In one moment, I knew I’d eroded her trust in me. Recently I had one of those days where I should’ve just stayed at home. The kind of day where I felt overwhelmed caring for family members and too many deliverables in the hopper. Instead of paying attention, I ventured out and met a friend and colleague. She shared a decision and plans she’s making. My stress meter kicked in and I made unsupportive comments. I could feel the trust slip away.
We’ve all done it. No excuses.
It’s stressful days like this that the option of hiding under the covers isn’t possible. The question becomes, what could I have done better? And, what have I learned from this.
Stress and Trust are two very different concepts. And yet, put together the result can be devastating.
Let’s talk first about stress. We all have our own triggers and reactions to it. Yet we can learn to understand what it means for us, and the best way to go about our day without impacting others.
For me it’s spreading myself too thin, especially in caring for others. What is your trigger? Not enough sleep? Taking on too much?
Understanding our reaction to stress is equally important. I don’t focus and am distracted. This means I don’t practice active listening. I let my own narrative rule my head instead of paying attention to what others are saying and experiencing. And like my scenario above, I can blurt out instead of filtering my reaction.
How do you react when you’re stressed?
Unlike stress, trust is a delicate thing. Once we have it, we must tenderly nurture its presence. Philosophers have hotly debated the meaning of trust, but tend to agree that trust is a kind of reliance: to trust someone is to rely on them in a certain kind of way. We create trusting relationships that lean on the social construct of expectation.
My friend expected me to support her decision and be excited about her prospects. Her expectation represents her trust in me.
Trust is earned. But trust can just as easily slip away – often when we’re overwhelmed. This intersection of trust and stress requires that we be deeply in tune to what another expects of us and to show up wholeheartedly to maintain their trust.
And when we don’t? There is only one viable path forward.
I contacted my friend and shared how sorry I was for my reaction. There were no excuses. I acknowledged her reaction in the moment. I shared how sorry I was to be insensitive and to not provide the reaction she was expecting.
My friend responded with her truth and the willingness to talk about how we move forward as friends and colleagues. I am deeply grateful.
What have I learned? Just how delicate trust is. I’m facing my own imperfection in the face of stress. I’m committed to noticing when I’m overwhelmed and to act/react with integrity. And I’m learning that letting trust slip away is never an option.
Lately I’ve had a spate of clients who struggle with understanding why their current position isn’t satisfying them anymore. They know something isn’t right but are caught in the “can’t see the forest for the trees”. They may even know something needs to change but through fear, stress or loyalty, they are stuck.
I know the feeling – I’ve been there. I never aspired to work in the public sector, but there I found myself. We had two young children and my husband starting his own business. Pension, benefits and a regular paycheck were my WHY.
It worked brilliantly for a long time – until it didn’t. This didn’t happen overnight. As my children got older I started to question my values and aspirations. My values weren’t lining up with the company’s culture.
In retrospect I can see that my original WHY was no longer working for me. But at the time I was caught up with the stress, the loyalty and no idea for my future.
My story isn’t unique. What I’ve learned is that as we move through life, our context changes and for many of us, we don’t recognize the need to change with it. Simply put, as we change, so too might our WHY.
Let’s take a closer look at what your WHY really means.
Basically your WHY is your motivation. It’s your purpose. For many of us it can be strongly influenced by our external context at a point in time.
I researched articles and studies on how motivation (your WHY) impacts your work and job choices. I’m intrigued by the work of Lisa A. Mainiero and Sherry E. Sullivan, whose research focused on a five-year study examining women and men’s career patterns. Their term Kaleidoscope Career describes:
“…a career created on your own terms, defined not by a corporation but by your own values, life choices, and parameters. Like a kaleidoscope, your career is dynamic and in motion; as your life changes, you can alter your career to adjust to these changes.”
Their work found that a complex interplay among issues of authenticity, balance, and challenge are behind why we shift careers through our life course. It’s about taking stock of career decisions and making changes to meet:
1. An individual’s needs for challenge, career advancement, and self-worth juxtaposed against
2. A family’s need for balance, relationships, and caregiving, intersected by
the person’s need to say,
3. “What about me?” “How can I be authentic, true to myself and make genuine decisions for myself in my life?”
While Mainiero and Sullivan found subtle differences between how men and women approached their career shifts, ultimately it’s the shifting context of their lives that impacts their need to change course.
So what does this mean for your career? And even more important – what does it mean for YOU?
If you’re like many of my clients who come to me disenchanted with their current work, it’s time to assess what’s beneath this feeling. It takes a bit of inner work and reflection, coupled with honestly assessing your current life context.
Here are steps to help you discover what exactly is going on and how to move forward:
1. Get clear on how you’re feeling and behaving – are you irritable, bored, stuck or blaming your discomfort on your workplace? These are key signs something’s up.
2. Make a list of your top 10 values. Ask yourself if these align with your work and your workplace. A strong misalignment is a sure sign it’s time to move on.
3. Reflect back on why you started on this career or took your current position. What were your reasons?
4. Consider what’s different in your current life stage and context?
With this data, you can look at your situation from the outside in. Has your original motivation for career or job choice become stale? Is your passion to excel and deliver still ignited?
Next is the critical question – what exactly is your WHY now?
If it’s the same reason it’s always been, then great. This may mean it’s time to shift companies or reach forward to a new level.
But if your WHY has shifted, it’s time to make a plan toward aligning your WHY with a career change. I can’t tell you what that would be. It’s yours to discover. What I can do is suggest next steps.
Google has pages of blogs, how-to’s and articles on mid career changes. I’d highly recommend working with a career coach. They have tools and roadmaps to help you uncover potential opportunities and plan next steps. Talk with family to understand how this will impact your status quo (i.e. financial, location, time etc.) will help solidify your plan.
We’ve all heard the saying, “you only live once”. But that one life shifts and changes over time. What worked well in our twenties and thirties won’t necessarily fulfill us in our late forties and fifties. Being aware of your WHY and assessing that against your current reality means taking responsibility for you, your career and your future. If this article describes you, it’s time to discover your next chapter!
This I do know for sure.
Sometimes we all find ourselves in a grey fog. It’s that place where we think we don’t have control so we literally feel overwhelmed or even stuck, unable to move forward. With the pace of change these days it’s not surprising we find ourselves in the Grey Zone more often than we’d like.
Here’s a simple, yet effective process to help find your way through the Grey Zone!
The truth can hurt sometimes and we often find out our hard truths indirectly.
Maybe you’re left out of a gathering of friends.
Or a job you thought you were perfect for, didn’t pan out.
Of course, one-off situations like this are not cause for alarm but paying attention to patterns in the way people respond to you can give some clues as to where your blind spots lie.
Your friends tell you that you weren’t included because you aren’t flexible and it was a last minute event.
And the hiring panel provides feedback and tells you they need a candidate who is conceptual.
Do any of these stories resonate with you? If you’re like many clients I’ve worked with, when faced with a truth about yourself (from someone else) – you might feel gob-smacked.
The good news is that you’re in great company. Almost all of us have qualities we don’t have full awareness about. Or we believe we have certain shortfalls or characteristics and they’re not at all how we’re perceived.
How does this happen?
Let’s break this down by starting with how others perceive us versus how we see ourselves. These two perspectives could be miles apart like in the examples above. But before you jump to the conclusion that others’ perspectives of you must be the truth, it’s important to understand that self-awareness does in fact have two sides:
Internal awareness – your own perceptions of yourself
External awareness – how others perceive you
Now here’s the key – it’s as important to know who we are as to know how we show up in the world.
Let me give you an example.
I’m highly resilient but I hate conflict. I tend to avoid difficult situations and challenging conversations with others. In the way I see myself, I run to the hills when the going gets tough but I’m known to others as being able to handle high-pressure situations. Funny that.
So what does this mean? What I think of myself and how others see me in the frame of conflict is miles apart. There must be something here I’m just not getting. Shouldn’t the two perceptions – internal and external – be congruent?
Let’s dig a little deeper.
We all have a persona from which we think and behave. But did you know your persona could actually be broken down into three distinct personas?
You have your:
underlying persona – you at your most natural (this is where you get your motivation from)
everyday persona – how you tend to behave and how others might see you
overextended persona – who you are and how you react under stress
Lumina Learning, a tool that I use to help my clients build self-awareness, makes use of years of research and psychometric testing to figure out exactly how we show up in different situations and how to leverage the strengths in each area. Lumina testing measures 24 different qualities that make up you and figure out the amount of each quality for your three personas.
So when I was thinking about writing this blog, I became really curious about my tough quality. So I pulled out my Lumina Spark portrait and guess what I discovered? My peeps are right!
My tough quality measures at 3% when I show up in the world (everyday) but I have 64% toughness in my underlying persona. Hmmm. For years I’ve bought into the idea that I just didn’t have the ability to face conflict despite the fact that underneath it all I’ve got a fair amount of capacity for facing conflict.
So why is this?
Well it could be many reasons. But, I do know that even though I naturally have toughness, somewhere along the way I must have believed it wasn’t a “good” quality to have or didn’t value it enough to develop aligning behaviours. It really is just undeveloped.
Whatever the reason, the point how others see me is spot on. I know that people see me as being able to be tough when it’s called for. But my take on my own ability is off. So, now that I have that bit of information, I can focus on how I can show up comfortably (to me) and appropriately when conflict does arise. I actually have it in me to do it.
The same goes for when people perceive you one way and we know differently. When this happens, it’s time to sleuth out which is closer to the truth. And then put that strong quality to work or stop using up energy when it isn’t in you.
That my friends, is self-awareness!
It’s understanding yourself, as objectively as possible, and leveraging that understanding to create a life and business that aligns with our natural inclinations, not challenges them.
Curious and want more? I’ve got a FREE webinar May 12th that takes a deep dive into why getting to know yourself is critical for your business – Build your Biz by Being YOU!
How many of us find ourselves being picky about who we date or spend a weekend with? I bet most of us. So why is it we aren’t picky about who we connect with via email and social media – especially when it comes to business?
I recently posted a tweet about Twitter being the airport lounge of B2B. Got tons of hearts on that one. I also wrote a blog about the new noise causing stress – social media and the barrage of emails from people selling us things. I get it. Social media has become the grand master for small business marketing. It’s super cheap, highly accessible and can be done in 10 words or less. Sounds great!
The problem is that entrepreneurs cast their nets so widely I feel like I have to duck and dive with all the free offers and promotions. The other problem is the majority of entrepreneurs/on-line businesses all sound the same. (Believe me – I’m not saying I’m an exception.)
How is it possible to figure out who’s who in the zoo? Let alone if what they offer is of any real value. It’s the Wild West out there and anyone can hang a shingle and call themselves a coach or strategist. Suddenly everyone’s an expert. And maybe social proof isn’t – well just isn’t credible anymore?
For me, the amount of time I’ve used up trying to keep up with everyone online is taking a huge toll on my business and stress level.
So I’ve decided I don’t have to follow the lemmings. I can be picky. In fact, I’ve decided that being picky is actually strategic when it comes to social media.
Let me explain.
I’m shaking up my approach to inviting people into my world.
Before I subscribe to your site I check out who you are, including credentials. Do you give any deets on your FB page about your biz, education or past employment? Is your LinkedIn bio up to date and factual or is it stuffed full of filler? And how and what do you say in your tweets? I’m not a fan of constant profanity or meanness so if that’s your game, chances are you aren’t making it in my door.
Over the next few months I’ll weigh out if the value you offer me is worth the follow. A big name doesn’t always equate to a follow. I’ve unsubscribed to even the biggest names in the biz. They may be amazing but they aren’t for me.
And speaking of value, I’m looking for sites and people who challenge the status quo to help me stretch my thinking or who offer up well thought out systems for my business. Most of all, I want to surround myself with people who authentically want to make the world a better place.
By now you may be saying to yourself, “she doesn’t get it”. Social media is ALL about connecting, sharing information and staying on the pulse of culture. Here’s where I diverge. I’m in business and I admittedly use social media for the cheap marketing. BUT, here’s the difference, like any shop or service business owner, I want to work with a specific clientele and there are people who want to work with someone like me. So, like my clients, I want to be picky in whom I serve.
And guess what? Given this is business, being picky is strategic. If I’m not strategic on where and with whom I spend my scarce time, I won’t be giving my clients what they deserve.
I’m all about quality. If I follow you, I’ll spread your love. If I work with you, I’ll spread your love. Which may be odd considering that on-line business seems to be all about quantity (or am I missing something?).
It makes me wonder if we’ll hit a saturation point in this Wild West? In the meantime, I’m more than happy if you use a similar strategy when adding me to your community.
Are you being strategic in your business?
I remember taking a big sigh and letting out a lot of unwanted air when I stopped working for a large organization.
Slipping into my home office every morning with my hot latte felt like heaven – no chitter chatter, no one else’s lunch bag ruffling and best of all, not having to listen to the unsubstantiated theories on who’s going to get then next coveted job.
Fast forward a couple of years and I noticed my shoulders starting to tighten and my head slightly ache by the end of my workday. I don’t keep music on when I work, and my client appointments don’t take up every hour. So what was underneath this tension? These feeling were the same as I used to get at my former workplace.
At first I felt a little panic creep in. Was I headed to toward the big S(tress), god forbid. Was I afraid? You bet!
So then I started to purposely pay attention to what was going on around me. Where was I letting my attention roam? What was I hearing? What was I doing?
Eureka! I discovered that I was, in fact, in the early stages of noise stress.
But how could that be? My ears weren’t hearing banter, shuffling, clicking or muffled sounds of tense board meetings.
The noise was coming from my computer in the form of emails, instant messaging and social media in the form of a constant onslaught of written words aimed at grabbing my attention.
In my quest to feel “connected” with the world, I had managed to follow every successful on-line entrepreneur, coach, techie and writer out there! They all seem so smart and successful. I could learn from each of them. They could be my online mentors. And they offer great free advice.
And don’t get me started on Groupon and other online markets. Like a great fashion or home décor magazine, they have everything I don’t need!
Now I don’t for a second blame anyone else for enabling this noise – and it’s definitely noise – creep into my head. I did it to myself.
But here’s the thing. If you don’t take control over what you let into your inbox and social media feeds, the noise level will just keep rising. It’ll draw you into the care and feeding cycle of social media. Worst of all, it’ll impact your production, your time, your mental health and even your confidence (cause let’s face it, there’s always someone smarter, better looking and more creative in the virtual world).
So what to do? Here are 6 tips I’ve found to dim the clamor and relieve the tension in my shoulders:
1. If you work from home, keep your work email and social media feeds free from on-line shopping carts – after all, if you work in an office for a company you wouldn’t go shopping on work hours (I hope)
2. If you do work for someone else, leave your personal iPhone, or Android safely in the bottom drawer of your desk with the ringer and buzzer off
3. Schedule time once or twice a day to check your social media if you must; otherwise wait till evening – it’ll all still be there
4. Choose to follow only your top 7 on-line mentors – the people that you continually get value from and unsubscribe to everyone else
5. If you do subscribe to a new business/website to get their free opt-in or make a purchase, immediately unsubscribe afterwards. If you think they’ll give you ongoing value with amazing information, keep the subscription BUT drop another website/business off your list that isn’t giving you real value
6. And finally, be mindful of those who follow you and make it worth their while every time you tweet, write a blog, or email – make it your goal to be on their top 7 list!
I’m so glad I got afraid of the noise. It made me realize I only want a community around me who share ideas, believe in the idea of reciprocity, have something relevant to say and most of all, who I can give value to.
Now how about telling me how you manage the noise?
Have you ever found yourself desperate to find and move to a new position or career? Or you’ve been let go (outplaced) and need to find your next corporate home? The pressure is on. You start applying for everything under the sun. You’re sure the “right fit” is just around the corner.
Whoa! What you might really need is a time out. And I don’t mean taking a holiday or battening the hatches.
I can’t tell you the number of clients who’ve found themselves in this spot. And, more importantly, they share one thing in common. In their frantic quest, what they don’t realize is they’re doing more harm than good to themselves.
Let me explain. Ever heard the expression, “I can smell a rat a mile away?” Well, there are two things prospective employers can smell right away in a candidate: low confidence and desperation. Yup, walk into an interview with either odor and you may as well walk right back out the door.
Heck, the best piece of advice I got when I lost my job was, “Don’t even think about applying for positions, let alone search the want ads for at least a few months. You aren’t the best version of yourself right now, so wait until you can bring your best to an interview.”
Here’s the truth: nobody wants to hire someone who has a current dip in their confidence, no matter what the reason. Nor do they want to work with someone desperate. Not that there’s anything bad about being earnest, but desperation tends to make others suspicious.
Moving from one job to another means cleaning up your last job – be it emotional, spiritual or a whole lot of paper to be shredded – and moving forward with clarity, positivity and an open heart. You just can’t take your baggage with you.
So what does it take to realize you are in one or both emotional states and what do you need to do to get past them and job-hunt ready? Remember those clients I mentioned? I’ll tell you exactly what they did.
First, they listened to me asking them to listen to themselves. They discovered their self-talk was less than compassionate and kind.
I asked how they thought they’d appear to prospective employers? For most, it doesn’t take long to get an “aha” – meaning they may not be putting forward the best version of themself.
Net we reacquaint them with their strengths, talents and gifts. We all need to be reminded of how we make the world a better place. Then we move into readjusting their expectations of time. Getting the next job isn’t going to happen right away.
This whole process is done within the construct of coaching (check out my Essential C process). The clients do the work; they have everything they need to figure it all out. I just help steer them to a place where they can clean up and put away any outstanding issues while reminding them they’re capable, experienced and have much to offer.
I know this sounds easy but it takes courage and a lot of self-reflection to move from here to there. Especially since for most of us, identity and self-worth are tied with our work.
I use a metaphor with my clients. It goes like this: when we’re feeling low and all consumed (as we are when our confidence is low and desperation high) we look downward. I’ll ask the client to look up and over the fence toward the horizon. Practicing this throughout the day opens up their chest, breathing and vantage point. It moves them from being an isolated island to being part of something bigger. It’s called perspective.
I know the client is ready to put all their hard work into action when I see them look up at me and I hear “I can do this”.
They can move ahead realistically and with sureness. Having an open attitude improves their chances of finding the “right fit” position.
To recap, if you find yourself lacking in confidence and over the brim with desperation, here are 7 steps to move you from the sour odor of despair to the scent of a front runner:
1. Check if your self-talk is negative, self-sabotaging or unrealistic.
2. Think about how a prospective employer would view you should you interview with them today. Who and what would they see?
3. Talk with a trusted friend or family member about how you view your situation. Or hire a coach to guide and be your champion.
4. Think back to a time you were in a job you enjoyed. What made you successful? Write down the skills, attitude, and service you brought to that position (only the positive ones). Read the list every single day.
5. Take an athlete’s mindset. Set a realistic time frame – like several months – before you start applying for positions. Use the time to train to be successful again.
6. Practice lifting your head and noticing things around you everyday. Whether at home alone or in a crowd of people, notice what is going on way over there.
7. When you hear your own voice say, “I’m good. I’ve got this”, you’re ready to go and create your future.
So go ahead and put on your best scent – you’ve got this!
Bedazzled by Shiny Baubles?
Disheartened by Not Getting the Real Work Done?
Before I give you the answer, I want to tell you about my penchant for all things new.
I worked for a large organization and was lucky enough to lead some pretty innovative files. That should have been enough to keep my curiosity and creativity fulfilled. But it wasn’t.
You see, I was addicted to the next great thing. In fact, I loved generating new ideas, new programs, and cutting edge initiatives. My favorite pastime was brainstorming with like-minded out-of-the-box thinkers.
You can imagine how much fun I was having. The dopamine was frantically flowing through my brain. But like any habit, there was a price.
The shiny objects of my affection meant I had a really hard time focusing on the real work. I’m talking the work I was accountable for completing – the meat and potatoes of my job. The things I couldn’t simply delegate to my staff. And trust me, I was a good delegator.
If you’re like me and go after shiny baubles because they’re fun, creative and leave you feeling energized, then chances are you’re also disheartened. It’s really hard to have one without the other.
If you’re an entrepreneur this can be the death-knell for your business.
Luckily for you, I’ve learned how to break the habit, dial back the chemical release, do quality work, meet deadlines and still allow a little creative fun and games.
The answer can be found in 2 words: creativity and discipline.
In this case, neither word is more important than the other. In fact, you can’t successfully have one without the other.
Let me explain.
If you commit to a daily practice of discipline then you can carve out time within that practice to create or play with shiny baubles. Consciously limiting your creative, brainstorming or idea generation to specific chunks of time will leave you feeling responsible, useful and with time to meet your accountabilities. You’ll stop the never-ending chase for the high because you’ll get your needs met without the guilt, shame and pressure of not getting the real work done.
But here’s the hook – you must commit to taking that allotted time each day to be creative. Otherwise, you’ll not be disciplined. You’ll lose motivation, interest and end up completely disheartened with no energy for anything. It has to be a continuous cycle of creativity feeding discipline feeding creativity and so on.
People like us need to keep our juices flowing, but not overflowing. We need just enough to keep us engaged, motivated and yes, disciplined. And we need discipline to provide us with the right amount of time and focus to get our real work done and still make time for creative idea generation.
Here are ways to put this concept into practice:
• Protect space in your calendar each day just devoted to creativity.
• Ideally make creativity time at the end of morning or afternoon – don’t start your day with it or you’ll find yourself too high to focus on the real work.
• Think about who you most enjoy brainstorming and being creative with and meet with them at least every few weeks. The idea of riffing off each other will keep you anticipating and committing to the creative time.
• Adopt the Start ⇒ Do ⇒ Finish rule. Chunk your work into small pieces and do one chunk until it is complete. Only then can you move on to something else.
• Log off your email, web browser and anything else that’ll keep you from focusing on the chunk of work in front of you.
• Let others know what you need to be successful at this (like letting you know when they see you getting speedy etc.). You aren’t an island even if you might be a solopreneur.
• Commit to your disciplined plan with an accountability partner.
• Notice when you’re getting overly excited (high), speeding up and talking fast – sure signs you’re overflowing with dopamine. Give yourself a time and space to dial yourself back down.
• Remind yourself you’re on the path to new habits and this takes time – lots of it. Forget the 21 day rule – just another myth from the ‘70’s.
Sounds easy? It’s not.
Making this kind of shift takes a deep level of commitment. That’s why my final bullet point is this:
• Sometimes we just need more help. Hire a coach to be your champion. They’ll keep you accountable with the added bonus of helping you get underneath the bedazzle and on top of disheartened.
As for the two questions at the beginning of the blog? They’re critical questions to ask when you find yourself getting sidetracked and hunting for the next greatest
Over the past 3 years I have had 3 separate falls resulting in broken bones. Yes I realize I don’t have a great sense of balance (as hard as I work on it). But I also know that these accidents have stopped me dead in my tracks.
Fifteen years ago I had my first major fall resulting in 3 surgeries over several years. This too forced me to make some big decisions, like postponing grad school. It also gave me the opportunity to learn how to accept help from others. After all, I always felt it was my job to help everyone else.
Up until a few years ago I believed that the faster I moved and the harder I worked, I would reach the Holy Grail of success. In today’s fast-paced world it was so easy to ramp myself up to follow the illusion of ambition. I put in long hours at work and self identified as a “high producer”. I became addicted to the thrill of creating at a fast pace. The endorphins would flow and I would announce unabashedly to my boss “I LOVE my job!” And at times I did love my job. But there was a cost.
Fast forward several years and everything is different – especially my perspective. I have learned that life is a marathon – not a sprint.
So what changed?