All In or Just Passing Go? Getting Good Pays Off | Seinfeld Says

“Ho hum.” That’s too often the mantra about our jobs.

We do our work routinely, passing go, like in the Monopoly game, collecting our weekly paychecks, hoping our mundane job will one day turn into a thrill ride.

The fact is: We get from our jobs what we expect…of ourselves. What we put in determines what comes out.

When it comes to creating a long, satisfying career, each of us is accountable.

It’s not about the boss who won’t promote you or the company that doesn’t provide training or the coworkers who are duds. It’s about you:

  • the goals you set,
  • the quality of work you do,
  • the effort you make to build skills,
  • the risks you’re willing to take–like saying “yes” to new assignments or switching companies

The truth is:

Getting good brings you to a love of your work.

Achieve that and the payoffs are yours.

All in?

You know who the serious careerists are at work. You see them knuckling down and pounding out the work. They know what they want to get good at because that’s where their strengths and interests are. So they keep testing themselves, making “can do” their mantra.

Employees who come to work only to pass go are a drag on the organization. They perpetuate the status quo when success requires growth. Ho hum locks you in place..

Getting good

Our strengths are the starting point for getting good. By focusing on strengths that motivate you consistently, you can set goals that keep inching you toward the career success you want.

Comedian, Jerry Seinfeld, from the TV series and mega-hit, Seinfeld, is a case in point.

He appeared on the Mike and Mike in the Morning program on ESPN (January 30, 2014) for the first time. Co-host Michael Greenberg asked Seinfeld questions that led to insightful (not funny) answers.

First, Greenburg wanted to know why Seinfeld was still doing standup and other projects since he didn’t need the money:

 Anybody who’s ever good at anything is doing it because they love it…it’s a way of life for me, it’s not about the money…it feels like you’re using what you have.

Seinfeld spoke openly about how he struggled to become a good comedian. Performing on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson was his big moment: Succeed there or go up in flames. He had to be “all in” or else.

Seinfeld observed in successful baseball players that same commitment to being all in:

I admire anyone who is in love with their craft and their pursuit. People who kill themselves with the physical and prep side of the game…I want to see how they approach the game. The guys who put the mental work into the game.

Seinfeld recognizes that getting good means understanding how success is achieved:

Baseball is a beautiful model of how things happen…In football it’s hard for us to understand the formations and the play calls. In baseball we can see pretty easily what happened.

In our careers we need to see and understand what’s going on too–the politics of the workplace, the competitive environment, performance expectations, and the capabilities of our coworkers.

Being all in at work means being fully aware of what’s going on in our field of play.

Recommit.

Getting good is a commitment you build on for as long as you wish. Seinfeld recently launched a on-line video series, Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee. It’s an unscripted conversation that takes his comedian guests, as he says, “out of their packaging.”

Seinfeld  wanted to learn “how things happen” around internet programming, being fascinated by the idea that he could shoot a segment and then: “I can immediately put a show in your pocket.”

Once you know what “all in” feels like, it can take you places you never imagined.

All of us aren’t Jerry Seinfeld, but we’re either all in or just passing go in our careers. Now’s a good time to raise the volume on your “can do” mantra and recommit.

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?

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

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

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

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

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

 Protect what matters.

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

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

Consider the potential criticism leveled at a supervisor who:

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

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

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

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

Keep your head out of the sand.

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

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

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

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

The board decided on some key actions:

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

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

 Averting criticism

You avert criticism by defusing the arguments of your critics:

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

By getting ahead of an issue, you empower yourself.

These steps also help if you’ve:

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

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

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

Photo by lel4nd via Photoree

 

 

 

 

Sleeping with Failure? There’s Success Under the Covers. | Undaunted Leadership

under cover 2463007473_0a30db1690_mFailure happens in spite of our best efforts to avert it.

Fear of impending failure can be haunting, even crippling. It can drain our self-confidence, crush our optimism, and stress our every move. It can also ignite us to fight the good fight, motivating us to do whatever it takes to stop it.

But failure will come anyway. When it does, we often feel defeated, believing our personal brand is forever tarnished and our career promise dashed.

That thinking would be wrong-headed.

Failure is an enigmatic bedfellow.

The reality is: Lots of success generally precedes failure. Companies don’t get to failure unless they’ve had a string of earlier successes that ultimately can’t bear the weight of the missteps. The same is true for us, as employees.

Leaders are the linchpin between success and failure. They are expected to take on business challenges and overcome them, facing potentially failure-laden problems like:

  • Turning an underachieving work group into a productive one
  • Achieving profitability from an existing or new product
  • Influencing financial analysts to upgrade company ratings
  • Attracting more investors/donors or winning grants to stay afloat
  • Reducing costs to remain competitive
  • Changing the operating model to increase efficiency
  • Restoring lost customer loyalty and/or confidence

Each of these challenges has the potential to tank the organization and the leader spearheading it.

In truth, not facing these challenges will ultimately guarantee failure. Neglect  begets failure. Taking on risk is your most important career-enhancing opportunity.

Impending failure showcases the leader’s ability to lead in times of trial. The steps s/he takes essentially buy time, stave off the inevitable, provide opportunities for repositioning, and create more elegant transitions.

Success is between the sheets.

Organizational failures, whether large or small, are often for the best.

When a business ends up closing or a work group gets eliminated, it means that what they were offering wasn’t what the times required.

Business failures are generally the by-product of decisions that took place before you became the leader.  Failures are set up well in advance through a variety of causes like:

  • A series of weak leaders
  • Low accountability and productivity
  • Unreliable revenue streams and poor expense management
  • Technology deficiencies and ineffective processes
  • A weak economy and the inability to compete

Business “failures” are basically transitions. Successfully leading an organization through the fallout from failure is a significant leadership achievement. It’s the most effective way to recast yourself and your professional brand as you move on.

The road to an unwanted business outcome is paved with an array of leadership initiatives that deliver, albeit temporarily, promising results like:

  • Redesigned survival strategies
  • Redirected resources (people, equipment, dollars)
  • New or enriched programs
  • Reduced costs and enhanced revenue
  • Performance and process improvements
  • Expanded partnerships and collaborative relationships
  • Improved communication initiatives
  • Broader outreach to community and public officials

As you look under the covers after a career-based failure, remember that the story line is about   the leadership initiatives you demonstrated. The culmination of those efforts likely:

  • Created an effective transition to a new direction or to endings
  • Demonstrated leadership decisiveness and courage
  • Provided valuable lessons learned for future ventures
  • Convinced stakeholders of hard-to-swallow business realities
  • Revealed the leader’s capabilities to face adversity effectively

We don’t like the feeling of failure and shouldn’t. But we can appreciate its value and the courageous actions it extracts from us.

Lead undaunted.

It’s easy to lead when everything is rosy. However, it’s the leader who gets us through a ship wreck with minimal casualties who earns our esteem.

Too often leaders blame themselves when things start to go south, as though all the decisions that set that course came from their desks. That’s rarely the case.

When potential failure becomes your reality, it’s your opportunity to step up and take the reins. Your actions may or may not turn things around, but your efforts will reveal a leader’s heart.

Photo from arkworld via Flickr

Invested in Your Job or Just Doing It? 7 Acts of Ownership | Embracing Crises

crisis 7836782464_fd003c0198_mSome days our jobs feel mundane. The work has become repetitive, our colleagues predictable, and our roles unchanging. Our don’t-rock-the-boat boss gives us less and less room to be creative or engaged beyond our daily tasks.

When this happens, it’s tempting to just put your nose to the grindstone, follow the job description to the letter, and lower your career expectations.

Deep down, you know this strategy isn’t good for you.

It’s your job, so work it.

Remember how important it was to get your job and the effort it took? Whether your job is one of a kind or one of many, it’s a specific area of the business that’s in your care. The way you perform matters.

If your job weren’t important, the company wouldn’t be willing to pay you for it. While your job description states the duties, you, personally, bring your standards, commitment, and honor to the work.

Recently, some terrible tragedies have been in the news. In the U.S., there was a devastating hurricane and an unfathomable mass shooting of elementary school children and their educators.

No first responder or school teacher has a job description that includes duties to perform when threats to human life fall upon him/her in enormous and unanticipated scale.

Most of us don’t have to face life and death situations in our jobs. But there are situations that we won’t/can’t tolerate–circumstances that call us to action.

It might be:

  • Bullying, bias, or discrimination of coworkers
  • Business decisions based on faulty or incomplete information
  • Product defects, known or suspected
  • Unsafe equipment or procedures
  • A sudden calamity in your work area, a stricken coworker, or destructive weather

When we’re faced with such situations, we discover how invested we are in our jobs based on the actions we take.

7 intervening actions

Owning our jobs in a crisis is not about being a hero or heroine. It’s about responding in ways that align our strengths and capabilities with  needs.

The teacher who steps in front of a gunman to protect her students and the first responder who wades through waist-deep water to save a life follow an inner drive compatible with the calling that drew them to their jobs.

We have a calling too. You may know today how far you would go to intervene in a crisis while others of us may not know until we’re in that crisis moment.

Here are 7 actions to consider. One or more may be what you’d be prepared to do:

  1. Step forward–Take charge; lead others; put fear aside and do what you believe is right
  2. Buy time–Deflect incoming negatives; implement stop-gap measures; negotiate options
  3. Steady the ship–Follow established procedures/protocols; create stability through regimen; reduce panic by reliance on routine
  4. Provide comfort–Keep a cool head; settle others using calm counsel; meet the emotional and physical needs of others; rally optimism
  5. Gather forces–Foster collaboration; collect and share input needed for decision-making; engage others able to help; create community
  6. Test solutions–Pilot test potential remedies; get feedback; fine-tune the fixes; build on successes; capture lessons learned
  7. Communicate relentlessly–Develop and deliver credible messages; keep everyone in the loop; listen and address questions/concerns; reduce the stress of not knowing

I’ve always felt like I owned the responsibilities stated or unstated in my jobs. If I saw a workplace injustice, I spoke up and then tried to do something about it. When people were upset about major workplace changes, I offered perspectives that would help ease the worry.

We all have some kind of help to offer in a crisis.

Embrace the moment

All crises are not created equal. No matter how big or small, when things go wrong, those affected are off-balance, fearful, uncertain, and even confused. That’s probably you too. But you have a chance to embrace the situation in your own way, using your skills and instincts to help fix things.

Please take a moment to think about your job and your investment it. What do you think you’d do in a crisis? I suspect it will be something very good.

Photo from mycos2012 via Flickr

The Coveted Manager Job–Grappling with a 3-Headed Monster

Finally, you’re a manager. You are now responsible for bigger things. The way you lead and the performance of your employees are what determine your value.

Pretty heavy stuff, eh?

We often covet those “big” job titles without knowing what’s expected. That old line, “Be careful what you wish for,” is a legitimate warning.

What a manager’s job looks like on the surface isn’t always what it is in reality. The sad truth is that when it’s your turn to be the manager, no one really tells you what you’re getting into. So you’d better ask.

Go on high alert!

No one wants their long-desired manager promotion to become a living hell.

In Greek mythology, the three-headed dog, Cerberus, guarded the gates of the Underworld so that no one (specifically, the dead) could get in or out without permission from the god Hades.

The better plan was to avoid heading hell-bound in the first place. The same is true when taking on a job as manager.

When it comes to hiring or promoting you as a manager, management is keenly aware of three things–your:

  • Readiness and desire
  • Knowledge and skills
  • Fit with employees and peers

Management may or may not be right about you, but these are the criteria that they’re using to make the decision. In some cases management may or may not be effective themselves. So you need to be careful about how you hear and process their offer.

Demand to know.

All manager jobs are not created equal.

You need know what kind of work group, function, or cluster of departments you are to manage and whether you’re ready to grapple with the monster facing you.

Manager jobs essentially fall into three categories which means, to be effective, you need to know if you are cut out for the task.

1. Maintaining the status quo: When you take over a work group that works well together and consistently meets performance expectations, you need to be comfortable supporting the way things are being done. Your role is to keep the wheels turning, reinforcing what’s effective and collaborating with employees  on any fine-tuning.

If you’re one who is numbed by the warm hum of a well-oiled machine all day or can’t resist poking the sleeping beast just to get a rise out of it, then this manager role isn’t for you.

2. Fixing a mess: Work group dysfunction, poor output, and/or declining relevance are often reasons why you’ve been chosen as the new manager. In these situations, processes are often broken, performance management is lax, and innovation is dormant. Your role is to make big change, deal with resistance, and take risks.

If you hate conflict, lack internal political savvy, don’t know how to leverage relationships, and are unwilling to be personally accountable for your decisions, then you need to rethink this job. Fixing a mess is arduous and often slow, so you’ll need to do some soul searching and/or even defer this kind of challenge for a while.

3. Creating something new: The need to create a new department  spawns the need for a new manager. Sometimes a new product/service line is the reason or the need to expand or split an existing function. Your role is to organize, staff, and deliver results, dealing with doubters and managing expectations.

If you have a low tolerance for ambiguity, thin skin, fear of failure, and an inability to turn abstract ideas into concrete output, then starting from scratch may not be the best fit for you. When your manager job requires you to become an internal entrepreneur literally,  that role needs to be in your blood.

Tame the monster.

Managing a work group can be exciting and fulfilling, but, like every job, it needs to fit you. Every monster can be tamed so you have to be smart about the ones you grapple with.

So look hard at the manager job you covet and make sure you’re clear about what you’d be getting into. Then take on the challenge with all you’ve got!

Image from PEU Report