The Dangers of Social Media

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I love social media – Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook etc.  Those I’ve tried, I love, most of the time!

Of course, I’m aware of the dangers and, yes, I have come unstuck before.  There are a number of us using Twitter who were taken in by a fraudster claiming to do good works.  I learned the hard way not to take people at gravatar value.

I know about the dangers of meeting up but by following the rules about first meetings in public, etc, I’ve met some smashing people and made some real friends.

But today I had my first really negative experience.  I realised the power of the medium and felt quite intimidated by it.

I received a series of what I considered to be fairly “spammy” messages from one particular network (not one of those named above).  I tried to unsubscribe from these particular messages but it wasn’t easy and for some reason it didn’t work.  In all honesty I don’t think the originator of the messages intended them to be anything but helpful and good natured.  But I was very tired of it.

So I sent off a fairly abrasive message and copied it to others. Next I get what I found a fairly sinister message from someone pointing out that by sending such a message I might be damaging my business.  Then I get other messages more or less raising questions about my professional judgement and credibility.

I was left feeling very threatened, realising that it wouldn’t be hard for a few words here and a few words there on social networks to be very damaging indeed.

I’ve taken my own actions to remedy this. And as I mention above I don’t think the writer of the original message meant to do anything but good.  However I am left chastened and wary.

There is huge power in these tools that we are beginning to take for granted.  I, for one, will be much more careful how I engage in future and I will certainly research any network I think of joining quite carefully before signing up.

And I think I need to remember another lesson or two, abrasive messages are much better not sent and, if you were foolish enough to send one, please don’t copy them to others!

I am Wendy Mason and I work as a personal and business coach, consultant and blogger.  I have worked with many different kinds of people going through personal  and career change. If you would like my help, please email me at or ring ++44(0)2084610114 or ++44(0)7867681439.  I will be very pleased to hear from you. I offer half an hour’s free telephone coaching to readers of this blog who quote WW1 – email me to arrange.

Becoming A Leader Today – What to give up!

Whether you are new to leadership, or an established leader taking time out to reflect, it is worth considering your leadership style.  A summer break provides a great opportunity to contemplate lessons learned and the opportunities ahead.

What kind of leader would you like to be? Here are some thoughts on changes you might make and some things you might like to consider giving up!

  1. Give up talking down! Has your approach always been focused top-down with instructions flowing from the “top floor” to the rest of the organization?  Now is the time to go for a more collaborative approach!  Have you got the confidence to build discussion into your decision making process?  Try it and see whether you get more or less engagement from your team. Of course if it doesn’t work you can always revert, but I bet you won’t want to.
  2. Give up revolution and go for evolution.  If you want to change the team, try focusing on their strengths and build on them. You have a much better chance of getting the results you want if you start small and build on your successes rather than setting out to ‘rock everyone’s world.’
  3. Give up coercion and start changing from within. Stephen Covey states in his change theory that ‘change occurs on a broken front.’  Not everyone on your team will be where you are and some may not want to change at all. Start with those who are likely to come on board most easily and get them to change. Then help the change seep out to those who are less enthusiastic.  This is likely to be much more effective than forcing people to do something and then hitting a wall.
  4. Give up hypocrisy.  Model in yourself how you want people to be. If you expect people to make positive changes, they need to see it in you.  Set yourself as the example and be visible doing what you’ve asked others to do. You’d be surprised how good the human race is at imitation!
  5. Give up taking things for granted!  Make sure that as the ‘right’ things start happening, you recognize the efforts of those who have made it happen.  You’ll find that those who want recognition will work harder for more of it, and push others as well.

There are  other changes you may want to make in yourself as leader.  Give yourself some time for reflection and see what you come up with.  If you are an established leader and want to reflect on your approach in depth then try the mini-stocktake  you will find at this link .

Whichever approach you take, I’d love to hear about your results.
I am Wendy Mason and I work as a personal and business coach, consultant and blogger.  I have worked with many different kinds of people going through personal  and career change. If you would like my help, please email me at or ring ++44(0)2084610114 or ++44(0)7867681439.  I will be very pleased to hear from you. I offer half an hour’s free telephone coaching to readers of this blog who quote WW1 – email me to arrange.

  • Becoming a Leader Today – Manifesto for a Servant Leader (
  • Becoming a Leader Today – What is Leadership? (

Are you a resilient leader?

Resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity.  We need it in our personal  lives and we certainly need it at work! It means we can “bounce back” from difficult experiences.

Research has shown that resilience is ordinary, not extraordinary. People usually show resilience but that doesn’t  mean they don’t experience difficulty.

Resilience isn’t necessarily something you are born with it – you learn how to show it.  Relationships that create warmth and trust, that provide role models, and offer encouragement and reassurance help bolster a person’s resilience.

Several additional factors are associated with resilience, including:

  • The ability to make realistic plans and take steps to carry them out
  • A positive approach and confidence in yourself
  • Communication skills
  • Problem solving abilities
  • The ability to handle your own emotions

Not everyone reacts the same way to challenges.  An approach to building resilience that works for one person might not work for another.  A person’s culture probably has an impact on how he or she communicates feelings and deals with adversity

But here are some strategies for building your own resilience and encouraging it in those you lead.

  1. Develop strong connections with others!  Good relationships with other people mean that you can support each other.  This is particularly important in organizations going through difficulties – sometimes it is only team work that can pull you through!
  2. Avoid seeing crises as insurmountable problems. You may not be able to change what has happened but you can change how you respond.  As the leader, this will affect how others respond. Keep your eye on the bigger picture and look beyond the present to how future circumstances will be better.
  3. Accept that change happens. Certain goals may no longer be attainable as a result of adverse situations. Accepting circumstances that cannot be changed can help you focus on circumstances that you can alter.
  4. Move toward your goals. Develop some realistic and short term goals and start to move towards them.  That will inspire confidence in your ability to move towards your bigger goals and towards a time beyond the present problems.
  5. Take decisive actions. Act on adverse situations as much as you can and take decisive actions.  Don’t let people detach completely from problems and just wish they would just go away.
  6. Encourage people to look for opportunities for self-discovery. People often learn something about themselves in difficult circumstances and may find that they have grown in some respect as a result of the challenge.  Many people who have experienced difficulties have reported better relationships, a greater sense of strength (even while feeling vulnerable) and an  increased sense of self-worth.
  7. Encourage people to nurture a positive view of themselves. Developing confidence in their ability to solve problems and trusting their instincts helps build resilience.
  8. As the leader keep things in perspective and maintain a hopeful outlook. An optimistic outlook enables you and them to expect that the good times will come back.  In turn that probably will speed the time it takes to resolve the problem.

I am Wendy Mason and I work as a personal and business coach, consultant and blogger.  I have worked with many different kinds of people going through personal  and career change. If you would like my help, please email me at or ring ++44(0)2084610114 or ++44(0)7867681439.  I will be very pleased to hear from you.

Becoming a Leader Today – What is Leadership?

Genentech at San Francisco Pride Parade

“Leadership is ultimately about creating a way for people to contribute to making something extraordinary happen.” Alan Keith, Genentech

“Leaders sell the tickets for the journey” Anon

I believe leadership is influencing a group of people to achieve a common goal.

But if you ask a group to define leadership, you will probably get as many different answers as there are people in the group. And most of those answers will probably be about what a leader does, not about what leadership, itself, is.

Conventionally leaders take charge of groups, be that group a large corporation, a country or a small team charged with delivering a project. Until quite recently, there has usually been little or no distinction between leadership and management.

But leadership is not about managing people.

Leaders promote new directions! Leaders sell tickets, but managers drive the bus!

Traditionally, leadership has been based on power; military, economic, religious etc. Occasionally leadership has been based on the power of personality to dominate a group. But there has usually been some loss of free will.

In this modern knowledge-based world, this traditional approach seems less and less appropriate. Richard Florida‘s book, “The Rise of the Creative Class” argues that in the modern world, more and more work requires creative thinking. So the leader becomes the one who generates a creative idea that can be delivered in a convincing vision for the organization.

In this knowledge based economy, the idea that leadership comes from someone who just happens to sit at the top of the organization chart becomes redundant. A new direction can emerge from any point in the organization where critical knowledge can be combined with creativity to generate an influential vision for the future.

So, the leader becomes a facilitator who can create conditions in which new visions can be generated and developed.

  • “Just whistle. You know how to whistle, don’t you?” The characteristics of leadership (

“Just whistle. You know how to whistle, don’t you?” The characteristics of leadership

To have and have not!

It is interesting isn’t it that a lot of advice on leadership comes from people who have never had a chance to lead themselves.

This is true of advice on leadership in general and, I would say, it is true particularly of advice on change leadership.  Much of the advice comes from academics and, recently, it seems much has come from HR professionals and coaches.

Of course most of those writing have had many opportunities to observe leaders in action and with an educated eye.

So, I’ve been looking recently at what they say are the characteristics of an effective leader and views differ.

One gives the top three characteristics required as; humility, non-judgmental observation and a willingness to face problems.

Another quotes honesty, competence and being forward looking.

A third quotes interpersonal skills, communication skills and values

But I’m left wondering.

You see I would like to see every manager in the organization have all nine of those qualities!

I was surprised that giving clear direction figured on only in one of the lists and intelligence and vision weren’t near the top of any. In my view these are critical.

I want my leaders to be bright, as well as competent.

Yes, I do want them to be able to look ahead and see the ground clearly.  But then I want them to be able to form a vision; a vision that is communicated in a way that helps me to believe in it.

Yes, I do want a dialogue conducted by my leader using their well practised and convincing interpersonal and communication skills.  But then I want them to decide the way ahead in the light of their vision and give the organization a clear sense of direction.

I found the emphasis on honesty very interesting in the present climate – interesting and sad that we can no longer take honesty for granted in our leaders.

I looked up the meaning of humility just to be sure I understood it properly.  It means someone who does not think that he or she is better or more important than others. Well, yes, then I agree but I’m not sure that I would put it top of my list.  What about you?

Wendy Mason works as a personal and business coach, consultant and blogger. She has managed or advised on many different kinds of transition and she has worked with all kinds of people going through personal change. If you would like her help, email her at or ring ++44(0)2084610114 or ++44(0)7867681439 .

  • Are you a good leader? Time for a Mini- Stocktake! (
  • Leadership – Books, Manuals and Procedures (

How to answer questions in an interview!

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When you are looking for work, getting an invitation to an interview is wonderful, particularly right now.  It is an achievement!

Now you need to prepare for the next stage – time to start thinking about questions you might get asked.

First, remember to keep a balanced approach!  The panel want you to succeed.  There is nothing recruiters like better than to have the candidates they select for interview, do well.

You will probably be asked a range of different kinds of questions.  Some may be simple to answer and others much more challenging;  tough questions are not asked to make you feel uncomfortable but they are meant to test you.

Sometimes, you may be put under pressure just to see how well you cope with stressful situations.  If you have applied for a high pressure job then you should expect this!  So stay calm and show them how well you would cope.

Many interviewers start the interview with “getting to know you” factual questions about your experience.  These are usually intended to put you at your ease and help you give your best.

You may well be asked why you applied for the role and you need to prepare a credible answer.  It should show you have some real interest in the organization and in the role.

Also, you may be asked why the organization should hire you.  This is your opportunity to set out your wares.  Again prepare for this.  You should make sure your answer is compatible with your application form.   It is often wise to check your application form just before the interview – just to make sure you keep your answers consistent.

You may be asked why you left your last position.  Be honest but have a care – it is never wise to be critical of a previous employer. The same thing applies, if you are asked to describe your worst boss; again have a care and give a balanced view.  Show how you have learned from experience!

If you are asked about your weaknesses, be honest and be brief.  Concentrate on a minor shortcoming that doesn’t have a profound effect on job performance.  For example, I mention that I have a tendency, in my enthusiasm, to over commit and take on too much work.  But I go on to explain that I’ve learned to pace myself.

If the role has a management or leadership element, you may be asked for an example of something you handled well.  Have some challenging examples ready to quote.

In general, where you can, use your experience in your answers as evidence of what you bring with you.

If you are asked what you are looking for in a role, have an answer ready that shows a real taste for the work and some enthusiasm.

If you are asked what you are looking financially, ask what the salary range is for the position. But be ready in case you aren’t given the information you need. Read salary surveys, government data and association reports in advance so you have an idea of what comparable jobs pay right now. That way, you can give a response that’s in line with current standards.

Remember in all your answers to treat the panel with respect; stay calm, polite and do not patronise them.

Whatever questions they ask, stay away from politics and religion in your answers!

When they are asking questions, listen carefully and take a deep breath before answering – think before your speak.  If there is something you don’t understand, then ask for clarification.

At the end of the interview, you will probably be asked if you have any questions.  These days you are expected to say yes.  Have something prepared about the role and how it might develop.  Again show a real interest in this role, these people and this organization.

Above all remember that the interviewers hope to see good candidates.  They will be willing you on to do well.

Wendy Mason works as a personal and business coach, consultant and blogger. She has managed or advised on many different kinds of transition and she has worked with all kinds of people going through personal change. If you would like her help, email her at or ring ++44(0)2084610114 or ++44(0)7867681439 

Confidence isn’t arrogance

Water confidence course

Confidence – like many others I was brought up with dire warnings against the sin of hubris.

Hubris means extreme pride to the point of arrogance True hubris usually indicates a loss of contact with reality and a substantial overestimation of your own abilities.

I wrote here last week about the value of confidence in your own ability – self efficacy!

Of course, interesting questions are what is too much confidence and what risk does it carry?

In fact,  research suggests that there can be benefits for an individual in an overestimation their abilities.

Research by Gervais and Goldstein’s in 2003 found that a two-player team consisting of one overconfident and one more rational person outperforms a team consisting of two rational people.

This is because overconfidence enhances effort levels – over confident people try harder.

It seems that over-confidence probably accounts for the ultimate success of some serial entrepreneurs.

There is  evidence that  the earlier failed ventures provide valuable resources for entrepreneurs’ future use,. Even though entrepreneurs may be unable to explain why their performance has improved, they will be acutely aware of it and may use it to better calibrate their likelihood of future success. Being highly confident in their abilities keeps them trying and learning from their experience, until eventually they succeed.

It may even be that the prosperity of some societies reflects a culture that allows more confident individuals and entrepreneurs to undertake more challenging and risky tasks with greater conviction. Survivors set up new businesses, achieve technology breakthroughs, develop new drugs, initiate and articulate novel ideas and theories and so on.

But in societies where people are more preoccupied with establishing when and how they could be wrong, they become more timid, indecisive and achieve less  (Brockner et al., 2004; Kahneman and Lovallo, 1993).

Higher confidence appears to increase the odds of success from creating wealth to saving jobs and lives.

But of course over-confidence does carry risks, as recent behaviour by the Banks has demonstrated.  It is always worth keeping in mind Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus whose arrogance led him to sign a deal with the devil and lead of course to his ultimate damnation. However much you believe in your own ability, touching base with reality and caring about how the rest of the world is getting on can never be wrong!

Wendy Mason works as a personal and business coach, consultant and blogger. She has managed or advised on many different kinds of transition and she has worked with all kinds of people going through personal change. If you would like her help, email her at or ring ++44(0)2084610114 or ++44(0)7867681439 .

I think I can, I know I can! Self Efficacy and the Value of Self Belief

Albert Bandura

We seem to spend an awful lot of time talking and thinking about development.

Developing as a human being involves taking responsibility for ourselves, gaining focus and determining that we want to live a life of some purpose.  We have dreams, and we develop and work towards goals.

A key factor in whether we achieve our goals is the development of self-efficacy. 

Self- efficacy is a term used in psychology and it roughly corresponds to a person’s belief in their own competence. It is believed that our ideas of self-efficacy affect our social interactions in almost every way.

Understanding how to foster the development of self-efficacy is vitally important because it can lead to living a more productive and happy life.

Psychologist Albert Bandura has defined self-efficacy as one’s belief in one’s ability to succeed in specific situations.

One’s sense of self-efficacy can play a major role in how one approaches goals, tasks, and challenges. According to Bandura, people who believe they can perform well, are more likely to view difficult tasks as something to be mastered rather than something to be avoided.

Bandura points to four sources affecting self-efficacy;

Experience – success raises self-efficacy, failure lowers it.

Modelling – “If they can do it, I can do it too!” When people see someone succeeding at something, their self-efficacy will increase; and where they see people failing, their self-efficacy will decrease.

Social Persuasions – encouragement/discouragement – most people remember times where something said to them significantly altered their confidence.

Physiological Factors – In unusual and stressful situations, people commonly exhibit signs of distress. A person’s perceptions of this, can markedly alter a person’s self-efficacy. If a person gets ‘butterflies in the stomach’ before public speaking, those with low self-efficacy may take this as a sign of their own inability, while those with high self-efficacy are likely to take these signs as normal and unrelated to their actual ability. Thus, a belief in the implications of the physiological response alters self-efficacy

The implications of self-efficacy for us as leaders and managers are enormous. We are all searching for ways to help people learn more effectively and be more productive.

By understanding how to help influence people to develop a positive mental assessment of their abilities, it is possible for us to create work environments that provide the necessary feedback and support for individuals. This should allow more people to develop high levels of self-efficacy that will translate into increased productivity.

Also, the stress of life can be at times intolerable, but those with high self-efficacy seem to be more able to live stress-free lives that are rewarding and happy.

Wendy Mason works as a personal and business coach, consultant and blogger. She has managed or advised on many different kinds of transition and she has worked with all kinds of people going through personal change. If you would like her help, email her at or ring ++44(0)2084610114 or ++44(0)7867681439 .