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

Immature, Self-Absorbed, or Clueless? How to Save Employees from Themselves.

Employees can be maddening. They often behave in ways that seem to make no sense.

As supervisors, we try to understand what we see and hear, putting it into some kind of context so we can decide what, if anything, we should do.

No one said the job would be easy, but there are times it seems impossible.

Pay close attention

All employees come to work with personal job expectations and the history that spawned them.

As supervisors, we expect employees to perform their job duties, achieving set goals and adhering to standards and practices.

Simple, right?

Unfortunately, some employees don’t see their jobs from either a supervisor’s or the company’s perspective. They see them predominantly through a lens focused on their personal needs.

The temptation is to label these employees as immature, self-absorbed, and/or clueless, and then assume they are “young,” newly-minted entrants into the work world. Both would be a mistake.

Instead, the first signs of immaturity, self-absorption, and cluelessness that impact work negatively need to be identified and discussed with the employee right away.

As supervisors, if we let them slide, we:

  • grant employees a pass to continue them
  • validate that they are acceptable
  • establish them as the basis for replication by others
  • fail to correct issues that will hurt their future opportunities

If this makes you feel like a parent, that’s probably apt, especially for supervisors who have employees that don’t know how to:

  • behave professionally
  • connect their work with “why”  and “what” they are paid
  • subordinate their personal wants and needs to the “team”
  • connect the dots between what they do and how it affects the business

Make them matter

Part of a supervisor’s job is to help their employees avoid self-destructing, especially out of naiveté. This isn’t easy for two reasons:

  • Those conversations generally awkward for the supervisor.
  • Employees don’t want to or can’t, at the time, hear what you’re saying.

Employees are important people in any organization. It costs a lot to hire them and to fire them. By the time you get to supervise them, there was probably money spent to train them.

Aside from that, if, you, as a supervisor, know that an employee is doing things that will negatively affect his/her career, you really need to try to get through to them.

Think of it this way: If the employee’s behavior continues, they will eventually be so undesirable anywhere in the company, that they may one day lose their job. What you do to help them may save them from themselves.

Cues and clues

It can be easy to gloss over behaviors that lead to problems over time. They may seem unimportant at first, but when added together, can become career ending. Here are some examples:


  • Work attire that pushes the envelope
  • Excessive socializing
  • Excuses for unfinished work, lateness, and non-compliance with direction
  • An undisciplined approach to assignments


  • Need for repeated recognition and praise
  • Demands for promotion based solely on time in the current position
  • Expressed dissatisfaction with their job title
  • Compulsive use of social media on the job


  • Lack of emotional intelligence with their supervisor and coworkers
  • Narrow view of the impact and implications of ideas/decisions
  • Poor judgment and lack of sensitivity when communicating
  • Weak understanding of the business model and their role in it

Knowledge saves

We’ve all had career “don’t get it” moments. If we were lucky, we had family, friends, great bosses, colleagues, and mentors within reach to straighten us out.

That’s what supervisors need to be–teachers who will level with employees, help them retool their perspectives, and provide a better course of action to take.

I agree this can be icky. I’ve had my share of employees and clients who didn’t want to hear what I had to say, but I kept saying it until the day it registered. That day made all the frustrating ones worth it.

We often can’t save ourselves from ourselves until someone throws us a life preserver. Let that be you.

Photo from noelle-christine-images via Flickr

Outfoxing a Case of “The Nerves” | Handling Pivotal Moments

I admit it! I get nervous every time I’m in a work situation where I could fall on my face. It doesn’t matter how high or low the stakes, how often I’ve successfully met the same challenge, or how prepared I am. This has been my plight for decades. 

I simply dread the possibility, no matter how remote, of disappointing the expectations of people counting on me to do well for them. That includes myself! 

I wish I could tell you that I’ve found a magic cure, but I haven’t. I’ve just found a couple ways to deflect my nervousness long enough to get the job done. 

Put things in perspective 

Lots of pivotal situations put our nerves on edge: 

  • Meetings with the boss
  • Closing a big sale
  • Making a speech
  • Requesting project approval
  • Defending a controversial position 

Even though there’s always something at stake, we shouldn’t make each situation bigger than it really is by thinking: 

  • My professional brand and reputation are on the line
  • My credibility and the confidence of others are at risk
  • The future of this project and my career depend on this moment
  • My future leadership opportunities are riding on how I do now

This is so self-defeating. Yes, our performance counts. But rarely does one situation cast us in bronze. Instead of making a pivotal situation ”too hot,” we should be like Goldilocks and make it “just right.” 

It’s a huge mistake to focus on the outcome instead of the moment. I know this is hard to do. When we feel competitive, we want to win, get applause, and increase our value.  But that cranks up the nerves. 

Instead we should see events differently, perhaps more for what they are: 

  • First steps or next steps in an effort to move work along
  • Opportunities to engage professionally with individuals or groups
  • A stage to bring out the best in others or promote a new idea
  • A chance to see how it feels to be in a challenging situation  

When we make pivotal occasions about us, it’s pure ego. That’s why our nerves go nuts. Instead, if we focus on the work and the people it will serve, we can get outside of ourselves and into the needs of others. When we approach key moments as opportunities to give, our generosity of spirit can help quiet those nerves. 

Get over it 

I don’t think there is any permanent fix for “the nerves:” I suspect that some of us are just wired that way. But we can outfox them. 

Start by thinking about your pre-event routine. Nothing turns me inside out more than unexpected disruption on the “big day.” So I make sure I have: 

  • Plenty of time beforehand to get my “game face” on
  • Confirmed the logistics
  • Double-checked my materials or notes
  • Spoken with other colleagues participating

We also need to give ourselves the same pep talk that we’d give to a coworker in the same situation. Tell yourself and really believe truisms like:

  • You’re the best person for this task and everyone knows it
  • We all know how much you care about this work and it shows
  • There are so many people who have your back on this effort
  • You’ve been in this situation tons of times with great success
  • Make it fun for yourself 

I have work friends who remind me of these things every time I waiver, and it still works. 

Be fair to yourself 

Positive self-talk is central to our health and our success. When our nerves begin to stalk us, we need positive messages to send them back into the shadows. Our nervousness can take all the fun out of exciting opportunities. We aren’t treating ourselves fairly when we get in our own way. 

I count on my business fitness to help me keep my nerves in check. I know that will work for you too! 

What tricks to you have to overcome nervousness? Please help!