Losing Momentum? Get Someone in Your Corner. | Encouragement Power

Nothing beats a good streak. Things fall into place with ease. Good stuff gets done. Our

By: rayand

confidence rises. Our skills deliver. Optimism soars. We’re on a roll.

You know what they say about streaks? They’re made to be broken. Few teams win all their games and few, if any of us, win every round as our careers unfold.

The first time we get knocked down, we dig deep and get back up, ready to try again. Get knocked down again or, even worse, get knocked out, and our knees become jelly. Our down times get longer.

That’s when someone in your corner becomes a difference maker.

No going it alone

Mentors, career coaches, and trainers wouldn’t be important to career development if navigating the ups and downs of successful careers were effectively achieved solo.

There are some who think that using these resources (and your boss if you have a growth-oriented one) is a sign of weakness, insecurity, and neediness. Au contraire!

Taking advantage of the wisdom, perspectives, and knowledge of others is precisely how you build your own capabilities, know-how, savvy, and self-management.

Career growth is a function of momentum–your ability to keep maturing on the job, building your value, and expanding the scope of your responsibilities. The biggest momentum killers are self-doubt, loss of courage, and exhausted motivation.

The remedy in large part is encouragement. You need someone you respect and trust to help you see, understand, and reignite the success characteristics you have demonstrated in the past and need to build on for the future.

Country music star, Brad Paisley, wrote in his book, Diary of a Player:

My hero Little Jimmy Dickens [a diminutive, Grand Ole Opry star of old] has a saying, and this is, “If you see a turtle on a fence post, it had help getting up there.”

A leg up, someone in your corner, the voice of wisdom, and a helping hand are essentials to a lasting career. Momentum is a byproduct of encouragement.

E power

This time the E is for encouragement, not electronic. We often forget how powerful the right words at the right time can be.

We all need encouragement and we also need to give it freely. What goes around comes around. Encouragement  takes so little and means so much.

Encouragement takes many forms. These five demonstrate the potential impact inherent in E-power:

  1. Re-instill self-belief–”This presentation, Joe, is no more difficult than others that you’ve given with great success.”
  2. Motivate effort– “It’s time to dig down and get this project done, Allison. I know you can do it and so do you. The results really matter.”
  3. Add meaning “By accepting this tough assignment, Bob, you’ve told management that you’re willing to put yourself out there for the good of the company. It may feel scary but you will succeed.”
  4. Reduce anxiety“Everyone who wants to do a good job worries about falling short when the stakes are high, Maureen. You have the right skills, strong personal commitment, and a good team around you. Just give it your best shot and draw on the resources around you.”
  5. Defuse aloneness–”I know you feel like you’re bearing the weight of this project alone, Janet, but you’re not. I’m here and so are the others invested in the results. Let’s meet at least once a week over lunch to talk.”

Encouragement is the great eraser. It removes the blots and blurs that cloud our ability to overcome times of uncertainly. It’s a gift that keeps on giving.

Ask and you shall receive.

When you feel uncertain about your choices, performance effectiveness, on-the-job relationships, skills and knowledge, job opportunities, and assignments, reach out.

Your need for encouragement won’t always be obvious, so let the right people know when you’re feeling wobbly .

Others have been in your shoes and they will want to help by sharing their experiences and insights, anything to give you a needed lift..

The more we help each other, the more we increase our collective momentum. And then everyone soars.

Want an Incredible Career? Discover What You’ve Got. | Maximize Your Potential

maximizeyourpotential_small_2__V355563455_Amazon Publishing was kind enough to send me a copy of Maximize Your Potential: Grow Your Expertise, Take Bold Risks, & Build an Incredible Career, so I could read it for a blog post. Because I got so much out of Jocelyn Glei’s first book, Manage Your Day-to-Day, I was eager to read this one. It’s a winner.

Ever been told, “You have potential”? What was being predicted about you? What did those words actually mean?

In business, “potential” generally means having the capacity for growth or development. It’s that latent capability that portends something bigger and better for our careers and the organization’s success.

Potential is a nice sounding word that can puff us up, giving us reason for optimism about our future. Too often that’s where it ends.

We get no details to build on, only those indecipherable clues imbedded in the occasional feedback from our bosses.

Generally, the best we can do is try to surmise how others think our potential will play out. It might mean we have:

  • what it takes to achieve leadership greatness or simply to take one step up the company ladder
  • the intelligence to earn multiple degrees/certifications or the ability to master html to support the company website
  • the assertiveness needed to sell the company’s high end products or the emotional intelligence to handle customer care services

Typically, there’s a trap here–believing what others say about your potential and charting your career course based on it.

Own your potential.

Your potential resides within you. When others tell you what they “see” as your potential, it’s through their lens, often one biased by what they and the organization need.

Jocelyn Glei’s new book, Maximize Your Potential, focuses us on the “you” of “your potential.” Since it’s an asset, you need to own it fiercely, developing it to take you where you want to go.

Like Glei’s earlier book, Maximize Your Potential is an integrated collection of short pieces from important thought leaders who help us find clarity and focus in our careers.

Cal Newport, Georgetown University professor and author of So Good They Can’t Ignore You, confronts the oft cited advice to “follow your passion” in the context of maximizing potential.

He writes:

…few people have pre-existing passions that they can match to a job. Telling them to ‘follow their passion,’ therefore is a recipe for anxiety and failure….

If you’re like me,  you’ve struggled to align how you see your potential with the elusive specter of something you might construe as passion.

Whenever someone I respected at work expressed optimism about my potential, it seemed like another bread crumb trail that would lead me to my passion. It wasn’t.

If I had known  these two lessons from Newport’s research, I may have fared better:

 Lesson 1: What you do for a living matters less than you think.

To build a career, the right question is not “What job am I passionate about doing?” but instead “What way of working and living will nurture my passion.”

Lesson 2: Skill precedes passion.

..if you want something rare and valuable, you need to offer something rare and valuable in return–and in the working world, what you have to offer are your skills.

Now I see. Because developing skills comes before passion:

It doesn’t matter if we fully understand our potential at any given moment.

          I just matters that we develop as many skills and as much job knowledge as we can.

The byproduct is discovery or rediscovery of our passion.

Heidi Grant Halvorson, author and researcher, currently at Columbia Business School, reminds us to focus on getting better, rather than being good.

When we look at our passion and potential as co-contributors to our success, take a steadied and positive approach to tapping into both, we position ourselves for an incredible career.

Tend to your garden.

Understanding your potential starts with you. But you can’t uncover it unless you turn over the ground where your career is planted.

Maximize Your Potential gives you tools you need and explains how to use them well: diaries, daily rituals, skills practice, and relationship building.

Your potential may always be a bit of a mystery. All of us need help cutting through the weeds to find the fruit. Luckily for us, this book is a sharp scythe.

The Mystery of the Aha Moment and What Solving It Means to Your Career

First there was “aha,” a term used to express surprise, pleasure, or triumph. So sayeth mystery 13318545_f743938571_mThe American Heritage Dictionary.

Then there was the “aha moment,” a phrase meaning  “a moment of sudden realization, inspiration, insight, recognition, or comprehension,” first known to be used in 1939 according to Merriam Webster, well before the Oprah Show.

Had any aha moments lately? The kinds that give you big clues about:

  • how you’re doing at your job
  • what next steps you should take
  • what lies ahead for you
  • who cares about your growth

If “no” is your answer, not to worry. Aha moments are neither plentiful or crystal clear.

Start with, “I wonder?”

You’re more likely to experience an aha moment when you ramp up your curiosity.

When your career starts out, everything’s a mystery. You wonder:

  • Am I doing things right?
  • Do my boss and coworkers like me?
  • Is this job what I really wanted?
  • Is this a good place to build a career?

A few timely aha moments would likely come in handy to influence your answers and build your self-confidence, optimism, motivation, and self-belief,

“I wonder” questions can be a gateway to “aha moments.”

Connect the dots.

Career aha moments can be enigmatic, easily missed or dismissed, until we stop and think.  At least that’s how it was for me.

I came to a staff job at a Fortune 500 energy company after ten years teaching high school. With no business experience, it felt like a big adventure. I had zero career expectations, other than wanting to make a difference.

I started out in consumer education working with community educators to develop energy conservation curriculum materials. The company considered me their resident expert and gave me lots of freedom.

As a result, lots got done and that got noticed. However, I never directly connected my work with career advancement.

One day I was invited by the department manager to ride to a company event with him and his VP. I didn’t think much of it at the time, sat in the back seat, and was privy to their conversation. They were very open about lots of subjects that seemed,…well…executive.

On the way back, we stopped at the VP’s mother’s house. She was elderly and needed to have her storm windows lowered. She served us beverages and cookies. Then we headed home.

On the return drive, I had my “aha moment.”

“Really.” you ask? Yes, really.

Until that trip, I wondered why I, a former school teacher, was given so much freedom and access in my job. Now I knew.

The big reveal

They simply trusted me.

They trusted that I would:

  • hold confidential their conversations
  • conduct myself as a peer while respecting their positions
  • support the direction of the business
  • be open and honest, reliable and consistent in my work

Aha!

But one aha does not a lasting realization make. That moment was only a beginning, a foundation. It revealed how important trust was in that organization.

So I started to watch for other signs of their trust in me and found them. Each renewed aha moment affirmed how trust, along with capability, can give your career a marathoner’s legs.

As I moved up, I came to see how trust drives results when:

  • Employees trust their boss will be fair
  • Coworkers trust their peers to be supportive
  • Bosses trust their managers to set achievable goals
  • Executives trust their teams to stand together

Trust matters.

Trust comes from doing what you say you’re going to do and non-attribution, particularly not telling stories out of school.

When you can be trusted to hold confidences, perform ethically, and uphold the right values, you may discover more career aha moments than you can fathom and create some too.

Photo by DerrickT via Photoree

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

Feeling Thankful or Resentful? 5 Attitudes to Fuel Job Happiness

thanksful 4093883697_ae2b8d84e2_mA job is a relationship. When we sign on, we marry its requirements and the family that comes with it–a boss, coworkers, and customers.

A job can bring bliss or frustration on any given day. The only constant in our jobs is us. The skills we bring, our attitudes, and the actions we take make an indelible impact on our job happiness.

So, what’s your take?

Call it chemistry or culture, every workplace has a vibe. It may be upbeat, sour, defensive, or exciting. Whatever the tone, we are prone to be affected by it.

For some reason, it’s easier to see the bleak side of things, especially when those around us are harping about the:

  • unfair workload
  • self-serving boss
  • crumby equipment
  • frustrating customer complaints

Where we work isn’t supposed to be paradise. A workplace is more like a laboratory where we experiment and test new ideas, applications, and improvements. It’s a place where change, challenge, and disruption are the rule rather than the exception.

This realization can help us recalibrate our expectations about the swirl of things around us. Instead of resenting them, there’s reason to be thankful.

The gratitude edge

Getting happy at work means reconfiguring the way we see things and recognizing the asset value of the challenges and personalities that make up our surroundings. Gratitude for the opportunity to be in the mix is actually good for us.

Mary MacVean of the Tribune Newspapers, wrote in a December 31, 2012 article:

…if we developed the discipline [of gratitude] on a regular basis, year-round, research shows we’d be happier and suffer less depression and stress. We’d sleep better and be better able to face our problems.”

Then she quotes Robert Emmons, a University of California at Davis professor who has been studying gratitude since 1998:

…it’s one of the few things that ‘can measurably change people’s lives. Gratitude implies humility–a recognition that we could not be who we are or where we are in life without the contributions of others.’

The issue of humility is a big one: It’s about recognizing that we have the job we’re in because, along the way and even now, other people:

  • encouraged us
  • gave us training
  • attested to our abilities
  • had our backs
  • gave us opportunity
  • lent a hand

Our successes are not just about us–our deeds, our smarts, and our promise. They also comes through others.

5 Strategies

We all have down days at work, days when we’re not sure we’re in the right job. That’s just reality.

In total, though, our progress comes from the series of tests that we overcome with the help of bosses and colleagues who give us a shot, promote our capabilities, and help us move forward.

Attitudes of gratefulness need to be practiced. To increase your job happiness, you can start by being thankful for:

  1. The comfort of a paycheck, even if it’s less than what you may need or want. It’s predictability is a secure foundation for the financial and career choices you make going forward.
  2. Essential job duties that help you master or expand your skills while learning how they impact the business and insights that can position you for another job within or outside your company
  3. A difficult boss who requires you to become more assertive, a better negotiator, more thick skinned, a better performer, or a more strategic thinker
  4. Trusted workmates who encourage you, teach you tricks of the trade, help you get out of your shell, walk you through disappointments, offer friendship
  5. Good working conditions with current technologies, safe equipment, comfortable facilities, and benefits

Seek thankfulness

Every job doesn’t meet our every need, but there are always good features we can be thankful for. The grass is not always greener, so we need to feed and water the grass we have under our feet.

The more you can grasp and internalize the reasons you have to be grateful in your job, the happier you will be. Smile…that helps too!

Photo from from Ateupamateur via Flickr