Give a Little. Get a Lot. | Generosity Matters.

Doing isn’t giving, although doing is required.

At work we have jobs to do. The better we do them, the more likely we’ll be valued and rewarded. That’s true even if we:

  • Dislike the tasks we’re assigned
  • Know  the job is a wrong fit
  • Question the company’s direction
  • Work with uncommitted people
  • Don’t see growth opportunities

It’s as possible to succeed in a sorry job as it is in a fabulous one, provided you do your job as required.

But that’s a bummer. Few of us want to be a star at a job we dislike, unless we can turn it into something significantly better. Generosity of spirit may be just the ticket.

Giving v. getting

When we get hired, the first thing we say is ” I got the job” as though it’s something we now own. Actually, it’s the opposite.

Instead, we’ve been given the opportunity to serve an organization so it can succeed. Our individual success is a by-product of the quality of our performance…what we give.

Jobs look different when you see them as  opportunities to give. It starts with  the attitude you bring to your tasks, no matter how pleasant or unpleasant they are. Consider these comparisons:

Downer coworkers (the self-servers):

  • Complain about everything and everyone
  • Find fault with every decision, policy, and assignment
  • Ridicule the boss and some peers covertly
  • Brag about how they shortcut their work
  • Bad-mouth the company

Upbeat coworkers (the givers):

  • Focus on the good in others and reinforce it
  • Look at the upside of decisions and support them
  • Commit to performing at their best out of personal pride
  • Treat the boss and their peers with respect, even during disagreements
  • Offer to help struggling coworkers out of kindness
  • Show regard for the company and gratitude for their employment

There are important, often unexpected, benefits to working with a giver’s attitude. Even the smallest gift of kindness and generosity turns into a benefit that touches many.

Cause and effect

There are endless opportunities to turn the drudgery of any job into an uplifting experience. Here are a two examples of ways to give a little and get a lot:

1.  Your job involves seemingly endless spreadsheets, so you’re a wiz at Excel but your coworker isn’t. When she’s struggling to meet a spreadsheet deadline, you share your knowledge and help her make it. (Your self-esteem goes up, you strengthen a relationship, and you support the team.)

2. You’re a veteran member of a work group that just added a new, talented but inexperienced member. He’s trying to get acclimated but it’s not going well. You offer to be a peer-mentor for him until he’s settled. (You rediscover your leadership skills, build inclusiveness, and set a positive example.)

Each gift from the heart makes things better for others. In turn you reinforce your sense of self-worth.

Generosity, whether time, effort, or money, is personal and individual. We give what we can and usually get back what we don’t expect.

Journalist John Blackstone interviewed, Ari Nessel (on CBS Sunday Morning 3/23/14) who became wealthy selling real estate in the Dallas area. Nessel believes the best kind of philanthropy comes from small monetary gifts. So he created a foundation, Pollination Project, providing seed money for start-up charities. Daily, he chooses someone just getting started to receive a $1,000 donation, his lifetime commitment of giving.

Nessel’s attitude about any kind of giving is that, ” …transformation happens on the fringes…and doesn’t happen on the large scale… And so it becomes a movement.”

At the end of the interview, Blackstone says to Nessel: “So money can buy happiness?”

He replied, “Generosity can buy happiness.”

Generosity matters.

Nessel’s  viewpoint also applies at your job. You can affect the culture of your workplace  through each gift of kindness you give. When that happens, it also makes your job feel better and you seed a movement.

Giving generously of your time and talent positions you to discover the value embedded in your every work experience. A generous spirit is infections and attracts contagious good.

 

 

Fire Up Your Courage. Build Your Self-confidence. | Refocused Thinking

It may be difficult but sticking your neck out is a necessity.

By: brecro

To build a career, you have to:

  • Apply for jobs and accept offers
  • Change jobs to get better ones
  • Develop new relationships or repair damaged ones
  • Commit to expectations and do what’s  right

Putting yourself out there takes courage, and you don’t need self-confidence to do it.

The odd couple

Courage and self-confidence have an odd connection. Courage generally drags self-confidence along for the ride, often kicking and screaming. Why? Because the best way to build self-confidence is to test yourself routinely, taking sensible chances that teach you to trust yourself.

By definition, courage is that quality of mind and spirit that enables us to face danger, fear, and unexpected changes. Self-confidence is about the trust, faith, or assurance we have in our abilities. The more credit we give ourselves for our abilities, the more self-confidence we reap.

It’s terrific when we’re called to do work we believe we can do successfully. But that’s not always the case. Uncertainties set in like:

  • Am I sure I have all the skills I need?
  • Will the requirements change leaving me helpless?
  • Will I be able to meet the expectations of a tough boss?
  • Is this a team that will accept me?
  • What if I fall on my face? Could this job flat-line my career?

Unfortunately, you can’t know these answers until you commit to the work. And that means firing up your courage.

Growth by chance

No risk…no growth. That’s the long and the short of it. We don’t build our self-confidence unless we test it through courageous actions.

Here are five basic ways:

A Gutsy Move–You listen to your rational self, override your fears, and make a career move. (Finally a job you’ve always wanted is vacant. The posting is up, just begging you to apply, so you do.)

You Won’t Hide–Circumstances make it impossible for you to avoid accepting a new assignment and expanded duties that point to you. (Everyone knows you have the technical knowledge, hands-on experience, and  customer connections needed, so the team can reach its goals. You’re clearly the wo/man.)

Soft-heartedness–Your coworkers desperately want you to take over the project and lead the team. (No one wants to work for or with a newcomer. They want you there to ensure an environment that brings the best out of everyone.)

No Choice–Crisis hits and there’s no one around with the expertise to do the work or lead it. (Suddenly, seasoned leaders are gone, storm damage to company facilities threatens production, and employee backlash is escalating. You act because you have to.)

Courage feeds our self-confidence.

Case in point.

In a sense, we create a contest between what we know we need to do (driven by courage) and an internal force trying to defeat us (doubts about ourselves).

Seventh-grader, Grant Reed, has cancer, a brain tumor. He was profiled by Steve Hartman, reporter for the CBS Sunday Morning program (12/01/13), because he had a unique way of thinking about it.

Cancer is a scary word for anyone and Grant is no exception. What’s different about Grant is that he won’t use the word or let anyone else around him use it .

Grant is a die-hard Ohio State football fan and the University of Michigan is their arch rival. All he wants is for the Buckeyes to beat the Wolverines. So calls his cancer “Michigan,” never any other word, because cancer is his personal rival to beat.

Persevere.

Career challenges can be scary too. Not catastrophic illness scary, but unnerving enough. There are challenges like office bullying, harassment, and ostracism; negative performance feedback, a wrong job, and expectations we aren’t ready for. Each requires courage and the self-confidence to get through them.

The battle is always against ourselves, so we need touchstones to help us over the humps. We need to find our “Michigans” for inspiration and motivation. My word has always been personal “independence,” something always worth fighting for. What’s yours?

Here One Day…Then? Accepting Self-confidence As a Work in Progress

We know it when we feel it. When it’s in our grip, we soar. When it leaves us in the lurch, we land hard.

Self-confidence, by definition, is:

  • Being sure of your own abilities
  • Trusting those abilities
  • Having faith in them
  • Feeling assured you really have them

Self-confidence is in our heads. It’s the way we assess ourselves and decide if we’ve met expectations–our own and others.

Every day, readers find their way to my posts on self-confidence using search phrases like:

  • I’ve lost my self-confidence and I don’t know why (or I do).
  • I need help getting my self-confidence back.
  • No matter what I do, I can’t find self-confidence.

I get it: I’ve uttered those words myself.

It’s universal.

Everyone struggles to build and maintain self-confidence.

The way we see ourselves changes. The way we process feedback changes the way we see ourselves. New experiences test our abilities either adding to or detracting from our self-confidence.

It’s a moving target which makes maintaining self-confidence a work in progress.

Most of us don’t like that. We want our self-confidence to be a constant, something we can draw on anytime like a fat bank account. But that would take the growth factor out of living and working.

We can’t grow and get better if we’re all comfy about our self-confidence. We need to be kept off balance a bit, so we will push ourselves.

Consider this:

No matter how accomplished someone is–how famous, how rich, and how long they’ve been on top–loss of self-confidence will occur time and again.

So when our self-confidence sinks, we need to stop all the woe-is-me talk and get cracking.

The only real way to build or restore your self-confidence  is to act, to keep doing whatever will re-energize your belief in yourself.

You may have to turn to family, friends, and/or advisers to get you thinking more positively, but in the end, it’s about you getting busy.

Famed country singer and actress, Dolly Parton, after a meteoric early career, had to face an unsuccessful movie, tensions with big players in the industry, and the loss of her personal support system (long time friends who were moving on with their own lives.) She felt alone and became unglued.

She wrote in her autobiography, Dolly: My Life and Other Unfinished Business:

I collapsed. It seemed that all my support systems had disappeared. The very foundation of all my beliefs had been shaken. The dreamy little kid from the mountains had become a fat, disillusioned, hopeless woman.

She stopped singing, playing guitar, and writing. She felt that people had given up on her because they thought she’d lost her drive. After some lengthy, painful soul-searching, she snapped out of it, writing:

It’s okay to think that about Dolly Parton, but better not stand in the road in front of her. I was about to come roaring back.

Self-confidence is a commitment to yourself, no matter if the cards seem stacked against you or how you were raised.

Oscar-nominated actor Bruce Dern, a veteran of over 80 films, revealed on ABC’s Live with Kelly & Michael, that as a child he was considered, by his parents, so uninteresting that he had to raise his hand at the dinner table in order to speak.

Dern clearly found a way to build his self-confidence anyway.

What to do?

When your self-confidence flags, you might follow these steps to reinvigorate it:

  • Figure out what caused its decline (Answer: who, what, when, where, how)
  • List prior achievements that initially built your self-confidence; internalize them.
  • Commit to being optimistic.
  • Recommit to patterns of behavior and actions that brought prior success
  • Learn and adopt new approaches that make sense.
  • Keep working, participating, and putting yourself out there.
  • Build momentum, assess your progress, make mid-course corrections, and keep going.

Self-confidence comes from building your capabilities and doing things successfully

As people, we are all a work in progress, and our self-confidence is our engine. Get ready to rev it up!

 

Just Not the Creative Type, You Say? Don’t Believe the Myths.

Since, as a writer, I’m fascinated by creative expression, I jumped at the invitation to read Myths of Creativity 9781118611142_p0_v2_s260x420and blog about the new book by David Burkus, The Myths of Creativity: The Truth About How Innovative Companies and People Generate Great Ideas, released today. It’s a fascinating and liberating book.

Our bosses are famous for asking us to come up with:

  • A better process for handling customer complaints
  • New copy for the company’s “About” page
  • A promotion to increase sales
  • Ideas to improve morale

They tell us we need to be innovative if we want to advance, get good performance ratings, and be rewarded.

You say to yourself, “I’m not the creative type. I just do my job…on the phones/in production/in tech support.”

Then your boss says, “I need your contribution by Friday.”

End of conversation. Beginning of panic.

Relief arrives.

David Burkus provides the oxygen we need to clear our heads about creativity. In his new book, The Myths of Creativity, he debunks what we have come to believe about creativity and creative people. He shows us that we’re all creative and how.

He writes:

We don’t need to rely on belief in an outside force to generate great ideas. We have everything we need inside ourselves.

Most of us think of creativity as being the domain of painters, musicians, writers, and movie makers.

Burkus reminds us that:

Creativity is …the process of developing ideas that are both novel and useful.

You do that…me too.

But he also reveals something very important about what it takes to tap into and realize our creative potential at work.

Creativity in the form of innovation requires four things that are aligned:

  • Domain-relevant skills (…expertise)…the knowledge, technical skills, or talent an individual possesses in a given domain [area]….
  • Creativity-relevant processes…the methods people use to approach a …problem and generate solutions….
  • Task motivation…the willingness to engage…passion….
  • Social environment…[which] can either positively or negatively affect creative expression….

Think about how much freer your thinking is at work when you can draw on what you’re good at, using good problem-solving methods around a task you care about, in a work environment that suits you. Heaven!

Burkus adds:

Both expertise and creative methodology can be taught….Everyone can generate great ideas.

Debunking myths

Creativity myths exist because we let them. Sometimes we actually want them to be true to get us off the hook or give us an excuse to stay in our comfort zones.

Some myths have been so ingrained  that companies adopt and perpetuate them, not to their benefit.

The myths Burkus covers erase our excuses and relieve our anxieties. He explains them straight up and provides eye-popping, real-life business examples that stick.

The ten myths are the:

  • Eureka Myth
  • Breed Myth
  • Originality Myth
  • Expert Myth
  • Incentive Myth
  • Lone Creator Myth
  • Brainstorming Myth
  • Cohesive Myth
  • Constraints Myth
  • Mousetrap Myth

The Expert Myth strikes a loud chord. If you think you need to be the smartest one in the room to come up with the best idea, then heed this Burkus point:

The Expert Myth argues that the hardest problems are solved by the brightest minds in the field, but the evidence counters with a different argument. The people who solve tough problems are often from the edge of a domain. They have enough knowledge to understand the problem but don’t have a fixed method of thinking..[so] they possess the creative ability to find the right solution.”

If you also think that creative ideas are the product of individuals touched by the Muse, Burkus  challenges that too:

…the Lone Creator myth…[is]…the belief that creativity is a solo performance and that the story of innovations can be told as the story or a single person working fervently on the new idea.

He shares little known information about Thomas Edison, more promoter and team leader than lone inventor, to make his point:

Too often…we prefer to recognize only one person for an outstanding creative work. This isn’t just a selective revision; it’s a fabrication.

Free yourself up

The Myths of Creativity frees us from our self-imposed limiters. Burkus’ myths can be found in nearly every company and are felt by most of us–mere employee mortals doing our jobs.

By discarding the myths, no matter what job you do, you can better use your creative, innovative thinking to make a process, a product, or a system better. Kudos to you!

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.

Photo from inspiredgiftofgiving.com

Career Goals in Jeopardy? Vow to Find a Way. | Swimming Motivation

Dream big dreams. Reach for the stars. Go for the gold.swimming 694371689_950a3bca2b_m

Alas, the dreaming and reaching and going are so much easier than the doing.

Achieving, big things or small, is about:

  • Amassing essential knowledge and skills
  • Preparing and planning
  • Cultivating supporters
  • Taking risks, failing, and trying again
  • Mental toughness, grit, and belief
  • Patience and perseverance

Acknowledging this work list is the first test of your commitment to your goals. The action steps are your acid test.

Keep breathing.

Goals are slippery fish. They have a way of swimming into view, tempting us to hook them, and then spitting out the hook when we aren’t paying attention.

When our goals seem elusive or our efforts to achieve them unproductive, it’s easy to:

  • Revise them downward
  • Abandon them for something less arduous
  • Defer them until we believe the time is right
  • Cave in to what others say we should pursue

If this is where you are, it’s time to take a deep breath and reconnect with what’s been driving you all along–your passion, calling, or vision for a career that is you.

It all starts with getting clarity around your career goals. Then you’re ready to rock and roll.

Keep moving.

When you stop moving,  your goals start to sink. To keep moving, you need sources of inspiration that you can tap into quickly.

Diana Nyad might be just that inspiration.

On September 2, 2013, at 64, Diana became the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without the help of a shark cage–103 miles in 53 hours.

It took Diana five attempts to reach her goal: once in 1978, three times in 2011 and 2012.

The obstacles she faced in earlier tries became the lessons that prepared her to succeed on her 5th effort.

USA Today reported (with video):

Her last try was cut short amid boat trouble, storms, unfavorable currents and jellyfish stings that left her face puffy and swollen.

This time, she wore a full bodysuit, gloves, booties and a mask at night, when jellyfish rise to the surface. The new silicone mask caused bruises inside her mouth, making it difficult for her to talk….

Although dreams of success are the driver, it’s human will that propels us to overcome the sheer weight of the tasks and the setbacks.

Diana is quoted in a CNN Press Room article (also with video) saying:

When you’re feeling good… you’re singing Neil Young songs to yourself…But when you’re suffering, and…I had two nights of full suffering this time with the mask with the salt water. Now you’re not thinking of anything. You’re just coping and surviving, and your team is somehow helping you making it through every 15 minutes, every hour. Let’s not give up.

When Diana completed her marathon swim, her first words (quoted in USA Today) are worth remembering:

I have three messages. One is, we should never, ever give up. Two is, you’re never too old to chase your dream. Three is, it looks like a solitary sport, but it is a team….

Understanding why your goals are important to you is central to your drive and the message you send to those around you.

Diana also told CNN Press Room:

The people who follow me are human beings “who are dealing with their own heartaches, and their own obstacles in life. And they want to know how to get through. And I think I’m a person who represents…You never give up. You find a way if something really is important to your heart, you look and see what’s inside yourself, and you find a way.”

Stay committed.

If your career goals are in jeopardy, you too can find a way. You may discover that you need to look at what has worked and what hasn’t, who is helping and who isn’t, how much time you’re dedicating to the work, and how patient or impatient you’ve been.

Finding the way forward may mean reexamining how far you’ve come and then reinvigorating yourself and your plan. Go ahead. You can if you really want to.

 Photo by camilla via Photoree

The Advantage of Having a Bad Boss | Turn Frustration into Career Growth

bad boss 4147951182_e8d45138a1_mA bad boss is a career opportunity.

No one promised you a great boss as a condition of employment. You get paid whether your boss is good or bad. Your job, then, is to figure out how to deal with your boss’s behavior so that you can do good work anyway.

Your career rides on the way you overcome adversity. Whether you’re aware of it or not, everyone is watching the way you problem solve and overcome obstacles to do what you’re there to do: Get the work done.

Chances are the higher ups are aware, to some degree, of the ineffective behaviors of your boss. And they’re also aware of how the boss’s employees are reacting, including you. So just keep doing your best.

Turn frustration into advantage.

If you really care about your career, you won’t let a bad boss get in your way. Instead you’ll seize the opportunity to develop the skills and abilities you need to deal with her effectively.

So instead of spending your time complaining or wallowing or bemoaning, start observing, planning, and acting to minimize the negative effects of the “bad” behavior your boss exhibits.

Strive to stay focused on what really matters and what doesn’t.

Put into effect an employee development program of your own making.

 We need to be fair. Most bosses are not evil doers; they no more want to be bad in their jobs than we do.

Your “bad” boss may very well be struggling to survive herself, contending with her limitations, trying to untangle mixed signals from above and  needs from her employees.

Many bosses know they aren’t effective, don’t know why, and can’t figure out how to become “good.”  So let’s not be too hard on them. One day you may walk in their shoes.

Zero in.

It’s important to take time to get a sense of what drives your bad boss, so you can find a way to work with him effectively.

Most bad bosses suffer from a predominant supervisory flaw. That’s the one you want to focus on to start.

Pinpoint the specific behaviors and develop actions you need in order to work with, through, or around them.

Here are three types of bad bosses, their typical behaviors, potential underlying reasons for them, and actions you might take to contend with them.

1. The Micromanager

  • Behaviors: Constantly checking on your work, nit picking, inflexibility, second-guessing
  • Potential Reasons: Fear of failure/criticism, low confidence in employees, job insecurity
  • What you can do: Pay full and consistent attention to details, submit work before     deadlines, proactively give progress reports, comply with required processes

3. The Intimidator

  • Behaviors: No or terse communication, distant, difficult to approach, critical
  • Potential Reasons: Sense of superiority, self-absorbed, distrust of other’s ideas, desire for control,
  • What you can do: Initiate opportunities to meet even if it’s unnerving; be uber prepared and clear in your agenda, presentation, or proposal; ask for feedback and a next step meeting/conversation; don’t quail; repeat until the ice is thawed

4. The Wheel Spinner

  • Behaviors: No clearly communicated direction, disorganized, routinely shifts gears and changes assignments midstream
  • Potential Reasons: Lack of confidence/clarity, fear of failure, poor business acumen, lack  of awareness about what it takes to get work done
  • What you can do:  Increase your own organization, engage your boss in conversation about work and suggest ideas, build confidence in your contributions, anticipate needs

Step up.

The workplace is a tangled web. Everyone is caught up in it with your boss at the center. You can choose to become a victim or to figure out how to navigate the strands.

If you want to stand out…to be noticed for the right things…then use your time with that bad boss to strengthen your communication, relationship building, collaborative, and work management skills.

No one’s going to send you to “Dealing with a Bad Boss” training, so it makes sense to develop your skills on your own. Your career will reward you for it. Onward!

Photo by noii’s via Photoree