Get Ahead by Speaking Up at Work

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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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3 Ways to Overcome Self-Defeating Behaviors

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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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The Power of Gratitude in the Workplace

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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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Career Advancement – 5 Key ways to Stand Out

The secret of joy in work is contained in one word – excellence.”

~ Pearl Buck ~

Client Maria Asks: I’ve been with my company for six years now, and I’ve gone as far as I can go. It’s time to move to a bigger playing field. How can I really set myself apart from the crowd? I know I’m good at what I do, but how do I convey that without overselling myself or looking like an egomaniac?

Coach Joel Answers: You’re smart to be planning ahead in this situation, and you’re in the perfect spot for a career advancement move. There’s a lot you can do to prepare, but I think there are 5 key things that will really make you stand out and gain career advancement.

  • Become a master communicator
  • Make critical thinking a way of life
  • Make their goals your goals
  • Be someone special
  • Tell a good story

Here’s how each of these strategies will work to advance your career. These are not just things to do—they are who you are in the eyes of your next boss and the new job success you want to create.

1. Become a master communicator. Technical knowledge is important. But the #1 skill that employers are looking for today is communication–people who can write and speak impeccably. This means that every bit of written communication between you and any future employer needs to be letter-perfect. This includes emails and texts, not just your resume. It also applies to your profile on LinkedIn and other social media sites. Speaking well is equally important. If you tend to freeze up in presentations or stutter in group meetings, join Toastmasters or take a public speaking seminar.

2. Make critical thinking a way of life. Your future employer values people who can think on their feet. Problem-solving is important, but problem-avoidance is even better. Learn to think ahead about the potential outcomes of your strategies. Never underestimate the Law of Unintended Consequences—the possibility that your actions may produce unexpected results. Fire prevention beats firefighting every time.

3. Make their goals your goals. Working for a company you’re proud to be with is the best of all possible worlds. As you research potential employers, go after only those whose mission and vision you can totally support. Once you’re on the job, that same mindset applies to your boss’s personal goals. She wants to open two new sales territories? You can do that. He wants to be the premier provider of services in your industry? You want the same thing. Align your vision with theirs and you’re both winners.

4. Be someone special. Have a signature skill that enhances your brand, something that you are confident you can do better than almost anyone else. What principles did learn about excellence and winning that you’ll be using on the job? Did you overcome a major personal challenge to get where you are today? Now you can use that experience to meet any challenge your employer throws at you. Which leads us directly to #5:

5. Tell a good story. Every prospective employer has heard the laundry list of the qualities that make a good employee: teamwork, integrity, creativity, dedication. Instead of reciting the expected list, tell a story. Illustrate something you have done that shows your creativity. Talk about leading a team and the results you produced. Your next boss will remember the story, even if he or she forgets the words that started it.

Remember, none of this is done out of ego or overconfidence. Or in the immortal words of Dizzy Dean: “It ain’t bragging if you can do it.” And I’m sure you can do it!

Are you looking for the next big thing? Ready for a dramatic career advancement move? Email Joel today for his suggestions.

Talkback: Have you successfully changed jobs or careers recently? Share your success story here.

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FOMO Sufferer – “Fear of Missing Out”
& Addicted to Technology?

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“For a list of all the ways technology has failed to improve the quality of life, please press three.”

~ Alice Kahn ~

Client Rob Asks: The last time we talked, we discussed my urgent need to plan a vacation and I’ve been working on that. However, you also mentioned “unplugging,” getting completely away from my laptop, cell phone etc. I’m just not sure I can do that. Even though I’m on vacation, I owe it to my team to be available if an emergency comes up.

Coach Joel Answers: Rob, you have FOMO. It’s a common condition in our technological society. FOMO stands for “Fear of Missing Out.” It’s a real addiction, according to a recent article in World of Psychology. Their definition is: the fear of missing out on something or someone more interesting, exciting or better than what you’re currently doing.

FOMO is why teens text while driving, while having dinner with their parents, and probably while sleeping. Heaven forbid that a friend might be going to a party, a movie, or the mall—and they missed it. You have the same attitude toward your work. You truly believe your job, your boss, and your co-workers can’t get along without you.

The secret, even before you leave on that vacation we discussed, is to practice unplugging. Disconnect, disengage, catch your breath. Some people can do this cold turkey. Others have to take a more measured approach. Start on the weekend. Try to go for 24 hours without answering your phone, checking email, looking at Facebook, or even turning on the TV or the radio. If you can’t take it for 24 hours, start with four and work up from there.

Then when it’s time to actually take that vacation you’re planning, you will be able to unplug completely. A vacation is about rest, relaxation, recovery. It’s a time to recharge your creative batteries. Get completely away from the business with no interruptions. No cell phone, computer, or email. You may be so addicted to being plugged in right now that you can’t go 15 minutes without checking your e-mail. This is neither healthy nor productive. Make sure your boss and your team members understand that you will not be reachable during your time off.

Somewhere along the line you’ve started to believe that you need to be available 24/7 to your boss, your co-workers, probably even your neighbors and friends–because, you know, someone might need something from you and being needed makes you feel important and valued. Unfortunately, technology makes that 24/7 access not only possible to achieve, but almost impossible to escape. It’s time to cut the cord—literally.

Think you might have FOMO? Write down a plan today to begin disengaging from technology. Do what works for you, whether it’s an hour at a time or cold turkey. It will improve both your mental and physical health.

Talkback: Have you unplugged successfully? How did you do it? Share your story here.

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