sleep and used the experience to turn her life around, she found the positive in the negative. When things don’t look good at first glance, acceptance can turn a negative situation around. If we can learn to ‘lean away’ from the noise that our minds make, we’re more able to relax and go with the moment – or to accept the moment as though we had chosen it for ourselves and let it bring on a new consciousness.

Until we accept our current state and stop fighting it, we remain ‘stuck in the mud’. Or, rather, what we resist, persists.

Stop ‘multi-tasking’…
Often, we take on too much and then ‘multitask’ to get it all delivered. 
We’ve all done this – checking mail, while meeting with colleagues, or taking important business calls while driving. I call it the ‘myth of multi-tasking’ because the truth is that none of the activities we’re engaged in is getting our full attention – and none are being executed with excellence.  
One of the simplest ways to reduce stress is to focus, as much as possible, on doing only one thing at a time. Pick one thing to work on, remove all distractions and focus on it until it’s done.
You’ll find it liberating – I certainly did.

Simplify your schedule…
Overscheduling is a major source of stress. 
We’re all constantly on the run – to the next meeting, event or situation. Try to schedule only a few essential commitments (or those that are beneficial to you or feed your soul) into each day and learn to say ‘no’ to the rest. If meetings aren’t essential, decline the meeting invite. Schedule time for fun and relaxation.
In time, you’ll get over your FOMO.

Do something that gets you moving every day.
It’s doesn’t have to be formal – walk your dog, dance with your children – as long as it happens.
Get moving – it helps.

Be early – always…
Constantly being late is very stressful. Try to be realistic about how long it really takes to get ready, commute, prepare or run errands so that you can space out your meetings to give you more time.

If you’re able to manage your stress so that it becomes a positive force, you’ll understand – as Bill Phillips said that ‘stress should be a powerful driving force, not an obstacle’.
Go forth and conquer (your stress).

Georgina Barrick, MD of Cassel&Co and Insource.ICT/ IT Edge, all divisions of ADvTECH Resourcing (Pty) Ltd. Georgina has over 20 years of recruitment and executive search experience.

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