We live life at the speed of an Instagram photo. And by this point, it’s no secret that the glamorous lifestyles of others on social media is eroding our self-confidence and undermining our mental health.

Feelings of ‘being a failure’ are everywhere, and they are particularly common in the Millennial new grads and young professionals I mentor. They may yearn for a career that is empowering, impactful and which expresses their greatness – but they don’t believe it could be a reality for them.


Often, the answer comes down to one or other – or a combination – of the following five myths:

1. You have to follow an already-established path

There can be a lot of anxiety, whether acknowledged or not, about stepping away from a traditional, tried-and-tested path. Having worked as a corporate trainer in the Gulf as well as my home country, I have seen first-hand how culture and society can steer its young people towards what are thought to be ‘safe’ career directions. Finance, Accounting, Law, Medicine, Engineering and so on.

And there is nothing wrong with pursuing an established professional path… as long as it is aligned with your own unique skill-sets, life goals and potential – your blueprint. For some, a conventional career with many clearly-expected milestones will be appropriate. For others, an off-the-beaten-track professional life is better suited.

However, what makes the above statement a myth, is the phrase “You have to”. No, as it happens you don’t have to.

Maybe you should if you do authentically derive satisfaction in following a well-established career course. But you definitely don’t have to, to enjoy a great career.

We live in an ever-more entrepreneurial world. Education for every age group is rapidly evolving in the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the rise of multidisciplinary learning. There is more freedom than ever to acquire skills as you need, reach and grow new professional networks and harness digital tools to create new products, tap fresh markets and serve diverse customers.

What you should commit to (if you want to enjoy career greatness), is a clear set of professional PRIORITIES – such as for your career to be: innovative, purpose-driven, giving back to society, creative – and so on – instead of to a path with fixed milestones.

Once you achieve clarity on your career priorities, you can choose to take a conventional or unconventional route towards them, according to the pace of your own development and self-awareness.

2. You have to be earning lots of money

We like to measure things, don’t we? After all, if we can measure something, how do we track its evolution? How do we gauge and compare its performance? How do we make a decision whether it’s a good thing, a bad thing, or a useful thing – a rare or valuable thing or a liability?

In short we like data that gives us a before and after. Hard to argue with figures, right? Except, figures rarely tell us about what obstacles had to be overcome, what mountains were climbed, what oppositions had to be faced.

Someone’s bank account can be tiny compared to someone else’s… but what does that say about the first person’s investment in their education, their values, their creativity and talent?

It says absolutely nothing. And if you are unwilling to pursue career greatness because you don’t feel you have it in you to produce great wealth, think again.

Not that there’s anything wrong with making a lot of money or having an impressive bank account… It’s just that career greatness is actually about YOU expressing your UNIQUE potential, irrespective of how much cash it rewards you with.

In other words, career greatness is achieved when your work lets you demonstrate and apply your special aptitudes, interests and gifts, to offer the MAXIMUM possible value.

If you can do that, chances are good the money will follow.

3. External gurus have the answers

Thanks to digital media and online publishing, we are in a kind of golden age when it comes to influencers reaching audiences and thought leaders shaping trends.

The tsunami of podcasts, books and courses shows no signs of finally crashing. Instead, many young professionals feel pressed to seek guidance from one external source to the next, eventually getting mentally, spiritually and very often physically, burned out.

Now, I am not against the idea of seeking the knowledge and support of a guide – after all, I’m a dedicated mentor myself, and I have witnessed how one-on-one work helps my mentees unlock their potential.

But my goal is to make myself unnecessary. To help you finally set aside your fears, conditioning, insecurities and limiting beliefs, so that you can go on to claim your greatness – not just in your career, but holistically, at every level of your life.

A great career (like a great life) comes from you having the clarity about who you are (your gifts, your priorities, your values, what you love, what you hope to build and leave behind). While I can certainly help you get that clarity, it’s up to you to let it guide you, and to trust the inner voice of your own instincts.

4. You have to compromise your values

Actually, it’s just the opposite.

Your values – knowing what they are and integrating them into every decision, career move and professional initiative – will bring you closer to your career success.

And anyone who tries to convince you that you cannot afford values or personal beliefs if you want professional success does not have your best interests at heart.

Called me old-fashioned, but there is no point in achieving wealth and influence if you have no integrity… If you develop a reputation for saying (and doing) anything provided it is to your advantage.

I’m all for setting yourself challenges that will get you out of your comfort zone and take on goals that are truly ambitious. But the belief that you must compromise or sacrifice your VALUES in the pursuit of career greatness is not only a myth, it is actually self-defeating.

Because you will never achieve career greatness – in my definition that’s the satisfaction of expressing your highest potential through your work – if you are out of alignment with what you hold to be true – your values. Those, like your loved ones’ well-being and your health, must never ever be sacrificed.

5. You need a lifetime to achieve it

This is where it gets interesting. Ideally, career greatness IS a journey – one where you go deeper and deeper into your own potential, and therefore express more and more of it in your professional life, with commensurate accomplishments, influence and rewards.

But if you’re talking about a lifetime, does that mean you only achieve career greatness when you’re on your deathbed and about to leave this earth?

Clearly, not – otherwise people like Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s thirty-something CEO would not qualify as having reached such greatness.

And yes, he’s a maverick, but if you do a little digging, examples of successful younger people are all around us.

So, the idea that professional accomplishment requires a lifetime is not just a myth… it is simply not useful one way or another. Especially as everyone’s timeline towards career greatness will evolve according to their specific levels of self-awareness and self-development.

Therefore, if you’re trying to identify how age and time factor into career greatness, it’s far better to say career greatness grows and evolves as you do, and that every day offers you a new opportunity to express your highest potential through your work and how you offer value to others.

To work with me one-on-one to take your professional and personal performance to new levels, please check out the LIMITLESS track of services at my website, www.leonidasalexandrou.com

Stuck and blocked. Blocked and stuck….

If I had a cappuccino for every time I heard this from a new grad or young professional employee mentee, I would probably be the most caffeinated person on the planet.

Stuck and blocked. Paralysed in contemplating the future.

And contemplating not just ANY future… but future success in their careers.

You would think visualising an ideal career or accomplishment would be an uplifting exercise in reconnecting with your own life dreams… wouldn’t you?

And yet.

For so many people, what was once an inspiring vision of professional achievement is an unwelcome diversion, and the reasons for this come down to four key myths, as outlined below:

1. Career success entails a high level of risk

You know what I think when I hear this?

“What makes you believe that what you’re doing now doesn’t already have risks?”

After all, we live in a time where the threats of downsizing or being made redundant are steadily increasing, as artificial intelligence and economic crises erode traditional jobs and employability skills.

It may seem a provocative thought, but that’s really not my point. My challenge to the mentee is to look at where they want to go professionally, and reframe their fears about going towards it.

We examine the resources they already have in place in terms of achieving their goal, what the actual – as opposed to the imagined – cost would be, and how might their PRESENT career status have risks and vulnerabilities that they are accepting.

What we tend to discover together is that, if a career goal is important enough in the priorities of the mentee, there is always a way to orient themselves towards it. And, through the process, we reframe ‘career success’ as a goal that has not a low, not a high, but a manageable level of risk.

2. Career success demands a new beginning in unfamiliar circumstances

This myth obscure the fact that our experience and skills are more transferable than we believe.

Now, it’s true that sometimes pursuing career success can put us into situations where we may not rely on previous professional competencies to guide us. And it’s true that if you’ve trained as a doctor, it may be difficult to start over as a professional tennis player.

But it’s ALSO true that, very often you can RE-PURPOSE your background in new scenarios, if you have the right support and guidance and a step-by-step plan for thriving in a new environment.

This is why, for example, so many army officers later become successful business leaders when they leave the military – applying their organisational discipline into an environment that, on the surface, looks very different from their initial field.

So, yes, while targeting career success will often stretch and challenge you, and require you to attain new professional abilities and experiences, if you scratch beneath the surface, you will so often discover a network of helpful and appropriate abilities that will help you navigate the transition.

3. Career success depends on high-level qualifications

This is something I hear from motivated young professionals who have a lot of gifts and talents, but without the academic or professional credentials that might have traditionally positioned them to exercise these traits.

Again, this is where it’s important to examine the time that we are privileged enough to be living in…

Technology and online learning are exploding the opportunities to access the education that once required a hefty time and money investment. MOOCs and internet learning platforms are creating archipelagos of continuously updated knowledge – from the academic like Coursera, to the more technical like Udacity to the more vocational like Udemy…

In other words, gone are the days when only an MBA would allow you to achieve and enjoy career success.

Because, apart from the fact that, if you really want a Masters in Business Administration, you can still study and earn one online, in your own time, for a fraction of the cost it would once have cost you… we are actually globally moving towards a much more cross-disciplinary approach when it comes to education and employability.

High-level qualifications are thus both more attainable than most people believe but also no longer the only gateway to a high-flying career.

4. Career success requires limited or hard-to-access resources

Finally, we come to this myth – that career success is dependent on resources that seem totally out-of-reach.

What kinds of resources? Everything from having enough cash, to having more time – to retrain, to network, to build a business – to having the right connections, and so on.

My answer to this myth is that ‘necessity is the mother of invention’.

So, when I work with success-hungry young professionals, firstly we take an inventory to see what resources – industry contacts, lesser-used but still-accessible skills, favours owed to them by influencers – that they actually enjoy ALREADY…

And THEN, we build in the element of necessity in achieving their desired career milestones.

Because there is nothing like raising the level of necessity – how much of a priority something is to you – to free up resources – creative and otherwise – in the mind, heart and schedule.

And in the personal development plans we design together the necessity factor plays a big role in ensuring mentees fulfill their commitment to the career success goals they set themselves.

In the end, myths can only hold you back if you allow them to dominate your mind-set.

Because once you have the guidance and support to change your mind-set – literally, how you evaluate and view a situation – the myths fade away, and you start to live in a new, empowered reality where you no longer have to deny your dreams.

To work with me one-on-one to take your professional and personal performance to new levels, please check out the LIMITLESS track of services at my website, www.leonidasalexandrou.com

Remember the days when you could simply get on with your assignments and never have anything more public to do than make the occasional phone call and report to your manager once in a while?

Me neither.

The fact is, giving presentations before your colleagues, industry peers or clients are the norm for many jobs. And mentoring young professionals to feel at their best and most confident on such occasions is a regular part of the one-on-one work we do together.

At such times, we don’t only go over the best structure to present their material and body language and eye contact techniques in order to engage with their audience… We also challenge the three myths about being a great presenter that might be holding them back without justification.

To help you, here they are below, so keep reading:

1. Great presenters are gifted communicators from birth

This is probably THE myth when it comes to fears about public speaking or presenting in general.

I remember on one particular occasion, I was mentoring a lady who was entering the mid-stage in her career, and had somehow managed to avoid giving a major presentation over the years. Whenever it was required of her, she would find a justification as to why she couldn’t do it, or engineer a competing task that would leave her unavailable.

Or should she would simply communicate her material in a different format, allowing her to avoid being on her feet, facing her audience and delivering her message.

But by the time she sought mentoring from me, all the alternative options had been exhausted and there was no way to avoid giving the presentation in person.

The first thing we did to eliminate her beliefs about the supposed advantages ‘good’ presenters had. The truth is, that every person, even the most confident, has had a learning curve to address in becoming a presenter of note.

If confidence wasn’t the problem, understanding how to sequence the points and organise the objectives might have posed difficulty. Or, believe it or not, there could be issues of OVER-confidence with a need to be more introspective and review and revise material before delivery.

Ultimately, as I communicated to her in our sessions: while natural ability was a bonus, it certainly could be matched by practice and a willingness to get comfortable with temporary discomfort.

2. Others don’t experience stage-fright as intensely

Here is the other side of the coin when it comes to believing some people are simply born with the capacity to give excellent presentations… and that’s that every other presenter is simply LESS AFRAID in comparison to the myth’s believer.

Now, it certainly CAN be true that certain individuals have what might even be seen as a need to put themselves in situations where there’s a lot of adrenaline riding on the outcome. These are the same folks who sky-dive, bungee jump and are the first to volunteer when trainers ask for volunteers.

But again, there are scores of successful public-speakers and presenters who, perhaps under the guidance of a dedication of a coach or teacher, have found a way of overcoming their fear of presenting before others, and gone on to become seasoned speakers.

What made the biggest difference, is how such people REFRAMED their fear and nervousness into a way that it worked for them. Beyond ‘just doing it’ or ‘feeling the fear and doing it anyway’… there are techniques by which you can learn to interpret your racing heart-rate, shallow breathing and sweating palms into a different frame of experience – that of excitement and anticipation.

And once you have re-framed what those signals mean in your body, you will be free – as so many others before you have – to give powerful, engaging and confident presentations.

3. Becoming a great presenter needs long periods of training

Actually, there is SOME truth to this myth.

Because if you ONLY have to give a presentation once in a while, with long spaces in between when you are remaining safely behind your desk, or letting other team members stand up and deliver… then, yes, a lot of time will have to go by before you join the league of great presenters…

But just like any other learned skill, the more you challenge yourself to give presentations, the more quickly you will acquire the experience that will eventually allow you to think of presentations in the same category as driving a car or riding a bicycle. In other words, a skill that has a certain learning curve that, once mastered, can be put to use (to your advantage) over and over again.

How quickly you master that learning curve is entirely dependent on how often you are willing to get out of your comfort zone, tune out the terror of forgetting a point or ‘drying up’ or being challenged by listeners on gaps in your analysis.

Ultimately, beyond the myths of natural talent, insensitivity to stage-fright and an impossibly long time investment to develop the necessary skills, being a great presenter comes down to three truths:

  • Practising• Reframing discomfort as excitement, anticipation or enhanced focus and
  • Getting the right support to move you past your fear and connect you to your potential

To work with me one-on-one to take your professional and personal performance to new levels, please check out the LIMITLESS track of services at my website, www.leonidasalexandrou.com

There are a lot of industrious, talented people, who show up to work and deliver, day after day, rise to challenges and go above and beyond doing what they were originally hired for, without complaining.

Unfortunately, many of these same people… are, nevertheless, mysteriously stuck or unable to display their true greatness when it comes to their career.

Perhaps this is you?

If so, consider the following errors that may be undermining your chance to shine and progress professionally.

1. Your communication is on auto-pilot

What I mean by this is, for whatever reason, when it comes to important interactions – whether with loyal clients or co-workers’ upon whose cooperation and skills you depend – you’re simply not giving 100% when it comes to your messages, conversations, discussions and negotiations.

Now we all know the horrors of an overloaded email inbox, the meetings that take away valuable time from progressing on a time-sensitive project and the inconsiderate colleague who demands your attention and input on matters that are either inappropriate for the office or simply nothing to do with you.

However, like it or not, and given that most of us will spend the major part of each day, for most of our adult lives, engaged in our professional duties, it is crucial that successful, connected communication remain among your highest priorities.

Otherwise you risk being misunderstood, undervalued or coming across as unintentionally dismissive or indifferent in your work-related interactions. And this will leave you overlooked by the flow of respect, goodwill and appreciation that leads to promotions and new career opportunities.

2. You’re hostile to those already successful or doing well

Professional resentment and… dare I say it, jealousy, is not an attractive trait. And if we’re really honest, we’ve all been guilty of it from time to time. Business and the world of work are competitive spaces in life, and we have to work hard not just at carrying out our duties but also to stand out and distinguish ourselves professionally. When we do, there are certain to be others who notice… and resent us.

Don’t let such resentment or hostility to others’ success come from you. While we may think such resentment is a privately-held bitterness, believe me, I have seen it poison and embitter some of my otherwise deserving and talented mentees.

You’d be amazed at how doing exactly the opposite will shift your feeling of being undervalued and unappreciated at your work. Show genuine, authentic appreciation and admiration for those who are ahead of you professionally. If you can’t offer them appropriate praise or acknowledge their accomplishments, wish them well in your mind.

Even if you don’t believe their success is merited, don’t give in to the temptation to cultivate a resentment. As if they have somehow cheated you of your success, or taken your share from you. There is an abundance of opportunity to show your unique talents and achieve greatness in your career – but being hostile to other successful people diminishes and only makes you look insecure in your own value.

And if you YOURSELF doubt your value… how will you communicate it to those responsible for your promotion and the continuing success in your career?

3. You indulge in inappropriate talk, gossip or even backstabbing

Here is another negative trait that I have observed in otherwise talented and dedicated people.

They talk behind others’ backs and gossip about their colleagues.

In other words, they share information about co-workers which may be only half-true, unrelated to such people’s work performance, role in the team or in the company hierarchy or potentially damaging to that person’s reputation.

And when a gossiper does this, they automatically come across as unreliable, untrustworthy or dishonourable in others’ eyes.

And EVEN when the listener is not a superior, but someone with the same or lower rank than the gossiper, somehow, work-related gossip has a tendency to reach the ears of people who might otherwise have rewarded the gossiper’s talents, initiative and hard work… but, because of the gossiping or backstabbing, choose not to.

4. Your treatment of others is based purely on what they can offer you

This takes a lot of honesty from anyone… to be able to look at their behaviour from a detached enough perspective to admit that they DON’T always treat people in a genuine way.

Sometimes we fall into the trap of treating senior management or industry veterans with a deference that is less about our own professionalism… and MORE about what they might be willing to do for our professional benefit.

Now, it’s perfectly appropriate to acknowledge someone senior to you with a genuine appreciation and a signal of respect that shows you are professional enough to observe workplace etiquette – as long as it is GENUINE.

Believe me, most of us can see through someone else’s attempts at flattery. And if the person you are trying to flatter doesn’t see it – your co-workers surely will, and will judge you for it.

Alternatively if you treat people lower in rank or status with you with unkindness, rudeness, a lack of empathy and arrogance, that TOO, will eventually be noticed and condemned by those you work with, and who might otherwise have wanted to help you progress in your career.

5. You’re unwilling to go the extra mile or beyond your job description

This takes a lot of balance. And it’s true that if you’re constantly going beyond what you were originally hired to do, it can signal that you have insufficient self-worth and that you’re willing to be used as a stop-gap or go-to person for any task, great or small (generally greater and greater!) that would have been more appropriately assigned to someone else.

However, it is equally true that being resistant to take on assignments that require a greater level of attention and competence and initiative (and work) in a misjudged attempt to set appropriate boundaries, and avoid being exploited, will backfire on you professionally.

The workplace is competitive and if you never step beyond the technical limits of your job description, how will you demonstrate that you deserve to progress in your career?

Remember, it IS possible to display self-motivation and initiative while still having healthy boundaries that make it clear you are not there to be exploited or taken advantage of. I can tell you this confidently because it’s one of the things we work on in my one-on-one mentoring and workshops with young professionals.

So… GO the extra mile, AVOID gossiping and undermining successful peers or industry greats, BRING your most attentive self to your conversations and TREAT everyone with the professional respect and authentic courtesy they deserve… and you will keep yourself headed for greatness in your career.

To work with me one-on-one to take your professional and personal performance to new levels, please check out the LIMITLESS track of services at my website, www.leonidasalexandrou.com

You’ve got an important presentation coming up and the stakes are incredibly high. If you succeed in winning over your audience, maybe you’ll finalise an important deal, win a particularly powerful client or offer a solution to a critical problem.

But if you fail – i.e. by not connecting or getting your audience to agree with you – the cost can be just as high and damage your personal prospects or those of the company you represent.

That’s why, when I work with my mentees we spend a lot of time not just practising and shaping a presentation or public speech… but also making sure to avoid the things that can sabotage all of that effort and hard work.

With that in mind, here are seven ways you can protect your next important presentation from possible failure.

1. Do your homework about the venue

Are you speaking in a sleek modern office before the board of directors? Or is your presentation a little more casual in multi-purpose room of a school. Will there be a projector and speakers all set up? Will you need a whiteboard – and will there be one for you to use?

What will the audience seating be like? Semi-formal around a table? Formal, with rows of seats in an auditorium?

Will you have freedom to move around the room or will you be restricted only to one area of the space?

Not knowing the answers to these questions can sink an otherwise great presentation, and undermine your confidence and ability to connect with those listening to you. So, when preparing a presentation, make researching the venue part of your process.

2. Do your homework about your audience

While we’re speaking about those listening to you… who exactly are they? What are their age ranges, professional experiences, interests and problems likely to be? Are you speaking to men or women? What might their training/educational background be? What social class do they identify as belonging to? What are their values?

In some cases, this is fairly straightforward – if you’re speaking before executives from an insurance company, your audience members, whether male or female, are likely to value a more conservative approach to your presentation and are likely to be above the age of 40.

On the other hand, if you’re presenting to an audience of tech start-up members, your presentation will benefit from far more connection with your listeners, using a less formal, more casual style.

So, before you begin working on a presentation, make sure that you have a detailed profile of your audience in mind so you ensure you engage with their specific values, concerns and background.

3. Structure your presentation with key points

Ask yourself this… what do you want your audience to take away from your presentation after you’ve delivered it?

Even more importantly – what are the three to five key points that should be clear in their minds by the time you’ve finished?

Then, once you’ve decided on your key points, ask yourself another question: what’s the best sequence of organising these points for maximum impact (generally, you want to save your most important point, or argument, for last).

Then ask yourself a final question: what’s the best way to introduce these points at the beginning, and the best way to leave the audience remembering these points at the end of your presentation.

Remember… not being clear about the key takeaways (audiences are unlikely to remember more than – maximum – FIVE), and not being clear about how to structure those key points, will undermine the potential power of your presentation.

4. Remember to stick to the format

You’re giving a presentation. Not a speech. What’s the difference?

Presentations are designed for a less-polished, more connected experience with your listeners, with enough space left in how the material is offered, for the audience to discuss or pose questions to the presenter afterwards.

Speeches are constructed for, in a sense, a performance, which may well sacrifice analysis for style. And while connection with the audience is still important, there is little to no expectation of discussion or feedback thereafter.

In short, presentations should not be written out word-for-word beforehand and should cover only the main points.

Allow room to respond and adjust to how the material is impacting your audience… don’t let your presentation turn into a speech that distances you from your listeners.

5. Don’t over-rehearse your presentation

This follows on from the last point.

Of COURSE you have to prepare and rehearse. You have to learn about your audience and the space where you’ll be delivering the presentation. You have to know what you want your audience to take away from your material and structure your presentation accordingly.

And you have to know your material and the sequence of how you present your main points to the point where you’re comfortable. But NOT to the point where you sound impersonal and even in-authentic.

One of the features of a successful presentation is having just enough preparation to present your material with authority, while remaining under-rehearsed enough to come across as approachable and genuine.

6. Ask for feedback (from trusted sources)

Feedback is important and when I work with my mentees to put together any presentation, I give a lot of feedback… and I require the mentee him/herself to self-evaluate as well.

But going the extra mile by actively seeking feedback from trusted, impartial sources (not your best friends, not your mother – preferably with shared characteristics with your upcoming audience…) will help you avoid the danger of your key messages being lost.

After all, even if you have a great sequence of tailored, audience-specific points, delivered in as authentic a manner as possible… there will still be lapses, gaps in argument, or missed opportunities to connect that only other ears and eyes will be able to identify and communicate to you.

So, ask for feedback from appropriate listeners, and then revise your material to address the issues they bring to your attention.

7. Keep to the time allocated

Last but definitely not least… make sure you know how much time you have been allocated by your listeners for your presentation and make sure you stick to it.

This is where it’s important being just under-rehearsed enough to remain authentic with your listeners, but not so under-prepared where you struggle to remember the sequence of your main points and take too long to deliver them.

Or you fail to have enough material to successfully fill the time allocated, and you end up looking like you’ve under-prepared, or that there simply isn’t enough substance to what you are presenting.

So, get the duration of your presentation right and stay within the time window you have been allocated – finishing neither too early nor too late.

To work with me one-on-one to take your professional and personal performance to new levels, please check out the LIMITLESS track of services at my website, www.leonidasalexandrou.com

There comes a moment in many otherwise ambitious, motivated, hardworking professionals’ lives, when they catch themselves stuck in a loop of self-doubt, confusion – perhaps even bitterness.

At such times, their morale is low because they cannot figure out why, despite doing all the ‘right’ things they’re not progressing as they would like, and as they feel they deserve.

Worse, some of their colleagues who, perhaps, don’t work as hard, or cut corners, or try to offload responsibilities to others, or who take credit for accomplishments they haven’t earned… seem to enjoy success, progress and promotion.

Perhaps this describes how you feel right now. If so, you’re not alone. I encounter this frequently in my mentorship work with professionals like yourself at all stages of their career, and in this post I’d like to cover five areas where your own mistakes may be keeping you from advancing in your career.

1. Responding badly to conflicts, setbacks and disappointments

Anyone who has experience of office culture and the realities of being an employee – however senior in the corporate hierarchy – will know there are times of disagreements in teams, tensions between tiers of management, upsets and crises in projects and assignments and individual and group losses in competing for business.

Yet it’s precisely how your handle yourself (since that’s the only person you can truly control) at such times that can get you positively noticed, or negatively positioned by those higher up in the chain of command.

So, the next time someone gives you negative feedback, or you find out a colleague has been speaking ill about you, or a project that you had worked long hours on fails to impress your managers or clients as intended… remember that your calm professionalism will serve you far better in the long-run than reacting in a defensive or aggressive manner, and allow you to better navigate beyond the unpleasant situation with authority and dignity.

Own any mistakes, and try to respond with balance, even when you feel unfairly treated. This is precisely the professionalism that will get you positively noticed and recognised in the long-run, if you can avoid responding poorly to a short-term challenge.

2. Minimising or failing to point out personal achievements

This is a particularly common problem among my female mentees. And here, it’s true there is a double standard in place for men and women.

Working professionals who happen to be male will have been socialised from an early age to put themselves forward for praise and to trumpet their accomplishments, whereas women have been traditionally steered towards submissiveness and modesty.

Things are changing of course, but gender roles – and cultural preferences towards self-deprecation in work and life in general – such as those prevalent in countries like the UK or Japan – may well mean that when it comes to a healthy acknowledgement of your own accomplishments, you’re keeping quiet, as opposed to letting people know.

The fact is, you can’t afford to do this if you want to make progress at work and be promoted. Because self-worth and self-confidence are traits we associate with leaders and people of exceptional ability – and therefore those we are more likely to recognise.

So, own your achievements, and self-promote in a respectful, targeted and efficient way. There is no need to make your accomplishment a big Hollywood production – simply be on the look-out for opportunities to draw attention to your recent wins or effective decisions or initiatives.

Never undermine your co-workers’ role in your success, or minimize others’ contributions if their input or help contributed to your achievement. In fact, if you can frame your accomplishment with appreciation and gratitude to others as well, you will ensure talking about your own success actually ADDS to your value with co-workers of your own status, in addition to your superiors.

3. Being purely self- and not team-oriented

Now it’s one thing to draw attention in a healthy, appropriate way to your accomplishments and achievements. It’s quite another to allow yourself to think only as an individual when it comes to the workplace (not to mention, life in general!).

Yes, competition can exist between you and your co-workers – this is especially true if you are lucky enough to work for an organisation where the talent quota is very high. It can also be true that some positions are so unique they will require a fairly self-contained, individual output, reliant on your highly-specialised skill set.

But in most other situations, you will do far better in your quest to progress career-wise, if you factor in others as you go about executing your responsibilities. Remember that positioning yourself as a good team player and offering your co-workers a chance to add their own input and creativity whenever possible, allows you to build up good will and cooperation at all levels.

It also means that when you do have a chance to shine on an occasion that will nonetheless require the support and collaboration of your colleagues, you will have set in place the respect and appreciation required to receive it.

4. Being passive in asking for feedback

This is an important one.

We’ve heard of the supposed ‘neediness’ of Millennials in the workplace (i.e. recruits born between 1981-96) and their seemingly ‘unending’ demands for performance feedback and evaluation.

But in fairness, feedback is important to you, whichever generational cohort you may belong to, because it re-acquaints you with the company’s expectations of you.

It sets you a benchmark on what to improve on or notice about your output in the workplace, but also hopefully rewards you with acknowledgement of what you’ve done well and what can be taken to the next level of quality or scale of impact in terms of your performance.

Feedback also re-aligns you with the organisation’s overall mission and reframes any difficulties or confusions you may be encountering in terms of practical, short- and long-term goals, while allowing YOU the opportunity to air any needs for additional support, clarification or guidance.

So, be pro-active in scheduling feedback and evaluation times with your manager if you feel uncertain about areas of your workplace performance – don’t wait for the more limited, officially scheduled ‘big picture’ evaluations through the year, or just after a major project which may not address your queries regarding your day-to-day, ongoing performance.

5. Being unwilling to stretch or go beyond your job description

Again, there’s a fine line between taking initiative and earning the reputation as the go-to person anytime there’s extra work to hand out or dump on.

In my capacity as a mentor to teens who have no real work experience yet, I always counsel them to remember to carry out the responsibilities they were hired to do BEFORE enthusiastically jumping to take on new roles and neglecting their original duties.

However… for my new graduate or mid-career mentees, I often have to remind them that taking initiative and roles that weren’t originally in the job description don’t need to come at the expense of the original tasks you were hired to do.

Providing you’re not taking on inappropriate new responsibilities – i.e. those completely outside and unrelated to the skillset you were hired for or which would threaten the execution of your ongoing tasks… expressing your willingness to your manager or team leader to take on greater responsibility and more advanced tasks to do with your position can position you as an individual that can both be counted on but also qualified for promotion and advancement.

To work with me one-on-one to take your professional and personal performance to new levels, please check out the LIMITLESS track of services at my website, www.leonidasalexandrou.com

We set a high value on goal-setting in our lives today. And for good reason. Technology, ease of travel and an entrepreneurial mind-set have made a more flexible, empowered work life more within reach than ever before.

But that’s only if you’re skilled at materialising goals and sticking to personal targets.

Problem is, most of us will achieve only a handful of the milestones we visualise, especially when it comes to our careers, and, most of the time, we aren’t even aware we’re doing it.

That’s why it’s important to check in, be honest and take some time to examine what are the factors that are sabotaging our goal-setting success professionally.

Here are eight ways you’re working against yourself in this area.

1. Dreaming big without factoring in context

It’s hard to tune out the endless ‘triumphs’ and ‘personal bests’ of other people on Facebook and Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter.

After all, we live in the era of: Think big… Let the universe handle the details… Just do it… Live with passion… Aim for the stars… Follow your dreams…

Well, okay. Nothing wrong with enthusiasm, drive and ambition and a willingness to try new things and stretch yourself. But very often, people with big goals, who aren’t able to break them down into smaller, more realistic, achievable steps, are simply using their off-the-charts targets for justifying why they remain stuck, dissatisfied with or avoiding what they actually have to tackle first.

Don’t set yourself goals that are so big you haven’t a clue how to begin the journey toward achieving them. Break down your goals into clear, actionable steps, so you can avoid overwhelm, burnout and disappointment. This is especially important in terms of your career-oriented goals, which often require a specific skill-set and professional network that has to be patiently acquired before success can be enjoyed.

2. Having too narrow a focus for your goal

Is it enough to break down a goal into smaller, more actionable steps? The short answer is no – because you ALSO have to ensure you’re taking into account the various aspects of your goal.

If your hope is to become an education-based entrepreneur developing e-courses for students to purchase and work through online, then drawing on your background as a Biology teacher is not going to be enough to guarantee you success in your business…

Why? Because there are several more aspects to your goal – in this case, succeeding as an online educator – than simply being an expert in your subject: you also need to factor in knowledge of writing e-learning video scripts, lighting, editing, marketing and sales.

So, wherever you’re struggling to materialise or achieve a goal, especially when it is connected to a professional target or milestone, make sure you’ve taken the time to address and factor in all its dimensions… and not just set out to accomplish it at only its superficial or surface level.

3. Over-optimism on the time needed to achieve the goal

Especially if you’re creative, freedom-loving and entrepreneurial, it’s very easy to get carried away by optimism and enthusiasm when it comes to career goals, and feel you’re only minutes away from hitting the career target you had set for yourself.

Let me just say here that I am all for personal responsibility, sticking to a timeline and keeping your key deadlines constantly in mind.

But just as in my first point, realism and adaptability are needed when it comes to how long it takes you to meet your goal.

If you plan on building an online shopping hub, understand that it will take time develop the platform technically, test it on target users and measure their willingness to take action.

If your professional aims are geared towards more traditional milestones, like promotion, remember you have to put in your dues both in terms of continuously sharpening your competences, taking on more responsibility and building professional respect from superiors and co-workers which doesn’t happen overnight.

The trick is being willing to stick to a professional goal-setting timeline that is both near enough to get you into action mode, but also distant enough so that you don’t leave out important steps, burn-out under the pressure or simply give up when you’re overwhelmed by the learning curve you need to master.

Here, it definitely helps having a dedicated mentor to work with you so you can identify and establish what a suitable timeline to materialise YOUR specific goals looks like for you.

4. Judging your failures instead of learning from them

It’s been said many times, and it’s worth saying again. Most of the world’s professional high-flyers have embraced their failures – and they’ve had many.

Where would the Steve Jobs, Oprah Winfreys, Elon Musks and Arianna Huffingtons of the world be, if they had let setbacks and dead-ends and misjudgements erode their ambition?

When you set yourself specific goals for progress in your work or profession, take stock of the times you’ve failed to materialise earlier targets, and keep the lessons learned without getting stuck in the past.

Here, mind-set is everything. Many of us are taught that being hard on ourselves builds character, grit and resilience.

But there’s a difference between taking responsibility and reframing your failures, and JUDGING yourself as stupid, or worthless or incompetent for the failure.

Goal-setting, you see, can be thought of as an art as well as a science.

In addition to breaking your targets down into clear steps, along a realistic and achievable timeline, you also need a supportive mind-set. And failing to appreciate and integrate the lessons learned via earlier failures, is a mind-set that will always undermine achieving your goals.

That’s also why sometimes our own resources need the support and guidance of a dedicated mentor, to keep you on-track and eliminate damaging self-evaluation along the way.

5. Setting yourself other people’s professional targets

This is a big one. And again, I see this in with my young professional mentees all the time: they’re depressed or stuck or being hard on themselves because they’ve failed to set themselves their OWN professional goals.

It’s an easy enough trap to fall into. We’re all watching each other’s lives unfold (or we THINK we are) on social media, and the Millennial generation in particular is having to navigate a landscape that is exploding with never-before-available opportunities to create products, teach, travel and build more professional expertise through online courses and internet networking.

Along the way, the conversation has been slanted to a number of ‘worthy’ professional goals that are talked about and discussed endlessly, depending on which influencers you happen to be following. For example, being an entrepreneur and owning your own business. Or pushing past the plateau of mid-level management to C-suite level glory.

But there is no point taking on goals suitable for the entrepreneurial path if you’re, at heart, happier in a more traditional employee set-up. And there’s no point in setting yourself a corporate career’s milestones, if you hate the idea of set work hours, dress codes and more conservative office culture.

Make sure the goals you are setting for your career are actually for a professional journey that YOU want to go on, and not anyone else’s. Doing otherwise is setting yourself up for potential failure, lost time and unnecessary regret.

6. Neglecting to track how close you really are to your goal

One of the biggest causes for burnout that I see when I work with young professionals is in their failure to check in and track their progress towards the career goals they say they want to achieve.

Often-times, blinded by the badge of honour of working hard and pushing past their limits, and a desire to challenge themselves and keep focused, they often miss the signs of how much they have already accomplished.

That’s why it is so important to build in clear steps and specific milestones that are smaller than overall goal, so that progress can be easily identified. And it’s even more important to develop a goal-setting mind-set that appreciates and checks in with how far they’ve come and still have to go.

This kind of check-in is vital to preserve stamina to get to the ultimate finishing line, celebrate the smaller wins along the way, and… if need be… adjust the milestones left to go.

7. Building lack or negativity into your targets

Did you know that how you frame your target or goal makes a huge impact on you, psychologically, in whether you are ultimately able to achieve it?

First, let’s consider a more goal that’s unrelated to the work place, such as: “I will eliminate clutter from my home”.

That goal already builds in the underlying idea that there is an unpleasant task requiring our self-discipline to put into action, while also being potentially boring, time-consuming and perhaps even stressful given the emotional attachments many of us have to items we store but no longer use.

Consider how much more attractive, and therefore more actionable, a goal it is to reframe the objective to: “I will create a spacious, inviting environment in my home”.

Similarly, if you set yourself a goal of “eliminating distraction while writing reports”, it creates the idea of an automatic obstacle to overcome as well as a lack of calm or serenity to face.

Reframing it to “achieving deeper focus while writing reports” is a positive shift that engages with you from a perspective of cultivating an desirable skill, as opposed to tuning out an unappealing environment.

8. Becoming overwhelmed from goal overload

Finally, there’s the factor of sheer goal overload – in other words, setting yourself way too many goals than you can hope to accomplish.

This is particularly true of professional goals, where the more ambitious and driven you are, the more likely you are to set yourself more targets than you can handle.

The items that appear on your goal-setting to-do list can quickly multiply, either (a) at the onset, when you are riding that wave of inspired excitement or the tsunami of adrenaline in the midst of crisis… or (b) along the way, when your goal is revealed to require many MORE related goals to be met than you had planned on, or, frankly, even have the time for.

Again, everyone is different regarding how much they can take on, but most will find it difficult to commit themselves successfully to more than three goals. Certainly over a six- or even 12-month timeline.

So, when you’re setting the milestones for your dream career, make sure you take on ONLY the top three goals in a hierarchy of priorities. This maximises your chances of success and rewards you for setting appropriate boundaries to direct your efforts.

To work with me one-on-one to take your professional and personal performance to new levels, please check out the LIMITLESS track of services at my website, www.leonidasalexandrou.com

We’re in an age of snappy, get-to-the-point communication. Especially at the office, where there are deadlines to meet, interlinked projects to manage and a never-ending tsunami of needs, opinions and ideas to engage with.

For every report we write up, there are probably three emails, 10 texts and 20 instant messages… Not to mention the real-life interactions with colleagues and managers to keep to efficient, actionable bites.

But challenging or not, simplifying workplace communication without sacrificing accuracy and undermining co-worker relations is an important part of professional success.

Here are five suggestions on how to go about doing that.

1. Promise only what you can deliver

One of the potential times when communication in the office can head towards exaggeration and unnecessary embellishment is when there is more being promised than can realistically be delivered.

Remember the time when, in hopes of impressing your manager or boss, you found yourself enthusiastically committing to tasks that would have taken months when you only had weeks? Don’t feel bad, we’ve all been guilty of this at one point or another – and showing willingness to take on more and stretch yourself is not necessarily a bad thing.

But it takes maturity and experience to know how much you can realistically handle without falling short, and when you accurately express your capacity for stretching to new tasks, you simultaneously simplify your communication in the process.

2. Personally deliver messages with emotional content

It’s a balancing act. You want to get to the point – especially when you’re about to share bad news – and you don’t want to leave yourself open to a protracted, and equally emotional response. On the other hand, you don’t want to come across as unfeeling, callous or cowardly – or simply blasé when there is good news to celebrate.

When there is communication that is likely to draw an emotional reaction it’s ultimately simpler to offer it yourself, rather than shooting off an email or text message. And if, due to distance, the colleague you need to communicate with is in a different geographical location, then teleconferencing is the next best way to deliver.

Otherwise, apart from undermining your relations with co-workers and associates, you also risk the written responses to go back and forth far longer than necessary, with a high chance of misinterpretation. Keep it simple – deliver the emotional messages in person… it’s part of your maturity, growth and success as a professional, and one of the characteristics of a seasoned communicator.

3. Email works great when only the facts matter

Remember when I said it’s a balancing act? Well, this is the other side to the point above.

To simplify your communication in the office, when you have information to share that is purely fact-based and not likely to draw strong feelings or an emotional response, put in it an email.

Go ahead and prepare a quick, point-based, professionally respectful email and send the communication on its way. There is no need for in-person delivery.

Remember, while most of us hate having to sift through our inboxes and want to spend as little time as possible answering emails… if you set up a communication pattern, where you educate your managers and peers to expect only brief, point-based and factual emails from you, you will create an efficient flow of communication from you to those you are trying to reach.

4. Active listening streamlines communication

It can be hard not to interrupt or jump into a conversation when there are high stakes involved.

You know the kinds of conversation I mean – the ones where you’ve invested a lot of time in producing/learning/setting up something, and someone else is now challenging your involvement or presenting a very different approach or point of view to the way you’ve handled the situation or task. In short, conversations where there is the great potential for a war of wills.

You’ll be tempted to fire back a response before the other person has finished speaking, or to seem to listen while really using the opportunity while the other party speaks to prepare your rebuttal to their views or arguments.

Don’t do that. Listen actively, even if your dialogue partner’s words feels uncomfortable, unfair or simply in error.

The time you take to actively listen, is an investment in getting to the heart of an important situation that you and the other person find themselves in. Most importantly, listening actively allows you to have clarity regarding where you stand in terms of resources or support regarding a work issue or relationship.

It may seem counter-intuitive at first, but listening actively, and more than you speak, gets things down to the bare essentials, and if you practise it enough, you will be able to quickly understand what’s truly being communicated by the other party, beyond their words.

5. Knowing your ‘why’ gets you to the point

One of the biggest reasons that communication gets stuck, or turns out into a long, messy event – whether in a written form or verbally, is when speakers aren’t clear about the ultimate message they are trying to deliver. In other words, what is the end goal to initiating the communication in the first place.

This is why, before you fire off an email, storm into someone’s office, or even strike up some more casual chatter in the office kitchen, have an end-goal in mind.

Sometimes this is as simple as to cheer someone up or connect with them, if you happen to have noticed they need some extra support or you know you’ll be working with them quite closely on a project and need to build rapport.

Sometimes it’s to deliver a warning, or to offer a key bit of insight that might encourage a colleague to reconsider an approach or a potential ally or resource that might benefit their work performance.

But having the bottom-line of the communication in mind – in other words – knowing you ‘why’ for pursuing the communication in the first place, keeps things to the point, and maximises your impact in the workplace.

Remember, however desirable it may be to create a casual and creative environment while at work, that doesn’t stop it being a place where you and your colleagues come together to achieve tasks for a mission that is bigger than you.

To do your best and be a masterfully impactful communicator in the office, ensure you know the reason for the communication you engage in – even the most social interactions.

To work with me one-on-one to take your professional and personal performance to new levels, please check out the LIMITLESS track of services at my website, www.leonidasalexandrou.com

Monday morning, and the alarm shatters your sleep, sending you racing to the shower and into your car to join the commuter traffic half an hour later.

If the office is a place you associate with a creative buzz, supportive co-workers and a mission that stimulates and rewards you fairly, waking up to the daily grind is a well-managed ritual of adult life.

But if, for you, the workplace is a source of stress, confusion and desperate clock-watching until 5pm, one of the reasons could be due to problems with communication.

Of course, professional communication is a big subject, and has several dimensions. So it’s helpful to examine how it can be undermined due to seven sub-reasons.

1. Leadership is poor or non-existent

This is a tricky one. Sometimes, the problem isn’t that there is no communication as such, it’s that communication isn’t coming from the upper levels of command.

While it’s great to have a sense of camaraderie with your co-workers when you step through the office doors, if your managers or high-ranking personnel lack leadership ability and give confusing, reactive or limited instruction, effective workplace communication grinds to a halt.

2. Targets and goals lack clarity

One of the biggest motivation killers in even high-performing employees is working for an enterprise where the business mission is vague and short- and long-term targets are unclear. If this is the case, you can be sure communication across the chain of command will be vague and unclear in turn.

While your overall responsibilities will have been listed in the job description before you were hired, there should also be scheduled times when you and your manager set measurable goals for you to achieve and the flow of communication leaves you knowing exactly how to proceed. Such meetings also allow you to update him/her on the status of projects, receive or offer feedback and bring up suggestions for needful actions or decisions.

3. Colleagues lack sufficient training

Given the enormous pressures of the 21st-century workplace, the time window is continually shrinking with which to on-board new personnel effectively, training them appropriately for their responsibilities to superiors, co-workers and clientele.

And when personnel are under-prepared with the know-how to carry out their duties – which includes communicating accurately about tasks to do with their position – everyone in the chain of command feels the negative impact: from managers and colleagues, all the way to customers.

4. Workplace offers limited to no feedback

Much has been made of Millennial recruits’ ‘excessive’ need for feedback – Millennials being the generation of people born between 1981 and 1996.

Here’s a reality check: by the year 2020, experts predict Millennials will make up 35% of the global workforce. So if you’re a Millennial and your workplace doesn’t offer you feedback on ongoing processes, projects and your personal progress within the organisation… that’s definitely going to undermine effective communication at the office and make showing up and being engaged unnecessarily stressful and unappealing.

5. Lack of engagement across tiers or teams

Unfortunately, one negative situation leads to another. When you or your co-workers are struggling with an absence of feedback, clear leadership and goals and having to pick up the slack for under-trained peers, chances are good there’ll be a corresponding drop in morale.

Low morale in the office means disengaged personnel who are un-invested in their own tasks and in the company’s broader mission. This a CRUCIAL communication problem to resolve, as it very quickly destroys the firm’s quality of service, customer retention and profitability.

6. Collaboration with non-local teams

In other words, collaborating with virtual co-workers and associates who may be based in different time zones as well as separate geographical locations from you.

Given the global reach of the 21st-century workplace and our collective reliance on technology in our working as well as our personal lives, chances are good that your professional responsibilities will include interacting with virtual colleagues.

Their messages and approach to tasks may well be more challenging to read and manage effectively than if they were simply down the corridor or in the next cubicle. And brief (or overly long!) emails, skype calls or online posting board updates can be misinterpreted or taken the wrong way.

7. A culture of non-existent active listening

And finally, probably the most important factor of all… if, at your workplace, nobody truly actively LISTENS to their co-workers, team leaders and so on, communication will inevitably suffer.

The problem with listening, is people often believe it’s something passive – and it can be, if all you’re really doing is waiting for a chance to get back to your own point of view. You’re not actively listening, which is building a connection, remaining open, being present with the person trying to communicate their position, need or problem with you.

Active listening is crucial if messages are to be accurately received and acted upon in the workplace, and if it doesn’t already exist in your office or work environment, at least it can start with you!

Ultimately, communication in the workplace is incredibly significant when it comes to overall job satisfaction and productivity. So, next time you’re struggling to communicate at the office, I invite you to re-read this list and see if you can identify and resolve what’s really at the bottom of the situation.

To work with me one-on-one to take your professional and personal performance to new levels, please check out the LIMITLESS track of services at my website, www.leonidasalexandrou.com

Being a dedicated youth mentor as well as a corporate trainer, I often coach teens who are outstanding athletes.

And just like the high performers in the boardroom or C-suite, these young people are impressively focused on achieving their goals.

They drill endlessly in the physical and mental strategies that will help them dominate their competition.

They spend hours studying the plays of their sport’s greats, to learn the moves, tactics and aptitudes that make them champions.

They identify the gaps or weaknesses in their present skill set, willingly taking on additional training intensity for the reward of breaking through temporary blocks or weaknesses.

However, just like the charismatic personalities in the workplace who display ferocious levels of commitment to their mission, these young athletes most often lack two things…

Emotional Intelligence (EQ) and Social Intelligence (SQ).

Emotional Intelligence, made famous by psychologist and author Daniel Goleman, is the skillset that requires an individual to work on mastering themselves emotionally.

At its essence, EQ skills concern how well we handle ourselves and our relationships by practising:

  • self-awareness (i.e. what we’re feeling, and why – as well as engaging with our moral compass),
  • self-management (i.e. handling our emotions – especially those arising in distressing circumstances – effectively), and
  • empathy (i.e. putting ourselves in the shoes of another person to experience feeling what they feel)

SQ, on the other hand, is less about our efforts towards mastering ourselves, and far more about learning the appropriate way to manage our interaction with others. It is also a crucial component in effective leadership.

So, what I see when I work with young sports men and women, is often a huge gap in their ability effectively to understand, accept and handle BOTH their own emotions (due to insecurities, fear of failure, the belief that they are only valuable if they win, etc.) AND their interactions with friends, family.

I see the same thing with promising young graduates, or mid-career employees, managers or even executives.

That relentless drive to achieve goals is being undermined by the absence of a true understanding and competence to work with personal feelings while integrating and engaging with the needs and motivations of others.

And yet it is precisely that balance of EQ and SQ that add up to 21st-century leadership and success, no matter how old a person may be.

That’s also the reason why cultivating emotional intelligence and social intelligence is key to my coaching, mentoring and training approach, and are prominently featured in the FEARLESS, LIMITLESS and EVOLUTION tracks of my work.

Ultimately, I truly believe that, once transmitted, EQ and SQ anchor a fulfilled lifetime, irrespective of an individual’s chosen field, empowering them at times of both opportunity and challenge.

Please check out the FEARLESS, LIMITLESS or EVOLUTION tracks of my website to learn more about my corporate training, my one-on-one mentoring and workshops for young professionals and teens.