Monday, October 19, 2020

The Best Way to Help Employees Feel More Positive

Telling employees not to worry these days or to "be happy and look on the bright side" isn't very helpful when it comes to motivation. The times right now are too uncertain, too tough, to think that such platitudes will work.

Still, it's also not good for business that employees mope around -- either on site or while working remotely -- and there needs to be some way to put some positivity into their lives if they're going to be effective. But how?

Maria Konnikova, author of "The Confidence Game," explains in The New Yorker that research shows you can't really mandate positivity because it ends up creating a negative backlash when "feeling happy" is being forced upon employees by a boss or a colleague.

In addition, when employees feel like they have to somehow "monitor" their positivity, it sucks up their mental energy and that can end up hurting their work performance. 

When all is said and done, trying to force employees to be positive all the time has the opposite effect. Employees who are told to "smile" and "be upbeat" all the time -- and can't just be themselves even when customers aren't around -- may find it an emotional strain they can't handle.

One way that experts say you can help employees be more positive on their own is by giving them more control. 

When employees are given instructions on how to behave, then they feel trapped and disrespected. But if you give them a framework of what they need to do, then they can figure out the specifics on their own.

For example, "make customers feel welcome" is a framework while "Greet customers with a smile, ask them about their day, ask them what they're looking for...." is too restrictive.

At a time when we're all trying to adjust to a new way of doing things, it helps if platitudes are put aside and we simply provide the support employees need so that they feel trusted and respected. 

That's the way to put a smile on someone's face.

Monday, October 12, 2020

Learn How to Say "No" at Work

When the job market is tough like it is now, it's very difficult to say "no."

You don't want to say "no" to a request from a colleague for fear of not being seen as a team player. You don't want to say "no" to a boss for fear of being fired. You don't want to say "no" to a customer for fear of losing that customer.

There's a lot of fear and angst these days, and that's understandable being that we're in a global pandemic. But that doesn't mean you have to be afraid of saying "no" -- even to your boss. (Of course, this isn't about saying "no" just because you're feeling lazy and don't want to work.)

In fact, it's essential that you retain your ability to say "no" if you're going to keep your sanity and your career on track. That's because when you can't say "no," then you say "yes" to things that aren't a good use of your talents. You waste your time and energy on things that won't be of the greatest value to your career and to your employer. 

Still, it takes some preparation to know when -- and how -- to say "no." Here's some things to think about:

1. Why do you want to say "no"? Don't dismiss your reasoning as "silly" or "dumb." There's a reason you want to say no to a request. Is it because you believe it means it will take you away from more important work? Or because you feel it's being dumped on you by a colleague who doesn't want to do it? Perhaps it's something more serious: You want to say "no" because you believe what's being requested is illegal.

2. Offer other options. If someone senses they can bully you into saying "yes," then you've already lost the battle. Instead, take on the role of thoughtful colleague or employee. "Hmmm....I'm sorry, I don't think that will work. But what if you tried xyz instead?" By proposing another resource or strategy, you can deflect the person's focus on trying to pressure you into saying yes.

3. Take a breath. If you feel backed into a corner and someone is pressuring to you say "yes," then it's OK to say: "Can I get back to you? I need to make a quick call before I think about this." Then, find some quiet time to reflect -- or call a friend or family member who can help you stiffen your backbone and stick to saying "no." You're likely to get someone who tries to push you into complying, so stay calm and don't let this person antagonize or intimidate you.

4. Look for common ground. Everyone has had that boss who thinks you should work 24/7 -- or at least on weekends. You may want to say "no" but don't know how. In this case, try reminding the boss that he/she also needs some time off. "I know you're a great golfer. How about we resume this on Monday so that you can have some time this weekend to work on your game and I can spend some time working in my garden?" That helps you find common ground to work out a solution.

Finally, think about times you wish you had said "no" and how you could have handled it differently. Practice such scenarios with friends or families so that when they arise at work, you're better prepared to calmly say "no" and make better decisions. 

Monday, October 5, 2020

4 Ways to Get More Respect at Work

Are you respected at work?

For many, the answer is "no" and that can make life a little more miserable when you're at work. People may be rude to you or treat you unprofessionally. While this may not bother you too much, it can add up over time and start making you feel angry or even depressed by such behavior.

Whether you're the lowest ranking person in your workplace or the top boss, here's one of the easiest ways to garner respect by others: Show respect to them.

Really. It's often that easy. Model the behavior you want to see from others.

Here are some ways to do it:

  • Use your manners. Say "please" and "thank you" or "excuse me" if you must interrupt a conversation. Say "hello" and "goodbye" each day while making eye contact. Hold the door for a co-worker, always show up on time and don't antagonize others with political comments or off-color jokes. If you're not going to be able to fulfill your commitments (late to work, research not completed, etc.) be honest and let your colleagues know as soon as possible.
  • Be positive. People feel bombarded with negativity right now, and the person who can offer a positive outlook each day will stand out. Challenge yourself to find something good to say to each person every day and others will start to respect your opinion.  Look for ways to show that you're a rock solid person and aren't going to crumble into whining and negativity and you'll become an influence on others -- a sure way to garner more respect.
  • Respect yourself. You cannot expect others to respect you if you don't show respect for yourself. Don't use negative language about yourself, such as "I know I'm not good at this stuff, but ...." or "No one ever listens to me." Your body language should show self-respect: Shoulders back, head up, neck straight. Wear clothes and hairstyles that make you feel put together -- this can take on a variety of forms during these days of Zoom, but the key is to feel strong and confident.
  • Spend time with those you respect. Whether it's a former teacher, your grandmother, a neighbor or a friend, interacting with those who have your respect will rub off on you -- you will start to take on more of their attributes and model that respectful demeanor. 
Getting more respect may not happen overnight. But being patient and continuing to show courtesy and grace to others will not only make you feel better -- but make you stronger and happier in your career as others recognize and respect your contributions.

Monday, September 28, 2020

4 Ways to Bond With a Team Virtually When You're a Newbie

When working remotely -- or working onsite with a reduced team -- it can be difficult to navigate interpersonal relationships with your colleagues or bosses.

The casual interactions throughout the day, the meetings where general announcements are made and all the dozens of other ways that you learn and grow your career are gone for now.

While this is difficult for seasoned workers, imagine how hard it must be for newbies. Whether they were hired just before the pandemic lockdown began, or were hired remotely during the pandemic, all those little opportunities to find a way to fit in are eliminated.

Or are they?

When thinking about all the great career advice that experts have given me over the years, I believe there are still ways to navigate office politics successfully when working remotely or in a reduced team environment.

Here's some of the advice to help newcomers whether working onsite or from home:

1. The last word. When meeting in person,  it's always important to observe who everyone looks at when it comes time to make a decision. It's not always the boss. Even if everyone looks at the boss, the boss may be looking at someone else -- and that's the real power in your workplace. This is someone you want to get to know, because he or she has the key connections and understands best how things get done. When working remotely, this person will often be the one on the Zoom call who has the final word, or the person who writes the final email that resolves a problem. This person has garnered respect from others and the boss, and learning from that person is worthwhile.

2. Be resourceful. Everyone is overloaded right now, so as the new person you may be afraid to ask too many questions and make a pest of yourself. That shows emotional intelligence, but could be your downfall in the long run. Your new colleagues and your boss expect you to ask a lot of questions in the beginning, but will be frustrated if months down the line it becomes evident that you didn't ask questions and made assumptions that turned out to be wrong. The best course is to be resourceful -- consult company handbooks for procedural information or even Google to help you become more familiar with jargon or other industry terms instead of asking a co-worker. That way, when you need to know something more specific, you can frame it as: "I read the company handbook on how to file this paperwork, but it didn't mention this specific form. Can you tell me how to do that or who to ask?" Then, make sure the person sees you writing down the information as it shows you won't be asking the same question over and over, something that will be truly appreciated in these stressful times.

3. Do your homework. You don't want to just sit in Zoom meetings and never contribute anything or propose an idea that a competitor has already done. Now is the time to really study what is happening in your industry and your company. What is the competition doing? What are the top three challenges for your company right now? What are the trends in the industry? In Zoom meetings, you don't want to talk just to get attention, but do want to offer opinions or ideas that have merit because you've grounded them in facts and research.

4. Make individual connections. It can feel awkward to just chat in Zoom meetings, especially when you're the new person. To help alleviate some of that, try connecting one-on-one with colleagues via email or text. For example, you might text Nathan that you heard him mention that he's looking for a better exercise app -- you can mention a new one you've been using and really like. Or, Sue might be frustrated that she can't get someone has XYZ company to return a call, and you might email her to let her know you read the company is having money troubles and send her the online article. All these "watercooler" moments are now taking place virtually, but they still help you bond with other team members.

Monday, September 21, 2020

5 Steps That Can Lead to Greater Happiness, Career Success

Are you tired? Bored? Frustrated? Burned out?

All of the above?

As the pandemic drags on, everyone is feeling some (or all) of these things. We've worked all the crossword puzzles, we've baked and eaten bread until the only pants that fit are ones we normally sleep in and we feel that one more Zoom meeting may push us over the edge.

I have a solution for many of you.

It's learning. Not learning as in "I'm going to learn how to crochet" or "I'm going to learn how to speak Klingon."

This kind of learning is aimed at helping you professionally, to making you more valuable to employers now and in the future. Because trust me on this: When the economy picks back up and employers begin hiring again, they're going to look at what job candidates did in their pandemic time at home. Did they expand their waistlines or did they expand their learning and skills?

Which one do you think will make the better impression on employers?

Think of it like this: When you were a kid, you were learning all the time. Your little brain was open to all the world had to offer, whether it was exploring what was under a rock or learning to read. You used every opportunity to ask "why?" It was fun, wasn't it? It wasn't a hardship. It made you happy to learn so you kept at it.

Unfortunately, as we grow up, that learning enthusiasm fades. As adults, we often become too narrowly focused on what's on our "to do" list. We forget to look around and ask "why?" We don't use our everyday conversations or opportunities to try to learn something, to try and expand our abilities or skills.

Whether you're unemployed and employed, invest in yourself and your career by being a continual learner. It will pay off --  you will be happier and more satisfied during a stressful time in our lives -- and employers will appreciate your efforts. On top of that, your learning efforts can lead to better pay and a more satisfying career.

Here are some things to get you started:

  1. Think of people you admire. Often, we think we're "not smart enough" or  just "not good at" certain skills, like public speaking or starting a business. But if you look into the background of those you admire, they didn't just luck into being a good speaker or running a successful company. They worked at it. They perhaps took classes that helped them improve. They relied on the advice of others. They asked lots of questions and studied the answers to learn more. Consider some skills possessed by people you admire and how you'd like to have those same skills. Do you need to take online classes? Read books on the subject? Attend webinars? Connect with someone through LinkedIn to ask advice?
  2. Take off your blinders -- and put down your phone. Look around and start getting curious. When you go for a walk, stand in line at the store or wait for the coffee maker to finish, let your mind wander. Don't look at your phone! Every time you pick up your phone like it's your binky, put it down. A big part of learning something new comes from simply letting your mind wander and search out new things.
  3. You're braver than you know. A year ago, the world was a different place. We've been scared -- and are still scared -- but we've powered through it. Every day we get up and do what needs to be done. That's something to acknowledge, because it shows that all of us are capable to doing hard -- often scary -- things. So, don't let your fear of going for a big project or a promotion hold you back. Stretching yourself is important if you want to grow in your career.
  4. Set goals. Don't set lofty, vague goals such as "I want to be vice president at my company in the next five years." Instead, think about key connections that need to be made within your company and how you will make them. Or, determine if you're going to need more education to have such a position and when you can start classes.
  5. Pursue feedback. Many successful CEOs say they have a personal "board of directors" that offer them advice and feedback. If you want to truly grow in your career, then you've got to be held accountable. This doesn't mean your annual performance review by your boss. This kind of feedback is meant to keep you on target no matter where you're employed and is given by those who understand your career vision and how to best get there.
I've interviewed many successful people over the years, and the one thing they have in common is that they don't rest on their laurels. The happiest and most productive people are always learning -- they are always challenging themselves in some way. They consider it not only an investment in their careers, but in the quality of their lives.

Monday, September 14, 2020

Research Shows That Individual Purpose is Critical

These are uncertain times for many people, including employees.

Will they have a job next week? Will they work from home next month or will they be called back into the office? Will continuing to work remotely hurt their careers? Will they be given pay raises this year or be able to take time off? Do they even want to do what they're doing anymore?

A new report by McKinsey & Co. stresses that during these uncertain times, it's important that employees have a sense of individual purpose "that helps people face up to uncertainties and navigate them better, and thus mitigate the damaging effects of long-term stress. People who have a strong sense of purpose tend to be more resilient and exhibit better recovery from negative events."

One of the suggestions from the report includes leaders talking to employees individually to help workers better understand their own purpose (most people have a tough time articulating their own purpose).

Once that purpose is understood (helping the poor, saving the planet, alleviating suffering, etc.), then the leader can help the employee see how his or her contribution to the organization can also serve their purpose. Sometimes that alignment isn't always perfect, or not at all. In that case, leaders may need to re-think how they hire or how employees are placed in certain jobs to ensure that there is better alignment for all workers, McKinsey researchers say.

"The pandemic has been a cruel reminder for companies everywhere of how important it is to never take healthy or motivated employees for granted. Since individual purpose directly affects both health and motivation, forward-looking companies will be focusing on purpose as part of a broader effort to ensure that talent is given the primacy it deserves," researchers write.

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

8 Ways to Make Sure Your Great Idea Isn't Ignored

Ever had a good idea shot down at work?

Most of us have been through it at least once. The reasons may vary, but the result is the same. You feel frustrated, or angry -- even depressed. Why can't your boss/colleagues recognize a great idea?

Your frustration may prompt you to think about leaving your current job and go find another company that will appreciate your innovative thoughts.

But here's the problem: If you don't learn to do a better job of presenting your ideas, chances are good the same thing will happen over and over, no matter where you work.

Here's some ways to deal with the obstacles getting in the way of your great ideas:

1. Change or die. The coronavirus has shown that companies that fail to continually innovate are left behind. Big retailers that didn't move to ecommerce years ago have seen their business suffer, while retailers like Wayfair, WalMart and Target have thrived.  When someone questions why there is a need to alter a course that has worked in the past, just point to such examples.

2. Innovation grows companies. When your idea is dismissed because it doesn't generate a lot of revenue, point out that it's new ideas -- like those from Amazon and Apple -- that are what build great organizations and lead to more revenue.

3. It solves a problem. While others might think your idea is "trivial," point out that it's not "trivial" to the people who are helped by it.

4. It's a first step. If someone says your idea isn't "big enough," comment that it's a step in the right direction and will get the company moving toward that bigger idea.

5. It's unique. Sometimes your idea gets shot down because it's not being done anywhere else. Remember to stress that there's a first time for everything and your idea offers a unique opportunity.

6. Failure leads to success. Shooting down your idea by saying it's been done before is a common tactic — whether it's true or not. Just say, "That was then. Conditions change and what we're talking about probably wasn't done in this way."

7. Delay, delay, delay. You may be told that now isn't the "right" time for your idea, and it should be put off until something else happens, or changes. Don't be fooled by the person pretending to like your idea, only to try and squelch it. Say something like, "The best time is when people are excited and committed to make something happen. That time is now."

8. It's too much work. That's a genuine concern because most people in the workplace today really are overworked and underpaid. To battle that argument, respond with "Hard can be good. New, viable ideas can energize and motivate us."

Monday, August 31, 2020

Are You Overconfident?


More than a decade ago, I wrote about a 13-foot Burmese python that tried to eat a six-foot alligator in the Florida Everglades.

The python exploded.

At the time, I wrote this in an effort to demonstrate that while having too little confidence can hurt you career -- so can overconfidence.

Since that time, there seems to be an explosion of overconfidence. From the start up founder being investigated by law enforcement because he overinflated a company's financial condition to the ego-driven employee who lies about her accomplishments, there seems to be a lot unrealistic thinking these days.

Recently I was reading about Don Moore's new book, "Perfectly Confident: How to Calibrate Your Decisions Wisely." In that interview, Moore makes solid points about how it's great to be confident -- but being overconfident is asking for trouble.

Consider his points:

  • Confidence feels good. It's a feeling backed by facts (you've trained, studied, gained experience over the years). Overconfidence doesn't feel good because it comes from lying to yourself."When you realize you're overconfident, it feels like a mistake. You feel like a fool," he says.
  • There are real risks with "delusional overconfidence." For example, being confident that you're going to give a great presentation to the boss -- and then don't do any research or prep work to prepare that presentation -- can seriously hurt your career when you give a sub-par presentation.
  • Realistic expectations help you achieve success. You need to assess the risks and opportunities that lie ahead. Then, figure out the action to take to prepare yourself to take advantage of those opportunities.
  • You can't predict the future. The best you can do is make forecasts about the probables and how sure you are of them. Are you willing to bet on it? How likely is it to happen? Why might you be wrong? What might others know who believe differently than you? "That is very useful for helping us questions our assumptions and calibrate our confidence," he says.

Monday, August 24, 2020

Feeling Burned Out? What to Do Right Now

While working during the pandemic, 37 percent of American workers report they're putting in longer hours, with 40 percent saying they've experienced burnout during this time.

That's not good. Since 75 percent of us have experienced burnout in the past, we know how devastating it can be for us professionally and personally. Burnout isn't something you take a pill for and feel better in the morning. It saps you of energy, it robs you of creativity, it depletes any reserves you might have and you feel completely overwhelmed.

The stakes are high. For those who are trying to deal with the fallout from the pandemic (job at risk, educating children at home, isolation), experiencing burnout can be a blow that will be very difficult to deal with on top of everything else.

Right now, everyone is still trying to figure it all out. But the reality is that it's hard. Bosses are overwhelmed as they try to lead teams remotely. Workers are stressed as they worry about the next paycheck, caring for their family or feel the pain of ongoing isolation.

Never has self-care been more important. It may be difficult for a colleague or boss or friend to know that you're struggling when they can't see you in person. They may be unaware that you're not sleeping, that you're working on the weekends and at night and that you feel constantly overwhelmed but are afraid to say anything.

Right now, right this minute, make a commitment that things are going to be different. Say to yourself: "I have to make changes if I want to stay healthy so that when this pandemic is behind us, I can travel. I can visit friends and family. I can go for that walk on the beach. I can go back to working in an office and my kids can go back to school and I can actually go a party."

(Feel free to substitute anything that you're looking forward to doing -- going dancing, fishing, to a basketball game, etc.)

I can't urge you enough to make changes. Burnout can really sock a punch -- it can lead to lots of physical ailments from headaches to heart problems and can derail you for a long time.

Here's some ideas for making a change. You don't have to do all of them, but make a commitment to implement one and then move onto the next one until you have flipped your life in the right direction. Try to:

  • Set a schedule. It's easy to check email at 10 p.m. on your phone or prop your laptop on your bed to "catch up" if you can't sleep. Stop it. Decide on a quitting time, and stick to it. Put your laptop away, out of sight -- and definitely out of the bedroom. Turn off phone notifications. Let your colleagues and boss know that you've got a "quitting time" and are going to stick to it so that you'll be refreshed and ready to go the next day.
  • Have "hello" and "goodbye" rituals. When you worked away from home, you probably had your little habits -- stopped for a coffee at the shop near your work, listened to NPR on your commute. After work, your "goodbye" ritual was to call your Mom as you headed home and then when you got home, to have a beer while watching ESPN. While you may not want to exactly mimic those things now, try to establish such routines so you mentally click when work starts and ends each day.
  • Consult your bucket list. Maybe you always planned to travel more, which isn't possible right now. But you also always wanted to learn how to paint or cook better or even learn a new language. That's all possible with the wonders of the Internet, where there are free classes on just about anything. Schedule time for bucket-list pursuits, and then feel free to enjoy them.
  •  Exercise. It doesn't matter what you do, just get moving. Your body needs it, your mind needs it and it's important if you want to be healthy enough to do the things you love in the future. Like I said, it doesn't matter what you do -- dance to "Frozen" with your kids, walk in place while watching "Friends," ride a bike or train for a virtual marathon.
Believe me, you're not alone in what you're going through. We've all got to figure out what works for us and stick to it. I recently joined a Twitter book club and have really enjoyed getting to know a new group of people. Like most book clubs, we don't spend a lot of time talking about the book, but find that we laugh a lot and find comfort in knowing that others are feeling some of the same things.

Monday, August 17, 2020

4 Ways to Lead Better Through a Pandemic

These are certainly difficult times for employees, but it is also a very trying time for bosses.

After all, no MBA or management training programs are likely to have "how to be a boss during a pandemic."

Bosses are learning as they go -- and sometimes they've risen to the occasion and led a team through these troubled waters -- and sometimes they've not been as successful.

Recently, management gurus Hayagreeva Rao and Robert Sutton wrote for McKinsey & Co. about how to lead through difficult times. Some of their advice:

1. Don't ruminate. Whether it's layoffs or other cost-cutting measures, don't try and blame anyone else or dwell on what might have been done before the crisis hit. "Lousy leaders engage in useless rumination about what might have been and who is to blame, and invent excuses for delaying gut-wrenching but vital actions," they write. But good leaders try to move the team forward. For example, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella's attitude throughout the pandemic has been "a dogged and optimistic focus on what his company can do and how his people can keep learning."

2. Be compassionate. "Skilled leaders demonstrate they care by expressing compassion for the harm and emotional distress inflicted by the crisis at hand and the actions they and their organization take in response," they write. Leaders need to understand that people are in different stages of the grieving process because of the pandemic, and support for them will make it easier for employees to focus on the greater good instead of just themselves.

3. Offer predictions. Research shows that "threats to well-being do less harm if reliable signals enable people to know when they are safe from the threat verses when it is imminent, fear is warranted, and it is time to take action to minimize risk," they write. For example, Stanford University mitigated some of the stress for employees by announcing that the university would pay all full-time employees their current rate through August.

4. Offer simple explanations. Leaders should rely on simple headlines and repetition, "because the anxiety provoked by crises can make it hard for people to process complex information," they say. 

5. Offer some control. When Airbnb's leaders needed to layoff workers, they did so in one-on-one meetings, offering as much compassion and control as possible. Workers were given a week to say goodbye to colleagues and received four months of career-services assistance.


Monday, August 10, 2020

Survey Reveals What Hiring Managers Want Now

It's always a good idea to know what's on the minds of hiring managers. That way, you can address the issues they think are important in your resume and cover letter, and speak knowledgeably about the issues that garner their interest.

Here's some research from Lever based on 700 talent and HR decision-makers in the U.S. and Canada:

  • Only 14% of companies are on a total hiring freeze as a result of COVID-19, and 40% believe they’ll emerge post-pandemic stronger, with better strategies and tools. Some industries are even more optimistic. Some 48% of respondents in the software industry believe they'll emerge stronger, followed by those in infrastructure (46%), finance (44%) and retail (43%).
  • Recruiters have kept busy: 37% spent time rethinking their recruiting processes, while 41% cleaned up their recruiting data during slower hiring times.
  •  84% of recruiters leaned more heavily on phone interviews as a result of the pandemic, while 85% of them leaned more heavily on video interviews.
  • 62% agree they will need to hire workers with skills that weren’t needed before; the top new skills required are adaptability (68%), communication (60%) and technology proficiency (55%).
  • 50% said diversity and inclusion initiatives will become more of a priority as companies proactively work to combat racism in the workplace.
What this information tells you is that if you're looking for work right now, chances are good that you're going to to need to practice more for phone or video interviews, and make sure you have quiet space to do the interview and the right connectivity.

  Another point to consider is that you need to have examples ready to demonstrate your adaptability, good communication skills and whatever tech skills you might have (if you don't have many, now is a good time to take some online tutorials or ask your nephew who is a tech wizard to teach you a few things).

In addition, be ready with some examples of how you've worked with diverse colleagues or customers -- no employer wants to hire someone who has shown intolerance or isn't willing to learn how to be more inclusive on the job.




Monday, August 3, 2020

How the Pandemic Can Help Your Grow in Your Career

During these months of quarantining, working from home, juggling new schedules and home situations and just trying to remember what day it is, it can be tough to think about anything good that can come from this pandemic.

I'm not going to try and sugarcoat that "every cloud has its silver lining," blah, blah, blah. I don't want to offer empty platitudes that might make you feel worse. Still, I have been thinking a lot about how this pandemic is changing the world of work, and what it might look like when we come out the other side.

One of the issues I have written about often is the need to develop emotional intelligence. Before the pandemic hit, and there was great competition for workers, companies were looking for those who didn't just have the right hard skills, but also the skills that ensured they could get along with others, could communicate effectively and could collaborate. These are often referred to as soft skills, and they have been growing in importance in the workplace.

That's because even if someone has great technical skills, for example, an inability to talk to someone else, to be empathetic or be a team player can have a real adverse impact on that team's effectiveness or even on a company's drive to be more innovative.

I think that the pandemic offers all of us a chance to really hone our soft skills. We have all been impacted in some way -- it's been difficult to watch the suffering on the nightly news, or read about a family losing a home because they can't pay their bills. But the emotions we feel as we go through this pandemic -- loss, grief, compassion, stress and depression -- can ultimately help us be better colleagues and bosses in the future.

Here are some ways to deal with the changes and grow emotionally for the future:
  • Pass out compliments. Years ago, I heard this advice from a manager and I never forgot it: Put 10 dimes in your left pocket every morning. Every time you give someone a compliment at work, shift a coin to your right pocket. By the end of the day, try to have shifted all 10 coins. Even if you're physically not in a workplace right now, try the dime trick from your home office. You can send a compliment via text or Slack or Google Hangouts. You can compliment a colleague on an online presentation via email, or even pick up the phone. Compliments don't have to be long-winded, just an acknowledgement from you to another person: "I saw that you handled that difficult customer first thing this morning. Well done! Not everyone would have wanted to tackle that."
  • Be respectful. Everyone is under a lot of pressure right now, and there's no shortage of online videos showing people being less than kind. That's exactly why it's so important that you take the time to be respectful of your colleagues or your staff. Don't send late night emails if it's not absolutely necessary, and the same goes for weekends. Always say "please" and "thank you." Don't be late to meetings (and apologize if you are) and don't monopolize someone's time with your complaints or gossip.
  • Be adaptable. I know there's not one person out there who has not had to adapt in some way during this pandemic. Still, you may resent some of the things you've had to do, so think of it this way: adaptability is one of the key soft skills that you can develop in the workplace. Your ability to adapt is seen as being cooperative, a team player, collaborative and in tune with others. Continue to try and adapt -- it will get easier as you do it more often, and will have a greater payoff to your career down the road.

Monday, July 27, 2020

3 Ways to Ensure Online Meetings Don't Suck

Before I begin today's post, let me apologize for the blog being unavailable for the last several days. Due to a technical glitch (which I don't understand, nor do I want to understand), my website wasn't available. Things are all better now, so let's begin....

Once the initial shock wore off and we all realized our work lives were going to be upended from the pandemic, some of you began to look at what is usually termed "the bright side."

"I can work in my pajamas."
"I don't have to smell stinky reheated food in the office microwave."
"I don't have to attend meetings."

This last one, of course, didn't last long. As soon as the boss figured out how to use Zoom, meetings became even more of a big deal. They lasted hours. They included business and non-business items, such as how to make pizza out of dried beans and macaroni.

Now that we've settled into the routine of working remotely, or working with only some of the staff some of the time, it's time to rein back in those unruly meetings and establish some kind of order. Some things to think about:

1. Have an agenda. Just like in the old days when you met in person, meetings need an agenda -- and the meeting planner needs to stick to it. 

2. Stick to a time limit. Without a time limit, meetings will expand. And expand. And expand. Try scheduling them for no longer than 50 minutes. That's a tip I got from a management guru -- he told me that by having a meeting from, say, 10 a.m. to 10:50 a.m., it gives everyone time to take a potty break, check messages and be ready for an 11 a.m. appointment.

3. Be inclusive -- and exclusive. Zoom meetings mean that you need to get dressed and look decent, find something to keep your toddler busy and try and get your dog not to bark every time you shift in your chair. In other words, it can be a bit of a hassle. So, meeting planners need to think long and hard about who needs to be included in a Zoom meeting -- and perhaps even seek input from employees: "I'm having a meeting on XYZ. Are you OK with not being included, or is this something you want to sit in on?" At the same time, make sure you include everyone if the meeting is something like a morale booster or brainstorming session.


Monday, July 20, 2020

How to Connect More Easily With Anyone

Even before the pandemic, getting to know someone was difficult. Whether it was a new co-worker, a client or even a boss, finding the right mix of friendly small talk without crossing professional boundaries was a sometimes difficult balancing act.

But now, we have masks that cover our faces during face-to-face conversations, or contend with bad phone connections or video conferencing that can make small talk even more challenging.

Many years ago social psychology researcher Arthur Anon came up with a list of questions that are found to deepen connections. His research shows these queries only take about 45 minutes to discuss, but make participants feel better about the other participants.

Here's a sampling:

1. For what in your life do you feel most grateful?

2. What would constitute a perfect day for you?

3. If you could wake up tomorrow having gained one quality or ability, what would it be?

4. What is your most treasured memory?

5. Your house, containing everything you own, catches fire. After saving your loved ones and pets, you have time to safely make a final dash to save any one item. What would it be? Why?

There are more questions listed here, and some may not be appropriate for professional situations. Still, it's interesting to think about your responses to these questions, and how they can help you interact more easily with others on the job. At a time when we're trying to connect more honestly with others, this may be a great place to start.

Monday, July 13, 2020

Bad Zoom Habits to Break Now

When we first started using Zoom meetings, it was a learning curve for many. It was often funny -- the cat who constantly walked in front of a co-worker's computer screen or the pants-less spouse who ran by in the background.

But Zoom has become a daily fact of life for most of us, and a lot of these "funny" or "odd" or "embarrassing" incidents have lost their charm. Colleagues no longer want to look at your cat or hear your kid's TV program blaring in the background. They don't want to see you looking like you were dragged through a hedge backwards.

It's time to accept that Zoom meetings are here to stay, and it's time to conduct yourself just as you would in any professional situation. Here are some things to think about:

1. Prepare yourself. Don't show up to a Zoom meeting after just working out or just waking up. Would you walk into a conference room dressed in ratty sweat pants or with your hair sticking up in five different directions? You've had plenty of time to adjust to working at home and starting to dress like a grown-up. Doing otherwise signals to your boss and your colleagues that you're not taking them or your job seriously. (And don't think you can get by with using an avatar -- everyone is expected to show their actual face by now.)

2. Improve your environment. It's been interesting to see pieces of various homes while on Zoom. But it's no longer interesting to see your dirty dishes, your unmade bed or your dying plant. Many people associate a messy desk with a disorganized person, so don't send that message from your home. You may have a limited space to work, but take the time to convey your professional approach to your job -- or others may think you're just waiting to crawl back into that unmade bed as soon as the call is over.

3. Use your manners. Showing up late, slouching in your seat, messing with your phone and not being prepared for the issues to be discussed are all bad form during a meeting, and that includes those conducted via Zoom. Make sure you're speaking clearly, smiling when appropriate and sending a 'I'm-here-and-I'm-ready" visual vibe to others. Anything less than that is rude and unprofessional.

While many of us are working from home, our face-to-face contact with colleagues and bosses is limited. If you're not making the best impression possible during Zoom calls, you're seriously undermining your career because that visual interaction will provide a lasting -- and unimpressive -- memory for others.

Monday, July 6, 2020

How You're Showing Intolerance at Work

The ongoing protests and calls for greater equality in our country are prompting many changes, from renaming buildings to large donations to diversity organizations.

For many, however, these changes won't directly impact them. Whether they're working from home or going back to work, they may not really think about diversity other than to be supportive of various causes or to voice their concern.

Yet, diversity does affect all of us. Every day. Whether we can admit it to ourselves or not, we all show prejudice in various ways at work. This doesn't mean we are openly hostile to someone of color or nationality, but it still exists.

These prejudices also don't mean we're all bad people. We just need to become better informed and more aware of our own actions. Things we do or say (or don't say) can lead to real harm, whether it's damaging someone's reputation, ensuring the person doesn't get ahead or even leading to that person losing a job.

Here are some things to think about:

  • Your network. Check out your online connections, whether it's Facebook or Instagram or LinkedIn. How diverse is it? Do you have connections -- people you regularly connect to -- who are from different cultures, races, genders, etc.? Do you have conversations about topics outside of work-related matters? Do you listen? Do you learn? Do you interact with people who disagree with you?
  • Your effort. In your workplace, are there people with names that you find difficult to pronounce? Is that the reason that you've come up with a nickname or otherwise shortened the name to make it easier for you? No one should be forced to change his or her name for such a reason -- it shows a real lack of respect and professional courtesy. You may need to ask the person to help you with the pronunciation, but that's OK. Start making an effort to be more open and receptive to others who aren't like you.
  • Your assumptions. More than once, I've met someone in person who says: "Oh, you sounded blonde on the phone." What does that even mean? How do you sound blonde? Or, I've been treated derisively by someone because of the slight twang of my voice. We often make assumptions because it helps us quickly categorize people and decide what we will do in reaction to that person. So, a shorter-than-average man must have a "Napoleon" complex, a blonde girl who dresses preppy must be a sorority airhead and a Black woman who went to Harvard must have been an affirmative action student. Think hard about how many times you do this, and even ask family and friends to make you aware when they hear you making assumptions about colleagues.

We can all do better and there's no time to waste. Start today thinking about the way you interact with others at work and how you can really start to make a difference in your own actions and attitudes.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Why You Need to Be Worried About Your Job Now -- and What to Do About It

If you're still employed, congratulations.

But, worried.

It's a sad but true reality that even if you're employed right now, things are clearly not going to go back to normal anytime soon. A new study says that 30% to 43% of U.S. employees will not go back to their pre-pandemic jobs. For every 4.2 new hires made, there will be 10 job losses, meaning that millions of people are going to unemployed.

Clearly, there are hard-hit industries right now such as those in hospitality that are showing huge job cuts. But think of the ripple effect these jobs losses have had -- farmers who can't sell their produce or milk because restaurants have cut back so drastically.

That's what you need to consider when you think about the safety of your job. If you work for a company that has a lot of government contracts, you could be threatened as the U.S. government begins to slash contracts with private companies. Or, if you work for a business that provides service or parts for water theme parks or even Disney World -- then you're going to be in real trouble as those venues remain closed or severely restricted.

Even white collar jobs are in trouble. Think of the entertainment law firms that no longer have entertainment business to handle because television and movie projects have been postponed. What about the accountants who handle the business for resorts? Those vacation destinations have been hit hard -- how many accountants will lose their jobs because there isn't enough business?

While your job may end up being safe, you should never be lulled into being complacent right now. Here are some things you need to do to improve your chances that you'll land on your feet should you become jobless:

  • Diversify your network. Look over your contacts on LinkedIn and other social media channels. If you're in advertising and all your contacts are in advertising or public relations or marketing, you're going to be in trouble should the industry take a big hit. Start looking for those in other sectors -- healthcare, tech, engineering, etc. You may need to make a real pivot to another industry -- do you even know anyone in another industry?
  • Grow your skills. Try to branch out. Think about taking a coding bootcamp, project management courses or other tutorials. Check out some options here.
  • Get to know your company better. A lot of employees don't really know much beyond the basics when it comes to the company's business. But if you're dependent on a paycheck from a business, then you need to know if that business is vulnerable. Do some online sleuthing, read industry publications and even try to get your boss to open up a bit about where he or she sees the company going. Paying attention may give you a heads up that your job may not be as safe as you thought.

Monday, June 22, 2020

How to Handle Going Back to Work After COVID-19

If you're still working from home, you need to start preparing to return to your workplace.

The thought may fill you with dread. Maybe you love working from home. Maybe you're scared of catching COVID-19 when you return to work. Maybe you're just getting used to your new routine and the thought of commuting and going back to your co-workers fills you with anxiety.

Just remember that you're not alone. We've all been experiencing a lot of stress, depression and anxiety since the world was turned upside down and we were required to quarantine at home.

"Uncertainty and unpredictability can really create an unhealthy amount of fear and stress, especially when it's sustained over such a long period of time," says Dr. K. Luan Phan, head of psychiatry and behavioral health at Ohio State University's Wexner Medical Center in Columbus.

Still, when the boss says it's time to return to work, you know that you will probably return to work. So, how do you do it and still feel safe? How do you prepare yourself mentally and emotionally to, once again, confront change?

Here's some things to think about:

1. Take your own precautions. Just because your boss says there will be hand sanitizer and social distancing doesn't mean you shouldn't take your own steps to feel safe. So, bring your own sanitizer. Wear a mask even if no one else does. Don't use the communal coffee pot, water fountain, beer keg, etc. Take the stairs instead of the elevator full of people. Some people are much more lax about social distancing and wearing a mask, but you don't have to be. Do what makes you feel safe.

2. Start the transition. So you've been wearing sweatpants and college sweatshirts since you started working at home. But now it's time to get out your adult clothes and figure out if they still fit. (No judgments!) Try on several outfits and think about how you feel in them -- if nothing works it's time to try a little online shopping to get yourself ready.

3. Get organized. It may have taken you a while to set up your home working space, but it's time to start thinking about what you need to go back to work. Start organizing the files, computer cables, workbooks, etc. that you're going to need to take back to the job.

4. Prepare your household. Whether it's kids or pets or partners, consider what will also make the transition easier on them. Do you need to set up a schedule that will mimic the one that you'll have once you're working away from home? Do you need to find new treats or toys for your pets to keep them occupied when you're not taking them for five walks a day? Do you need to prepare more freezer meals for when you're not home to cook when you want?

5. Remember to breathe. When we all first went into lockdown, we had to learn to cope with the scariness of it all, the weirdness of our lives and the uncertainty of what was going to happen. Think about what calmed you then. Was it listening to music? Talking to family more? Doing yoga? You may need to rely on those things again as you transition to working away from home. Rely on what works for you and call on it in the coming weeks as you begin this new change.

Monday, June 15, 2020

Signs You Are Toxic to Others at Work

Lately, we've all started taking a much closer look at toxic behavior in the workplace. People like Anna Wintour and Roger Lynch at  Conde Nast are among those high-powered bosses who are being cited as intolerant and cruel.

Employees and even co-workers are no longer afraid to talk about poor behavior that has affected them personally and professionally. Stories of bullying and discrimination seem to surprise those who are accused of it, which shows how oblivious some people are to their damaging "get ahead" tactics.

Could you be one of them? Could you be someone who is treating people badly and not even know it? Before you end up losing your career over your behavior, it's time to take a hard look at whether you're a toxic person. Some signs:

1. You blame other people. Whether it's a typo in a report, missing a deadline, not being prepared for a meeting, not sealing a deal -- you blame other people. From the minor to the major, you cannot ever take responsibility that you're an adult and are responsible for your own actions and decisions.

2. You have no loyalty. It doesn't matter if you've worked with someone for three days or 30 years, you are willing to throw anyone under the bus for any reason. It can range from snarky comments to others about mundane matters ("Did you see what Jane was wearing? Did she get dressed in the dark this morning?") to more targeted gossip meant to derail someone's career ("I think Brad's age is catching up with him. I mean, this is the third time this week I've had to remind him about that deadline. Poor guy.")

3. You believe it's better to take than to give. Maybe you put on a good front during the latest crisis situations in this country and posted really meaningful tweets about "We're all in this together" and photos of "Love one Another"  cupcakes on Instagram, but that's just on the surface. You don't inconvenience yourself for anyone else or always have an excuse of why you can't help in some way: "This is just such a bad time for me! You know I'd love to help, but...."

4. You never apologize. You've always got a million excuses, but never one "I'm sorry....that was my fault." If you do apologize, it's only when you realize you're on Good Morning America and the entire nation has dubbed you to be the latest Karen.

5. You hold a grudge. At night, you lay awake figuring out how to get back at Gary for not holding a seat for you in the meeting or Kelly for not gushing about your latest idea. You don't know if anything was done on purpose to slight you, of course, but that doesn't really matter. Plotting against others and thinking of really cutting remarks or actions against that person are more important than moving on and learning to forgive others.

Do any of these behaviors sound familiar? Are you brave enough to ask others if they see these behaviors in you? If this has become the way you live your life, then you need to make some serious changes. The workplace is different now, just like the rest of the world. No matter how important you may consider yourself, or how "vital" you may be to your company, you can no longer expect others to put up with your toxicity.

Monday, June 8, 2020

5 Tips for Starting a New Job Remotely

Many companies have been great about keeping their job commitments to new hires or even interns in the midst of a global pandemic.

The problem is that many new employees are starting their new positions from their kitchen table instead of the building where the employer resides because companies are still following work-from-home policies.

That presents quite a challenge for the employer -- to successfully onboard a new hire virtually -- and also to the new worker or intern.

If you're one of those who is starting a new job from the comfort of your couch, here's some ways to ensure you still get off on the right foot in a new job:

1. Dress the part. If your new supervisor wants to jump on Zoom for a quick chat, you don't want to be caught in your pajamas or gym shorts with uncombed hair and your home looking like a disaster zone. It's a good idea to start a new job showing your boss that it really matters to you, no matter if you're working virtually. Dress professionally, and set up a workspace that reflects well on you.

2. Ask questions. Whether you're in an office setting or working from home in the early days of a new job, make sure you fully understand how the boss likes to communicate (email, text, Zoom) and how often he or she expects you to check in. Are you supposed to communicate what you get accomplished each day? Or only once a week? If you have problems (technical, employee benefit issues, project management) who do you ask for help?

3. Don't hide. Even the most outgoing people can be nervous when starting a new position, but don't let that be an excuse to hide from colleagues or supervisors. Try to set up Zoom meetings with each colleague -- "Can we chat for 10 minutes via Zoom so that you can tell me a bit about what you do?" is a great ice-breaker in an e-mail. The added advantage of quarantined workers is that many are wanting to connect with another human face and chatting with a new worker through video chat is a great way to get off on the right foot with them.

4. Be helpful. If you know of an app or read an article that might be helpful to a co-worker who is dealing with an issue, forward him or her the information in an email: "I remember from the Zoom meeting that you were researching more efficient delivery methods for that new product, and I just read this article and thought it might be helpful," and then provide the link.

5. Be flexible. Even though many companies have had employees working from home for months, this is still a learning process. They're often making it up as they go, and things may change from day-to-day. You need to stay flexible and know that whatever you do one week may look different the next week. As companies start to phase workers back in to the office, it will probably change several more times. When you show others that you're flexible, can adapt and still be contributing, then you'll be seen as a valuable team member -- no matter if it's at your kitchen table or in the office.

Monday, June 1, 2020

No Job is Safe These Days -- the Warning Signs You Need to Heed

With more than 36.4 million who have filed jobless claims as of May 9, as a result of the coronavirus, even those still employed might be a bit concerned about their job security. How do you know if your job might be in danger?
Tim Sackett, president at HRU Technical Resources, says that there are some signs you’re about to be laid off:
  • Unusual behavior. There are closed-door meetings when there usually aren’t. You’re being asked for information that you usually don’t supply, such as updated standard operating procedures, and the latest performance metrics for your group or position.
  • Weird vibes. There is "radio silence" from leaders who are normally talkative. Quiet leaders are now over-communicating.  
In addition to unusual behavior by leaders in your workplace, you should also be aware of news in your industry and whether experts believe it could be in danger. For example, realtors (read more here)

Monday, May 25, 2020

How to Stand Out from the Crowd and Get Hired

With more than 36.4 million people filing jobless claims as of May 9 as a result of COVID-19, competition for jobs is fierce. But, there are still plenty of opportunities available. Many industries, like grocery stores and delivery services, have thousands of job openings in the United States right now, and are hiring urgently. The task for job seekers applying for these positions is to find ways to stand out from the crowd to land one of these jobs.
"When there are mass hirings, it’s important that you know what the company — or interviewer — needs," says Juliet Huck, an expert in persuasive communications strategy. "You need to talk about what you can do for them."
So, while you need to be able to discuss your experience and qualifications for the position, the ability to show your interest in the interviewer’s needs by asking some questions puts you at an advantage over other candidates, she says.
"You can say something like: 'I really want to help you. What (read more here)

Monday, May 18, 2020

How to Use Job Boards to Get a Job

It can be frustrating to use the big job boards such as Monster, Indeed or LinkedIn if you feel like your resume is being dumped into a black hole, never to be seen by a human recruiter. But there are ways to boost your chances of reaching the attention of hiring managers on such job sites, according to the experts.
Kanika Tolver, a professional coach, says that job seekers applying to the big job boards after being laid off because of the coronavirus will have greater success if they are more strategic. For example, just hitting "apply" to an online job opening will send your resume to a hiring manager or recruiter, in the same pool as thousands of other job seekers. But, if you can find the role on the company’s job board, you can create a profile and apply that way, which could help you stand out, she says.
Job seekers also can improve their chances of finding a job if they create a list of five to 10 job titles or roles that they are qualified for based on their skill set. This allows them to cast a wider net.
For example, if you’ve been searching (read more here)

Monday, May 11, 2020

Why Everyone Should Be Looking for Their Next Job Now

As job losses mount in the U.S. because of the coronavirus pandemic, job seekers — both passive and active — need to be smart about their next move and have strategies in place to avoid facing more job losses down the road if they choose an industry that could also be in trouble, an expert says
For the more than 30 million unemployed U.S. workers, there is no doubt that some must be looking for work. But even passive job seekers need to keep their options open by being aware of what the job market has to offer. The key for both groups is being smart about their job-search strategies, and searching for jobs in industries that will be viable in the foreseeable future.
Arran Stewart, co-founder and CVO of blockchain recruitment company, says that while hospitality, leisure and retail are currently being hit with the largest layoffs, other industries will be susceptible (read more here)

Monday, May 4, 2020

Is Remote Work Good for Your Career?

Since people began working from home due to the coronavirus pandemic, much has been written about how this is a trend here to stay -- more of us will now work from home and our companies will love it because workers will be more productive and it will save on commercial real estate costs.

Hold on.

I've been covering such stories for a long (long) time, since technology made it possible for someone to stay connected to the office via a phone and PC.

Here's how it unfolds:

  1. The company uses telecommuting or remote work as a way to attract and retain workers. It's a great perk, they say.
  2. Workers are thrilled. They won't spend their lives commuting and can be more productive. It's a great perk, they say.
  3. Bosses start to wonder about whether the remote workers are really working as hard as they would in an office. They're not sure the employee is contributing as much beyond just the standard duties every day. Where's the give and take with others that can lead to new ideas?
  4. Remote employees start to feel unappreciated. They feel like they're being left out of important conversations that take place spontaneously among colleagues and bosses.
  5. Bosses decide that it's more difficult for the remote workers to spearhead important projects. They'd rather give that job to someone who is in the office more. Makes sense, they say.
  6. Remote workers start to resent that no matter how hard they work, they don't seem to get the great assignments or promotions. They feel like they're not getting ahead. Is their future with this company dead?

I'm not saying this happens in all cases. I've interviewed many bosses and employees who love the remote work concept -- but they work very, very, very hard at it.

The remote workers say they have to always be ready to show their worth. They have to offer something extra when it's time to meet virtually, and must always work harder to bond with colleagues and bosses.

The bosses say that remote workers take a different kind of managing. They must find ways to communicate with them so that they stay engaged and feel connected to the rest of a team.

Working from home has been the norm for several weeks and may continue for quite some time. While the technology is there to let it happen, that doesn't mean it's the only thing necessary to ensure this is good for the employee and the company. That's going to take much more than technology -- that's going to take some very hard work.

What do you think? Is remote work for more people here to stay?

Monday, April 27, 2020

All Job Seekers Should Know the STAR Method

Have you ever heard of STAR?

Not the kind in the sky, or the guy who played drums for the Beatles (that's Starr, by the way -- Ringo Starr).

STAR is an acronym for situation, task, action, result.

It's something that everyone should master, especially if they are interviewing for a job.

The reason it's so valuable to job candidates is that it helps you answer interview questions in a concise, memorable and meaningful way. It's especially effective in competency-focused questions, such as when you're asked a question that starts with "Tell me about a time when...." or "Can you give an example of a situation where..."

So, here's how it could work in a job interview when the hiring manager asks you  to: "Describe a time when you were able to manage yourself without immediate supervision."

1. Situation. "I was working in the front office of a plumbing supply company when my supervisor was called away on a family emergency. My other colleague was not there that day as she had called in sick."

2. Task. "Calls began coming in from customers while some employees were also coming in looking for different information regarding delivery assignments or inventory questions."

3. Action. "The company always focused on customers first. So, I asked one of the more experienced delivery drivers to help prioritize the inventory that needed to be delivered right away. That allowed me to deal with customers and solve immediate problems and tell the others I would call them back that day. Once all the immediate calls had been resolved, I was able to prioritize all the other issues and deal with them as efficiently as I could. I explained to everyone what was going on, and found customers and staff to be understanding."

4. Result. "By prioritizing work and enlisting help when I could, I was able to keep the schedule on track, keep customers happy and prevent any bottlenecks in the work."

While this is a good strategy in an interview, it's also a great way to share your progress with a boss during a performance evaluation. Practice it a few times to feel comfortable with the process, and make sure that when you feel you've done well at work, you store that situation in your memory so you can relate it later using the STAR method.

Monday, April 20, 2020

How Your Failure Can Benefit You and the World Right Now

One of the wonderful things that's happening right now is this "we're all in this together" mentality.

But even now, when you fail, you're going to feel very, very alone.

No one is going to send you little heart emojis when you fail at work, whether it's being written up for some infraction or even being fired. Nope. When you fail it's often a very lonely thing and there may be very little "I'm in this with you" attitude from your colleagues.

Right now, a lot of people are failing. They're unproductive and the boss has noticed. They're losing their focus or mojo or whatever and just can't seem to get the job done right. Maybe they're entrepreneurs and they're watching their life's dream go right down the economic tubes.

It's tough to fail right now on top of everything else. Some may offer little sympathy when it seems so trivial in this life-and-death situation.

Still, it hurts to fail, no matter when it happens. But I've interviewed enough people over the years -- experts and everyday worker bees -- to tell you that failure can have benefits. If you need some reassurance right now that failing is OK, then I'm here to give it to you.

Here's how you can benefit from failure:
  • You will learn something. If you keep doing the same thing all the time and are successful at it, you're not going to change. You're not going to grow. Let's face it: If the coronavirus has taught us anything, it's that we need to be able to adapt, to flex and to grow. When you fail, you're learning how to pivot and how to change course when life throws your a curve, and that's always valuable. 
  • You will become a better person. When life knocked you around in high school, you learned a lot about who your real friends were, who you were as a person and what was important to you in the long run. That same lesson is learned in adulthood. When you get knocked around in your career, you learn who supports you in your network, what you really want to do and the parts of your career that really matter to you. That will make you a better person, a better employee, a better colleague and a better leader.
  • You will be more creative. I think it's fascinating to watch the way people have adapted to failures during this pandemic. New York fashion designers make face masks because of a failure to supply healthcare workers with necessary equipment. Teachers figure out ways to teach their students when the online systems go haywire. When you fail, your brain will start thinking about things like: "How could I do that differently next time?" "What can I do to salvage the situation?" Those are all good things. A creative brain is always an asset in any career.
I think failure can be tough at any time, but during a pandemic it can be even harder because you may already be feeling a lot of anxiety and stress.

Just remember that failure in your career is a great way to prepare yourself for the future and know that you're building your resiliency, creativity and character. 

That's something that will benefit you and the world.

Monday, April 13, 2020

3 Ways You Can Make a Difference During the Pandemic

Right now, everyone has to step up.

That's my mantra -- I've got to step up. Whether it's in my community, in my own family or in my job, I've got to do more. I can't be sitting by, working puzzles, watching "Tiger King" and and thinking someone else will do what needs to be done.

I don't think this has to be huge. Maybe you check on a neighbor regularly and re-learn algebra so you can help your kid with math assignments. But it also means that we're all leaders now -- and that especially includes on the job.

For example, there are a lot of books and articles about how to manage during a crisis and how to be a better leader. But you know what? We all need to be leaders now. No one gets to stand by and wait on those "who get paid to do it."

Here's what I'm suggesting, based on some research from crisis leadership experts:

1. Check in. Just as you say "Are you OK?" to your friends and family members during this time, make sure you're checking in with colleagues -- and even your boss. Just asking "How are things going?" can make a huge difference when a colleague is struggling to get work done from home or figure out how to solve a work problem. Ask questions and then listen. It could be that a co-worker or your manager just need a sounding board to work through an issue. Remember: These are things you might have done without thinking in an office setting, but isn't being done as we all stay home. This can also be an advantage for you, as we all search for a way to do something to help someone else. Just being a friendly ear can reduce a lot of anxiety for someone else and help you feel better, too.

2. Be straightforward. Have you ever tried to work with three kids underfoot or after being alone in your home for more than two weeks with no one to talk to? It's tough. It can be depressing and stressful. Now is the time to make sure you're not adding to those issues by not communicating clearly. Before you fire off that email or IM, make sure you're expressing yourself concisely and clearly. If you exchange more than a couple of messages about an issue, jump on the phone with the other person. Not only will this reduce stressful, confusing messages, but it can be good for your emotional state to connect with another voice.

3. Look to the future. Eventually, this pandemic will pass. Don't stay in panic mode by only thinking about how you're going to get through the day or week. If there's a project you've been thinking about, something that will be sort of fun or exciting, then it's OK to think about it and even start planning for it. Your colleagues may appreciate talking about something that isn't geared completely around COVID-19.

As I said earlier, I think we all have to step up. We may not be fighting the disease in a hospital alongside our brave healthcare workers, but we can make a difference in how we deal with one another in the workplace. That can go a long way to helping us all heal.