“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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“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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“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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“You will never feel truly satisfied by work until you are satisfied by life”
~ Heather Schuck ~
Client Karen Asks: I feel like I’m being pulled in all directions at once. My boss wants higher productivity, my family wants more time with me. Is balancing work and a personal life hard to do for most people?
Coach Joel Answers: It’s becoming an increasingly common problem in today’s hyper-competitive world. In a survey conducted by Strategy One, a global research and consulting firm they found that 89% of 1,043 Americans they surveyed state that work/life balance is a problem for them.
If you’re feeling out of balance right now, I recommend you shift your mindset with these ideas:
- Accept that you can’t please everyone. If you try, the only person who ends up not being pleased is you!
- Remember that you and your needs are important. Ask yourself: where do I need to be in order to get my needs met right now?
- Set boundaries and stick to them. Your boundaries will protect you when work becomes challenging.
- Keep your expectations of yourself realistic. One of the great myths of all time is that “You can have it all.”
- Underpromising will help you take off some of the pressure. Don’t try to be a hero or a superstar. Stop trying to look better than your colleagues.
Obviously, you have a challenging career. That makes it almost inevitable that you’ll find yourself consumed in work. There are several ways you can prevent this from getting out of control.
- Set goals and priorities for both your personal and professional life. This will help you decide how to dedicate time and energy to both sides of your existence.
- Develop some new and exciting personal interests.
- Determine what situations at work or at home you can and cannot control.
- We’ve already mentioned boundaries. Learn to say “No” when requests go beyond your boundaries or don’t fit with your goals and priorities.
- When you feel like your work/life balance is getting out of control, talk to your boss and discuss ways you can regain balance. Most companies realize that a happy employee is a more productive employee.
Very few companies expect their employees to have no life outside of work. Those that do find themselves with a high frequency of burnout, increased health care costs due to stress, and excessive turnover. Having a perfect work and life balance is seldom possible. But making thoughtful adjustments along the way can help you achieve a reasonable compromise.
Read through the lists in this article again and write down five things you’re not doing now that would help bring more balance to your life. Implement at least one of these a week for the next five weeks and the reevaluate how you feel.
Talkback: Do you feel in balance more than out of balance? What are your strategies for creating and maintaining work-life balance?
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“If somebody is gracious enough to give me a second chance, I won’t need a third.”
~ Pete Rose ~
Kimberly, a free-lance marketing consultant, landed an assignment to temporarily replace Jennifer, the VP of marketing at a large financial institution for six to twelve months. Jennifer was taking a leave due to complications from a high-risk pregnancy.
Because of her medical condition, she had very little time to brief Kimberly, but as she was leaving she informed Kimberly that she had just fired Jerry, a young IT guy—and the only IT guy in the department.
A couple of days later Jerry emailed Kimberly and asked if they could meet off-site for coffee. By this time, Kimberly had heard a little of the backstory on Jerry, the principle fact being that he was the son of the company’s CEO! Kimberly was a little intrigued by this political hot potato, so she agreed to meet him. Here are the facts as Jerry presented them to Kimberly:
- Jerry’s former boss had indeed felt pressured to take him on because of his father’s status, although his father never asked for that favor.
- Jerry’s boss did not respect his expertise in IT and did not accept any of his recommendations for moving key projects forward, even though Jerry felt he had come up with good solutions.
- Other people in the department put him down in order to appear to agree with his boss, so he felt he had no peer support.
Jerry asked Kimberly to give him a second chance.
Kimberly admired Jerry’s initiative in telling her his story. She agreed to look at his proposal for completing the department’s major project, a revamp of the internal employee intranet. After reviewing his proposal, Kimberly felt he was on the right track so she went to her boss, Larry, and told him she wanted to rehire Jerry on a temporary basis to follow through on the intranet project. When Jerry completed that project, Kimberly and Larry would meet and reevaluate the situation. Larry agreed.
Kimberly brought Jerry back into the department with little fanfare and no explanation, other than that the team needed his help on this critical project, which was lagging way behind schedule. In the meantime, Kimberly expected Jerry to meet with her twice weekly —once for project updates, and once for employee coaching sessions to improving his communication skills and reframing his mindset that “everybody resents me because I’m the boss’s son.”
Kimberly started including Jerry in formal and informal department meetings as part of his employee coaching and having him report to the team on the progress of his project. She also paired him up with a couple of new-hires who needed some IT training. When the project was complete, they staged a big roll-out announcement, a department party to celebrate, and Kimberly made sure Jerry got a lot of kudos.
Based on Jerry’s initial success, Kimberly quickly found another project for him to work on and he continued to blossom. When the Jennifer returned from her maternity leave, she told Kimberly that she didn’t even recognize Jerry as the same person. And she decided to keep him on permanently.
Here’s the takeaway: problem employees can sometimes be saved with good coaching and a willingness to undergo an attitude adjustment.
Take a look at your team. What problem employees might have potential if you provided good guidance and employee coaching? Schedule some meetings with them this week.
Talkback: Have you given a problem employee a second chance? What were your results? Share your story here.
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