Monday, November 30, 2015

Are you too Passive to Promote?

There are times when taking a passive approach, a 'don't rock the boat' perspective, may strategically be in your best interest given the situation you are facing. However, adopting passive approaches consistently will likely not serve your long term career interests if your desire is to advance.

Overly passive people are those who prefer to take the path of least resistance, who will studiously avoid upsetting others and will defer to the judgment, opinions and wishes of those around them.  It is when being nice goes beyond its boundaries and becomes 'too nice'.

Don't misunderstand.  Caring about others is important.  However, it becomes problematic when you lose yourself to it.  Other's needs should not always overshadow your own. Additionally, deferring consistently to the needs of others will make you appear hesitant, unsure, indecisive and lacking in confidence.  It is this perception others hold that will grind your career advancement to a halt.  If you are seen to be someone incapable of holding an opinion or making a decision, you will be left reporting to someone who does.

If you aren't sure whether you are too passive in your approaches or not, check out the following list and see if any describe you.

Passive people..

  • Believe their 'fate' is in the hands of others.  They will often use phrases like... "If we were supposed to be together..." or "If it were meant to be..."
  • Put too much stock on 'luck' to direct an outcome or drive their success
  • Often mistake failure for destiny and therefore don't learn from and push through the failure.  
  • Seek approval for even small things, since they are fearful of hurting or upsetting others.  They will therefore often soften their language with phrases like...  "I hope it's alright to tell you", "Would you mind if", "If it's okay with you".  These phrases may sound nice and polite, but it's the frequency you need to be wary of.  Overuse will shift you from nice to `too` nice in an instant.
  • Diminish their perceived value by starting their sentences with disclaimers such as... "It's only my opinion...", "I'm no expert...", or the ever popular "I could be wrong..."  People stop listening because you have already told them that you aren't going to share anything worth listening to!
  • Avoid taking a stand on issues.  They will highlight that both sides positions have merit, while failing to offer a firm opinion either way.  You can't stand for everything or you will be seen as standing for nothing.
  • Are far too deferential.  They will defer their own wants and needs in favour of those of others. This appears as though they place a higher value on others' preferences than their own, which again communicates to others that their wants and needs of little importance.  
  • Have broken speech patterns.  They will often speak with a start/stop choppiness to their sentences, with hesitations punctuated by Ums and Uhs.  The lack of a smooth rhythm or flow makes them sound less confident and uncertain of their content.
  • Too self critical.  They will tend to use phrases such as "I can never do anything right". Though they may believe that they only say this to themselves (negative self talk), rest assured that the more negative self talk you engage in, the more it unconsciously filters into your public speaking as well.  
  • Poor body language.  Passive people will tend to also adopt far more passive body language, avoiding eye contact, engage in minimal gesturing, compress their body down and in, will adopt protectionist stances by holding their arms close to the body or across the abdomen.  
Any of these sound or feel familiar?  In business it is important that we appear confident. Adopting too many passive behaviours will detract from this impression and will prevent us from obtaining the opportunities we desire.  If you are looking to eliminate some of your more Passive behaviours, replacing them with more Assertive approaches, consider using the following 3 step approach.
  1. Identify the ways you are passive.  You need to be honest with yourself, or be open to receiving honest feedback from others, and determine what are your most common passive behaviours.  You need to be able to recognise the behaviour if you hope to be able to change it. Video of yourself interacting with others can be an invaluable tool, helping you to hear and see behaviours you might have missed otherwise. 
  2. Determine what a more Assertive Behavioural alternative to that Passive behaviour would look like, sound like, feel like.  In step one you identified the behaviour to change. In this step you identify your target.  What are you going to do instead.  For example, if you find that you tend to use the phrase "It's just my opinion" as an opening to giving voice to your thoughts, you might want to target replacing it with "I think...", or "I have found..."  Neither is aggressive, but both clearly position the statement you share as your opinion.  The elimination of the denigrating 'just' from the statement elevates the perceived value of your thought.
  3. Put it into action.  I would suggest starting with one behaviour and, when it feels comfortable for you, pick up another.  It is far more difficult trying to change everything at once.  Changing one key behaviour at a time will actually get you there faster.  Additionally, your brain will start to pick up on the unconscious messaging and will ultimately recognise 'where' you are looking to go, making other positive unconscious adjustments for you.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Tip Thursday - Influence

When you are looking for someone you know to comply with a request, attach a personalized sticky note onto it.  Research shows that compliance to the request will almost double over a request made without a sticky note attached.  Apparently the use of the sticky note makes the page look cluttered, which the brain doesn't like, calling attention to it. The personalization of the note forms a stronger connection to the person behind the request, making it more difficult to ignore. Got something you need to ask a co-worker for?  Put a sticky on it!

Monday, November 23, 2015

We've got to Nourish to Flourish

What are the words that you whisper in your own ear? The words that you tell yourself when you
mess up, when you're about to step out on stage, when you're going to attempt something for the first time, when you accomplish something, when you are competing with someone for a promotion?

Do you offer yourself words of encouragement, support and love?  Or... do you instead offer words of discouragement, criticism and hopelessness?
We've got to Nourish... to Flourish!
In order to grow straight and strong, we have to learn to speak to ourselves with words of encouragement.  We have to balance out, if not drown out, the voice of our inner critic.  They have had free reign in our minds for far too long, with little provided to counter all of their You-can'ts, You-arent's, You-don'ts.

I'm not here to tell you that you can do anything.  This is far too broad a statement for it to possibly be true.  However, you can do anything better than you can do it right now.  I can guarantee that if you try it, if you practice it... you can do it better.  You might not get to be 'the' best... but you can get to be 'your' best.  A far healthier and more achievable goal, and a change in perspective that is needed to get you up and out there trying!

When we start by thinking that we'll never be 'the' best at something we give up before we've begun. However, few of us need to strive to be 'the' best.  Unless you're competing to be the World's Champion in something, you needn't even be bothered by the thought of it.  Instead, we are simply looking to be 'our' best.  We don't even know what that would look like if we never begin.

Creating a strong sense of self-worth comes through repeatedly trying something.  It is through repetition that we develop the skills, experience and capability in something.  However, to keep on trying we need to become comfortable with the thought and fact of failure.  It's part of the trial process and an integral part of the learning experience.  We can't begin to learn what 'better' looks or feels like without it. When you fail at an attempt it doesn't define you, it simply defines that attempt. Explore what didn't work and determine what to try differently in your next attempt.  It's the getting back in the game after defeat that builds your resiliency, resourcefulness and, most importantly, your self esteem.

Perhaps two of the strongest words that you can tell yourself are "I Can".  These two little words can be used to create and strengthen your sense of self-worth like no others.

  • I can handle this
  • I can figure this out
  • I can make this work
  • I can manage
  • I can get through it
Like the little train chugging up the hill, thinking you can is often all that's needed to take on new challenges, develop new skills, to nourish your self belief.

What would you accomplish if you believed you could?
We can proactively build our self-esteem, creating positive momentum, by doing.  Getting things done is proof that you 'can', providing the motivation needed to activate your 'more' muscle.

The following are my Top 5 Tips for how to Nourish your self-esteem, to nourish your inner Cheerleader, so you too can Flourish and grow...

  1. Start Small.  Take on something that you can start immediately and that is relatively easy. You want to get some fast and easy wins that create the momentum of success. Offer yourself some definitive proof that you are capable and competent. Give your Cheerleader some early and easy wins to cheer about, giving them examples to help stifle your inner Critic.  
  2. Have a vision.  You want to have some clarity about where you're going.  Once that ball is in motion we want it to be difficult to stop. We want your positive momentum to keep that ball constantly in motion... we just want it to be rolling in a direction of your choosing!
  3. Do something you're good at.  Build your wins.  Doing something you're good at builds examples of success that will give you the confidence you need to tackle less-skilled tasks. Proving you have talent and worth in one area helps you to handle the inevitable failures you will experience while learning something new.  Failure is part of the natural process of growing and serves a very useful purpose.  However, having examples of things we ARE good at, ARE capable of, ARE successful at helps us to hang in through the challenging stages of learning something new.
  4. So something that scares you.  In order to truly flourish you are going to have to try something new.  You may have talents and abilities you will never know you have if you never challenge yourself to attempt new things.  To truly come to know all that you are and all that you can be you need to step outside your comfort zone and try something that makes you a little nervous, that you're a little unsure of.  Just think of the doors that open for you each time you push that fear to the side though.  Your cheerleader is now leading you forward saying... Wow!  If you did that, maybe you can also do this!  Oh... the opportunities that await!
  5. Give yourself Recognition.  Look at everything you just did!  Look at what you tried!  You need to recognise your accomplishments, reward your bravery in stepping forward. It is important that your attempts and successes get noticed and celebrated, even when it's just a party of one.  Even if things didn't go exactly as planned, it was a step taken in the journey of getting there.  It deserves recognition. At the end of each day, highlight a minimum of 3 things that you did, you accomplished, or you tried... they are deserving of recognition.  Begin learning to see your wins and to celebrate them.  Build the positivity and momentum that keeps your ball rolling forward.

What would you accomplish if you believed you could?
Go and make it happen!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Tip Thursday - Power of 'Next'

There will always be people that don't like you or your message, opportunities that don't work out, relationships that end.  We can get caught up in the 'why' of it all, such that we become stuck in a negative feedback loop.  We get stuck in the ending.  We can break out of the negativity by simply saying... 'Next'!

Give your time to the people who DO get you and your message, move on to a new, interesting and challenging opportunity, free yourself to enter into a more positive and fulfilling relationship. Shifting your brain into thinking 'Next' moves you from focusing on the ending into starting a new beginning.

Monday, November 16, 2015

You Have More Free Time than you Think!

Perhaps one of the biggest complaints I hear from clients is that they 'have no time' and that it is this decided 'lack of time' that is preventing them from exercising, eating right, taking on new projects, moving up, moving out, moving on. The ready excuse for being unable to take on anything else is that they simply don't have the time to get it done.

However, according to Sociologist John Robinson, a professor at the University of Maryland and Director of the Americans' Use of Time Project, most people have around 40 hours of free time per week.  40 hours.  It tends to beg the question - How are you using yours?

It seems that the Centre for Time Use Research, at the University of Oxford in the UK, has collected the largest and most detailed time studies, covering over 50 years, 850,000 people and 30 countries. The data they have mined from this is helping to gain perspective on the widespread perception that life today is far more hectic and busy than it has ever been.  However, the time diaries tell a different story, highlighting that 'actual' hours of work have not changed substantially from the 1980's.

Why then do we all feel so time-pressed?  It seems that there are a couple of consistent reasons, most notably...

  • That we are all heavily influenced by the current sociological impact of the perceived need to be seen as 'being busy', that our busy-ness is an indicator of our Success.
  • That time studies show that what we think we are doing and what we are actually doing are two very different things and, as a result, most people tend to over-estimate their work hours by 5-10% (in the US).  Therefore we 'feel' like we are working more hours, and thereby have less available free time, than we actually do.
  • That watching television is taking up more than 50% of people's free time but we tend to significantly under-estimate viewing time due to its perceived 'unproductive' nature.
  • That we are sleeping more than we used to.  It is found that the average American sleeps 8.75 hours per day.  However, people tend to admit to sleeping less than they do because it says that they are 'busy' to others.  
It has been found that there are, in fact, two groups of individuals that are working harder than ever...
  • Single working parents
  • Well educated professionals with young children
Interestingly, it is this second group, the time-squeezed professionals, that are having the largest impact on the perception that we are all time-starved.  This group contains the academics who study time and the journalists who write about it!  They therefore give greater voice to the issue than it actually merits, simply due to its relevance to their personal challenges.

If you are looking to utilize your free time more strategically, or at least to free up some time to devote to a new activity or hobby, there are some key steps you can take to reclaim some of yours.
  1. Undergo your own Time Study.  In order to `find` time you need to understand where your time is currently spent and, in particular, where it is wasted.  Keeping a time diary or activity log will help you to gain some perspective on how much time you are currently investing in various activities and allow you to make deliberate and strategic decisions on where to redirect it.  Knowing that we tend to over-estimate the time spent on work and under-estimate time spent on leisure, it is important to gain some accurate perspective on where your time goes. You can use a free online tool (perhaps Toggl), set up your own Excel spreadsheet or simply create a chart and record what activity you are engaged in every 15 minutes.  Most experts agree that you should complete this for an entire week and then view the results.  
  2. Gain clarity about how you would like to spend your leisure.  What are the activities you would like to engage in?  What do you want more free time to do?  Establishing some priorities will help you to make better decisions about what leisure activities to reduce to provide time to direct toward new ones. You will find that it will come down to wanting to do something 'more' than the thing you are currently doing.  Establish those priorities before viewing the time study results so that you can better challenge your existing free time usage.
  3. Address your Time Confetti.  We all have these short little blocks of free time over the course of our day and week that don't seem very productive.  On their own they aren't nearly long enough to get anything of substance accomplished and they are therefore wasted.  This is like those small blocks of space on your computer that prevent it from operating optimally.  You need to defrag your PC periodically to free up that space.  In essence you are doing the same thing, identifying those small chunks of time and becoming more deliberate about how they can be used.  I always have a file of reading with me that allows me to get 'caught up' on background research I'm conducting during any of my time-confetti moments.
  4. Consolidate/Chunk your activities.  Activities like 'errands' should be chunked together so that they get done all at once.  This takes less time overall and eliminates some of those 'confetti' holes that might exist in your schedule otherwise.
  5. Reduce your TV time.  Most people conducting time-studies discover that a significant portion of their leisure time is taken up by watching television.  Reducing your time spent here can free up a significant amount of time that you could devote to other activities, but it needs to become a conscious choice.  Much time watching television is simply 'filler', surfing around or watching something by default.  Know what you want to watch and watch that, without the need to watch the shows occurring before or after.  Consider also that there may be activities you want to include into your schedule that you could do while catching up on your favourite shows, thus applying the same time to two activities rather than just the one. 
Our time is one of our most precious resources.  How you choose to spend yours (and it is always a choice!) will have a significant impact on what you experience within and get out of your life. 

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Tip Thursday - Success

Successful people do things in the order of their importance. Therefore, they tend to plan their day in
advance. Every night take 5 minutes and write down the 6 things you MUST do the next day, in order of their importance. The following day - do them IN ORDER - so that you never fail to complete the most important items by spending your day completing less important things.

Charles Schwab and Mary Kay Ash both are reported to have used this technique - and both made hundreds of millions of dollars.  A coincidence? I think not!

Give it a 3 day Challenge and see what impact it has on your productivity!

Monday, November 9, 2015

Don't Find Fault, Find Fixes

I work with a wide variety of people, holding a variety of roles, within a variety of industries. Truly, it's a pretty diverse cross section. Despite this though, I see the same behaviours repeated throughout this cross section, behaviours that are limiting people's and organizational success.  One very common behaviour is the tendency to find fault.

Some people may find fault with others to make themselves feel superior.
Some people may find fault with others to ensure they have company at the bottom.
Some people may find fault to deflect any potential blame from themselves.
Some people may find fault to deliberately hurt or wound others.

Regardless of the reason, finding fault is a selfish behaviour, designed only to benefit or serve the blamer. It is therefore a destructive and demoralizing force, weakening the team as a whole. Finding fault assigns blame and builds fear, limiting the desire of people to take risks or initiate action in the future.

Successful Leaders know that it is their job to develop the confidence of those around them, that their ultimate success will be dependent upon the team's best efforts. This requires that they build not destroy, that they fix not find fault.

It takes no particular talent or effort to find fault. Determining who is to blame for something not going right not only uses up valuable time but puts everyone on the defensive.  As a result, it inhibits people's willingness and ability to resolve the situation.

Take the same energy and devote it toward fixing the problem.  Successful people don't waste their time complaining about how things are, or who's to blame for them being that way.  They look instead to finding solutions to the problems they face, often turning them into opportunities to help others facing the same issues.  

Identifying a problem is a necessary step in resolving it, but getting caught up in assigning blame is not. Putting your energy into fixing what isn't working will do far more to contribute to your success, and that of your organization, than Fault-Finding ever will.

It is those who Fix the problems that prove themselves invaluable and therefore enjoy the success and rewards that go along with resolving the issues of others.  Those who choose to continue to play the Blame-Game will find that it's a game with no true end and no true rewards.  While their growth becomes stunted, those who focus on finding fixes and solutions continue to grow and enjoy the benefits their ongoing success brings.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Tip Thursday - Confidence

This is a very short but very powerful tip.  If you want to appear confident during networking situations... stand in the center of the room. Confident people have a greater tendency to stand in the center of the 'action', whereas those with less confidence will stick to the outlying areas. Therefore, simply standing in the center will have others believing you to be confident - even when you're not feeling it!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Just Do the Work

We seem to live in a world of quick fixes.  Everyone is looking for short cuts to get where they want to go, wanting an easy route to success.  The concept of working for what you want is put down as an antiquated and outdated way of thinking, one that is far too slow in achieving one's desires.  Instead, success is an immediate need, one best delivered 'overnight'.

The 'Overnight Success' is a celebrated concept that people never seem to tire of listening to or speaking about, however it is nothing more than a seductive lie leading people to 'see' the success without 'hearing' the story of how it was achieved.  The truth that few are willing to accept is that there is no such thing as an 'Overnight Success'.
"A true overnight success is someone who has carried bucket after bucket of water to fill up a well.  People celebrate you the moment it all spills over, without realizing the 10,000 buckets you carried to make it happen.`    Paul Angone
 It`s not simply that people don`t realize the work it took to become successful, it`s that people don`t want to hear it.  They want to believe in the hope that they could do nothing today to prepare for it and yet, could wake up tomorrow... successful  They avoid hearing and seeing the truth.

  • The author whose `first` book becomes a number 1 bestseller. The truth? They wrote every day since they were 14 and wrote and rewrote every page in that bestseller 20 times over, living and breathing that book for the past two years.
  • The inventor who launches a product that makes millions.  The truth? They have a garage and basement filled with past 'ideas' that cost them time, money and even family, that never saw the light of day but screamed 'failure' to anyone who saw them.
  • The entrepreneur whose new business just sold to Google or Facebook.  The truth? They have had two previous businesses go bankrupt and almost lost their home in the pursuit of this latest business, facing more rejection and naysayers than those who offered support.
  • The actor whose first role makes them a household name and box office draw. The truth? They waited tables to pay for acting classes, pumped gas to afford food and slept in their car to be able to go on casting calls only be told they were not 'special', were too fat, too thin, too young, too old, not pretty enough, not black enough, not white enough.
And yet... you think success comes over night?

Success comes through all of the nights leading up to that last moment, all of the days and nights of hard preparatory work that were needed to create the moment that tips you into success.

You must create your tipping point by doing the groundwork.  No one talks about this aspect of success simply because no one wants to hear it.  No one wants to hear about the work and effort that went into creating your success because then it means that they too would need to put in that same hard work to enjoy all of the trappings of success.

But... they don't want the struggle.. they want the result.  They want the 'stuff'.

It's the Lottery Mentality at play, the hope that they can go to sleep and wake up rich and successful. We all know the odds of 'winning' at this game though.  The jackpot is $50 million?  Sure, buy a ticket.  However, this isn't meant to be your life strategy.

We may envy the winners their luck, but we admire those who have created their success. To be like them though, we need to be prepared to put in the work required to get there.  We must invest in our future by putting in the effort needed to net us the desired rewards.

Hard work might not guarantee you success, but a lack of hard work surely guarantees you a lack of success. It might not be sexy, but the truth often isn't.