Monday, March 23, 2020

6 Things to Learn from COVID-19 About Your Career



By now, I believe most of you reading this have dealt with the COVID-19 virus in some way, even if you haven't been infected (and I hope you have not).

Many of you are working from home, or are working abbreviated schedules. You may be taking on extra work to cover for a sick colleague, or you may be furloughed because of the business downturn.

First, let me say how sorry I am that we're all going through this. It's a difficult, difficult time for everyone, and I am keeping hope alive that we will recover soon.

In the meantime, I'm always about looking for what we can learn from an experience, especially when it comes to our jobs and our careers. Eventually, we will all return to our regularly scheduled lives, so here are some things to think about:

1. Your colleagues aren't so bad. We spend a lot of time being annoyed by a couple of people in our workplace. Evelyn won't ever stop snooping into people's private lives, but you now believe it comes from a place of concern. She doesn't want the nitty-gritty details of how your spouse is doing, she just cares that you're doing OK. And Mike? Maybe he's a little anti-social, but he is always the one who seems to find a solution to a problem the fastest. Isn't that worth overlooking his refusal to say "hello" when you see him?

2. You can do change. The last time a new directive came down from the head honchos, you about lost your sh*t. I mean, come on! How many times are they going to make such stupid changes? Are they absolute morons in the corporate office? OK, now those changes don't seem to be such a big deal, do they? After all, you haven't been outside in nine days, and your kids are playing dodgeball with the cat. You are doing yoga in your kitchen, banging your knuckles on the refrigerator every time you do child's pose. You are also considering cutting "Pandemic Bangs" and you hate bangs.

3. An open concept office is great. In the past, you've become greatly annoyed by the noise and commotion and general hubbub of your company's open office plan. You've taken to wearing headphones, a stocking cap, sunglasses and covering your head with a pillow to block out the noise and distractions. Seems like a pleasant dream now, doesn't it? What you wouldn't give to have someone closer than six feet that wasn't a family member (who has been stuck inside with you for nine days).

4. Meetings aren't so bad. Not sure I thought I'd ever write that, but it's true. There certainly are too many meetings, but there are those times that they serve a purpose. They help us to bounce ideas off one another, bond with our team members and get a handle on what the boss -- and the organization -- considers as key priorities. We plan, we huddle, we laugh and we gripe. What's not to love about meetings?

5. You are your own worst enemy. For a long time you've blamed your boss, your colleagues, customers and the guy who delivers Jimmy John's sandwiches as the reason you can't get anything done. They distract you, they constantly interrupt you and they hurt your productivity. But, wait....none of those people are around and you aren't as productive as you thought you'd be without them around. Granted, the dodgeball thing with the cat is a bit of a distraction, but you find yourself checking social media sites too much, playing games on your phone and trying to make the word's longest paper clip chain. Could it be that maybe you've got some bad habits that you ignore in favor of blaming others?

You're probably sick of hearing this right now, but these really are unprecedented times. I don't know for sure what's going to happen, but the thing I do know is that we have to find something positive in order to get through this. Whether it's beating the cat in dodgeball or finding ways to make work better for ourselves -- and others -- let's do it.




Monday, March 16, 2020

10 Steps to Overcoming Imposter Syndrome



There seems to be no lack of people touting their abilities online, whether it's starting a new business, leading a team or  levitating while drunk.

But there are also plenty of people who feel that no matter their success, they don't deserve it. They're frauds. One day everyone will find out and it will be the talk of Twitter and the New York Times and be entered into the Congressional Record.

It's called "impostor syndrome" and believe it or not, many successful men and women have it. It often starts when they receive a promotion or new job and continues every time they achieve something new. They become even more stressed as they achieve their dream, instead of enjoying what their hard work has brought them.

If you're feeling this way, the first thing to remember is that you're not alone. There are probably others in your career arena who are going through the same thing but are afraid to mention it to anyone else.

But I have interviewed several people over the years who have found ways to overcome impostor syndrome, and are much happier and satisfied in their professional and private lives.

Dr. Valerie Young, an international expert on impostor syndrome, offers these steps to overcome it:

  1. Break the silence. Shame keeps a lot of people from “fessing up” about their fraudulent feelings. Knowing there’s a name for these feelings and that you are not alone can be tremendously freeing. 
  2. Separate feelings from fact. There are times you’ll feel stupid. It happens to everyone from time to time. Realize that just because you may feel stupid, doesn’t mean you are.
  3. Recognize when you should feel fraudulent. If you’re one of the first or the few women or a minority in your field or work place, it’s only natural you’d sometimes feel like you don’t totally fit in. Instead of taking your self-doubt as a sign of your ineptness, recognize that it might be a normal response to being an outsider. 
  4. Accentuate the positive. Perfectionism can indicate a healthy drive to excel. The trick is to not obsess over everything being just so. Do a great job when it matters most, without persevering over routine tasks. Forgive yourself when the inevitable mistake happens. 
  5. Develop a new response to failure and mistake making. Henry Ford once said, “Failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.” Instead of beating yourself up for being human and blowing the big project, do what professional athletes do and glean the learning value from the mistake and move on. 
  6. Right the rules. If you’ve been operating under misguided rules like, “I should always know the answer,” or “Never ask for help” start asserting your rights. Recognize that you have just as much right as the next person to be wrong, have an off-day, or ask for assistance. 
  7. Develop a new script. Your script is that automatic mental tapes that starts playing in situations that trigger your Impostor feelings. When you start a new job or project instead of thinking for example, “Wait till they find out I have no idea what I’m doing,” try thinking, “Everyone who starts something new feels off-base in the beginning. I may not know all the answers but I’m smart enough to find them out.” 
  8. Visualize success. Do what professional athletes do. Spend time beforehand picturing yourself making a successful presentation or calmly posing your question in class. It sure beats picturing impending disaster and will help with performance-related stress. 
  9. Reward yourself. Break the cycle of continually seeking °© and then dismissing °© validation outside of yourself by learning to pat yourself on the back.
  10. Fake it ‘til you make it. Now and then we all have to fly by the seat of our pants. Instead of considering “winging it” as proof of your ineptness, learn to do what many high achievers do and view it as a skill. The point of the worn out phrase, fake it til you make it, still stands: Don’t wait until you feel confident to start putting yourself out there. Courage comes from taking risks. Change your behavior first and allow your confidence to build. 

Monday, March 9, 2020

3 Questions Every Manager Must Ask



Companies spend a lot of money -- more than $4,000 -- to bring on a new employee. Then, it costs more than $1,200 to train each new worker.

The Society for Human Resource Management says that about one quarter of new workers leave within their first year, which means that companies are doing a pretty fair job of hanging onto their investment in the early days.

But then time moves on, and the company may forget about that new hire. The head honchos rely on their line managers to keep employees moving in the right direction, and sometimes that works out great.

But then there are the times it does not. The company forgets that their greatest investment -- those employees -- aren't being managed well and eventually are going to leave. So all that time and money that has gone into recruitment, training, salary and benefits -- walks out the door and the company has to start all over again.

While some workers are going to leave no matter how great a manager may be, there are those who leave because they become frustrated or angry at the boss's management behavior. They believe the boss just doesn't "get it" and does nothing to help them achieve their performance goals. They believe the boss truly doesn't care about them, so why should they care about the boss or their job?

It becomes an endless cycle of blame that resolves itself when the employee walks out the door. But if the company truly wants to hang onto its most important investment, then it also needs to continually invest in managers. It needs to continually assess whether the manager is being supported in a way that he or she continues to grow and learn and become a better manager.

Managers need to understand that sometimes their processes or systems just don't make sense to the people who must follow them. They need to make adjustments so that employees don't become frustrated or so disengaged that they quit turning in quality work or leave for other jobs.

Here are some questions that managers should always be asking:

1. Am I causing bottlenecks? A manager might put in a new rule or system that works for one or two projects. But then circumstances change -- but but the rules never do. Now, the rules are causing problems because they aren't flexible enough to allow workers to do their jobs. This can be avoided by managers asking for feedback from workers. "What is keeping you from doing your job efficiently? What would you like to see being done differently?" While not all rules can be changed (especially if they're in place for legal or safety reasons), it's important that employees understand the "why" of the rule so that they don't see a manager as an obstacle to doing their jobs.

2. Am I setting priorities? Managers often attend meetings, meetings and more meetings. In between meetings, they write emails and issue assignments and then hurry off to another meeting. Employees are often left with conflicting assignments -- are they supposed to start Project D now or wait until Project B,C and A are done? Which one is the priority? Can deadlines be shifted? If one of the assignments is a priority, can the boss provide additional help? Bosses need to always be clear when making assignments to workers about the tasks that take priority and what ones can wait. Nothing becomes more frustrating for employees than to feel they're constantly behind or multitasking their way into a breakdown.

3. Am I making assumptions? Just because Maggie became flustered during a presentation to a client doesn't mean that she should never take the lead on a client presentation again. Or, just because Josh is good with data doesn't mean he can't work on a creative project. Only by asking employees to stretch and grow will they feel challenged and engaged -- and less likely to leave. While it's easier to put people into categories so you don't have to think twice when making assignments, such a strategy is short-sighted and likely to result in bored and frustrated workers.




Monday, March 2, 2020

How to Jell With Your Boss



It can be frustrating when you don't feel like you're on the same page as your boss.

The result is that you've had some unpleasant exchanges in emails, or she ignores you in meetings. Maybe you've even heard that she's criticized you to others.

Whatever the reason, it's not something that can be ignored. When you're not jelling with your boss, your career will pay the price. You will miss out on great projects, not receive performance bonuses or promotions and perhaps even risk being demoted or fired.

While you may feel that it's the boss's responsibility to connect with your more effectively, I can tell you that it's probably not going to happen. If you want to save your career, you're going to have to do it.

Here's how:


  • Research the boss. Often, you get on the wrong page with your boss because you don't really understand who she is and what makes her tick. Do a LinkedIn search, check out her online social media profiles and talk to other people who seem to click with her. You're not out to get private, personal details, just a better handle on her skills and how you can best connect with her. 
  • Speak up. Don't rely on emails or texts or Slack to communicate with the boss on such an important matter. Make an appointment to speak to her, face-to-face and in private. Tell her: "I'd like to make sure that I'm giving you what you need in the way you need it. I thought we could chat for 15 or 20 minutes to make sure we're on the same page." 
  • Be prepared. When you meet with the boss, you're not there to whine about how she's mean to you or you feel ignored. Ask her some specific questions: "Would you rather have communication from me weekly or daily? Would you prefer emails or in-person time? How often would you like to be updated on my projects? What are your priorities right now and what can I do to support them? Is there anything about what I do that you have questions about?"
Before the meeting ends, tell her you'll follow up in a couple of weeks to ensure you're meeting expectations or are happy to meet with her before that time if she has questions. Make clear that you're open to her feedback and want to be more supportive of her goals and that of the organization's.

By being proactive, you're more likely to ensure you and the boss are on the same page. You want to make sure that you're always doing work that the boss considers a priority and understands how it contributes to her success and that of the company's.