Standing out at Work

“Stars don’t beg the world for attention; their beauty forces us to look up.”
~Matshona Dhliwayo~

Amelia asks: I’ve grown a lot more confident over the past year at my job. Now I need to learn how to stand out at work, because I’m looking toward a promotion. What steps should I take to make that happen?

Joel replies: Maybe you’ve played it safe in the past, figuring your good work should speak for itself. But you’re right—it won’t. You need a plan for catching the eye of those with influence in your organization, or they’ll never notice you. You need to speak up, be more confident and assertive at work.

  1. Create a Personal Brand
    Just as products need branding, so do people. Here’s how to create your personal brand:

    • Ask yourself what qualities make you who you are, including your shortcomings and idiosyncrasies. People who stand out at work are known for being their authentic selves. They know how to highlight their best qualities while asking for feedback in areas where they want to grow.
    • Consider your career goals—where do you want to go next? That will guide what you want to be known for.
    • Choose projects that highlight those strengths, rather than just saying “yes” to any work that comes your way. In doing so, you’ll craft a reputation as a person who’s great at the particular kind of work that really fuels you.
    • Track your successes so you’re always ready to describe them—say, in an impromptu conversation with that exec you’ve been wanting to meet.
  2. Engage in Lifelong Learning
    A person who remains perpetually curious, constantly looking for opportunities to grow, is sure to stand out at work. How can you do this?

    • Take a class in something you want to know more about.
    • Find a buddy from another department and teach each other about your roles, so you both understand the organization better.
    • Read a book about a skill you want to master.
  3. Support a Good Cause
    Either way, becoming known as someone who cares about the broader world will build you up in the eyes of others. Here are a couple ways of doing that:

    • Start volunteering with a nonprofit, if you don’t already. Casually mention to coworkers that you plan to volunteer over the weekend.
    • Hang a flyer for a donation drive on the bulletin board, and mention to coworkers that you’re supporting it. Make sure not to sound pushy or self-righteous about it.
  4. Embrace Failure
    People who stand out don’t hide behind small, safe successes—they seek out risks and take them. Of course, they’re smart about which risks are worthwhile, choosing ones they have a good chance of conquering. You won’t achieve them all, but you’ll enjoy some very exciting successes when you start seizing the day in these ways:

    • Ask yourself what risks you need to take to get where you really want to go.
    • Dive into a project that stretches your abilities, really challenging you.
    • Share the good news—and its measurable results—with coworkers and superiors when you succeed.
  5. Speak Up in Meetings
    Speaking up in meetings can be daunting, but it will get easier with time. Here are a few ways to start:

    • Figure out one topic on the agenda that you have a lot to say about. Prepare to ignite conversation on that topic.
    • Bring creative ideas that speak to the qualities you want to be known for.
    • Ask insightful questions when others present ideas.
    • Practice saying one thing that pops into your head at each meeting.
  6. Become a Mentor
    Serving as a mentor to others will highlight both your expertise and your concern for the organization’s success. When your boss sees coworkers coming to you for advice, you’re sure to stand out. Here’s how to begin:

    • Does your department have a new employee? Offer to show her the ropes. Just by being friendly and available to answer questions, you’ll start cultivating a strong relationship.
    • Give coworkers advice about things you’re an expert on. Don’t beat them over the head with it—just share tidbits of information in conversations, and invite them to drop by your workspace if they show interest in learning more.
  7. Promote Yourself to a Leadership Position
    There’s no need to ask for permission to become a leader. The best way to become known as a leader is to just start acting like one.

    • Remember that cause you support? Organize a volunteer day for your office, explaining to your boss how this will build team spirit.
    • Volunteer to lead meetings.
    • Spearhead an exciting project, delegate responsibilities to team members, and give them positive feedback to coach them along.

If you take these steps, you’re sure to stand out at work. How you approach success makes a difference—you won’t be passively waiting for it, but actively reaching for it. That will mark you as a leader in the eyes of your boss and other decision-makers. In turn, this will boost your job security and lead to exciting opportunities for promotion.

Joel can help you boost your visibility among leaders and coworkers. If you want advance in your career, gain the deserved promotion or receive more work recognition, hire Joel for executive coaching.

6 Tips for New Managers

“Corporate culture matters. How management chooses to treat its people impacts everything—for better or for worse.”
~Simon Sinek~

Client Julie says: I’ve just accepted a job as manager of my department. I want to successfully navigate this new leadership role. What mistakes should I make sure to avoid?

Coach Joel answers: Becoming a manager probably marks a dramatic shift from your previous role. It may feel overwhelming. You’re being asked to apply a new skill set, and everyone is gaging your ability to handle the role. But avoid these 6 classic mistakes, and you’ll be on your way to becoming a great boss.

    1. Ignoring the Big Picture
      New managers might be tempted to dive into the daily grind before fully educating themselves on organizational vision, mission, and strategy. To guide and inspire their team, however, they need a strong grasp of these concepts. Thus, they should meet with leaders of the organization early on to get briefed on strategy and understand their perspective on these issues. Creating an action plan is important when starting a new role.
    2. Presuming They Know Their Employees
      You might have worked alongside your direct reports for years, but you don’t know them as their manager. Taking time for one-on-ones with each of them is vital to understanding their work performance goals, concerns, and job roles. Communicating that you want their ideas about how your department can improve will also convey that you value them.
    3. Micromanaging Employees
      Because your success depends on theirs, you might be tempted to micromanage the nitty gritty details of your direct reports’ days. Here’s an important tip for every new manager: Relinquish total control. Trying to maintain that level of control signifies mistrust, which is especially harmful to a new manager who might be supervising former coworkers. (They’d be sure to see you as too big for your britches!) After you delegate tasks, let employees handle them.
    4. Assuming Executive Presence Develops Naturally
      Executive presence doesn’t just develop on its own—at least, not for most people. New managers should consciously work to cultivate charisma (because yes, that’s something you can develop). They should also practice regulating their emotions, keeping a couple of stress-reducing exercises in their pocket for critical moments. New managers must show they’re calm and in control in order for others to trust and take them seriously.
    5. Choosing a Leadership Style That Doesn’t Feel Right
      You might gravitate toward a leadership style that your previous boss used. However, if it’s not the best fit for your personality, it will probably feel awkward or ineffective. Read up on leadership styles—such as visionary, democratic, and affiliative leadership—to determine which style or combination is right for you. Then, find a mentor who models that style.
    6. Brushing Off Awkward Feelings
      If you sense any tension from direct reports who used to be your coworkers, don’t ignore it. That will only cause it to fester. Bring it up during your one-on-one meetings, talking about how you can reduce the awkwardness together. Even if you don’t sense hostility or hurt feelings, acknowledging the shift fosters openness that will help you navigate any awkwardness that arises.

If you’re a new manager, you’re sure to make mistakes. After all, you are a rookie, and everyone starts somewhere. For all new managers, tips and advice from a trusted mentor are priceless. Have regular one-on-ones with your mentor to talk through the inevitable questions and hurdles that arise.

Help the newly promoted succeed with an Executive Coaching Program by Joel Garfinkle.

Stress Reduction Techniques

“Being in control of your life and having realistic expectations about your day-to-day challenges are the keys to stress management, which is perhaps the most important ingredient to living a happy, healthy and rewarding life.”
~Marilu Henner~

Client Elias asks: I feel like my work performance is being compromised by stress. And carrying all that stress is exhausting—sooner or later, I feel like I’m just going to collapse. How can I start dealing with it?

Coach Joel answers: Elias, you’re not alone—work is a major cause of stress for 65% of Americans, according to the American Psychological Association (APA). And none of us should settle for feeling stressed all the time. A little surge of stress can be good—the kind that gets you in gear to meet a deadline—but chronic stress is debilitating.

Workplace stress can come from small, repeated annoyances, or it can stem from major issues with your job role or organizational culture. Many of us suffer from “rush syndrome,” the fear of slowing down. Sometimes we don’t even realize how stressed we’ve been until we learn to relax. These 10 stress reduction techniques will help you start feeling like the superstar you are.

  1. Keep a Journal
    Keep a journal for a couple of weeks to track your stress, suggests the APA. Simply acknowledging your stress and affirming you’re going to address it feels good, and it’s a first step to making changes.
  2. Get Organized
    Clutter leads to stress, because we know it’s something that needs to be dealt with. It’s like seeing little tasks piled up in front of you—it creates a sense of overwhelm. Take a little time to clear out that clutter, and you’ll find your mind is clearer as well.
  3. Practice Good Posture
    Sitting up straight not only projects confidence, but gives you more confidence as well, according to Time. If you get into a crouched-down pose, it will make you more fearful and stressed, because your mind is responding to your body. These techniques for reducing stress can help improve your posture and make your body feel better, which brings more stress-reducing benefits.
  4. Engage in Deep Breathing
    According to Sharon Melnick in Success Under Stress, by regulating your breath, you can break unconscious emotional patterns that persist through short, stressed breathing. Set an intention to consciously take several deep breaths at different points throughout the day, ideally before you feel extreme stress coming on.
  5. Prepare for the Next Day
    Fretting over what you need to do the next day, or how a meeting will go, creates a lot of unnecessary stress. Instead, at the end of each workday, create a plan for what you’ll do the next day. Prepare thoughts you want to share at the meeting, along with a manageable “to do” list.
  6. Create Work/Life Boundaries
    If you’re checking email at night, you’re probably carrying extra stress around. Set clear work/life boundaries for yourself, and stick to them, the APA advises.
  7. Get Active
    If you’re not getting regular exercise, make that a daily part of your routine. Even if you work out in the evening, add some physical activity to your workday, as active breaks can lower stress. Take a walk during your lunch break, for example.
  8. Check the Self-Criticism
    Write down your greatest accomplishments and words of appreciation from others on notecards that you can keep tucked in your desk or posted on your wall. When you feel self-criticism coming on, check this self-defeating behavior by reminding yourself of those moments. This will help you stay positive as you work to overcome your inevitable challenges.
  9. Laugh More
    Watch a silly video on your break, or share a story about something funny your kid did. Breaking the tension with laughter will put you in a better emotional state.
  10. Take Charge of Your Career
    Lack of job satisfaction, few opportunities to advance or grow, and unclear performance expectations are major causes of workplace stress, says the APA. If these things are contributing to your stress, make a career plan now. Talk to your boss to enlist support, letting her know you want to grow with the organization.

Furthermore, try not to stress about your work stress. You’re not failing if you don’t address it all at once—implementing coping strategies takes time, as Martha Davis says in The Relaxation and Stress Reduction Workbook. Be patient with yourself as you begin using these techniques for stress reduction, knowing no one gets it all right all at once.

Is stress holding you back at work? Contact leadership coach Joel Garfinkle for more support in reducing stress and changing your life.

6 Tips to Balance Your Work & Life

“Balance is not better time management, but better boundary management. Balance means making choices and enjoying those choices.”
~Betsy Jacobson~

Kathy asks: My job keeps demanding more and more of me. I’m passionate about my career, but I don’t want it to be my entire life. How can I find work/life balance?

Joel replies: Kathy, you’re in good company—countless employees in the U.S. are working long, hard hours. And that’s not necessarily good for their careers or companies. According to a survey by the Families and Work Institute, overworked employees are more likely to:
– Be stressed and experience more symptoms of clinical depression.
– Report that their health is poorer.
– Neglect caring for themselves.
– Make mistakes at work.
– Feel angry at their employers for expecting them to do so much.
– Resent coworkers who don’t work as hard as they do.

These work/life balance tips will help you enjoy a rewarding life outside of work, while finding greater job satisfaction as well.

  1. Set Boundaries
    Set clear boundaries with yourself first and foremost, so you can communicate them well to others. For example, you might decide that you’ll never stay at work past a certain time, and you’ll never skip lunch. Here are some ways of enforcing your boundaries:

      -Say no more often. Too often, “yes” is the default answer. We allow tasks to fill our schedules without considering whether they benefit our careers or make the best use of our skills. If you’re not required to take on a task and you’re not feeling excited about it, someone else might be a better fit.
      -Disconnect from technology at home. Stay away from work-related email and texting at home. If you can, unplug from technology altogether.
      -Communicate boundaries to your family. When they know your schedule and needs, they’ll be able to encourage you to uphold the boundaries that you’ve set. If they’re in the dark, they’ll just feel frustrated.
  2. Make Plans with Family
    It might seem a given that you’ll spend time with them after work, but showing you’re excited about that time will make all the difference. This is one of the most important tips for creating work/life balance, because it strengthens your relationships. Plan a fun family evening to kick off the weekend, and make that a regular part of your routine. Do something fun and adventurous every now and then, too, like going on a camping trip.
  3. Start Under-promising
    Always estimate that a project will take a little more time than you think it should. Giving yourself that buffer of time will make you feel less harried, and it will help keep you from working long hours just to meet the deadline you set. If you finish early, great! If not, no sweat.
  4. Use Your Vacation Time
    Did you know that over a third of American workers don’t use their vacation time? Start taking your vacations, and you’ll improve your health and wellbeing dramatically. We all need time to recharge, and vacations are one of the best ways to do that. Here are a few tips for getting the most from your vacation:

      – Leave work completely behind. Resist the urge to check in with folks in the office. It’ll be good for them to figure things out on their own—and keeping your hands out of it sets a good example for everyone.
      – Plan a relaxing time. Sometimes vacations are jam-packed with experiences, as we feel the need to do everything possible to enjoy the destination and our precious time off. However, that doesn’t necessarily make for the most relaxing trip. Enjoy plenty of downtime so you’ll come back refreshed.
  5. Get the Sleep You Need
    When we don’t sleep enough, we start overreacting to stress, says Harvard Business Review. It makes us more hostile and anxious, causing smaller stressors to feel larger. When we respond to them that way, we create bigger problems. Getting enough sleep can nip this vicious circle in the bud.
  6. Make Time for Friends
    Making time for family can be challenging enough, but don’t ignore your close friends. Make time to catch up in person on a regular basis. If you’re in a relationship, sharing close social connections will bring you closer to one another as well. Invite a few friends over for dinner once a month, or have a game night. People with strong social support cope with stress better, live happier lives, and live longer, studies have found.

Maintaining a healthy work-life balance can be challenging if an employer keeps demanding more of your time. However, we often place many unnecessary demands on ourselves, which these work/life balance tips can help you to overcome. Remember that to get where you want to go in your career, pacing yourself is key. Enjoying a rich life outside of work will give you the fuel you need to get there.

If you or your employees need to immediately get a handle on their work/life balance, email leadership coach Joel Garfinkle for assistance.

Importance of Work Life Balance

“When you have balance in your life, work becomes an entirely different experience. There is a passion that moves you to a whole new level of fulfillment and gratitude, and that’s when you can do your best… for yourself and for others.”
~Cara Delevingne~

Mateo asks: My life is out of whack, and my boss seems oblivious about it. Should I just suck it up and keep plugging along, or find a way to deal with the problem?

Joel answers: Join the club. According to a study by the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published in the American Sociological Review, 7 of 10 workers in America are struggling to find work/life balance. The importance of helping them achieve it cannot be overestimated.

We might take a lesson from Europe—less than 15% of workers in Denmark and Belgium work over 40 hours per week, whereas in the U.S., it’s 70%, according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research. It’s no wonder that U.S. workers suffer from so much overwhelm and burnout.

This kind of imbalance might be par for the course, but you shouldn’t accept it. If you do, no one wins—not your company, and certainly not you.

Symptoms of Imbalance

By educating yourself on the symptoms of imbalance, you’ll be prepared to explain to your boss how important work/life balance is to the company as well as your career. You might be experiencing these symptoms:

  • Feeling preoccupied with work while at home, and unable to really feel present with your loved ones.
  • Inability to do your best work. It’s hard to think creatively when you’re overwhelmed and overworked.
  • A skyrocketing level of stress, and accompanying physical and mental systems like depression, tension in the body, or health problems.
  • Lack of time to reflect on career goals and personal milestones, or plan for the future.
  • Inability to fully enjoy your personal time or relax while at home.
  • Lack of satisfaction with your job, which may be coupled with a sense of resentment.

Steps Toward Finding Balance

Remember, you need to be your own greatest advocate in achieving balance. Here’s how to begin.

  • Set reasonable goals. The saying “Shoot for the moon—even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars” ignores how we actually feel when we don’t achieve that overly ambitious goal—or when we work overtime every night trying to get there. Set goals that stretch your abilities but aren’t unreachable.
  • Communicate your needs. This may mean being more selective about projects you take on.
  • Set strict hours. Vow not to work outside of particular hours anymore, and follow through.
  • Find something that is calming to you, whether it’s a breathing exercise or taking a walk, and do it when you feel super stressed. You’ll work more efficiently when you’re thinking clearly.
  • Make time just for you. To reflect on your goals, career trajectory, and other important life plans, you need quiet time to hear your own thoughts. Do something that gets the juices flowing, whether it’s journaling or going for a hike.
  • Use your vacation time. It exists for a reason.

Helping Employees Find Balance

If you supervise others, help them find work/life balance. Make it part of company culture by checking in on them, asking if they’re feeling swamped or overwhelmed. Here are a few options your company could implement to foster work/life balance:

  • Fair parental leave policies.
  • Flexible working hours, or the option to telecommute.
  • Workshops on stress reduction and time management.
  • On-site childcare.
  • Eldercare support (which may consist of a caregiver leave policy and/or support in finding caregiver resources).

You’re probably not the only one in your office experiencing these issues. One subtle way to shift the culture is to ask coworkers what they do to achieve work/life balance. They might be caught off guard, but it opens the conversation and positions work/life balance as a priority. Remember, work/life balance is hugely important to everyone, whether they’re thinking about it or not. Get the conversation started, and you’ll be doing everyone a favor.

Contact Joel for his Executive Coaching Services so you can immediately begin improving your work/life balance before it’s too late.