4 Ways Distraction Threatens Your Career | Fight Back

Distracted? Never, you claim, always fully tuned in, just multitasking.

It’s a popular self-deception. We’re all guilty to a degree.

Research has long debunked the notion of multitasking, our claim of being engaged in multiple things (aided by our digital tools) at the same time.

We’ve just become compulsive about requiring our brains to toggle between one thought or awareness and another. The faster we do it, the more we self-approving we become.

Faster makes winners, right? Until, there’s a wreck.

Distraction as enemy

Keeping up with the pace of change and career demands is wearying. So many swirling expectations and so little clarity about what really matters…to our progress.

We take a stab at one thing and then another, often deciding what’s important based upon what others are or seem to be doing or that text, post, news flash, or broadcast email we receive. Our biggest challenge at work is figuring out what matters and what doesn’t.

If you let yourself become distracted by all the inputs that come your way, you’ll more than likely spin your wheels and find yourself stuck in an ever-deepening rut.

You need to separate distraction from meaningful direction. That starts with recognizing how certain distractions can hurt you.

When distractions run amok, they can become:

  1. Career saboteurs–Success at work is about staying focused on the tasks at hand, providing updates to your boss, and working collaboratively with coworkers. When distractions caused by extraneous inputs obstruct your focus and productivity, your career will take a hit.
  2. A safety hazard–Inattentiveness is one of the main causes of accidents in the workplace. You don’t want to get hurt on the job and companies are upset when you do. When distracted, we slip, trip, and fall…or worse…whether we work in an office or outside. Distractions take make us vulnerable.
  3. Relationship eroders–Most of us want to matter at work…to our coworkers, bosses, and customers/clients. People you interact with want your undivided attention as much as you want theirs. Distractions that you respond to while with a colleague screams, “You aren’t more important to me than….” [fill in the blank...this text, email, person who caught my eye]. You may not get much future support from those you make feel less important.
  4. Confidence drains–Distractions interrupt your thought processes, often introducing extraneous points of view, declarations, positions, and news that derail insights that are uniquely yours. Your ideas lose momentum and you start to question their value and relevance. When distractions steer your thinking off course, you put your hard-earned self-confidence at risk.

Be on guard

There’s a relentless onslaught of information coming at you, often causing confusion and clutter in your life. You necessarily must be able to separate the useful from the useless, engaging in a a kind of distraction due diligence.

You need to take charge of the world around you, avoiding the tendency to follow the herd. This means you should:

  • Stop second-guessing what you believe is important to your career success
  • Refuse to fear being wrong, out-shined, or outplayed by others; instead just do what you do best
  • Be willing to differentiate yourself by showcasing your talents and commitment to quality work
  • Expect to be seen and heard, not to be kept faceless and at arm’s length
  • Build meaningful relationships with colleagues that mirror what you want from them

The fear of missing out (FOMO) is a guarantee that you will. It’s impossible to be in tune with everything that’s going on around you. Most of it doesn’t matter to your career plan anyway.

What you don’t want is to miss out on the relationships, creative sharing, emerging insights, and depth of thought/experience that comes from focused engagement with the people you work with.

Resist with courage

It takes courage to resist distractions, especially when you’re surrounded by others addicted to them. Distractions become a cop out, an excuse for putting off decisions, completing work, and reaching out to others. It’s time to fight back.

Being busy being busy is the road to nowhere. Beat the traffic and take the undistracted route.

 

 

Hungry for a Hearty Career? Stir Up Your Tolerance for Starting Over.

Most of us dread starting over. It means more cursed change.

Some profess to love change, believing it’s about new beginnings. Those wary of change understand it’s about ends.

Nothing changes unless something stops. Whether we’re optimistic about the change or not, we’re still left with the impacts of “end-ness:”

  • Familiar routines become undone
  • Our role is defined differently
  • Relationship dynamics are affected
  • Adapting to new processes and tools is required
  • Performance expectations shift
  • Opportunities for advancement blur

You’re hard pressed to develop a rich career without embracing change, even as it turns your world upside down.

A career of many colors

The days of cradle-to-grave careers (and even professions) are over, cry as some might. Ours is a business world of movement, innovation, mergers, technological advancement, and speed.

As business changes, the outlines of our careers change with it. We need to see ourselves in the business of building a career path that has sustainability and heft.

You may have a degree in education, computer science, marketing, finance, or business administration. Today that just means you’ve demonstrated the ability to learn, to perform proficiently against standards, and to conduct yourself appropriately in a learning environment.

How any of that a contributes to developing a career is about what you do next.

A hearty career is the amalgamation of many steps and decisions, assembled in linear progression or wildly divergent.

You take the success potential out of building a career when you’re afraid to start over…and over…and over.

Your career is a business trip–you get in gear, follow one route for a while, arrive at one destination, see the sights, discover a new path, change or shift gears, and set yourself in motion again.

Some people arrive at their first career destination and stay there. Very few find their dream jobs, at least right away. But you can tell those who have stopped dreaming or even looking. They complain about pretty much everything.

That’s generally what happens when you’re afraid to start over.

Big careers start small.

It’s the rare person who knows what they want to do with their life while a teenager. But that’s where career paths too often get started.

You see where you get your best grades, assume that’s where your talents are, and set your sights on schools that will credential you. Then you go into the job market, promote your abilities, and get your first real job.

That initial job is your first, small step on the road to a potentially big career ahead. Chances are, though, you’ll have to find the courage to choose from many forks in the road to get there.

Do you want to:

  • Stay in sales or move into marketing?
  • Continue as a company programmer or join an app development start up?
  • Remain a classroom teacher or launch an on-line course design company?
  • Commit to a family-owned business or work in a Fortune 100 company?
  • Play forever as a country band singer/guitarist or go solo in Nashville?

Building a big career means making smart choices. It’s not about following your passion but rather about building a strong base of tested skills and experiences that are your marketable assets. (No one makes this case more strongly than Cal Newport in his book, So Good They Can’t Ignore You.)

Every career decision you make builds on the previous ones, both the good and the bad.

Careers are the ultimate platform for self-discovery, and if you’re lucky, some company is paying you while you figure out your best path.

Fight the fear.

Starting over is scarier than staying put. A lot of worry often comes with your choices.

But when there’s a great opportunity that’s right in front of you, that’s the moment when you must face your fear of change and go for it. So stir up your tolerance for starting over and satisfy your  hunger for a fulfilling career.

 

Refocusing Your Know-how | From the Pick and Roll to the Prostate

 We get known for what we do and have always done. That’s how personal brands evolve.

It’s easy to ride out a positive brand. Just keep doin’ what you’ve been doin’ so you can keep earnin’ what you’ve been earnin’…and maybe a little more, if you’re lucky.

Tested know-how is a kind of career currency. You know when and how to use it successfully– a comfort to the people you work with.

When we add value and make a difference, our work satisfies us.

Then sometimes the ground shifts and we have to shift with it. Or we may see a unique opportunity and decide to push ourselves into new space.

In both cases, your know-how comes with you, providing the foundation for your next move.

Be ready…and steady.

Think of your knowledge and skills like an investment account. The more equity you build, the more prepared you are for surprises.

Things have a habit of changing when you least expect them to:

  • The company reorganizes, merges, or gets bought.
  • You get reassigned (up or down), furloughed, or dismissed.
  • You become ill, disabled, or injured.
  • The product or service line changes and the processes you’ve mastered with it.

Suddenly, the once clear path to sustainable success becomes confusing, uncertain, and even frightening.

Take heart: Your rock is still there. It’s your know-how.

The transferable skills, knowledge, and experience that you’ve always relied on remain, ready to be tapped into anew.

The task at hand now is about focusing yourself on immediate problems and needs. Then putting your know-how to work to resolve them.

Digging in

Recognizing how your know-how can start to restore your sense of control is a crucial first step.

Jack McCallum, acclaimed writer for Sports Illustrated and author of nine books, most of them about great basketball teams and players, is a case in point.

He is an expert at the nuances of  basketball moves like the pick and roll. His sports and journalistic know-how are clear in his writing. In his early sixties, he was gradually throttling down his career.

Then he got prostate cancer.

So what did he do? He wrote about it. First in a  op ed piece in The Morning Call newspaper where he shared his personal logic for following the “watchful waiting”  protocol. He got lots and lots of emails from lots and lots of people–prostate cancer survivors, widows, and physicians.

This response spawned his decision to turn his journalistic skills for research, interviewing, and rational thinking to the challenge of prostate cancer decision-making. What he discovered informed his own treatment decision (which was ultimately to have his prostate removed) and to demystify, as much as that’s possible, the complex arena of prostate cancer treatment.

His first result was ending up cancer free with minimal side-effects.

prostate 819CxxluCaL__SL1500_-220x360The second was his book, The Prostate Monologues: What Every Man Can Learn from My Humbling, Confusing, and Sometimes Comical Battle with Prostate Cancer.

(Suggestion: If you are someone or know someone with prostate cancer, this book is an important read, actually more like a conversation with a good friend over coffee…lots of important factual information, anecdotes, cases, and a few laughs when needed.)

Build portable know-how.

Almost everything you know how to do at your job is a transferable skill.

Whether you need to rebound from a calamity or you want to explore a new direction, there are many ways to give your seasoned skills a new platform and focus.

Consider utilizing your:

  • Web design skills to format e-books for self-published writers
  • Financial skills to support a non-profit needing a comptroller
  • Public speaking skills for a cause that needs a strong voice
  • Fine arts skills to help traumatized children express themselves
  • Project management skills to aid a community group in chaos

Your know-how is exclusively yours. You developed it in ways that express who you are, and it has become integral to your brand. It’s there when you need it, so take good care of it. Then when you’re called upon, you’re ready to step up.

Confronting the Employee Attitude Problem | Help for Supervisors

I wrote this post in March 2010 and it has enjoyed the highest number of page views. I realized that during my blog site switchover that searchers were having difficulty locating it. So it seemed like a good time to re-post it with a revised title.

employee attitude472_-3A supervisor’s nightmare—the employee with a “problem” attitude. Makes you feel like you just drew the Old Maid card.

What to do? You have an employee with a personality, work style, or temperament that is driving you crazy or aggravating others, making it harder to get the work done. And you don’t want to fire.

Performance appraisal is how supervisors save us from ourselves. 

Good supervisors use appraisal to teach and guide. Most employees with attitude issues aren’t aware of any problem: it’s just their way.

You know you’ve got an “attitude” problem employee when these things start to happen:

  • Peers would rather do a job alone than work with him/her
  • Discussion at a meeting goes dead when he/she speaks
  • S/he insists that work be done his/her way or hoards work
  • Direction is always questioned
  • S/he consistently criticizes, competes with, or dismisses the work of others

Each of these situations points to an attitude that needs defining. Where to start?

Connect “attitude” to observable behaviors that impact productivity.  

The first step in dealing with “attitude” issues is to demonstrate how the employee’s behavior is affecting the work. Here’s how you prepare:

  • Observe and take notes of specific instances (about 6) where the attitude was obvious.
  • Make a list of the impacts you saw, like defensiveness from others, resistance, stalled decisions, or delay.
  • Determine specifically how these impacts will affect the output of your work group.

Next meet with the employee to talk about their performance to date and your intention to coach them to improve:

  • Raise the attitude issue by sharing your recent observations, naming the dates and situations.
  • Explain what you observed and ask them to offer their perspective.
  • Be specific about the current and future impacts of their “attitude” on the productivity of the group.
  • Ask what they are willing to do to improve and how you can help them.

Raise the stakes and engage the employee in orchestrating his/her own change. 

Most of us don’t change unless there are negative consequences that we can avoid by doing things differently. The more we want to make a positive change and reap the rewards, the more invested we are in the work we need to do.

At this point, explain the next steps to the employee:

  • Together agree on a performance goal(s) for the balance of the year focused on the “attitude” change that needs to be made
  • Require the employee to write and submit a plan of action to achieve it
  • Establish how this change will be evaluated

Gather direct feedback from peers and internal customers. 

Nothing gets our attention more than knowing what others are saying about us, especially in the workplace. So here’s what you can do:

  • Develop 5-8 questions with the employee to be asked of their internal customers, focused on their approach to getting work done.
  • Identify 8-10 peers and internal customers that the employee will ask to answer those questions.
  • Develop a process and timing for collecting the feedback and submitting it confidentially to you.
  • Explain that, as the supervisor, you will also ask 8-10 people to respond.
  • Compile the feedback. Discuss summarized findings with the employee.
  • Reset his/her goals and strategies to improve.

If you are cringing about the effort this takes, I understand. But if you’ve ever fired anyone for poor performance, you know that the documentation, meetings, and general agony of that process make this look like a vacation.

The first pass at this requires the most work. The next time is much easier. How you handle your first “attitude” problem will gain you enormous credibility with your employees. It’s an approach that demonstrates your commitment to helping employees succeed. Being business fit means taking the lead when the chips are down. This is one of those times.

What kinds of “bad attitudes” have you witnessed in the workplace? How were they handled? Any ideas to add? Thanks.

Photo from Freedigitalphotos.net

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

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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.

Photo from WordPress

“Living in Fear” at Work? Why? | Overcoming the Killer Consequences of Suspicion

Suspicion is our enemy. It spawns defensiveness, driving our optimism, courage, and self-confidence underground. And we let it. living in fear 7597105228_1b6c41eddc_n

As a consequence, we allow it to turn us inside out, then blame it for our woes.

Avoid fabricating backstories.

There’s no getting around the inevitable, ever constant change that’s the daily bread of business:

  • The CEO announces that all employees need to be more accountable for their work output and then implements a company-wide training program to launch a new accountability culture.
  • A couple of popular, high-ranking managers are let go for unstated reasons and ushered out without time to pack up their things.
  • Organization changes are announced and long-time gurus of the business are passed over; younger, up-and-comers are given coveted, high visibility roles.
  • Your boss reconfigures your job duties unexpectedly, requiring you to develop new technical skills.

These changes produce angst. What does it mean to our careers? To our ability to keep our jobs?

Most of the time we understand little at best about the reasons that drive these changes. The less we know that more suspicious become about what’s behind it all.

In the absence of information, we fill in the blanks ourselves, creating backstories that morph into dramas we accept as reality. So we tell ourselves:

  • “My department is always blamed for late reports, so this accountability training is about us. I wonder whose head they’re after. Maybe I’ll be the scapegoat.”
  • “One day the CEO talks about leaders having to be more flexible and the next day those managers are gone. I could be next.”
  • “If they demote the managers who are the keepers of the company’s historic knowledge, that means they can’t see much value in what I know.”
  • “My boss knows that I don’t have all the skills for my new job duties. It feels like I’m being set up to fail which could get me fired or displaced.”

We think self-composed, doomsday stories will prepare us for the worst. But they only drive us into an unhealthy state of “living in fear” of the Career Grim Reaper.

Focus on facts .

The notion of “living in fear” of losing your job or workplace status is self-imposed hyperbole, a desire to create drama in your head around the unsettling aspects of change.

We all tend to fear the unknown. So the antidote is information, the factual kind.

When facing changes at work, ask yourself what you actually know. Be careful not to accept as fact what your fellow employees are telling you, since they’re prone to fabricating their own stories based on supposition and hearsay.

Focus on what you’re contributing–your work output, behavior, skills, and willingness to adapt to change:

  • Listen to what the leadership wants from you and determine how you can deliver it.
  • Realize that when managers are let go, their release is not about you. Stay focused on your role and performing well.
  • Recognize that the repositioning of employees in an organization is how new leaders and fresh thinking are fostered.  See those changes as clues to what you need to demonstrate to move up.
  • Accept that the way you do your job will continually change. Instead of dreading new requirements and technology, be prepared to accept them.
  • Be ahead of the curve by continually looking for ways to improve the way work is done.

Stay focused on the actual work you’re performing and the feedback you’re receiving.

Work grounded.

You can only control your own output and behavior. Although it’s important to observe what’s going on around you, getting caught up in the intrigue will only distract you from what you’re paid to do.

It’s easy to get drawn into the paranoia, doomsday projections, and soap opera scenarios of coworkers, but that’s a trap itself.

Instead, stick to what’s real–the work in front of you. Listen to direction that comes from the leadership and do your best to ride the change train to a successful career.

Photo from Razan alhammad via Flickr

Ready to Tackle Drama, Change, Fear, and Accountability? Follow 5 Reality-Based Rules.

Wakeman 9781118413685_p0_v3_s260x420I love a straight-shooter, someone who cuts through the fluff and excuses to expose the unvarnished realities of the workplace. That’s what I discovered with Cy Wakeman when I was invited to blog about the insights in her new book, The Reality-Based Rules of the Workplace. We may not like to see the sides of ourselves revealed in her pages, but the insights will makes us better, happier, and more successful.

A lot goes on around us at work. It’s easy to become oblivious to much of it until we get caught in the crossfire.

Too often our own naiveté about what our companies and bosses expect of us causes us to adopt attitudes and behaviors that are detrimental. To succeed we need to understand the realities that drive business and the often unspoken  rules that, when followed, will propel us in the right direction.

Face yourself.                                    

In her new book, The Reality-Based Rules of the Workplace, business consultant and speaker, Cy Wakeman, cuts to the chase on the behaviors that will make or break your success.

She gets it about why we are lured down the paths of wrong thinking and provides clear steps to get us back on track. She never deviates from the point that success is about how you and I choose to think and act.

Wakeman reminds us that:  cy wakeman b03fcc37bdbc0a7f02356f_L__V396196531_SX200_

When you feel vulnerable, even defensive, it’s all too easy to blame the economy, political leaders, your boss–everyone except the one person you can control: yourself.

…no one is born accountable, self-reliant, self-mastered, and resilient, yet these are the qualities that count, the ones that will fill you with confidence….

To become what she calls  “happy high-performers,” we need to take stock of ourselves. Through her self-rating checklists and strategies to increase your rating score, you can assess:

  • Your current performance
  • Your future potential
  • Your emotional expensiveness (the cost of being a high maintenance employee)

To assess emotional expensiveness she asks if:

  • “You are dramatic….
  • You come to work in a bad mood.
  • You share a lot of personal information with coworkers….
  • You complain a lot, or judge others.
  • You have an entitled or victim mind-set….”

With your answers in mind, she adds a positive perspective:

…good things come to those who are Emotionally Inexpensive. They are magnets for jobs, promotions, raises, and opportunities of all kinds.

Wakeman makes a strong point about the importance of determining where we stand in the context of our workplace, so we can build a career sustaining strategy.

She writes:

Meeting performance expectations is now the price of keeping your job. But it isn’t enough to guarantee you anything extra–recognition, benefits, or job security.

5 reality-based rules

It’s not uncommon for us to struggle to understand what’s really going on around us at work.

It’s also not uncommon to need help understanding the reality of our own behaviors: what’s driving us, who do we let influence our thinking, how do we overcome our fears, and what are we doing to enable our own happiness.

Wakeman’s five reality-based rules help you sort through the maze. Here are the rules and a peek at Wakeman’s insights about them:

1. Accountability determines happiness

You will get results when you stop…focusing on what is happening “to” you, and focus on…what you can do …to compete, to deliver, and to succeed.

2. Ditch the drama.

Without drama weighing you down , you will be free to make accountable choices, free of your stories and excuses, free of your and other people’s drama.

3. Action adds value.

If your motive is to stop the course of action or question a decision, change your focus from why it won’t work to how you can help make it work. Get willing, buy in, and use your expertise to mitigate the risks you see.

4. See change as opportunity.

Be ready for what’s next….Don’t let fear of failure stop you from trying.

5. Face extenuating circumstances and succeed anyway.

Confront conflicts early, calmly, and in a spirit of teamwork…Ask, ‘How can I help?’ Get clear on goals, roles, and procedures.

Aha moments

The road to career success is paved with aha moments and Wakeman provides a plethora of them in her book. You will find yourself, your boss, your coworkers, and many people outside of work there.

Understanding how your attitudes, behaviors, and self-deception can create toxicity is a powerful realization. Realizing and practicing a new and more savvy perspective enables you to see things with the clarity you need