Getting Nowhere In a Hurry? Take a New Route. | Manage Your Day-to-Day

It’s wonderful when a book moves me to recalibrate my routine and reclaim my creative goals. That’s what happened when I was invited to read and blog about Manage Your Day-to-Day edited by Jocelyn K. Glei at 99U. This book delivers the goods as  the structure, content, and style harmonize. I keep it within reach.

We work hard to find the right job and even harder to progress in it. manage_book

So, it’s discouraging when our days feel:

  • Harried or unsatisfying
  • Repetitive or fragmented
  • Controlled by the needs of others
  • Menial and incomplete

The hours can be long and the unrelenting demand for information exhausting.

There’s an edge to our days when we’re concerned that we’ll miss something and inadvertently disappoint the expectations of others.

Working your way

You’re the one who controls the way you use your work day. It may not always feel that way, but it’s true. It comes down to setting boundaries, adopting right habits, and managing the expectations of those around you.

Manage Your Day-to-Day, edited by Jocelyn K. Glei at 99U, targets the drags on your time and psyche through short, tightly focused articles by 21 accomplished business people, writers, and academics who get at the heart of big issues and provide realistic ways for change.

Scott Belsky, founder of Behance, writes in the foreward:

No matter where you work or what horrible top-down systems plague your work, your mind and energy are yours and yours alone. You can surrender your day-to-day and the potential of your work to the burdens that surround you. Or you can audit the way you work and own the responsibility of fixing it.

The book unfolds in four sections that become the routes for a career going somewhere.

Route #1: Build a Rock-Solid Routine

All routines aren’t necessarily productive. We can spend a lot of time checking devices, meeting with people, and walking the floor, believing that somehow we’re capturing essential information we need for..well…something.

Mark McGuinness, author and creative professionals coach, advises:

The single most important change you can make in your working habits is to switch to creative work first, reactive work second.

Reactive work is all that checking.

Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project,  reminds us to protect the time needed for creative work if we want to produce something of worth.

We tend to overestimate what we can do in a short period, and underestimate what we can do over a long period, provided we work slowly and consistently…frequent work makes it possible to accomplish more, with greater originality….    

Route #2: Find Focus in a Distracted World

Differentiating ourselves is essential to our career growth. It’s how we stand out from the crowd to demonstrate our uniqueness and creativity.

Consider this point by Jocelyn K. Glei:

In a world filled with distraction, attention is our competitive advantage. Look at each day as a challenge–and an opportunity–to keep your eye on the prize.

Our ability to manage distraction to enable our creativity to flourish means we’ve conquered the paradox noted by Cal Newport, professor at Georgetown University:

Increasingly, creative minds are torn in two opposing directions. We’re asked to apply our intellectual capital to solve hard problems….At the same time, we’re asked to be constantly available by email and messenger and in meetings…..

Route #3:Tame Your Tools

In every career there are tools of the trade; pros know how to use them effectively. Technology, both a social and practical tool, challenges our decision-making and self-control.

Jocelyn K. Glei reminds us that:

Technology should be a tool, but if we do not keep our wits about us, it can easily become our taskmaster…It’s easy to blame the tools, but the real problem is us.

So each time you reach for a device, ask yourself: “Why and why now?”

Route #4: Sharpen Your Creative Mind

What we want from our work most often is the freedom to make a difference, to produce something useful, and to be creative.

Design professional, Stefan Sagmeister says it best:

If you want to do projects that you really love, you have to be aware of how difficult they are to do. For a long time I wasn’t doing certain projects, but I thought I would love to do them if I had the time. Then when I had the time, I avoided doing them because of all the other stuff that I still needed to do, like e-mail. And it’s just so much easier to do e-mail than to actually sit down and think….we don’t have time because it’s convenient not to have the time, because we don’t want to challenge ourselves.

Re-claim your time

Time is precious and limited. What we do with ours is our choice. It’s time to break our bad habits and dig into the work that will ultimately fulfill us. Taking control of our time day-to-day is immensely empowering.

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.

Photo by emdot via Photoree

Supervising Employees Who Hate Their Jobs? Step In or Pay the Price.

hate job 3533132079_708cc8953a_mGrumbling  is one thing; hating quite another. Every job includes things we don’t like but hating is big.

Funny isn’t it, that when we start a new job, we’re so gung-ho. The work, the challenge, and the new relationships feel exciting and so promising.

So how do we go from all that eagerness to job hating?

Decline and fall.

Our jobs exist in a culture created by the leadership style of our supervisors who operate in a culture created by their managers and the leadership. It’s a chain.

Daily, we do our jobs along side coworkers who also perform within that same supervisor- created culture. So if we hate our jobs, it’s on our supervisor’s watch.

Alert supervisors pick up on the signs that we’re hating our jobs like:

  • lack of enthusiasm and energy
  • inattentiveness, slacking, and disinterest
  • flat performance levels and unwillingness to volunteer
  • whining, complaining, and fault-finding

More than likely, we don’t realize just how our job unhappiness is affecting us, showing on our faces, and becoming a detriment to our careers.

We should remember that our supervisors too may hate their jobs, creating an even more complex set of circumstances for them to handle.

No matter what, the failure of supervisors to intervene when employees are unhappy contributes to the decline and fall of all or part of any organization.

Step up with conviction.

Supervisor intervention around job hating is not about band-aiding: It’s about taking on the big issues that are turning employees off.

After seeing a study by Dale Carnegie Training that confirmed the extent of employee job hating, Ilya Pozin wrote an article for Huffington Post identifying the top ten reasons full-time employees hate their jobs .

Of the ten, these five, in my view, are ripe for immediate supervisor action. Taking them on and resolving them will contribute to healing the hating and bolstering leadership status. Pozin’s reasons are in bold italics below and my comments follow:

Their boss sucks. Supervisors need to lead so employees want to follow. So stop micro-managing, criticizing, keeping employees in the dark, and treating them like they’re either the enemy, game pieces to be pushed around, or stupid. Instead, listen to what they say and mean, ask for clarity, explain what you can and cannot do for them, and give them a chance to be creative.

They’re not being challenged.  Supervisors need to ensure that employees have diverse and interesting work to do, not just mundane, repetitive, and under-the-radar tasks. Give employees a chance to come up with a new approach, solve problems together, or switch off roles by ensuring cross-training.

There’s too much red tape.  Endless rules and hoops to jump through to complete essential work only frustrate employees who see that their ability to get things done is being hampered unnecessarily. Look for opportunities to increase decision-making authority for employees that reinforces your trust in them.

There’s no room for advancement. Feeling like you’re going nowhere in your job is debilitating. If there is no clear career path, there are always opportunities for supervisors to develop the capabilities of employees so they can cover for each other and for the supervisor. When employees feel they are growing and have added to their value, they see their jobs more positively.

Job insecurity. Employees routinely read the tea leaves about what’s going on in the company. It doesn’t take much to make them nervous about their employment. That’s why supervisors need to keep them informed about how the company is performing, address the rumor mill, and be transparent. Credible information goes a long way to liking your job.

 Avoid loss.

Good supervisors watch out for the well-being of their employees. Their ability to create and maintain a positive, high-performing work group is the true measure of a supervisor’s value.

When supervisors fall short, employees often leave or under-perform. Since both are avoidable, there should be a career price to pay by supervisors for letting that happen.

Photo by Adam Foster via Photoree




Ready to Reboot Your Career? How “Reinventing” Worked for Me, More Than Once.

Careers can get old for a lot of reasons:WLI Conference 2008 2

  • Boredom when the work gets too predictable
  • Declining fulfillment from achievements
  • Disenchantment with a job going no where
  • Curiosity about what’s out there
  • Compensation ceilings that won’t meet future needs

I’ve experienced all of these at different times. Each one caused significant stress, confusion, and frustration–sometimes all at once.

I tried to force my way through them, telling myself that they were just temporary and would pass. But, of course, they didn’t and they don’t. The only way to get beyond these bumps is to change–not our favorite thing.

It’s not about reinventing your self.

Finding your way to a different career is not about reinventing who you are. Rather, it’s about redirecting your path so you can do work that fits who you are.

In my view, unless you are severely limited by problematic behaviors, trying to remake your essential self is an exercise that keeps you from going where you need to go.

Instead, redirect yourself by aligning your capabilities, interests, and energies to a more suitable line of work.

On the surface, this may sound pretty easy, but it isn’t. Each redirection means:

  • Acclimating to a different industry and/or workplace
  • Forging new relationships
  • Adapting to financial impacts
  • Dealing with potentially negative feedback from friends and family
  • Fear, self-doubt, and a new learning curve

There is, however, something exhilarating about a big change, so long as you’re ready for it. Newness, discovery, and challenge have the power to put you in high gear.

Keep options open.

This is a timely post for me since I’m getting ready to redirect my “career life” again, building on and remolding the pieces that have served me along the way.

My career unfolded like this:

Primary Career Path: Teaching Management   Consulting

I love words and how they can help us deal with life. So with an undergraduate degree in English, I became a high school teacher. Over ten years in the classroom, I learned how to instruct, manage groups, handle multiple priorities, and influence change.

Eventually, I got bored by routine, frustrated by some decisions, and curious about the world outside the classroom.

I decided to learn about big business by asking to speak to managers in HR about how public education could do a better job preparing their future employees.

Those meetings gave me a comfort level with business people and led to my first job at a large electric utility. There I learned how to manage effectively and lead when the stakes were high.

I also learned how the business worked and where its weaknesses were. After 20+ years as a senior manager there, I’d achieved my goals and realized I didn’t want to go any further.

I left and started a consulting practice, an entrepreneurial venture that would have to support me. I had done some freelance consulting that prepared me for this new venture which has been ongoing since 2002.

Corollary Career Paths: Production Sales

I’d always had a dream to own a horse so I started taking riding lessons when I was 30. Eventually I bought and boarded two horses. I wanted to care for them myself,  so I bought a small farm that needed plenty of work, all of which was new to me.DGL anad Foal

Before I knew it, I was breeding horses (production) for the race track and the show ring. This was an entirely new and foreign industry for me which fulfilled my curiosity, challenged me intellectually, and increased my fulfillment for almost 20 years.

Concurrently, my horse enterprise led to ownership for ten years of an equestrian art gallery, where I learned about retail sales. This rounded out my business resume.

Together, all of these efforts to redirect my career have created a range of experiences I  continue to draw on. Fortunately, careers don’t have to come to an end.

What next?

Career management is our job. It takes introspection and exploration, a good bit of courage and some luck. As our careers evolve, we evolve with them, learning what really floats our boat and what doesn’t.

I still have my original love of words, that’s why I blog. I love the quiet beauty of my farm where I can think and unearth new perspectives free from distraction. I am seeking to uncover how I will redirect again. Ideas come to mind and then fade into others. The same will happen for you until the right answer appears. Let’s continue to keep our options open. I’ll keep you posted on my progress and hope you will do the same.

What’s in your mind right now about how you might redirect your career? What challenges do you face? Sometimes writing it down makes it clearer. I’d love to hear from you.

Career Not Going Your Way? Try Relaxing Your Grip. | Words from the Wise

Feeling stuck? Frustrated? Just plain mad?relax grip 3325065380_252a4c50de_m

Choosing a career and getting the chance to pursuit it doesn’t always happen the way we’d like.

Careers are unpredictable beasts. They come with promise but no guarantees. While they seem to be about us, they’re actually more about others giving us the opportunity to make their organizations successful.

We often start out believing our careers are within our control. Then reality sets in and we hear ourselves saying:

  • “I’m knocking on every door and still don’t get even an interview. Why?”
  • “I’ve been performing at a high level in this job for three years and still no promotion. Why?”
  • “I never thought the work I do would frustrate me like this. What can I do?”

Too often, we can’t answer these questions. They’re too big, too encompassing, and too far beyond our understanding of the conditions that drive them.

So we keep pressing, driving ourselves forward, dragging our frustrations with us. Some just curl up in a ball and do nothing. Sadly, this doesn’t fix anything.

Words from the Wise

Struggles with career choices and direction have gone on for centuries. Human beings generally want to do work that will support them and bring some satisfaction.

Especially in modern times, the hardest part is figuring out what we like and want to do, given our skills. Once that’s somewhat figured out, we set out to find the right employment.

This figuring-out process requires introspection, which many fail to do. It also requires owning what you know about yourself and the career you want, so that  you can set your direction with an uncluttered mind.

I’ve  worked for many years with job and promotion seekers who have been battered by rejection when they’ve pursued job titles, salary levels, and big name companies rather than the work they enjoy. They’ve held on so tight to their preconceived career must-haves that they have tuned out other opportunities.

I use this quote from Robin Fisher Roffer’s book, Make a Name for Yourself: 8 Steps Every Woman Needs to Create a Personal Brand Strategy for Success, to help clients (both men and women) get free of themselves:

The universe is waiting for you to say what you want…Everything that you are seeking is also seeking you.

Then I add these wise words from Henry David Thoreau in Walden:

 Men (and women, right Thoreau?) are born to succeed, not to fail.

Just think about how complex it is to get all the parts  aligned just right so that you and anyone else can intersect your objectives at the same time.

That means: The job you want has to present itself when your skills and experience are seen as the right fit for the company and when the political forces see you as having the right nature to meet expectations. Whew!

Your successful career starts with your willingness to “put out there” what you sincerely want and then to allow your conscious and subconscious thinking to work together to connect the dots. Your prospective or current employer is doing the same thing.

Relax your grip.

Lots of good things happen when you take that chokehold off your career pursuits and replace it with a realization that what you are seeking is also seeking you.

The benefits can be palpable:

  • Less self-imposed pressure, negative self-talk, and energy-sapping stress
  • A refreshed ability to see and hear snippets of ideas you might otherwise have missed
  • An openness and excitement that blunts feelings of frustration and isolation
  • A renewed belief that you will get there and commitment to the effort
  • Recognition that your attitude and effort are what you control; success will follow

Your career path is a function of the work you’ve done to offer value to an employer and the initiatives you take to get hired/promoted. Your biggest challenge is to be authentic in the process and prepared to act effectively when opportunities present themselves. Taking your hand off the throttle can help you make a nice smooth turn.

Photo from ladybugrock via Flickr

Ready to Go APE with Guy Kawasaki? Write On!

apeAh, the idea of writing a book of your own: It’s tempting, isn’t it? And maybe scary too.

On any given day, you may draft a proposal for work, a testimonial for a friend, an acceptance speech, an opinion piece for the newspaper, or a blog. Each time you’re putting yourself out there, so now maybe you’re ready to write a book.

What’s stopping you?

For years getting a book published was part shooting in the dark, endless rejection, and disappointment. Traditional publishers held all the cards and often provided more obstacles than help. I certainly had my share of frustration and disillusionment when my book was published.

Fortunately, times have changed. If you have a book in you, the paths to publication are wide open.

Once again, Guy Kawasaki comes to our aid with his fabulous new book: APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur–How to Publish a Book, written with Shawn Welch.

When the publisher of his New York Times bestseller, Enchantment, couldn’t fill an order for 500 ebook copies, he decided to self-publish his next book, What the Plus! That’s when he experienced the complex and confusing process of self-publishing and decided to sort it all out for us in APE.

Guy’s book covers traditional, ebook, and publishing-on-demand in his typically clear-cut style. He starts by making sure, we, as writers, understand these good reasons for writing:

Both writer and reader benefit when a book enables gains in the following areas:

  1. Enrich Lives
  2. Intellectual Challenges
  3. Further a Cause
  4. Catharsis

His challenge is this:

 Will your book add value to people’s lives? This is a severe test, but if your answer is affirmative, there’s no doubt you should write a book.

 Demystifying publishing

We live at a time where you, as a writer, can also be your own publisher. Guy notes that ebooks, although representing only about 10% of book purchases today, can be published and supported through sites like Kindle Direct Publishing, iBooks Author, and others that he identifies and explains.

He also grounds us in the advantages and disadvantages of self-publishing:

The problem isn’t  that traditional publishers are dumb or evil…The problem is that traditional publishing grew up in a world with limits and logistics such as shelf space, access to printing presses, editing and production expertise, and shipping of physical books.

The shelf space for ebooks, however, is infinite, and anyone who can use a word processor can write and publish a book. These changes don’t mean that books are better…but at least the system is more accessible.

Guy goes on to cover the process, mechanics, approaches, and available resources for creating ebooks and publishing hard copies through print-on-demand, covering key steps and potential pitfalls.

He then drives home this point that, as a self-publisher, you become, by necessity, an entrepreneur:

Entrepreneuring is the most neglected and hardest of APEs three roles because it involves marketing and sales, which are foreign concepts to some authors and despised by the rest.

To sell we need to have a ready platform to tap into. He explains:

‘Platform’ is marketing-speak for the sum total of people you know and who know you….

The process of building a platform takes six to twelve months….If you don’t have a platform yet, you need to build one as you are writing your book.

Guy identifies what it takes to attract and maintain your platform:

Call me idealistic, but your platform is only as good as your reality. If you suck as a person, your platform will suck too. The three pillars of a persona brand are trustworthiness, likeability, and competence: TLC.

Artisanal publishing

If you’ve ever eaten from a great loaf of artisanal bread, you know what it means to have created something delicious from the heart. Guy’s notion of  “artisanal publishing” is:

The concept of authors writing, publishing, and lovingly crafting their books with complete artistic control in a high-quality manner.

The work of writing is still hard and marketing your book takes commitment. But the process, now, more than even is in your hands. That means it’s time to write on!

I give a big “thank you” to Guy Kawasaki for sending me a signed copy of APE so I could share my insights with you. His book has inspired me to take the self-publishing plunge. Now, I’ve got to get to work!

“Noise” Got You Down? Maybe You’re an Introvert. | The Value of Quiet

Quiet-pb-book-jacketActivity is the centerpiece of the workplace. We work alone and with others. We’re directed to apply our knowledge and skills to tasks, new and unfamiliar.

Every day we’re busy–responding to requirements, change, or even crises. This is our on-the-job “noise.”

So why do some of us feel energized by the swirl of things and others wearied by them at the end of the day?

The answer lies in our temperaments.

Introvert or extrovert

If you’ve ever taken the Myers-Briggs personality test (I’m an INFP, if you’re interested) or read Carl Jung’s book, Psychological Types, you’re familiar with clinical definitions of introvert and extrovert.

In her fascinating, best-selling book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, Susan Cain recaps Jung’s findings:

Introverts focus on the meaning they make of the events swirling around them: extroverts plunge into the events themselves. Introverts recharge their batteries by being alone; extroverts need to recharge when they don’t socialize enough.

Simply put, introverts are drained of energy when engaging with people while extroverts are energized.

Cain adds,

…today’s psychologists tend to agree…that introverts and extroverts differ in the level of outside stimulation that they need to function well. Introverts feel ‘just right’ with less stimulation….Extroverts enjoy the extra bang that comes from activities like meeting new people….

If given a choice between attending a large cocktail party on a Friday night after a tough day at the office or spending the evening curled up on the sofa with book, most introverts would prefer the book.

Introversion and extroversion are temperament descriptors that, like most human behaviors, fall on a continuum (including ambivert, someone who aligns with both) and are often situational. Cain explains how we evolve in those temperaments and adjust them as needed.

What’s interesting is how our degree of introversion or extroversion comes to play in our jobs.

Cain writes:

Many psychologists would…agree that introverts and extroverts work differently. Extroverts tend to tackle assignments quickly. They make fast (sometimes rash) decisions.

Introverts often work more slowly and deliberately. They like to focus on one task at a time and can have mighty powers of concentration.

Cain points out that introverts face unique challenges and discomforts, especially when the workplace seems to respond more positively to its extroverts.

She researched both history and scientific studies, illuminating and validating the styles and contributions of introverts. For me, as an introvert, she put the awkwardness, self-questioning, and anxieties that were part of my work life into a perspective that was something of a relief.

Introverts on the job

Being introverted does not mean being shy. It’s about needing quiet time, away from  interactions with others, to refuel oneself.

Because a workplace is often an intense “people place,” it doesn’t always fit the ways introverts prefer to operate.

Here are some examples of introvert challenges, raised and validated by the studies that Cain covers:

Brainstorming exercises: Introverts formulate more and higher quality ideas, innovations, and new perspectives on their own than in rapid-fire group discussions where the loudest, fastest voices usually prevail.

Public speaking: Introverts are more comfortable in public speaking situations when they’ve been able to prepare fully. They tend to be highly sensitive to the reactions of the audience, continually scanning it while speaking, so they can adjust.

Participating at meetings: Introverts tend first to assimilate the content of meeting discussion before framing their input. They tend to say less, but concisely, not always commanding the full attention of others.

Leadership charisma: Although introverts make effective leaders, there may be a culture of charisma in a company that rewards leadership positions more often to those with “big personas” rather than a solid vision and effective decision making.

The value of quiet

The workplace is made richer by the diversity of temperaments. So it’s important to make sure that the value inherent in both introverts and extroverts is cultivated.

Cain reminds us:

Without introverts, the world would be devoid of:

  • the theory of gravity
  • Chopin’s nocturnes
  • The Cat in the Hat
  • Google

So please make space for a bit more quiet among the noise.