Get Ahead by Getting Over Yourself | Perceptions Count

sad businesswomanSelf-awareness is your friend.  Self-absorption your enemy.

Being fully cognizant of your skills and behaviors as they play out in the workplace is empowering. Being excessively involved in your own self-interests isn’t.

Self-awareness starts with humility. At work, it’s not all about you or me. It’s about the value you bring, with the needs of the work being more important than your needs.

If this sounds harsh rather than obvious, then you may want to rethink the way you see yourself in your job. It may mean the difference between getting ahead, going nowhere, or heading out the door.

Replace ego with we-go.

Jobs can be hard to come by these days, even though it’s been shown that we change jobs every 4-5 years. Reasons for changing are many, but usually it’s because advancement opportunities seem unlikely or we don’t “fit” what our jobs require.

Too often no one is leveling with you about why you’re unlikely to advance or giving you the feedback you need to “fit” the work successfully.

Sometimes you don’t get that feedback because your boss or coworkers sense that your ego–your self-absorption–is impenetrable. They suspect you’ll get defensive, resistant, or so emotional that their message won’t get through. So they take the avenue of least resistance and say nothing, assuming you’ll just self-destruct.

Workplace success is about “we,” as we-go, you go.

Self-awareness begins the cure for self-absorption. Looking at your behavior as it appears to others can be difficult, but if you want to build a sustainable career path, it’s essential.

Ask yourself and then others whose opinions you respect (not just those who will tell you what you want to hear) if you may come across as:

  • Needy–always wanting others to assist you
  • Insecure–continually asking for approval, praise, reinforcement
  • Superficial–caught up in what everyone will think about you
  • One-upping–stealing the show, taking credit, puffery
  • Shallow–being thin-skinned, over-reacting, defensive
  • Self-centered–making everything about you, selfish

None of these behaviors are terminal for your career. You just need to know how to wean yourself from them, since they aren’t doing your career any good.

Bring it.

We’ve gotten accustomed to living in a so-me world. Social media was lured us into creating our own personal celebrity on line. We are constantly out there telling the world to:

Look at me. Listen to me. Read me. Follow me.

The fact is that at work:

It’s not all about you. But a part of it is.

You were hired because you’re especially good at something important to the job.

It may be:

  • A skill–modifying software, writing snappy marketing copy, organizing documents
  • Subject matter knowledge–operating procedures, compliance regulations, PR
  • Abilities–writing, public speaking, defusing conflict, sales

Zero in on your strengths and knock yourself out developing them to their fullest. Bring those strengths to your work, volunteer to contribute them to other projects, and tell your boss that you’re more than willing to help out whenever those capabilities are needed.

Now it’s not about you; it’s about what you’re contributing to the company, your colleagues, and your boss. That’s the personal brand you want.

Be ready.

You get noticed for what you do well and consistently without complication or drama. You get ahead when others come to depend on you for your expertise, ask for your help, and recognize the value you bring.

As you build your core skills, you’ll also be developing new ones which will add to your arsenal. When what you’re about is not about yourself but about work, you’re career will soar. Be ready.

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Criticism, Intrusion or Help? Decoding Feedback.

Everyone has something they feel the need to tell us at work. And we’re prone to decoding 385688469_50fa8bc03b_mreciprocate.

They may comment on:

  • Our attire, haircut, and interactive style
  • Organizational changes and the risks to us
  • The last presentation we made, data set developed, or marketing idea we created
  • The likelihood of our getting promoted or even downsized

We tend, at first, to take these comments at face value, as part of the background noise of work, until they strike a nerve.

Decoding messages

Workplace savvy is a measure of our ability to correctly decode what we hear and see.

What our colleagues tell us is important. Behind every comment there’s either support, caution, implied criticism, or an offer of help.

We tend to weigh feedback based on who’s giving it: our boss, a coworker we like or one we don’t, the department manager, the HR rep, a customer, or a project team leader.

Consider the following statements as if you were either a hearing them or making them. Each has a positive element but two have a potentially negative undercurrent.

  • Mary, your proposal for using social media to attract younger customers to our new product is a good one. Do you also plan to include messages that will connect with our long-time customers?

          Criticism: If this is feedback from Mary’s boss, there’s a subtle criticism that her                proposal missed a key customer segment.

           Help: If it’s coming from a coworker, it could be considered helpful input to ensure            the proposal’s success.

  • Jacob, I’ve successfully put together Power Point presentations for the VP in the past. Let me finish the one you’re working on to announce the reorganization.

           Intrusion: This coworker is saying, “I know how to do this and you don’t. Give it to             me, so I can be the agent of its success.” I’d be wary of the coworker’s next  step             which may be taking the credit and demeaning Jacob.

  • Paul, the last time there was a safety drill, I had the lead like you do now. Unfortunately, our department didn’t do too well. I learned a lot in the process, so if you’d like to talk over your plan, I’d be happy to share what I learned.

         Help: Here the coworker is reaching out, offering to share her knowledge and           experience so Paul can incorporate it into his plan.

Good feedback is information that enriches our knowledge and perspectives, so we can do a better job.

Decoding intent

Who’s giving the feedback, why , and how determine the way we take it.

I was inspired to write this post while outside spraying herbicide on the grass creeping through the stones on my driveway.

It was another hot, humid day with a forecast of periods of rain.

As I was spraying, an older man in a mid-sized, green pick up stopped in the street across from me.

With a smile and a friendly voice, he said that there was no sense spraying those weeds Sprayer 007when more rain was just going to wash it off.

I’d never met this guy, although I’d been maintaining my farm property for over 25 years.

I told him that I’d had lots of experience killing weeds, the environmentally-friendly material I was using was commercial grade, and that the leaves would absorb it in about an hour. (My feedback to him.)

I too smiled and spoke in a friendly voice.

He smiled again, wished me a nice day, and drove off.

At first, I thought he was just trying to be helpful. Maybe he was.

Then I thought he was actually both critical (“How dumb is that woman using herbicide when it might rain?”) and intrusive (“I’d better stop her from wasting her time and money.”)

Anyway, I kept on spraying and the rain held off as I expected.

Stay savvy.

Things are rarely what they seem. Words have more layers than a chocolate torte. Making sure you understand what’s behind the feedback you receive and the feedback you give enhances your ability to navigate the challenging waters of your career.

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The Pain of Being Singled Out at Work. | Ending Ridicule As Entertainment

Being singled out for our flaws can become our worst nightmare.single out 73348258_07c1515a72_m

Self-criticism is bad enough. Consider how often you  tell yourself that you’re:

  • not smart or likeable enough
  • too quiet and socially awkward
  • too young or old to fit in
  • too self-conscious to lead

It gets worse when others single you out for the differences they see:

  • You don’t look, talk, or act like them.
  • You have work habits that are different (solitary, serious, or scattered).
  • You’re too chummy, chatty, or distant with others.
  • Your eating habits, work station appearance, or break time routines are atypical.

What you see as uniqueness can be dubbed a “flaw,” depending on who’s watching and judging.

Everyone’s watching

We live in a world where everyone’s watching us, often recording our actions for any number of reasons. And we’re watching back.

Some people like the attention and others don’t. With all this watching comes judgment.

Over the years, it’s somehow become okay to form and express opinions about people at work and elsewhere based on snapshot observations intended to “portray” them. Social media has provided broad and instantaneous platforms for this.

It’s become easy to express disrespect, demean, and label our coworkers by “sharing”  and re-sharing snippets of conversations (“Here’s snarky Grace at it again.”), forwarding emails (“Bert’s stupidity about how to make quota is so obvious.”), or posting images (“Can you believe that Myra wore this horrid outfit to the meeting?”).

Opportunities for ridicule abound and it’s time to stop it.

Be aware of yourself.

As our deficiencies are being noticed and judged, we’re unwittingly judging others.

At work, we want to secure, protect, and/or advance our position in the organization.  We can see our coworkers as either supportive teammates or threats to our status, even when they may not be.

Fear, insecurity, and desire to feel powerful often lead coworkers to undermine their colleagues. It often starts as teasing before it accelerates into direct or indirect ridicule, bullying, or harassment.

When we observe someone else being ridiculed, we can feel a few things:

  • Relief that it’s not us
  • Humor or justification depending on the situation
  • Horror at the unfairness
  • Compulsion to stop it

What we do in the moment or even afterward, tells us a lot about ourselves.

Ridicule reveals our dark side: Its unfairness is made evident when knowing the other side.

Case in point:

Recently, a  muscular man attending a major league baseball game was captured on camera  trying desperately to open a plastic water bottle.

He  struggled mightily with the bottle, even using his shirt for a better grip, to no avail. He eventually returned the unopened bottle to the vendor.

Sportscasters on ESPN and many other news outlets played and replayed this tape incessantly, laughing at, and yes, ridiculing this fellow’s:

  • Workout regime and gym
  • Actual strength/muscles
  • Attempt to use his shirt for a grip
  • Struggling attempts and then giving up

This was a very nice guy who you can see in this video from his Today Show appearance. He was simply trying to:

  •  enjoy a baseball game
  •  help the water vendor who couldn’t open the bottle

For his trouble, he got a heap of mockery and ridicule plus numerous Google listings, all at his expense. He became entertainment because others, who were not as muscular, had an opportunity to demean his physique. It made the ridiculers feel stronger, I guess.

The sad reality is: At any time and on any day, that man could be you at work or elsewhere.

Ridicule as pastime

It is painful to be ridiculed. The price paid is a cut to your self-esteem. There is no place for it at work or anywhere else.

It’s become so easy to turn each of us into a picture or a video, exposing us to ridicule and violating our desire to work and play unimpeded. Let’s all commit to doing better.

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Respect, Recognition, and Appreciation Matter. | Assessing Your Give and Take

Self-esteem can be pretty fragile.appreciation 4759535950_7bca6684c8_m

Each of us has the ability to pump up another person’s self-esteem or scar it.

A lot goes into developing and maintaining pride in ourselves, especially considering our personal and situational obstacles.

So we need to be caring.

Make others matter.

Most of us crave positive feedback. We want to know in concrete ways that our bosses and coworkers:

  • respect our talents, good intentions, and integrity
  • recognize the contributions we make to the success of the team and company
  • appreciate our efforts, kindnesses, and selflessness

Others want what we want. The question is: “Are we giving it?”

  • To everyone?
  • Just to people we like or who are like us?
  • To those we feel we need to “repay”?

The esteem we show to others is good for us. It’s how we create a bond that:

  • builds dependable relationships
  • helps coworkers try harder
  • develops confidence to overcome challenges
  • buoys up courage to take risks
  • creates community

In all likelihood, the esteem we show to others comes back to us in subtle and sometimes surprising ways.

Respect, recognition, and appreciation are equalizers. They say to the recipient, “I value you” for your:

  • skills and work quality
  • honesty and integrity
  • kindness and generosity
  • dependability and decency

Value is personal not positional.

None of us can do every job that needs to be done. Just look around where you live and count the number of things you can’t build, fix, or solve.

Then look around your company and count the number of jobs you aren’t qualified to do from the top of the organization chart to the bottom.

The only way all of us can live the lives we want is for everyone around us to do their jobs well. For that we all need to express our gratitude.

Assess yourself.

Consider the way you engage with craftsmen you hire at work or at home. Assess the amount of effort you put into expressing respect for their expertise, recognition of the challenges of the work, and appreciation for the outcome.

In my experience, a unique alliance forms, a strategic partnership, and shared engagement in the work where the results exceed the expectations of you both.

I recently accumulated a pretty long list of big and small jobs long overdue at my farm where the buildings were built from 1780 to 1900. The jobs ranged from releasing a frozen pocket door in the house to replacing light fixtures in the barn; from painting and repairing a large shed to replacing slates with shingles in the back of the house. There was other “little” stuff too.

Kirk, the expert in charge, is a one-time home builder, an inventor, and one of the most well-read people know. He took on my work solo because I was his last client in PA before moving to the mid-west.

There was nothing about this work that was easy. At every turn there were problem-solving challenges and surprises. It required:

  • electrical work and some plumbing
  • remodeling and construction
  • roofing, painting, and repair

Kirk says what he thinks, never sugar-coating anything. And he’s not a big giver or receiver of compliments. But he accepted my communicated regard for his expertise and willingness to help when needed.

I had been his customer before, so he knew that I respected him. Ultimately, he told me that he wouldn’t have taken on this wild array of jobs for anyone else. That was a gift for my self-esteem.

It was not about what I was paying him: It was about my respect, recognition, and appreciation.

 As you sow…

Treating people well is about recognizing their value and making that known. At work it’s easy to see our coworkers as just another pair of hands. Any time you treat others in a way that says, “You matter,” you are giving them a priceless gift which will, in time, come back to you.

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Ahead of the Curve or Behind the Eight Ball? | Averting Criticism

8-ball 3779658241_bc1e517a8c_mCriticism lies in wait for us at work. Sometimes we can anticipate it and sometimes not.

Most of us learn to live with a few doses of negative feedback, especially when we have the opportunity to rebound.

Averting criticism that has the potential to be truly damaging, though, takes savvy.

 Protect what matters.

We each have a personal, career brand to protect so we can keep moving forward. Our bosses have one too plus the reputation of their work groups. Leaders need to protect the brand integrity of their organizations to remain competitive and viable.

Unfair, relentless, and ruthless criticism can turn your good efforts into ashes.

Consider the potential criticism leveled at a supervisor who:

  • hires or promotes an employee who steals, bullies, or lies
  • decides to absorb another work group and then releases excess employees
  • makes downsizing decisions that  cause employees to lose their jobs
  • replace fully functional equipment or technology with new ones

Everyone affected by those changes, whether directly or indirectly, is a critic in waiting. If the move is successful, they will likely be quiet. If not, watch for incoming!

There’s no reason to be a sitting duck when the potential for criticism is in your path. Going on the offensive, most often, is your best strategy.

You don’t make decisions in a vacuum. There are good reasons to act and risks too. You are ahead of the curve when you anticipate criticism and behind the eight ball if you don’t.

Keep your head out of the sand.

I recently facilitated the annual board retreat of a small non-profit facing the stepping down of four board members, including the president and vice president, both of whom were founders.

These officers were beloved, dedicated, and capable, having led the organization with warmth and strength for eight years. They were to remain as committee volunteers but it was time for new leadership.

The original board of ten would now be down to six, with two becoming new leaders. This was an unsettling time, focused mostly on internal matters. But what about the critics.

The board needed to consider what their constituencies would think and say about this major shift. How would it impact membership, sponsors, donors, partnerships with other organizations, and confidence in their sustainability? These are the questions that once answered and acted on would avert, though not eliminate, significant criticism.

The board decided on some key actions:

  • put together the messaging around these changes
  • prepare the slate of nominees for election at the upcoming annual meeting; arrange for mentoring by the exiting officers
  • develop a Power Point presentation for the annual meeting outlining past achievements, ongoing and new projects
  • write a press release for the announcements
  • arrange to meet with key allies to answer questions and strengthen relationships

Not only will this work strengthen their brand in the marketplace, it will raise the confidence of the board members and provide the messaging needed to expand its membership.

 Averting criticism

You avert criticism by defusing the arguments of your critics:

  • Provide the details of your story (transparency) before misconceptions are devised
  • Talk about your good work and successes as a foundation for your decisions
  • Anticipate and address potentially damaging issues when you see them
  • Address legitimate concerns; reinforce your intentions, purpose, mission, objectives, and positive actions
  • Be upfront and out-front, affirming the standards and values that support your position
  • Build a coalition of supporters who have your back and are willing to say so

By getting ahead of an issue, you empower yourself.

These steps also help if you’ve:

  • experienced a decline in your performance
  • violated a company rule or policy
  • mishandled a customer or vendor problem
  • damaged company equipment or software

Whether you’re an employee, supervisor, manager, or executive, managing your career progress means anticipating criticism, whether deserved or not, and then averting it.

So do you best to get ahead of the curve and watch your value rise.

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5 Ways to Fight Off Self-Doubt | Dealing with Performance Dips

We can be our own worst enemy if we’re not careful. We’ll tell ourselves that we:self-doubtb 12593039_d4f6_t

  • don’t measure up
  • never seem to get things right
  • keep falling short of expectations
  • are out of favor with the boss

The more we doubt ourselves…the more we doubt ourselves. It’s a downward spiral we need to stop, and fast!

Heads up.

I’m a big sports fan. I watch golf, tennis, basketball, baseball, football, and  the Olympics, both summer and winter.

I’m engrossed by the theater of sports–the physical skills, the competitive drive, and the players themselves.

Individual athletes reveal so much about what it takes to be successful, especially how to handle mental pressures, particularly the  moments of self-doubt and shaken self-confidence they must overcome.

Self-doubt  threatens to derail an athlete when, during a game or match, s/he experiences a dip in performance. Suddenly the player will:

  • miss a gimme shot like a layup, a short putt, or an overhead
  • lose their rhythm, become a step slow, or misread a defense
  • make a series of poor decisions–wrong golf club selections, an excess of 3-point shots, too many returns to the forehand

As employees, we too experience dips in our performance when we:

  • miss errors we normally find; incorrectly enter routine data
  • neglect to jump on a situation before it becomes a big issue
  • make ineffective decisions about problems we need to fix

Just like athletes, anytime you feel off your game, self-doubt has a field day.

 Listen up. Take 5.

Live action sports commentators have a knack for spotting an athlete’s self-doubt during the heat of play. Since many sportscasters like champion golfer Sir Nick Faldo or NBA star Reggie Miller were former pro athletes, they know how to shut those negative voices down.

These five bits of advice that work for athletes can also work for you when self-doubt starts creeping into your thinking:

1. Don’t dwell on a bad call.

Your boss is like a referee. Sometimes s/he will draw a wrong or unfair conclusion about the quality of your work, your role in a decision, your attitude about an assignment, or your willingness to do more. Once you’ve calmly offered your side of the story, commit to avoiding a repeat and move on.

2. Keep playing.

Like an athlete, sometimes you’ll miss a shot or make a bad play. You may forget an assignment, write code that doesn’t work, or make a poor presentation. Everything is fixable but only if you stay in the game and keep working. So do what’s necessary to correct what went wrong and keep improving your skills.

3. Correct missteps asap.

The sooner you jump on the cause of glitches in your performance the better. Waiting only allows self-doubt to settle in and put a death grip on your self-confidence. If you can, take steps to improve in real time, by asking for help from your boss or coworkers right away, just as players do in a sideline huddle, with a caddy , or coach  while the game is live.

4. Plan for what’s next.

In most cases, there’s always another game or contest. To fight against self-doubt, you need to keep looking ahead for other opportunities to demonstrate your skills, your commitment, and your mental toughness. Your workplace is a competitive environment where you’re always challenged to put forth your best effort. There are a lots of days in the week to work on getting better and building your self-confidence.

5. Reach out.

Your boss and coworkers have a stake in your performance. The better you perform, the more successful they will be. Not everyone will have your back, but some will. When you have doubts about your performance, get some help. Often others have a more objective perspective than you do and will likely also  remind you of your strengths. It’s difficult to overcome self-doubt alone, so it’s worth the risk to  reach out.

 Build self-confidence.

Achieving and sustaining success requires self-confidence. Self-doubt kills it.

Overcoming internal negative voices tests your mental toughness. If you take some time to listen to pro athletes after wins and losses, you’ll get some priceless perspectives on how to fight the good fight.

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Would You Do Me a Favor? | Gratitude for WordPress.com Staff

wordpress2 imagesCAH55A5X

Taking my own advice is a lot harder than giving it. That’s an embarrassing truth.

Like a lot of people, I don’t like change that makes me feel helpless. I need to feel that when things start going awry, I have the ability to take the reins and keep things on course.

So you can imagine how it felt for non-tech me when I took the plunge last week to switch to a self-hosted WordPress site.

Now I know what a cold sweat feels like.

Support is magic.

 I’ve known for a while that I needed to expand what I could do on my blog, but, because I dreaded the change-over, I made lots of excuses for putting it off.

It took some straight-talk from my friend, Pam, to cut through my resistance. I finally got the ball rolling with the help of my consulting practice website host.

During my corporate management days, I’d been through a number of IT changes, big and small. I was fully aware that there is a potential nightmare lurking in every one.

I’ve also come to know that technology today is complex to the nth degree. No one can know  fully how everything fits together, since the piece parts often take on a life of their own.

Even so, I was still caught off guard when things got stuck so close to the finish line.

WordPress.com staff to the rescue

 It was crucial for me to be sure that my subscribers and three years of statistics were transferred from the free WordPress site to the now self-hosted one.

Luckily, I learned that WordPress.com staff could do this for me. But again I felt helpless, not really knowing how to access the right person. I’d followed forums before, but I really needed to find someone to partner with me to make things right.

And I did!

I’m a bit old school, being more comfortable in live conversation when I’m in a pinch than sending notes. The challenge is knowing how to explain the problem, so that no one ends up down a rabbit hole or going in circles.

I submitted my issue as “transferring subscribers” to WordPress and then was assigned a WordPress.com staff member  to assist me in a private forum.  That was the start of a great experience.

The response and customer care that I receive from this expert staff was exemplary. He knew exactly what he needed to do and directed me with clarity and calm to complete  inputs required on my end.

He helped me understand what was needed to make the changes, answered my questions patiently, took on the stats transfer issue, and conveyed a genuine sense of caring. He made me feel that my needs really mattered to him.

In every way, he was the consummate professional. My gratitude is enormous, and I told him so many times.

A favor request

It looks to me like my blog is working fine. I have noticed that there are some search wrinkles where you might find an old post on a search engine, but when you click on it, you’ll get a “page not found” notice. But that seems to be clearing itself up. I’m also taking some other steps to help mitigate that.

But because I hate that old helpless feeling, I would appreciate it if you could do this for me:

Please click on the “Like” button at the end of this post.

If you are a subscriber, I’ll know you were notified. If you found me by googling an issue, it’ll confirm that too. And if you just liked this post, I’ll get the message.

Please write a comment if you’ve had any problems or to share your thoughts.

That way I can do more troubleshooting.

Thanks so much for continuing to support my blog. I am truly grateful for the opportunity to share my perspectives with you.

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