Join me as we explore my latest coaching insights.

I'll call her Jess and through her story show how when one door closes you can open the next one. Jess was making her rise through the corporate ranks look easy. Her company promoted Jess ahead of her peers. Making her sales budget was a breeze for Jess who worked extraordinarily hard, often sacrificing her private life for the job. Overall, life felt good. Abruptly, all this changed.

Last month my post titled ‘It is possible to be happier, but not for the reasons you may think’ generated a good deal of interest. So much so in fact that I searched for more practical guidance on what you can do to be happier. Here's some key things we've learning about happiness through science, courtesy of Mindful newsletter columnist Stephany Tlalka (whose helpful synopsis of current research I quote and gratefully acknowledge).

Curiosity killed the cat refers in everyday parlance to the dangers of needless risk-taking and experimentation. But a lack of curiosity is what kills many an executive’s career. This is a story about Luke Potter (pseudonym) who believed the reasons for his previous success as a CEO could easily be transferred to his new role. Luke is still wondering why he failed and why he was asked to leave.

Working with a client in his late-50s I asked, “James will you live your last 20 summers to the full?” I wasn’t suggesting I was prescient about the actuarial probability of his lifespan. But I was wanting to give him a wake-up call. James had it all wrong in my opinion. I use ‘your last 20 summers’ as a metaphor for the period after you leave your full-time role in an organisation and I suggest all of us should plan to generate good income during our ‘last 20 summers’. Here’s why I think James had it wrong.

For leaders, it is important to replace your musts and shoulds with wants and wishes. Every truly effective leader senses this, yet too few recognise that this simple formula empowers them to respond and act in an emotionally intelligent way to stressful situations. When you replace your musts and shoulds with wants and wishes you avoid the traps that create stress, sap your energy and distract you from the main game.

My January 2014 post is about how to become an authentic leader. Authentic leadership is about your self-concept and the relationship between your self-concept and your actions as a leader. So I was delighted when one of my regular readers was inspired to send me this piece of wisdom from best-selling author and spiritual guide Deepak Chopra in The Soul-Leadership: Unlocking Your Potential for Greatness: ‘Leaders and followers co-create each other. They form an invisible spiritual bond. Leaders exist to embody the values that followers hunger for, while followers fuel the leader’s vision from inside themselves.’

In December last year my post ‘To be an authentic leader, first be true to yourself’ caused many to write and call. How to become an authentic leader was a common theme in these conversations. This post, Construct your life story and develop as an authentic leader, shows how by constructing your life story you can develop as an authentic leader. Let me explain.

This is my final post for 2013. It’s my opportunity to reflect on the joys of working with wonderful clients, teaching and learning through my blog, continuing to build my practice as an executive coach and being a non-executive director of two professional services firms. Merry Christmas to all my followers. Have a restful and reflective break and return in 2014 to focus on those aspects of your life and career that are most important to you. In doing so, please browse my favourite posts of 2014. Perhaps you’ll let me know which one/s you found most useful and why. Drop me an email at margaret@beatonexecutivecoaching.com.

Break is the important part of breaking through when you make any significant life-career change. You need to leave aspects of your past behind to move on, out or up. And when you make the break you will find new energy and creativity emerge, enabling you to think and act differently. Here’s why and how to make your break.

The thought that ‘you will miss the road to your future’ is taken from Charles Handy’s great book The Empty Raincoat. Among the many gems in The Empty Raincoat, Handy explores one of the paradoxes of being successful. What helped you to get to where you are today is most unlikely to be what will keep you there in the future, let alone drive you to greater heights.

Seven shifts are necessary for you to step up from a technical or functional role into one of business unit or organisational leader for the first time. There is always a significant transition when a leader takes on a new role. And the transition is biggest when it’s into general management. This is the most challenging for any leader to make. Here’s why. And the seven shifts that assure success.

In our parents’ time adult life had three periods each with a clear finish line. For professional people these periods were education (i.e. development that ended with a graduation ceremony), work (i.e. productivity that ended with a ‘gold watch’ presentation) and retirement (i.e. a period of leisure that ended in death). But today it’s quite different. For our generation retirement isn't a period or even an event for that matter. There is no finish line that demarcates the end of work. Here’s why understanding this is so important and why planning for it is essential.

In May my post ‘Becoming an Ex’ stirred a good deal of interest. Thank you to those Ex’s and those on the brink of becoming an Ex who have shared the resonance and reassurance they felt on reading ‘Becoming an Ex’. One observation from an Ex, now a CEO, sticks with me. “I am a marital Ex and I changed jobs two years ago to take a big step up. But until I read your post ‘Becoming an Ex’ I had not seen the similarities between a divorce Ex and a work place Ex. The insights have helped me personally; for which thank you. More importantly though, I now realise that one or more of the stars in my management team may be at risk of becoming an Ex and leaving us. We simply cannot afford that so I plan to use the ideas in your post to mitigate this risk."

For many ‘being an Ex’ relates to having been divorced. But ‘becoming an Ex’ is used differently. It describes the process of exiting a career or life role, which are increasingly frequent occurrences in today’s world. Becoming an Ex is a well-established social phenomenon that refers to both disengaging from a life or career role that is central to your sense of self and the re-establishment of your new identity in a new role. Understanding what’s happening as you become an Ex prepares you for the pain–and the freedom­–that the process brings. It helps you cope with the reactions of those around you. And it reduces the traumatic impact becoming an Ex has on your life and career.