Tag Archives: IBM Career bootcamp

How To Lead Through Difficult Times

How do you lead through difficult times? What four key roles should all leaders play?  


This year has been one of the most challenging in modern times for business leaders, organisations and employees worldwide. And as many famous quotes allude to, nothing is tested more in challenging times than leadership. Many leaders step up and shine, yet just as many fall victim to stress, anxiety and frustration, leaving them a shadow of their former selves. 

So how do you make sure you’re the former? 

One person that knows how to lead in the best of times, as well as in the worst, is Vice-President of AI Applications and Blockchain at IBM, Amber Armstrong. Amber’s illustrious career at IBM started when she joined the company as an MBA graduate 13 years ago, and she’s quickly risen through the ranks. 

Amber joined us for our latest podcast episode in the IBM Career Bootcamp series to delve into all things leadership and in particular, how to lead through difficult times. 

Here’s what you’ll learn in the podcast:

What does being a great leader actually mean and how would you define your personal leadership style? 

Over the years, the definition of leadership has evolved enormously. Leaders, recognising that the more authoritarian styles of leading are no longer effective, have begun to diversify their styles away from command and control and towards a more inspiring vision of what leadership should be. But is inspiring others the sole role that leaders need to play nowadays? 

Not at all, according to Amber. Amber thinks that there are four things every leader needs to do in any organisation. In fact, Amber believes that these four things are so important that she had her team of executive managers agree to them as part of a leadership pact. 

Amber is clear on what she thinks these four things are: 

‘Leaders should, in my opinion, set the vision, communicate clearly, prioritise relentlessly and finally, coach.’

Throughout her career, Amber has used these four priority areas to not only lead others, but also to gather feedback and learn and what is and isn’t working. Beyond these things though, Amber has also put considerable thought and effort into her leadership style and has come up with a personal mantra that describes how she personally wants to lead: 

‘From a personal brand perspective, I aspire to be known as someone who is passionate, focused and kind.’ 

‘And in moments when things get particularly tough, there’s one particular thing I try to have more of.’ 

Discover what this is for Amber in the podcast.

How do leaders develop their own personal style? Should they do this through experience or through someone like a coach?

Amber’s personal leadership style is well-known and admired at IBM. But how do we all go about developing our own unique version of that? Amber has developed her style through a combination of experience and also through working with an executive coach, and she believes both of those things helped her get where she is today. 

From an experience perspective, Amber believes that it was through making mistakes and having empathy that she came to develop her current style: 

‘I joined IBM 13 years ago after I graduated from business school, and fortunately, I’ve been given a lot of opportunities here. This has led to many successes and also countless mistakes, but I’ve taken the opportunity to learn from each and every one of them.’ 

Amber remembers one particular period in her career where she came to understand the critical importance of kindness as an element of her personal leadership style: 

‘At one point, I was told I have to give a lot of people bad news, news which would affect their personal lives.’ 

‘I put up a sign at my desk with my mantra, the words passionate, focused and kind. I felt such comfort having those words there, it helped me to turn them into a reality throughout that difficult time.’  

Recently, Amber also started working with an executive coach who has further helped her shape her leadership style. This has been beneficial for one specific reason, she says. 

Find out what that reason is in the podcast.

Can you lead without necessarily having a leadership position? 

Amber has had an extremely successful career, and now manages a large number of people, including fifteen other managers. But for those of us who may not be in such senior positions, or perhaps those of us who may not be leading anyone at all, is it still possible to be a leader? 

Absolutely, Amber says. 

In fact, there’s one thing she thinks all leaders need to do, regardless of our level of seniority: 

‘If you want to lead, you need to take care of yourself first.’ 

‘For me, I do three things to take care of myself. Firstly, I run a mile, I make sure I sweat. Secondly, I walk 5,000 steps every day and then thirdly, I meditate for ten minutes. Self-care is so important.’ 

Beyond self-care, Amber also wants to let us all in on a little secret, and it’s an important one. In a nutshell, even leaders with a great amount of authority (those who are senior and have a lot of responsibility), don’t really have authority unless they can garner respect. Amber explains: 

‘To be a leader, you need people to respect you, you need them to trust you. So even if you’re an authority figure, sure, you can force people to do things but that isn’t leadership.’ 

‘Leadership is about creating clarity and building respect. You need to be able to influence others in a positive way.’ 

Also in the podcast: 

  • What needs to change about our leadership styles in these challenging times 
  • The pink recession 

And much more. 

Amber Armstrong’s podcast on leading through difficult times is part of our IBM Sterling Career Bootcamp. Designed to power your mind and help you excel, the Bootcamp consists of 6 electrifying podcasts with internationally renowned experts and speakers. Sign up here if you haven’t already.

How To Persevere When You Want To Give Up

When things get too hard, do you ever want to give up? Here’s how to persevere when you get that uneasy feeling


This year more than ever before, we’ve heard the word ‘new normal.’ We know that life may not go back – soon or ever – to what it was before. But how do we adapt to that? And when things get tough again, which invariably they will, how do we persevere through the challenges and come out on top? 

One incredible person who certainly knows a thing or two about how to adapt and persevere is Nicky Abdinor, a clinical psychologist, ability advocate, and founder of the non-profit, Nicky’s Drive. Through her work as a psychologist and her own incredible life experience, Nicky deeply understands what it means to adapt and persevere, and her advice is an inspiration to us all. 

Here’s what you’ll learn in our incredible 15 minute podcast with Nicky: 

What does adaptation and perseverance really mean? 

Nicky is not simply a scholar who understands a concept – adaptation and perseverance have been her personal life mantra since she was born. Nicky was born without arms and also with shortened legs. Nicky’s parents, who had no idea that she had a disability until she was born, were totally unprepared for it. But instead of focusing on what Nicky couldn’t do, her parents decided to focus on what she could do. Growing up, Nicky firmly remembers her parent’s attitude towards everything: 

‘From the beginning, my parents decided to focus on my strengths. Instead of thinking “oh, can Nicky do that?” they instead said “How can Nicky do that?”’ 

Given her disability, things that came easily to others were not always easy for Nicky. She didn’t focus on that. Instead, she quickly learnt to be flexible in how she approached challenging situations, and adopted a problem-solving mindset. Everything she did, she approached with curiosity and decided that adversity could be to her advantage. 

Adaptation and perseverance, Nicky, represents exactly this. Having the mindset and flexibility to navigate difficult situations, and persevering through them, even under challenging circumstances. 

How do we overcome a lack of self-belief when we need to persevere? 

At times, all of us struggle with our own self-belief, and it can get in the way of us persevering through challenging situations. We have to turn that self-belief on, says Nicky, and simultaneously turn off the voice in our heads that tells us we can’t do it. And she has an intriguing recommendation for how we do so: 

‘To overcome the idea you might have in your head that “I’m not good enough,” you need to recognise that your brain has its own hard drive, and it has the tendency to store things that are quite critical.’ 

Nicky gives a good example of this – something that we can all relate to: 

‘Say you did a workshop and you asked for feedback, and nine out of ten people said they loved the workshop. But one person said they didn’t learn anything.’

‘The hard drive of your brain would be more likely to store the feedback of that one person, and you might dwell on that.’ 

In order to overcome that hard-wired negative feedback, Nicky recommends you focus on one thing and one thing alone. Discover what that is in the podcast

How do we get better at adaptation and perseverance? 

For Nicky, one of her favorite quotes that is now more meaningful than ever, is from Viktor Frankl, author of ‘Man’s Search for Meaning.” After his time in Auschwitz, he wrote: 

‘When we’re no longer able to change our situation, that is when we are challenged to change ourselves.’ 

What this means is that in many situations, we may not have control of much, but what we do have control of is how we perceive those situations, and how we change our behaviour accordingly. This might sound easy, says Nicky, but behavioural change is hard. It takes more than simply reading an article entitled ‘10 steps to stop procrastinating’ or ‘5 steps to a more positive mindset,’ for example. 

If we want to make sustainable changes in our behaviour, Nicky says, we should ask ourselves these four important questions: 

  1. What is the behaviour I want to change? 
  2. When do I need to change it?
  3. How can I change it?
  4. Why do I want to change this behaviour?

Nicky emphasizes that we need to be clear about our answers to these questions, though, one question is far more critical than the others for a very important reason. Find out what it is and why in the podcast.

How do we pick ourselves up again when we’re down? 

A big part of perseverance is picking ourselves up when we’re feeling down. Usually, when we’re down people tell us to focus on the good things in our lives. More importantly, Nicky actually believes that we need to be a little more accepting of the vast spectrum of our emotions: 

‘In order to persevere, we actually need to accept that the entire range of emotions, from joy to sadness, are part of life. We don’t need to feel happy all the time.’ 

‘When we try to avoid difficult feelings, that can do more harm than good. Right now, we’re all on an emotional rollercoaster. We need to allow ourselves to feel.’ 

In order to smooth the rollercoaster though, Nicky recommends we do a few important things. Discover what they are in the podcast.

Nicky Abdinor’s podcast on adaptation and perseverance is part of our IBM Sterling Supply Chain Career Bootcamp. Designed to power your mind and help you excel, the Bootcamp consists of 6 electrifying podcasts with internationally renowned experts and speakers. Sign up here if you haven’t already.

Crafting The Job You Have Into The Career You Want

One way to take positive control of your job and career is through a concept called “job crafting”. This is how you do it…


Pursue your passions. This is the guidance we often receive as we are embarking on new jobs and careers. Whilst well-meaning this advice it is not always practical.

Many of us struggle to identify what our true passions are when it comes to work or become stuck trying to find the “perfect match” between our skills and interests and the requirements of a job.

For the vast majority of us the perfect or unicorn job doesn’t’ exist and even it did we might quickly outgrow it. The challenges and opportunities you might want today will probably look very different from those you may choose to pursue in two, three, or ten years‘ time.

This doesn’t mean we should give up trying to find jobs that fulfil and stimulate us, but we need to change how we find this work.

The secret of many people with fulfilling and engaging jobs isn’t that they have waited to find the perfect job, instead they have created, or crafted that role themselves.

Simply put, great jobs aren’t found; they’re made.

An introduction to job crafting

One way to take positive control of your job and career is through a concept called “job crafting”. Rather than waiting for others to create opportunities for development and progression, job crafting enables us to find opportunities for growth and innovation from within the jobs we already have.

Job crafting refers to individuals making changes to how they act, interact and think about their job in ways that makes the most of their individual passions, strengths and interests. Studies from around the world involving roles ranging from cleaners to CEOs have found that personalising our jobs in this way is linked to individual performance, wellbeing and career growth.

The most common and convincing explanation offered for job crafting’s positive influence on career progression is that it helps to create a better fit between the individual and their job, enabling them to express their values and beliefs whilst also making the most of their strengths and expertise.

Like people, job crafting comes in all different shapes and sizes. And there are many different ways to shape and craft your job including making changes to your tasks, relationships, skills, wellbeing and sense of purpose. Some examples of job crafting might include volunteering for new projects, doing an existing task or activity in a new way, or building or reframing existing relationships with colleagues, customers, vendors or producers.

How do you bring job crafting to life?

There are a number of ways that people can start to job craft, but here are two exercises that are particularly effective with employees who are keen to use job crafting to boost their career prospects and enjoyment.

1) Distant future – images and ideas from different career adventures

This exercise involves peering into the future and considering what you might be doing from a career perspective in 5 , 10 or even 25 years’ time.  I recommend sketching out 2 or 3 different career scenarios or adventures you might have. Questions to consider are:

–   In 2 – 25 years’ time what would be your dream job be internal and/or external to your current organization?

–   What will you be doing – what would a typical day or week look like? (what will you be doing, who will you be engaging with, what knowledge and skills will be using)

–    What skills and experiences will you need to develop further to be able to fulfil this career adventure?

Having a clear image of a future work self can enable and encourage us to create, find and seize opportunities to do things in our current jobs that they might not otherwise have had the courage or conviction to try.

2) Immediate future – starting to craft your job from tomorrow

When working with teams I often give them a job crafting budget of 10 minutes a day or a maximum of an hour a week. The secret to job crafting is to start small and to consider it a form of playful experimentation, testing out and finding the tiniest and most positive ways you can make your current job better.

These changes could be protecting an hour in your diary each week to learn a new skill, spending 10 minutes a day reading relevant industry and professional blogs, making connections on social media, changing how you structure and prioritise your day, or doing an element of your job deliberately differently (such as how you write a report or give a presentation).

To help you form some job crafting ideas here are some questions you might want to consider:

–   In an ideal world, what aspects of your job would you do more of? What would you do less of? Why? (task crafting)

–   What skills or knowledge are you most interesting in developing further? Why is this? (skill crafting)

–   What are your strongest relationships at work? (relationship crafting)

–   What relationships would you like to build further? (relationship crafting)

–   What gives you the greatest sense of accomplishment in your work? Why do you think this is? (purpose crafting)

–   What changes could be made to your job to improve your health and wellbeing? (wellbeing crafting)

Careers are things that you build rather than things that you are given. If you approach job crafting with a combination of curiosity and commitment you start to shift your work in a positive direction that will make it more enjoyable and stimulating in the present and ultimately more rewarding in the future. Happy crafting.

Rob Baker is Founder and Chief Positive Deviant of Tailored Thinking a positive psychology, wellbeing and HR consultancy and author of Personalization at Work – a guide to bringing job crafting to life by Kogan Page.

Hear Rob talk with our Founder, Tania Seary, on all things job crafting, in our highly anticipated Career Bootcamp with IBM Sterling Supply Chain. Register here.

How To Discover And Utilise Our Strengths To Boost Performance

Do you know the difference between strengths and skills? Discover what it is and how to use your strengths to your advantage.


Have you ever been so focused on a task that you completely lost track of time? Do you ever do something, and then ‘light up’ without even realising it? If you do, then it’s most likely that you’re using your strengths and that’s a good thing too – playing to your strengths is key to career performance, productivity and personal wellbeing. But if you don’t know what your strengths are, how do you discover them? And can you help others do the same? 

As an occupational psychologist, helping others discover and utilise strengths to boost their performance has been the focus of my career and most recently, the focus of my work with some of the world’s most well-known organisations through my business, Bailey and French. 

I recently shared some compelling insights with Tania Seary from Procurious, as part of the IBM Careers Bootcamp series. Here is a brief overview of what we discussed in the podcast, and why it’s a must-listen for anyone wanting to boost their own professional and personal performance: 

What are our strengths and why do they matter? 

Have you ever been asked what your strengths are? We all have. But in my experience, being able to provide an answer to that question doesn’t mean you actually know what your strengths are. In fact, many of us confuse strengths with skills, but they are fundamentally different. Let me explain. 

People often make the assumption that if they’re good at something, that represents a strength for them. But if you are good at something, that’s a skill for you. A strength is so much more than that. A strength is something that you’re not only good at, but that you also truly enjoy doing. 

Another point of confusion I’ve discovered is that many of us believe we develop our strengths at work. This isn’t true, though. We develop our strengths in a unique period of our lives. I explain more about when this is in the podcast, listen to it here.

How do we discover our strengths and how should we use them to boost our professional success? 

Online, you’ll find a myriad of tools and tests that purport to help you analyse and discover your strengths. But in my experience with positive psychology, you don’t need complex tests to discover your true strengths. The answer is much more simple than that. 

In order to discover your strengths, I usually recommend that you start keeping a diary. In that diary, over the course of a few weeks, write down all of your experiences, both positive and negative, and both inside and outside of work. Then, go through your diary and look at themes. These themes are important, as usually you’ll find that there are a lot of activities you do on autopilot, and some that really stand out as enjoyable. 

Once you’ve identified your themes, in order to further identify your true strengths, I recommend that you ask yourself the following questions: 

  1. When was the last time I was totally absorbed in what I was doing to the point I lost track of time? 
  2. What was the best day of the last week and why? 
  3. When did I last ‘light up’ or get excited when talking about something I did? 

Keeping a journal, and asking yourself these three important questions should help you discover your strengths. 

Yet in a professional setting, discovering your strengths is just one part of the puzzle. If you’re working in a team setting, you also need to do one other critical thing. Listen to the podcast to discover what that is.

How do you help others identify their strengths? 

Throughout my career, I’ve seen an extraordinary number of organisations focus on fixing weaknesses. But ultimately, this is misguided. We all stand to gain so much more from discovering and utilising our own strengths (a key premise of positive psychology), as well as helping others discover and utilise theirs. 

But how do you help others realise their strengths? 

One method I always recommend is to offer people specific feedback when you see them doing something really well. This feedback, though, can’t just be any feedback. It has to be detailed enough to help them identify what they’re truly good at. 

An example of this might be the feedback after someone has given you a report. Instead of simply saying ‘that was a good report,’ try to be more specific around what was good, for example, ‘the patterns you derived from the data in that report were extremely insightful.’

Why is this important? It’s because helping people realise their strengths is not just good for them, but it’s great for your team dynamic and for the relationship in general, for one important reason. Listen to the podcast to discover why that is.

Also in the podcast:

  • I discuss my key strength and how I personally discovered it 
  • I detail why it’s so easy to talk about weaknesses. 

And much more. 

I look forward to you joining us in my podcast

Alex Bailey’s podcast on strengths and positive psychology is part of our IBM Sterling Career Bootcamp. Designed to power your mind and help you excel, the boot camp consists of 6 electrifying podcasts with internationally renowned experts and speakers. Sign up here if you haven’t already.

This One Trait Will Be The Key To Your Success In 2020

What trait will be the key to your success in 2020? We believe it will be resilience, and here’s why… 


Right now, no person in the entire world would call 2020 ‘easy.’ Whether we’ve been challenged personally or professionally, this year has been like no other. Which is why this one particular trait is more important than ever, and it is… 

Resilience.  

In recent years, resilience has become somewhat of a buzzword within management circles. But what really is resilience and why do we need it? 

Resilience, and more specifically, how to obtain it and use it to your advantage, has been the focus of my work for the last decade, and has inspired my now internationally-acclaimed book, Rise Warrior Rise. Through authoring my book, as well as working with numerous different organisations to help them transform their leadership capabilities through my Excelerate program, I’ve discovered what we can all do to build resilience and use it to accelerate our own personal and professional performance. 

Doing so was the topic of my discussion with Tania Seary from Procurious, as part of the IBM Careers Bootcamp series. Here is a brief overview of what you’ll learn in our podcast: 

What is resilience? 

Resilience is often said to be the ability to recover from adversity, and cope with change and uncertainty. But does being ‘resilient’ then mean that you won’t experience emotions in times of stress? 

Definitely not. 

From my research, I’ve discovered that being resilient doesn’t mean that you won’t experience life’s ups and down, in fact, it is only natural to experience these. Instead, resilience is the ability to still experience this depth and variation of emotion, but while doing so, be able to keep in touch with your best self. 

In my experience, resilience is far more than what people typically describe it as. In fact, I believe resilience has another aspect to it entirely. 

Discover what that is in the podcast

Why is resilience so important for professional and personal wellbeing? And what are the benefits of being resilient? 

Resilience has become a buzzword for a reason – we all know it’s important. But why? 

Professionally and personally, this year has been a challenge for all of us. And even though not every year will be as difficult as this one, we’ll always experience some challenges. This is exactly the reason why resilience is important – because we’ll always need it. 

While researching for my book and throughout my career in general, I’ve come across a lot of people who may not be as resilient as they could be, and that has resulted in some concerning behaviours. For example, if something bad happens to someone who isn’t resilient, typically they get stressed, and then withdraw. From there, they occupy their mind with negative self-chatter, and then they can end up feeling anxious, depressed or worse. 

But in good news, with resilience, the reaction can be the complete opposite. Instead of engaging in negative self-talk, those who are resilient typically tell themselves that the situation is temporary. And instead of getting stressed, their emotional and physical wellbeing stays intact, and they don’t lose touch with their vision for a great life.

The benefits of being resilient extend way beyond how you react when things get tough, though. From my experience, those who are resilient are more likely to lead abundant and opulent professional lives, and also are more likely to have success with their family and personal pursuits. In summary, resilient people are more likely to lead a full and rich life, without regret. 

Think this sounds wonderful? It is, and there’s one more critical reason why. Learn what that is in the podcast.

How can we become more resilient? 

It’s clear that being resilient pays off, both personally and professionally. How do we get better at it, though? 

To help, I’ve created a 13-step framework for people to increase their level of resilience. If that sounds daunting, don’t worry – you don’t need to be good at every step. Excelling at just a few steps is all you need in order to make a substantial difference. 

I won’t detail the 13 step framework here, but there is more information in the podcast if you’re interested. One important point, though, is that you do need to develop practices to keep you strong. An area that I recommend everyone works on is that of negative self-chatter. 

We all experience negative self-chatter at some point, and this is because the mind can be fickle and it often focuses on the negative. How many times have you found yourself in a situation where someone has said something awful, and it’s completely ruined your day, despite many other positive things happening? 

This is common, and we all need to do what we can to develop our own mechanisms to address it. For me personally, I’ve developed a unique routine to keep the negativity at bay. My routine includes getting up early in the morning, and doing some exercise (this might be yoga, walking or some weights). After I’ve done this, I then do exercises to regulate my breath. Even if I can’t regulate my mind, I try to regulate my breath. Finding something to focus on, for example my breath, enables me to enter a calm state. Then, I share positive words. I find that wholly rejuvenating. 

This type of self-care is critical for all of us, as it replenishes our ‘fourth being.’ More on that in the podcast – listen to it here

Remember, whoever you are and whatever your circumstances, you can build, and benefit from, resilience. I look forward to exploring the topic with you in more detail.

Roh Singh’s podcast on resilience is part of our IBM Sterling Career Bootcamp. Designed to power your mind and help you excel, the Bootcamp consists of 6 electrifying podcasts with internationally renowned experts and speakers. Sign up here if you haven’t already.