Join me as we explore my latest coaching insights.

Tom Stoppard, a British playwright, penned ‘Every exit is an entry to somewhere else’. Stoppard’s eloquence leads me to ask How well will you leave? whether you are about to step up or let go in a particular phase of your career. I am referring to the challenges, including the pain, of leaving precious people and things behind so you can move on whatever your next destination.

Most of us will readily identify with this statement: What you say about yourself reflects your innermost beliefs about yourself. These beliefs include the importance of your role in your organisation, how much you have achieved in your work life, who your friends are, and how successful you have been in your close personal relationships. The statement is true whether you are talking to yourself (self-talk) or talking and interacting with others.

After I wrote 'Does your network bind (and blind) you?' I came across this excellent book 'Leadership Networking: Connect, Collaborate, Create' by Curt Grayson and David Baldwin published by CCL Press back in 2007. The authors challenge the reader by asking if you are rating the strength of your network by the number of Facebook friends or LinkedIn connections you have. And, if you are, they suggest it’s time for a lesson in leadership networking.

It’s a truism for many of us. We are defined by our career and work.  But it’s true for all of us in another, more fundamental way. The guiding principles that drive us in our personal lives are identical to those that drive us in our business lives. This week I was struck by an article on the life and career of Harvard’s Clayton Christensen, one of the world’s leading business school academics and author of many seminal books.

After a lifetime in the firm, Simon's career as a partner was over. He was not yet 60, and the firm didn't need him any more. The inexorable forces of de-equitising had arrived in one short, traumatic meeting with two of his colleagues, the bearers of the decision by the management committee. It wasn't personal. And it certainly wasn't anything to do with his competence and dedication. It was, well…"just the way things are in the firm we can't justify your position or points any more". He should have seen it coming. The signs were all too obvious. But he was not ready to go. He still felt energised, competent and able to add value to clients and the firm. Questions raced through his head. Could he afford not to work? How would he explain it to his wife and family? What would he do with the rest of his life? He had no particular interests or hobbies. His life was the firm–his firm after all. In the days that followed Simon experienced the gamut emotions ranging from of disbelief ('why me?'), resistance ('they can't do this!') and anger ('after all I have contributed’).

If you want make your way upwards, climb the organisational ladder, build your business or grow your practice, you have to learn to manage up. The majority of my clients are pursuing careers in organisations characterised by hierarchical levels. As a younger manager or partner for you to move towards the top level you have to develop the skills and confidence to manage your supervisor or more senior partner. Three core elements are involved.

All personal growth requires effort, willingness to try, to fail, to try again, learn and eventually grow from the experience. In common parlance, there's no gain without pain. All to often I hear mentors or mentees bemoaning a lack of progress and an absence of spark in the mentoring relationship. On the hand, I also witness inspiring examples of working together, making progress and producing results that would not have been possible without the mentor-mentee relationship. Why do some mentor-mentee relationships succeed while others struggle, stutter and stop?

Every day many partners in their 50s and 60s in professional service firms ask themselves this taxing question, "What's next?". The question refers to 10, 20 or even 30 years ahead of them, the era some authors now call the 'Third Chapter'. Whether consciously or not, the question worries them because they- and their firm -  think in 20th century ways while facing 21st century reality. The new reality is much longer, more healthy life spans and the will to work for the individuals. And for their firms, it is the reservoir of talent and unique knowledge that resides in these individuals.

A distinguished blogger in Forbes magazine caught my attention with a topical and insightful way of thinking about what should mentoring mean for those 'stepping up' into leadership roles. As the recent epic struggles on the courts of the Australian Tennis Open dramatically demonstrated, competition brings out the best in a person in whatever she or he chooses to do. Using the Open as an analogy our blogger–Sydney Finkelstein, a professor of strategy and leadership at Tuck School of Business–questions the success of executive development in helping people 'step up'?

In the southern hemisphere, summer brings a unique opportunity every year. First comes Christmas when our work life is (almost) forgotten as families reunite, share food and gifts, and we anticipate a New Year and a fresh start. Then comes January, now almost gone, with quiet roads and empty offices, gifting us the opportunity to reflect, largely unencumbered by work concerns, about how we want to live our lives. Small wonder that most New Year resolutions are about giving more to those areas of life we've neglected - our health, our family, the people we mentor, our spiritual self.

I was interested to read in the Harvard Business Review last month an article entitled "The relationship you need to get right" (HBR, Oct 2011) - all about how the relationship between sponsor and protégé works best when it helps both parties. As you can read in my previous post on this blog, "Making the Master-Apprentice model work for you", I 100% agree. The authors even use the same words as I did: "a two-way street".

There’s a proven and centuries-old way of building intellectual capital in organisations. It is one of the most efficient ways for staff to cultivate their learning capacity and remain engaged and motivated. It’s the Master-Apprentice model. The theory is simple: as a master, you develop others, and as an apprentice, you learn from your supervisors and mentors. So what makes the master-apprentice relationship one that really works?

It's an exciting time. I'm building my practice, Beaton Executive Coaching, and have just launched my new website. And I've also decided that after years of writing ideas down on bits of paper and filing them away, I'm going to start writing them down here, to share with friends, colleagues and clients. It's a new adventure and I hope you'll join me on the journey.