“A bad habit never disappears miraculously. It’s an undo-it-yourself project.”
~ Abigail Van Buren ~
Client Mitch Asks: I’ve just finished getting the results of my annual 360 review, and boy, am I discouraged! You would not believe the stuff people said about me. They say I’m causing the team to miss deadlines because I put things off until the last minute. The truth is, I work a lot better under pressure. The stress just makes me kick it up a notch and that’s when I get really creative. And around here, deadlines are missed all the time. Why am I to blame? Right now, I’m just waiting for the other shoe to drop—there’s a pink slip in my future. I’m sure of that. If everybody says about me is true, who would want me around anyway? Guess I’d better polish up the old resume.
Coach Joel Answers: Let’s take a step back here. I know performance reviews can be pretty upsetting, but they can also present an opportunity. Here’s another point of view you might consider. From what I heard you saying, I can pinpoint at least three self-defeating habits that are probably what’s behind all that unfavorable feedback. Here’s my short list of damaging habits. If you can break these, I’m sure you can turn things around.
- Catastrophic thinking
1. Procrastinating. You say you work best under pressure, but what is that pressure really costing you in terms of stress? Not to mention the poor image you’re projecting to your co-workers. Here’s the nugget for breaking any habit: you can’t just say, “I’m going to stop procrastinating.” You need to replace that negative habit with a positive one. For the next month, try starting every day at work by doing your hardest task. If it’s calling clients, do that first. If there’s a major project on the horizon, create an outline of what you need to do and take the first step. Once you’ve made a start, the rest of your day or your project will fall into place more easily.
2. Rationalizing is a way of excusing ineffective behavior. Actually, it’s a lie you tell yourself in order to preserve your self-esteem and give yourself permission to keep doing what you’re doing. You say you’re more creative under pressure. How can you replace that thought? Give yourself permission to be creative when you’re not under pressure, when you can actually enjoy the process. Let’s say you have a major client presentation coming up and you need a PowerPoint deck. Slow down. Take a relaxed half an hour to experiment with color palettes and designs. Do an Internet search for videos you could import. Your end result will be far more creative than something you throw together at the last minute, without time to visualize the end result or its effect on your client. And you won’t have to make excuses for missing deadlines or turning in a mediocre project.
3. Catastrophic thinking. You say there’s a pink slip in your future? That’s carrying one negative review to the extreme. Think about the language you’re using when you talk to yourself about this issue. Do you hear extreme words like, “never,” or “always?”
“Nobody wants me around. I’ll never find another job. I always get blamed when thing go wrong.” Right now, your team is seeing you in a negative light. If you want to build more positive relationships, you need to take action.
Instead of buying into your destructive self-talk, make a list of ten things you do really well, ten successes you’ve had in this job or in previous jobs. Write these down and re-read the list every time you catch yourself going into catastrophic mode.
And last but not least, commit to this change strategy by sharing it with your boss. Let her know that your 360 review was a great wake-up call because it showed you some changes you need to make. Tell her what those changes are and what you plan to do about them. Set up an appointment to review your progress in 30 days. Nothing will hold you accountable like sharing your commitment with someone else. There’s real power in public declaration.
Do you have some self-defeating habits you need to turn around? Email Joel today for some suggestions.
Talkback: Have you successfully replaced a bad habit with a good one? Share your turnaround strategy here.
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“Accomplishing the impossible only means that the boss will add it to your regular duties.”
~ Doug Larson ~
Client Dave Asks: I just don’t get it! I know I’m doing good work, but nobody seems to notice. I put in the hours, I bring in the clients, I get the job done. My colleagues seem to like me, so I don’t think it’s about improving my working relationships. But I’m sick of feeling underappreciated. It just seems like everything is a drag right now.
Coach Joel Answers: Everyone has dry spells, where it seems like you are unappreciated. The key is to use this time as an opportunity to “kick it up a notch,” as the saying goes. Working relationships can always be improved. For starters, maybe you’re not relating to the right people. Here are three action steps I’d recommend you take right away:
- Hitch your wagon to a star
- Give away gold stars
- Act like a superstar
1. Hitch your wagon to a star. If you want to be noticed and perceived as being a high performer, a leader in the company, then start hanging out with people who are. If you want to be a great leader, do what leaders do. Look around you and see who’s getting the accolades, the plum assignments. Notice what they do, how they act in meetings, how they communicate with clients. Then reach out. Ask one or two of them to coffee and ask for their advice. Then take it, and say “thank you.” When you start acting on their recommendations, they will notice and begin to mention your accomplishments to others.
2. Give away gold stars. It probably goes back to nursery school, but we all love getting gold stars. If you want to collect a few stars of your own, start giving them to others first. If you wish people would be freer with praise and appreciation, make sure you’re giving it out yourself. When you show your gratitude for what your colleagues are doing, they are much more likely to notice what you’re doing and the gold stars will follow. Not only will you get the praise you deserve, you’ll improve your working relationships in the bargain.
3. Act as if you’re a star. Your current feeling like everything is a drag is undoubtedly affecting not only how you perceive yourself, but how others perceive you. Start by giving yourself credit for what you do. Then share your accomplishments. If you’ve solved a sticky problem, ask your boss for a few minutes at the next team meeting to discuss how you did it. If you’ve brought in a new client, talk about your communication strategy. You’re not bragging, by the way, you’re sharing your ideas
If you implement these three steps, I guarantee it won’t be long before you’ll be seen in a starring role.
Are you getting the gold stars you deserve? If you’re not, email Joel today and get his input on how you can turn things around.
Talkback: Have you moved from one of the crowd into a starring role? Share your improvement strategy here.
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“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.”
~ Mark Twain ~
Client Mark asks: I’m mostly quiet at meetings. I’ve always thought that if I just do my work, it would speak for itself. But it’s not working. I think I need to speak up more. But what is the best way get my opinion out there?
Coach Joel Answers: Mark, you need to trust that your opinion matters. No one sees the world through your perspective. No one else has your unique blend of experience, knowledge, understanding and skills. In order for your group and organization to perform their best, they need varied input. They need your input.
When you share your opinion you stand out and become recognized. As you do so, you create value and that impact sets you up for promotions.
If you have been a worker-bee, or shy and deflected attention, it may be hard to take the risk of sharing your opinion. But doing so will increase your confidence and help you be more widely known.
Let’s talk about the when, where, why, and how to make your opinion take you to the leadership position you desire.
- When to share: Good leaders listen first. Take time to process what has already been said. Then see where you can add value. You may want to start sharing your opinion in smaller groups. But ultimately you want your manager’s bosses, and a wide range of people to hear your opinions.
- What to share: Take an honest look at your level of expertise and your strengths. You really have a lot to offer. Think about what you can add that will move the conversation forward. Of course you don’t want to duplicate what someone else just said. Don’t waste time adding your me-too experiences or examples.
Look for ways your opinions can provide solutions, build consensus, or shed new light on concerns. These kinds of opinions will show others your talents and skills. They will demonstrate what you offer the organization. When others hear your opinions, they can recognize your value, appreciate your contribution to the company, and leverage your talents.
How to Share. Share with confidence. Yes, it feels risky, but it’s important to step up and speak out. Be sure you do not apologize or minimize your contribution. “I just… um… thought…ah… perhaps…” In the beginning you may want to plan out what you’ll say.
- Share your opinion in in writing. You can take the time to think through how best to express your thoughts. You can write an article, send an email, or a memo. The advantage of written opinions is that it’s easier to share them up and across the leadership chain.
- Write out what you want to say at meetings. Prior planning can reduce your fear, build your confidence and help you express your thoughts more clearly.
- Schedule one-on-one meetings. You may find it easier to share your opinion with one person at a time at the beginning. Then you can move on to small groups and finally to large meetings.
Why share? Leadership and visibility require each other. If you want to advance, you have to be visible. When you speak out and share your opinions, people will see you as someone with power, inﬂuence, authority, and leadership. If you stay silent, you won’t be noticed, and your career will stall out. When you actively add to the conversation with insightful, thought-provoking opinions you stand out. You increase your value to the company.
Is it time for you to speak out and have your opinions heard and respected? Contact Joel and find out how you can maximize your potential.
Talkback: Let me know about a time you spoke up and it changed your career path.
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“If you don’t know what your barriers are, it’s impossible to figure out how to tear them down.”
~ John Manning ~
Client Janice Asks: I feel like I’ve reached the end of the line with my career. “There’s no room on the ladder above me at the company where I work now. All the C-level managers are firmly entrenched in their positions. If I try to find another job, someone is bound to find out, and that will make me look disloyal. I’ve got two advanced degrees and I’m really overqualified for most jobs in my field anyway. I’m already older than most of my peers. And nobody new would hire me when they can get a 20-something fresh out of college for half my salary. I’m doomed!
Coach Joel Answers: I can see why you’re frustrated, Janice. What I’m also seeing, however, is that a lot of the roadblocks you’re seeing exist in your mind. They are not “out there”—they are inside you. And once you know what those roadblocks or barriers are, you can remove them and replace them with something else. Let’s take a look at some key barriers we all have and where they come from. It’s all about your internal truths, the beliefs you have about yourself and your situation. Here are 3 ways to overcome self-defeating behaviors.
- What is the truth about you?
- What is the truth about the people around you?
- What is the truth about your business environment?
1. What is the truth about you? I hear you saying that you’re stuck. You have no place to go. You’re overqualified, and maybe even overpaid in today’s economy. You know what all those beliefs are doing? They are causing you to shut down, to ignore or discount the possibilities that are out there. Since changing companies or careers may be more of a long-term option, how about shifting some of those barriers into benefits? You say you have two degrees—that’s great. You can use that education and those skills to challenge yourself on the job. Think about the biggest problem or challenge your company or department is facing right now. Expenses out of control? Come up with a cost-reduction plan. Clients leaving the firm? Create a retention strategy. Be on the lookout for ideas that will increase your visibility with those C-levels.
2. What is the truth about the people around you? Those C-level managers who are blocking the next rung on your ladder may stay right where they are for the foreseeable future. Why not use them to your advantage? Choose one whose performance or personality you admire and ask him for advice. If it’s appropriate within your company’s structure, ask him to become an ongoing mentor. Become your boss’s new best friend. Find out what her challenges are and volunteer to take one of them off her plate. If you come up with some new strategies as we discussed earlier, ask her advice about your ideas. You don’t need to feel inadequate around these people. You’re equal to many of them in both education and talent.
3. What is the truth about your business environment? Step back and get the big picture. First, where is your company headed? If you have a mission statement, understand it and place yourself in that picture to see where you fit. Do the company’s goals align with your personal career objectives? Start to get a vision for the future. If you are in an industry that’s in decline or has fallen on hard times, you may want to develop a plan for repurposing your skills to transition into a more growth-oriented environment. Understand your competition in the job market. Yes, 20-somethings are probably cheaper, but many companies value the experience and work ethic that improves with age. Start making a list of the skills and qualities that you have to offer. Look at that list frequently and add to it often. Reading it will give you a new degree of satisfaction in your current job, and it will provide you with some much-needed self-confidence if you do decide to put yourself on the market at some later time.
Do you have self-defeating barriers in your head? Email Joel today and discuss how you can overcome these limiting behaviors.
Talkback: How have you overcome these behaviors? What self-defeating thoughts did you remove? What did you replace them with? Share your story here.
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“If [thankfulness] were a drug it would be the world’s best-selling product with a health maintenance indication for every major organ system.”
~ Dr. P. Murali Doraiswamy. ~
Client Malcom Asks: There’s such a grumpy mood in the office. Everyone seems so negative… and with all the news you can’t blame them. What’s one thing I can do to add some positive energy and get us all more upbeat? How can I turn my current job into my dream job.
Coach Joel Answers: If you’re you trying to change your attitude, and feel better both physically and mentally, I have a solution. It sounds simple, but hear me out.
Scientific studies back up what I’m about to tell you. The answer is gratitude.
First, I’m going to tell you what it does for you. Then I’ll tell you how to get it… and more importantly keep it.
You see, the things we focus on, enlarge. The more you… and the office… focus on negative things, the larger and more powerful they are. With that negativity comes increased stress and all the illnesses that accompany that.
- Physical Benefits of Gratitude
When you start to fill your mind with positive things, you are happier and healthier. Amazingly, focusing on gratitude doesn’t just make you feel better, it actually makes things better. Your physical health, emotional and mental health, clarity of thought, fewer aches and pains, better sleep—all come with gratitude!
Gratitude actually changes the way your body works. It lowers cortisol and slows the inflammatory immune system. It can moderate blood pressure and blood sugar levels and adjust mood neurotransmitters. Duke University studies have measured the effects of gratitude in these areas.
Can you see the increase in workplace energy that would come as everyone felt better physically?
- Emotional Benefits of Gratitude
But there are also emotional benefits. When people focus on gratitude they are happier and more willing to help others. It can translate into confidence. People feel more valued and appreciated. They see that they are moving toward success.
This change can make your office alive with possibilities and energy. Chances are you’ll feel more creative. And studies show gratitude increases feelings of cooperation and help build stronger teams.
Why does it work?
Again, that which you focus on gets stronger. Neuropsychologist Rick Hanson says that focusing on gratitude creates neural pathways in the brain that become superhighways to happiness and inner strength.
And when the brain changes, behaviors change. You take better care of yourself. Your stress level goes down. You stay healthy. You feel better. You have more energy to accomplish more things. You create a dynamic workplace that’s fun to work in.
How can I make it work for me?
The good news is that it’s easy to get started. Start looking for things to be grateful for. When you look, you’ll see them. Here are additional ways to bring gratitude into your life and the life of your office.
1. Hold yourself accountable. Keep a daily gratitude journal and commit to writing at least three things you’re grateful for each day. Every day. They don’t have to be big things. It might be a sunset, or getting the lights all green or doing well on a presentation.
2. Say thank you. And mean it. Show appreciation for all the small things people do for you at work. Thank the person who held the door open for you. Send a note of appreciation to the co-worker who helped you with a project. You feel good and you make someone else feel good.
3. Continually look for things to appreciate. Decide to tell one of your co-workers, your spouse, or friend something you appreciate about them every day. If you believe in a higher power, spent time sending appreciation that way.
4. Give thanks for what you have. Realize you have more than 9/10th of the rest of the world according to Forbes Better Life Index. You’re even better off than the richest 10% in France, Japan or Italy. When you find yourself dissatisfied or focusing on what you lack, stop and be grateful for what you have.
While it won’t happen overnight, you can expect to feel happier and more enthusiastic sooner than you might imagine as you consciously practice gratitude. The longer you focus on gratitude the more you will find health and happiness benefits.
You and your co-workers will create a more vibrant, energetic office as they join you in strengthening the gratitude pathways of the mind.
Tired of your office atmosphere and looking to feel better about it? Contact Joel for personal help to put gratitude to work in your life and office.
Talkback: What gratitude tips have you tried and seen the impact and value it’s had on your life. Please share examples below. Thanks so much.
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