Self-Doubt is Debilitating
True story - 20 years ago I didn’t feel worthy of a $25,000.00 salary!
After 9 years of raising our daughters, I began the difficult task to return to the workforce, was turned down for every job I applied to and told my skills were ‘out-of-date’.
It felt horrible to be rejected, but what was worse was how I felt about myself. I remember sobbing to my husband ‘Who will ever pay ME $25,000 (the going rate) after being out of the workforce; all I am is a stay-at-home Mom!’
For us, it was the right decision for me to leave work to raise our family. Yet the shame of being seen as just a ‘housewife', made me feel so inferior to others. Just imagine how little confidence I had and what I projected to would-be employers?
It took me years to recognize that these doubt-filled feelings of being inadequate and 'less than' others were born from a broken internal monologue and low self-worth.
I didn't believe in myself.
Many people struggle with self-doubt or inferiority to others; you hear it in the stories they tell. It usually sounds like this: ‘I am not old enough’, ‘I’m too old’, ‘I don’t have enough experience’, ‘I’m not good enough’, ‘I don’t have the credentials, ‘No one see’s me as a leader’, ‘ I’m a new immigrant'. Unfortunately, just like me, these are also the beliefs that hold them back.
Since our society is hardwired to compare, compete, and judge how we stack up to one another it shouldn't be surprising we are hard on ourselves. But the stories we tell our self are usually cruel - filled with negative assumptions, judgements and even boldface lies!
The good news is, also like me, not only can you overcome the stories and lies you've been telling yourself, but also re-write your future to be filled with success!
Steps to Overcome Self-Doubt
Here are five steps I use to overcome self sabotaging doubt, improve self worth and plot the path to success.
Step One - Become Aware Of Your Story
First, notice the negative story you say. What does your rhetoric sound like? Really listen to those words. Better yet, catch yourself saying it aloud to someone else. What shame or inferiority are you carrying around? Can you hear it? If not, the people who know you well will already know it, so just ask them!
These negative stories show up as the excuses you use whenever you consider an opportunity but don’t pursue it! What is holding you back?
For me, it was "I'm just a housewife, who would hire me?"
What is yours?
Step Two - Check the Facts
I can confidently say that most of the internal chatter you tell yourself are lies! Time to do some fact checking.
• What evidence - actual data and facts - do you have to support the negative story you keep saying?
• What assumptions and beliefs you are holding onto?
• What are you afraid of? Is it real or perceived?
• Ask yourself ‘how do I know this is true’ or 'would that be an issue for anyone else?'
Then check yourself...am I jumping to conclusions or minimizing my strengths?
Step Three - Look in the Mirror
Reflect. Make a long list of your strengths and what makes you uniquely you! Think about what assets you've been told you have. Consider how you accomplish tasks, what are your stand-out qualities, or the strong points that have carried you through your life.
Brainstorm the list with others to identify all gifts and traits you bring to the world. These are your truths, and your super powers!
There is only one YOU and each of us have different attributes. Often negative self-doubt overlooks your greatness and focuses on the wrong characteristics! I can pretty much guarantee you were short-changing yourself.
Step Four - Reframe the Story
Change how you speak about yourself. Use the unique skills do you possess. Reframe by reviewing those attributes and how they positively impact others.
Redefine your experience - what you have spoken down about could well be a positive adventure or mountain you climbed! Reinvent that narrative - think about what it says about your character.
Create a new script then practice using it. Focus on finding the jewels that benefit or provide value to others.
Example: Here was my truth ...reframed:
• Raised two highly independent, well adjusted girls
• Obtained my CHRM and CHRP through night studies
• Operated two successful home-based businesses evenings and weekend
• Worked part-time as a teachers assistant for 4 years in a nursery school, as well as completing their Pay Equity plan
• Led hundreds of volunteers in fundraising activities for three different schools
• Served at two different schools as School Council President
My unique skills (never actually 'out of date'):
• Change leader
• Very Resourceful
Far from the 'housewife' I kept calling myself - in fact, I had great foundational skills that would benefit an ever-changing environment, I learn and adapt while helping others grow! I just needed to reframe what I was telling myself to find these gems!
Step Five - Be Your Best Friend
Learn to love who you are. Have faith and trust in your own abilities. I say "be your own best friend."
Many people find positive affirmations to be helpful to quiet their internal critic and self-doubt. Take the reframing you discover and build positive affirmations to replace the BS as it surfaces, just like a best friend would say to you! Best friends would not talk to you the way you’ve been talking to yourself.
You're damn good - now tell yourself that regularly! Learn to toot your own horn. Best friends find opportunities to lift you up!
Put your list on sticky notes where you can see them and practice saying them out loud to really hear them. Best friends help you stay in touch with reality.
Know That You’re Not Alone
You don’t have to be out of the workforce for 9 years like me to struggle with self-doubt. Yet, so many people toil with these feelings. Few really stare down their deepest doubts.
The good news is once you tune into to a more accurate view of yourself you’ll soon realize that there is nothing that can stop you from moving forward. NOTHING!
You have plenty of talents and skills to offer and the more you 'own' your own greatness, the more you can overcome that negative voice to succeed!
If you are struggling to move forward, find support so it doesn’t take you as long as me! Close friends, family or mentors can help you discover what makes you great.
If you prefer to go it alone, I have a self-discovery tool you are welcome to use to help you get started (no email needed, it is a pdf to save).
Or reach out to me when you’re ready to hire a trusted coach and adviser to push you past any of your perceived limitations!
Not only have I been there myself but I’ve also helped countless people break through to accomplish their dream goals; I’d be honoured to help you too!
There is just no doubt about it, YOU are absolutely worthy of much more!
How Best Leaders Have Difficult Conversations
I was delighted when Kim Scott's book Radical Candor came out as I heartily share her views on candid conversations. To me it really is an art, not a science!
Just like art, you get better the more you do it. While there may be steps to take, you only develop comfort for 'uncomfortable discourse' as you practice doing it.
I'm not telling you it will be easy. After all, it does conflict with what your Momma taught you - 'if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all'. But when you become a leader, just as Kim says ' it’s your job to speak up--and it's your obligation'.
It is through the difficult and candid conversations that we grow to be better.
I use a 6-step model for difficult conversations. I fundamentally believe that the best leaders - a Kick-Ass Leader - should be well prepped to take on even the most awkward discussion!
Dots 6 Step Model To Difficult Discussions
I've been using this model long before Radical Candor was a book; it's tried and tested to get through nerve-racking conversations!
Follow these steps to see for yourself:
1. SET THE TONE
It may seem redundant to let people know this will be a difficult conversation, but by preparing the recipient to hear something they don't necessarily want to hear, it lays the foundation to listen more intently.
Depending on the sensitivity of the topic, state it directly (for highly sensitive) - 'This is going to be a difficult discussion', 'I have something difficult to talk about', OR less directly (for less not so sensitive) - establishing two-way dialogue beginning with an open question 'How do you think the meeting went?'.
Either way it gives you the opportunity to set the tone and pave the way into more difficult dialogue.
2. BEGIN WITH KINDNESS
Again I agree with Kim Scott, if the intent of your discussion is to embarrass or take down your team member a peg or two, then you lose the element of humanity that we all need, especially at work. No one listens to the obnoxiously aggressive leader!
Kindness is the key! Be considerate of the person you're speaking to. Put your self in their shoes, before you have the convo! Empathize how they may be feeling? Consider how you show care to keep their dignity intact?
3. BE RESPECTFUL
Stick to the facts when dealing with touchy subjects. This is not the time to make generalizations or judgements. 'I noticed the CEO stopped listening and started looking at email when you were talking' (FACT) instead of 'You totally lost the audience' (GENERALIZATION) or 'The CEO didn't like you' (JUDGEMENT).
Pause and listen for reaction, or probe further 'what were your observations' 'what did you think about that'? Don't assume you know everything, sometimes there are additional facts you need to take into consideration - perhaps before you were in the room the CEO apologized that he had to keep an eye on his email as a big issue was underway!
4. HAVE COURAGE
Many leaders avoid uncomfortable conversations or tackling tough issues more directly. Unfortunately this avoidance can lead others to see you as a push-over, we quickly lose respect for leaders who don't address the 'elephant in the room'!
It is your job to lead others. Put aside your fear of not being liked, take a deep breath and just do it!
5. BE CONSISTENT
A common pet peeve many employees share is preferential treatment to the 'golden employee'. Lack of fairness comes up time and again as a significant engagement killer.
You are always under scrutiny, and it is noticeable if you follow through with one team member but not another on the same issue.
By being consistent, you develop trust - a core foundation for high performance teams. Set some standards that everyone needs to honour and hold everyone to them! This predictability also minimizes stress in the work environment.
6. TAKE ACTION
For behavioural change to be effective, correction needs to be timely. Don't save these dirty little bombs up for performance review time. Take action immediately. We all want to succeed so be the leader that gives your team a chance to course correct.
Find the right setting for difficult conversations - pull the person aside, find a quiet corner (in an open environment) or step out for a coffee out of earshot from others.
Don't wait for your next one-on-one or for them to ask you for feedback, it is all up to you to make the first move!
Don't Lose Sleep
The best leaders make a practice of being candid with their teams. The team comes to know you have their back and want the best from them and quickly understand that these difficult conversations actually help them grow and improve - when that is your intention and you prepare accordingly.
When you let ugly issues fester, you will lose sleep and so will your team! Start today to cross these off your list ASAP.
If you need professional guidance on prepping for a difficult conversation or you want to bounce ideas with an experienced coach, I am an email away!
Ask Yourself..Are You a Credible Leader?
I heard about Tom through key stakeholders and some of his team.
Tom was a top-level leader; he was sharp, rather humorous, a technically adept quick study, and very good at corporate politics in his specialized C-suite role.
However, what Tom didn’t know was that most of his team had lost respect for him as a leader; they didn’t believe half of what he said and no longer trusted him.
As a result, team morale was at an all time low, they spent much of their time cross-checking the many stories he told, second-guessing his every move and gossiping about Tom’s life outside of work.
Leadership credibility is formed whether you are conscious about it or not. Being believable and trustworthy are critical success factors to create effective, high performing teams.
After all, who works hard for someone they have no respect for, can’t believe or trust?
6 Bad Habits
Lets look at some common bad habits that erode and damage credibility with your team. Download a free copy of our poster on How To Be a Credible Leader to help avoid these.
In my experience, the following are the most common death knells to leadership credibility – all of which Tom was guilty of:
1. Taking credit – Tom was known for using other people’s ideas as his own.
If you haven’t done the work, you don't get the credit. Full stop. You ARE responsible for the output of your team’s work but when you take all the credit for it, you erode trust and lose credibility.
One of the best leaders I worked with once told me “credit is always for the giving, never the taking “– what a simple and effective way to lead!
2. Being clued out – Tom struggled with addressing performance or behavioural issues in the team or with key stakeholders; he delegated that to others.
As the leader, it is your job (and your job only) to deal with performance or behavioural issues on your team. Be attentive to these issues and don’t turn a blind eye; it negatively impacts everyone.
What also gets overlooked is bad behaviour from stakeholders the team works with day in and day out. Good leaders pay attention to difficult relationships; they find common ground and tackle issues early and head on.
Every team member is watching how tuned-in you are to people who impact them and HOW you handle these delicate situations matter.
3. Holing up in your office or disappearing – Tom’s team said he disappeared a lot and when he was in, his door was always closed.
Yes, you have work to do and meetings to take, but you are a leader. When your door is closed, or you are missing all the time, you send a direct message that you are not available.
Make a point of checking in throughout the week to show genuine interest in the team. It’s these moments where connection and good relationships are formed.
If possible schedule ‘open door’ time and let the team know you are open to interruption for important matters.
4. Avoiding difficult discussions – Tom read lots of leadership books, he frequently talked about candour and 'being open' to the team; yet when it came to addressing an ‘elephant in the room’, he remained silent.
A great leader steps into the discomfort because they care about each and every individual on their team; they know feedback is important and good for development.
When you duck the issues, you demonstrate that you don’t care. To coin a great quote from an awesome client… “Candour is caring”.
5. Failing to communicate – There were many unanswered questions with Tom’s team. Withholding information, not responding or failing to explain why changes were happening caused tremendous angst and caused rumours to start.
It is said that when people don’t know what is happening, they make it up. Quite literally assumptions begin to flow and we draw conclusions from anything unusual – why is that person in the office, why haven’t we heard what is going on, why was he working late, did you notice [insert obscure ideas].
When change is afoot, it is best to share what you can as soon as you can, even if it’s ‘I don’t know, yet, but I’m going to find out and keep you posted’. Just make certain you follow through!
6. Being phoney – No one on Tom’s team felt he was very genuine; he tried to make himself out to be a bit too perfect; at least that is what they all perceived.
You don’t have to be a NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) expert to read sincerity in body language; we all can see when you’re faking it a mile away.
Some leaders mistakenly feel they need to portray a certain image of themselves to be revered by others. Unfortunately it can come off as cold and calculated, leaving the team suspicious about who you really are and what you really think. No one trusts a faker.
Be sincere, straightforward and humble enough to let your team know you need their help and you don’t know everything. Be the kind of person we all want to work with…the real you.
The story above is 100% true (name wasn’t Tom though). In fact, there are at least a half a dozen ‘Tom’s” and “Tomasinas” I’ve worked with who have much the same habits.
Sadly most are terribly unaware how they are perceived.
So What You Can Do - Self Assess
If you think your credibility could be in question, I have good news for you. You can practice How to Be a Credible Leader and put an end to bad habits immediately.
Additionally, take time to self assess:
Ask yourself these three questions regularly to examine how you’re doing.
Next, ask others. Consider asking your team the same questions during your 1:1 meetings. Listen closely to ‘how’ they answer, look for clues to what needs to improve.
What to Watch For
No amount of excuses or blame can undo the bad reputation you create, whether you like it or not. HOW you follow through and ‘show up’ has a direct reflection on your leadership credibility.
Word spreads quickly when your leadership credibility is in question.
Other departments hear about it, potential recruits avoid applying to your team and you lose your most valuable team members. Clients (internal or external) pick up on your habits too, they question your sincerity, work around you and avoid interactions or worse, it can cost you business or promotion and sometimes even your job.
Don’t be like Tom
We've created a free poster for you on How to Be a Credible Leader!
Download your own copy today!
To avoid losing credibility, become more self-aware, step into the uncomfortable to learn more about how you are perceived – it takes an open mind and a vulnerable spirit to check your blind spots. Consider working with a leadership coach who can help you explore this further, when you’re ready.
Let a positive leadership reputation precede you with every interaction, be true to your word, show up, be real, communicate as much as you can, and give credit as a practice. Make these your regular habits and you’ll be well on your way to strengthening your credibility.
Are you curious about what your team really thinks about you?
Most times they will open up to third party when discussions are conducted in full confidence. Please keep me in mind if you’d like a trusted leadership consultant to dig a little deeper with you and your team!
When talking about success Oprah Winfrey said "Everybody has a calling. And your real job in life is to figure out as soon as possible what that is, who you were meant to be, and to begin to honor that in the best way possible for yourself."
So how do you do that?
When you were young, whether you knew it or not, your parents hard-coded you with a definition of success. This influence not only drives YOU to try to succeed in the way you have done but it may have prevented you from tapping into your greatest strengths and passion.
Your parent’s success norms were established from what was important to them, determined by the circumstances and experiences THEY knew to be true.
As we grow up, we seldom challenge these built-in assumptions or stop and reflect on what we are doing to redefine ‘what does success mean…to me’.
The result for many, is an ongoing internal battle; chasing somebody else’s idea of success, guilt-ridden, filled with negative self-talk, feeling stuck or unfulfilled.
Self-Discovery Takes Work
When working with new coaching clients, one of the first questions we tackle is ‘what does success look like for YOU!’ We do this through a series of questions and in-depth discussion.
Self-discovery to figure out ‘who you are and who you’re meant to be’ takes work. It means thought provoking introspection and reflection about what success really means to you. While it may feel a bit overwhelming at first, you’ll soon reveal clues into what you are good at and where to begin for meaningful progress best suited to the real you.
The definition of your success and the meaning you attribute to it differs from one person to another – it is made up of guiding principles (values), beliefs and desires. It is yours and yours alone to determine.
It all starts with getting to know yourself really well, reflecting and observing all that you know about YOU.
Are you ready to dive in and create your own journey to success? If so, then this post is for you! Below is a personal discovery assessment to help you begin your own journey. Print your own copy to write on.
Personal Discovery Assessment - Blueprint for Success©
For some people, the questions may feel daunting to answer; there is no rush, take your time. It’s perfectly OK to chunk into a few questions at a time, pick the easiest ones first or just talk it out with someone you feel comfortable with.
Each question will help you probe deeper into ‘who you are and who you are meant to be’.
Be very specific and thorough with your answers; take whatever time you need to think about each question to answer fully.
(Click here to download a free Blueprint For Success© to write on)
What Does Success FEEL Like to ME? (check all that apply)
Now armed with this wealth of information, begin to look for patterns and reveal the clues of ‘who am I, what are my gifts’ – what picture do you notice emerging?
Observe how aligned you are on your current path with what you see as success – are you close or is there work to be done?
Once you see the gap you can begin to make your success plan – your blueprint. There are always steps you can take to begin a new journey, a change in direction or even to start all over if needed!
Create Your Success Plan
Success begins as soon as you create the right mindset and take meaningful action in the right direction! There are a variety of tools and methods you can use to understand 'who you are and who you are meant to be', you can begin the journey whenever you are ready.
If you are looking for help to connect the dots from your current situation to a more fulfilling future, then look no further – reach out today for candid guidance and a coach who will be in your corner!
Photo credit: Daniel McCullough CC0 Unsplash
Time to go – those words rang through my head when I caught up with a work-friend I hadn’t seen in years, when she told me about her job.
It all came back to me, the dreadful soul-sucking heaviness when my old job became absolute drudgery.
Looking back, I knew in my heart it was time to go but I continued to persevere, pushing myself to do work that wasn’t ‘me’. I told myself that it was a good job with good pay so I’d be crazy to think about leaving …it even had a pension, and who leaves that at my age!
That is her situation too; she is suffering in a job that no longer serves her and she feels so stuck.
What About You?
It seemed so obvious to me as I saw my friend pushing herself to continue. I saw how weary she was that day, even though she just took a vacation.
Others can see it, even when you can’t. Your family, your friends – they know you are not OK and they worry, especially as we’ve all heard what stress can do.
The thing is, when you are doing unbearable work, a job that doesn’t make you feel valued or are working for a bad boss you shut down after awhile.
So let me be clear if this is happening to you….It. Is. Time. For. You. To. GO!!!
Plan to Get Out!
You may be thinking, easy for you to say Elaine, you don’t have three kids going through private school, one needing braces, a mortgage coming up for renewal [enter all of the other stuff that gets in the way of you making a change].
I get it, timing will never seem right, but let me tell you something – you are no good to anyone else when you are miserable.
In fact, if you don’t make a change for the better, your body has this way of forcing you to slow down or taking time off, whether you like it or not –and yes it shows up as illnesses and injuries!
Pay close attention to the warning signs of stress to avoid becoming one of those heart attack statistics; this is no joking matter.
So, let’s look at what you can do right now to begin your exit strategy!
1. What If?
Remember when you were a kid; you were filled with limitless possibilities. Children naturally dream of all the things they CAN DO, it never occurs to them to squash those ideas and dreams! Yet as an adult we seem to shut down dreams so often that they just stop coming.
I tell my clients to set aside a few minutes every day where you allow yourself unfiltered imagination and take time just to dream. How you spend that time is up to you. It could be writing in a journal, sipping a perfect cappuccino or it might be walking on the treadmill – doesn’t matter how. This was a game changer for me – I took up painting and did a little each day and my mind exploded with possibilities!
What is important, is to allow your mind to be future-focused without filters. Ask yourself what if I did this, or that, and what else is possible? No bashing down any ideas, don’t try to justify them, just let them flow, no matter how elaborate or crazy they may seem. Just let your imagination of ‘what if’s’ open up again.
2. Give Me A Fricken Break, I’m Worth It!
When work became really stress filled for me, I knuckled down. I put my shoulder into it and pushed harder, believing that I could make it better by hard work. WRONG!
It may be how I was raised; you know...don’t give up! The old adage when the going gets tough, the tough gets going. Yah no, please don’t be like me! That is total BS.
Instead I want you to do the exact opposite! You see, you can’t consider options if you don’t allow yourself to take a break from the grind. Slow down, book coffees and lunches with people who ‘get you’ – by booking them, you will force yourself to make the time and build some support.
Talk to them candidly that you are taking some breaks because work is really getting to you. Remember, they likely already know, and chances are they will be happy to encourage you to take back some time for yourself.
3. What Are My Super Powers
I’ve mentioned this before. I received the greatest renewed perspective of myself, by asking people (some I had worked with long ago) ‘What did they remember most about working with me?’ I deliberately sought out people who I knew would be candid and truthful.
WOW! It was that very insightful feedback became a huge impetus to taking my next step!
What I learned, was that the impressions I left with others – like years ago - were actually consistent themes over many years. This wasn’t fluffy feedback! It was deep and meaningful context for how I made an impact and what I was known for (my brand…aka my super powers).
So reach out to people who will candidly share their recollections about YOU. The themes will emerge and you’ll discover the attributes that make you unique!
4. What Else Can I Be Good At?
If you’re like I was, then the job you are stuck in is not playing to your greatest strengths. In fact, it is likely much the opposite.
Take stock here, what would you rather be doing? I want you to think really practically here. This can be tough to do on your own, consider talking it out with a friend or confidante (or a coach).
What are you extraordinary at – what do you do better than many other people? What work/job or company uses or needs that very strength?
Hint: check for clues in the super power feedback.
5. Does My Resume Truly Reflect The Real Me?
Not everybody will be able to start their own business but everyone can use the same process I did for reimagining what the next gig should be.
Armed with the information you revealed through the steps above (1-4) I am confident the right options and/or roles, or even company for a better fit, will become clearer.
Now, consider what changes you need to make to your resume to ensure it reflects the capabilities you have for THAT right fit!
First, reflect on the most ideal job, then:
6. Who Can I Connect With In My Network?
So now you have inklings of the kind of work you really want. You’ve acknowledged that you are not the right place. You’ve begun taking breaks to release the stress. You’ve learned that you are pretty damn awesome BUT you definitely need to make a change that fits you better. You’ve also got a great start on a new resume and a renewed sense of direction.
The next step is to get out and start telling others what you are looking for!! Don’t narrow it to a job title, instead share a list of the kind of work you are great at and love to do.
When I say ‘network’, I mean everyone. It’s not to peddle your resume to, instead it is to connect personally, talk about the skills you want to use and ask others for ideas on jobs and companies they know you’d be a good fit for.
It still amazes me how connecting with people starts a cascade of serendipitous opportunities.
YOU Are Worth Making A Change!
You may find your next move doesn’t need to be drastic, it may be just a different position in the same company that will suit you better. It might be returning to something you did before!
Decide that you are worth making a change! Getting out of that work environment will lighten your life; improve not only your own quality of life but the lives of everyone who cares about you as well!
As I told my friend, the things you’ve been telling yourself about persevering and putting up with this job, is just fear of change. Fear is what holds us back to make a move.
It is times like this that a coach can be hugely valuable. Someone to be a sounding board, who can remain objective but also hold you accountable to be true to yourself!
Taking steps to re-imagine your future will unlock all sorts of opportunities. You just have to start. Drop me a note if you need a coach to get over the fear of change or need someone to guide you on the road to success!
Photo Credit - CC0 Pixabay
Hey did you hear? Prime Minister Trudeau admitted there was an ‘erosion of trust’ occurring in his office; he was unaware of it (based on what came out in the recent Canadian justice committee inquiry). Imagine his disappointment to find that people did not feel comfortable coming to him with concerns.
Well sadly, he is not alone, many leaders realize a little late that there are issues or an underground culture (where they are excluded) in their workplace. It may not come to light until exit interviews, employee surveys or worse, formal complaints.
There may be hints that you're being left out, despite having an 'open door policy' :
You already know that it is the leader's responsibility to create an atmosphere where people feel safe to be forthright and candid. But to maintain the openness, your team need to know:
The good news is there are things you can do to create more of a trusting environment where people will keep you in the loop!
7 Ways to Develop More Openness & Trust
1. Show You Are Open to Different Views
Encourage your team to bring forward a different perspective than yours, welcome it... often. Why not hold meetings where you deliberately poke holes in plans; promoting debate to differ and discuss deliberately. Hone in on healthy scepticism focused at making things better.
Caution: Your role would be to probe, ask for more information and demonstrate interest vs convince them of your way.
2. Really Listen
Practice active listening by reframing what you hear when people open up in meetings or within the office, illustrating that you understand their point. Resist inferring your own ideas or disagreement which may shut them down or cause them to do an 'end run' around you.
Caution: These are times for you to listen and encourage, not squash!
3. Be Interested in Them as People
Get to know each of your team members more personally. A great way to develop good relationship is understanding where people come from, what their family situation is like and what they do on the weekends. Show that you care about them by celebrating their work anniversary and/or birthdays (with permission).
Caution: You are not their best friend, be interested but not involved in their life!
4. Lose the Labels
Avoid putting a label on anyone. Some mistakenly tag people as a troublemaker, not a team player, or loud-mouth when they are a vocal team member. Speaking negatively about others creates a lack of safety to speak up. It also appears disrespectful and judgemental when overheard.
Caution: Careful not to name-call bosses, clients or your peers either
5. Participate in a 360 Feedback Assessment
Show your team that you are interested in what they think about you as a leader. Then openly and humbly share insights that you discover. Be sure to say thank you! If you've already had one, reflect on what you learned? How healthy is communication in your workplace?
Caution: Do not negate any feedback by assuming you know who it came from!
6. Be Available
I hear 'my boss is too busy to meet' all the time these days! Don't be that person. Show your people you make them a priority. Protect meeting times in your schedule without cutting them short. Put your phone down, leave the computer alone and don’t bring either along when meeting with them. When you say your door is open it means leave the door figuratively and literally open and that you will MAKE time for them!
Caution: Your actions speak louder than words!
7. Remain Professional at All Times
Remember, as a leader, you are being watched by your team. This means paying attention to how you act both inside and outside of work hours. Avoid sharing awkward personal information and negative opinions about the company – these can erode trust or repel working relationships.
Caution: If you go out for drinks with your team, careful you don’t drink too much!
Don't get caught off guard! To avoid hearing about issues after the fact, keep working on the kind of environment that is inclusive and open to differences. This is what builds a strong healthy team! The more you listen, learn and demonstrate your own trust, the more likely they’ll include you in their triumphs and their troubles.
Reach out to me if you struggle with a team that has cut you out. I offer a number of custom solutions to help teams to reconnect and open up!
Image by @raw_pixel CC0 Unsplash
These days, with all the tools we have available, we are far more connected and capable of staying in touch than ever before!
So don’t you find it a bit ironic that in today’s workplaces, lack of communication remains one of the biggest issues for employees? Regardless of the industry or size of company!
Here’s the thing - if your team doesn’t feel heard, they don’t understand the direction of the company, never get constructive feedback, or they don’t think you care about them as a person, then why would they give you their best work?
Every one of those ‘misses’ can be remedied simply by taking steps to form a better connection with your team.
It’s More Than Words
Communication, when it does occur, may be missing the mark altogether! Between abbreviated texts and messaging, overwhelming volume of email or the ever brief, on-the-fly meetings these days, communication and connection is deteriorating, especially at work.
To further complicate our ability to communicate is the fact that most of us hear (absorb) less than 10% of what is actually spoken!
According to the Mehrabian Theory we attribute more meaning of a message through body language, facial expression, tone and pace of the conversation than that of the actual words voiced – hence why texts, messages, email and even phone messages can be misconstrued!
So ask yourself - how likely is it that YOU are communicating most effectively for your message to be received the way you intend it?
Using the scenario below, I’ll demonstrate my 7-step method to build rapport so you can improve every interaction!
Scenario - Disconnected Team
Team members, who report to your managers, have told you they feel disconnected lately. They claim that most one-on-one meetings with their manager(s) are being cancelled, and when they do happen it’s a quick download of one-way directives of what to get done, versus real conversation.
As a result, they feel excluded in the overall success of the department and don’t see the opportunity to learn, grow or develop. You sense a few are looking to leave the group or worse, the company.
You believe manager’s (on your team) need to involve their teams in problem solving vs giving orders and begin having development-focused one-on-one’s with each person (at all levels), at least once a quarter to rebuild a positive workplace.
What Not to Do
Even though it may seem the quickest ways, please don’t just call a meeting of your direct reports to tell them to start having one on one meetings focusing on development.
Just like their team members, they too will tune out being given a directive and may even take it out on their teams for speaking up, further complicating the problem.
7 Step Method For Communicating To Connect
While these steps may seem lengthy, it actually takes only a couple of minutes to practice and tailor to your circumstance.
Here are the steps:
1. Prepare - consider your audience and check yourself. Think about what is important to you and why, and how might they view it?
2. Create a ‘safe’ environment – remember to praise in public, criticize in private
3. Lead with open-ended questions – question for clarity about their view of the situation and gather their input
4. Meet them ‘where they are at’, before diving in – use their viewpoint to build on. Putting yourself in their shoes shows you’ve heard them (it also demonstrates empathy)
5. Take time to establish a personal connection – consider the challenges they speak about and build rapport by showing you understand how they feel, validate their perspective (this is not a feedback sandwich)
6. When delivering candid feedback, be tough, not mean – show that you genuinely care about them as a person and expect a change to occur
7. Be clear, direct and provide specifics
Remember: Its All About Them
The same steps will work for any topic, particularly powerful for sensitive issues; the key is paying close attention, hearing their perspective, demonstrating you want their success and being clear about the outcomes that are needed.
Communication serves as the foundation for a positive employee experience for all of us. As a leader when you demonstrate support both through your words AND non-verbal interaction, your team will feel more valued and heard.
Taking time to get to know others and developing an understanding of their communication styles provides a platform to connect on a more personal level. This also creates stronger, more cohesive working relationships where difficult subjects can be discussed and dealt with efficiently.
Help Is Available
To gather insights on your team’s communication styles there are a variety of tools available (ie assessments, questioning techniques) feel free to reach out if you need help to find the right approach to connect and communicate in your workplace.
I will never forget the first time I received tough feedback. I was managing a government-funded employment centre at the time.
While working on a tight deadline to implement a new computer system, I was surprised when the Director called me to come to her office ASAP.
She told me my peer (Margaret, who I worked with every day) had raised a concern that needed to be addressed immediately. Margaret felt ‘intimidated’ by me and I made her uncomfortable. Instantly I became defensive – why didn’t she talk to me, what did I do, where was this coming from? Me… intimidating?
Margaret said I was impatient and judgmental, pushing her to explain how things were done. She felt I didn’t respect the work she and the team did and that I just wanted to ‘change everything’. It became obvious she didn’t know what I was doing; she was missing the context for why I needed information and how I was using it.
I felt bad that my actions were seen as overbearing but it was a pivotal moment. From then on I took more time to listen and explain before rushing ahead; I brought Margaret along as a partner. In the end, we formed a terrific working relationship and created a great new system!
Looking back, it was that tough feedback that helped me learn about my own direct style and how to flex my approach with others who were indirect.
While I can relate to what it feels like to receive tough feedback, I truly value the awareness you develop because of it. This is why I always recommend people become aware of their own style. You grow so much when you connect with people who are different than you.
Candour and Feedback Makes a Better Workplace
In today’s workplaces we often refrain from saying what needs to be said for a variety of reasons, we:
Feedback, the Breakfast of Champions
When someone cares enough to give honest, constructive feedback in a clear and helpful way it helps the individual grow and become more self-aware – just as I did. Yet according to Harvard Business Review, we actually all want the negative feedback you hate to give!
I’m not talking about the positive nice feedback here; I’m referring to candid and sometimes difficult to hear ‘real stuff’, often shielded from more senior leaders as you rise in an organization.
Cultivating a positive environment where it is safe to give and receive feedback openly begins with you, the leader. You set the tone by modelling trust and openness in every interaction, encouraging others to share their differing views.
Seek and Ye Shall Find
In each workshop I’ve done about feedback or candour it’s been surprising how few leaders ever received tough or candid feedback over their career! So it is no wonder they aren’t comfortable giving tough feedback to their team!
So how do you start to develop an environment for tougher feedback? You actually begin by asking!
How to Get to The Tough Stuff
Given the reluctance listed above, you may find it difficult to get open, candid feedback. Here are 5 things you can do to get people to open up:
It takes a little focus but based on my experience, candour is your best bet to creating the most highly engaged, super-charged high-performance teams!
Drop me a note when you’re looking for help to gather, receive or act on feedback! I conduct sessions with teams to uncover what issues are causing the most frustrations as well as coach leaders who want to stretch and improve.
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I get it! Difficult people on your team can zap your energy ‘getting on your nerves,’ making it a pain to work with them. Well guess what, I’m here to tell you that pretty much every difficult person you will ever lead, can be a great asset; you may even find them not so difficult after all!
This series has been dedicated to helping you figure out how to tap into hidden potential of difficult types and minimize the frustration:
- Part one when you’re challenged with a “The Know All” (TKA)
- Part two for the blow it up Revolutionary type (TNT) or
- Part three the Take No Prisoners (TNP) personality type
To wrap up the series, I’m going to help you with one seldom discussed, often misunderstood and a very draining style to work with… the Constant Critic (TCC)!
You know this type; they tend to be appear very negative. Just like Eeyore (from Winnie the Pooh) who constantly points out the negative in every move. They don’t cause big drama but they do seem reluctant to get onboard with anything new, usually based on some prior experience.
The Constant Critic profile:
Meet Pete – “Mr. Quiet Dissonance”
Pete (name changed) has an accounting background and works as a Director, Strategic Planning & Performance for a large Retailer. He's been an executive for 5 years but has been with the company for over 20. The 3 people who report to him quite enjoy working with him.
He reports to Marnie (not her real name), VP Business Performance who was recently promoted. Marnie and I have been working together on improving her direct team’s collaboration and she asked for help with Pete, in particular.
Pete is commonly referred to as the ‘company historian’ and has lived through a couple of mergers, several name changes as well as take over from a US-based company.
Marnie was forewarned that Pete seemed disengaged before she took on the team.
Pete is a great example of the Constant Critic personality type!
The good news is Pete responded positively to Marnie as soon as she began implementing strategies we spoke about.
Her action plan included:
At this point, her focus is on developing more of a trusted relationship, and that maybe all it takes.
Marnie's increased interest in his experience seems to have had a positive impact already; the team has noticed Pete becoming more participatory – no more crossed arms in meetings and some have even commented about him being more sociable.
The benefit of having a TCC on your team – great devils advocate, can help you develop persuasive arguments, often sees a different perspective and helps to reflect on pending plans. Often they have learned from past mistakes, can be a historian with very helpful information to draw upon.
The key to leading a TCC – remain positive, redirect negativity, stick to facts and data that support positive outcomes. Help them see the impact of their behaviour on others if it becomes a problem. Ask the TCC to reframe their initial reaction toward a more positive response.
Caution leading a TCC – do not get pulled into negativity. Limit how much time you give when they become negative.
For every difficult type of person, there is a way of changing YOUR perspective about what contribution they bring to your team. It may take a little effort, but drawing upon unique perspectives can be a competitive edge for your team.
If you are dealing with a difficult person on your team (or even your boss) and you’d like help to figure out how to communicate better with them, send me an email. There are just as many strategies as there are difficult personality types!
Can you see a bit of yourself in Pete? Have you been 'shutting down' at work, avoiding colleagues or find yourself to be increasingly contrary?
You may be a Constant Critic or are heading that way.
Time to reflect on how negative you may appear to others:
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Thanks for returning to my series about difficult people – I'll be interested to hear what do you think, so far? Do you see how difficult people can be a competitive advantage for your team? Let me know in the comments below.
To recap part one of this series I began with “The Know All” (TKA) personality type, you surely know someone who embodies those traits. For part two I spoke about “The Revolutionary (aka TNT) type” who are seldom satisfied with the status quo.
For part three I will shed light on the all too familiar, yet quite challenging, difficult ‘Take No Prisoners’ (TNP) personality type.
Consider ‘the Donald’ reporting to a leader in a business setting. Yes, that is this rebel style. What do you think, difficult to manage? Oh my, heck yeah! A true leadership test.
You may be surprised to know there ARE ways to harness the power of this rebellious in-yo-face type when they report to you (not so easy to when they are running a country). When you guide them the right way, you create a powerhouse talent on your team and even better, leave a lasting positive impact in your company.
Meet Liam – The Gun-Slinger
Liam (names changed) is an up-and-coming, newly promoted executive in telecommunications. He is 33 years old and incredibly clever. So much so he has been promoted rather quickly. Over a 5-year period he has moved up three times (unusually fast) and is now at the Director level with eyes locked and loaded for a Vice President’s seat. He has been told he has “CEO potential”, which is amazing BUT he tends to share that info with others in an obnoxious ‘boasty’ sort of way.
Highly strategic and a quick study, he has demonstrated value in every role very quickly. Liam is highly action-oriented, capable to make change and adapt rapidly. Managers who promoted him looked past some of his behavioural shortcomings for political reasons - because the top bosses really like his boldness. Leaders fanned his fiery flames, instead of providing candid feedback and guidance, for fear they may be seen as a roadblock to his rise up the ladder.
When his newest manager Claire, VP Ops (seriously, not her real name or title) reached out for my help, she told me she inherited ‘a blow-hard, pompous, egotistical jerk.’ Claire was ultra motivated to find 'something' to hit home with him before everyone quit on her team. When we started, she was at her whit’s end.
Liam is the quintessential Take No Prisoners (aka TNP) profile.
The Take No Prisoners profile:
The benefit of having a TNP on your team – quick decision makers, they assess risk swiftly, are very determined, action oriented, inventive, shrewd and persistent.
The key to leading a TNP is trust and mutual respect. Set high expectations regarding their behaviour; hold a mirror up to see results of their approach; be liberal with praise at the right times. Listen to their ideas, positively reinforce relationship building, and be candid with feedback that will benefit them with very firm correction if they appear to burn a bridge – they appreciate that directness.
Caution for leading a TNP – they require a firm leader whom they respect or they will undermine your efforts. Do not do battle with them as they are very clever, set clear boundaries early on, then hold them to those.
My approach was to have her build a real genuine connection and be very firm with expectations.
Claire began to develop two-way trust with Liam:
I hope to become an executive coach to him one day and if I do, I won’t pull any punches. He needs direct feedback to help him succeed; learn how to flex his style yet capitalize on what makes him a powerhouse in business.
Could people perceive YOU to be like Liam? Or do you know anyone with this style?
Help is Available
For every difficult type of person there is a way of connecting to the jewel that may be under a rough exterior. It can take a bit of work on your behalf but having distinctly different personalities on your team can become a strong competitive edge as well as a leadership legacy.
If you are suffering with a difficult person on your team (or your boss) and you’d like help to figure out how to communicate better with them, send me an email. There are numerous ways to connect!
If you aren’t on my mailing list, you’re missing out on other juicy tidbits to become an effective leader. It is never too late to sign up! I have sign up links all over my site, for your convenience. 🙂
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In part one of this series I introduced how to develop a competitive edge while leading difficult people. I began with “The Know All” (TKA) personality type.
For part two I’ll focus on another challenging personality, this one is seldom satisfied with the status quo and constantly wants to make changes!
The Revolutionary…. aka “TNT”
Making it Right
I often compare this type of person to Mike Holmes, the builder who seemingly blows up your house to fix all the wrongdoings done by previous contractors to ‘Make it Right’.
This kind of person on your team can really test you, pushing at every turn with complaints about process, hand-offs, policy or people. They expect you to fix it.
For the conscientious manager this TNT type is very draining to have on your team. You may pride yourself on good quality work like they do, however you’re more apt to be cautious and comfortable with subtle improvements vs high confrontation or making full-scale change.
These people can be rather domineering in conversations. They have strong opinions, and even though you may see value in their suggestions, they can be tough to redirect back to work.
Rather than doing battle with them, there are ways you can help to leverage their enthusiasm for the greater good!
Meet Sati – the Demolition expert
Lets take Sati for example (names changed). Sati works for a sales organization as a technical rep and has been there for almost 10 years. She is well liked by both peers and customers, so much so they turn to her to solve all sorts of problems. Sati has a habit of adopting other people’s issues, making them her own to solve, even when they are not in her domain.
Her Sales Manager Brian really struggled to get Sati focussed on her own deliverables. Almost daily she would come to him with yet another idea to change...well…pretty much everything. Many conversations began with “Why don’t we....”, “I don’t see why I have to…”, “Why can’t x department do…”. She just constantly challenged.
Brian was recently been promoted and knew Sati had some great ideas from working with her as a peer. As the days and weeks followed however, he found her increasingly frustrating to work with. Poking at him day in day out with yet another scheme she wanted him to undertake and fix, yet did not follow through on her own work.
Sati is a great example of this Revolutionary – TNT difficult person.
The TNT profile
The benefit of having a TNT person on your team – they are opportunistic, filled with ideas, usually very positive, they influence others, thrive on change, deal well with ambiguity and love problems to solve.
The key to leading a TNT person is hearing out their ideas and giving them accountability to see changes through. Set expectations for detailed change plans outlining the risks/rewards and benefits to implementing such a change. They do best when they are heard, given meaningful accountabilities with autonomy to implement and are trusted to get it done.
Caution for leading a TNT – they need a diligent leader to be available for them, not too hands on, yet someone who sets expectations, timelines then follows through. They need to be heard.
After Brian and I laid out a plan he implemented a few strategies:
In the following weeks Brian noticed a change in Sati. She stopped the incessant pushing and began to take ownership of some of the issues, working diligently to resolve.
Weekly they would meet to discuss progress and Brian began to mentor her on how to look deeper into the details. Sometimes she would actually abandon an issue but not until she had more thoroughly explored it and considered the impact(s).
Now Brian is well on his way to becoming a stronger leader and Sati is becoming a greater contributor, not only to the team, but also the organization.
For every difficult type of person there is another way to look at what they bring to your team. It can take some effort on your part but encouraging people the right way, who previously were a pain, can actually turn into a competitive edge toward a highly productive team.
Join/sign up for our blog updates (link in right margin), or visit often for other useful tips on leading people!
If you are tired of struggling to deal with a difficult person on your team (or your boss) and you’d like help to figure out how to communicate with them, send me an email. I have a kit bag full of different tactics that work!
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Recently, a client (we’ll call her Yvonne) reached out to me for assistance with a ‘know-all’ on her team. We had such great success improving their working relationship and camaraderie on the team that I decided to pass along some tips!
Many business leaders I talk to grapple with rebels or difficult personality types. Difficult people can test your every-last-nerve, yet once you figure out how to curb their behaviour by communicating effectively, you may discover a competitive advantage on your team.
Over the next few blogs, I will give you tips on how to handle some of the most draining types of people:
First up is the case of Alan – The Know All (TKA)
Alan – The Know All (TKA)
Alan was an effervescent, spirited, high-energy team member, who was very smart. He drove people crazy with his need to be right all the time and his non-verbal, superior behaviour in meetings (like eye-rolling, arms crossed, dismissive noises).
Trouble was that most days Yvonne found herself doing damage control when people complained Alan was difficult to work with. Alan spent all of their 1:1 meetings complaining about others who were unresponsive or uncooperative, inhibiting him from accomplishing his work and expecting Yvonne to set THEM right.
As a result, Yvonne found Alan to be a drain on her time and energy. Due to the culminating behaviour issues, Yvonne seriously questioned whether to keep him on the team despite the great work that Alan did.
After Yvonne filled me in on the many issues, it became obvious that Alan did not build rapport with others and his smug behaviour rubbed people the wrong way. So we set out a plan for Yvonne to begin providing Alan with meaningful and actionable feedback, immediately.
Alan fell into the TKA-The Know All profile:
The Know All profile (exhibits many of these traits)
The key to leading a TKA is to gain trust by showing them you are ‘in their corner’ but challenging them directly on their behaviour so they can see the impact of their current approach.
Caution to leading a TKA – always have your facts and data in order, never threaten or corner. Pick your battles wisely; focus on behaviour that gets in their way of success vs. labeling the person as a problem.
The benefit to having a TKA on your team – this type of person has tons of relevant information to draw upon, they are hard workers, creative problem solvers, decisive, action-oriented, have high standards, are adaptive, and are highly productive.
The root of Alan’s problems was that he made others feel dumb or undervalued – the more he touted his smarts, the more others did not want to work with him. They resented his approach because he never took time to value their input, he didn't create a relationship, he would talk too fast, not ask questions and express how frustrated he was in a variety of verbal and non-verbal cues.
So What Happened?
Once Yvonne began providing more directive feedback, Alan started making positive changes in his approach. Fortunately Alan knew Yvonne genuinely cared about his success and even though it was difficult to hear, he soon realized he came on too strong and decided to take her advice.
In a few short weeks, Yvonne began to hear from others that Alan was less combative and appeared more team oriented and helpful. Yvonne is now less stressed and has improved her own skills for giving AND receiving feedback.
So Difficult People or Competitive Edge?
For every difficult type of person, there are ways to connect to capitalize on the strengths they bring while correcting undesirable behaviour. It can take a bit of work on your behalf but building and encouraging diverse perspectives can be a competitive edge for a high performing team!
If you are tired of struggling to deal with a difficult person on your team (or even your boss) and you’d like to know how to better communicate with them, send me an email. I have many more strategies that work!
Do you know anyone similar to Alan? I'd be interested to hear what strategies work for you to manage their behaviour or if you have another difficult style you struggle with - please leave me a reply below!
Sign up for my blog updates (subscribe in the right-hand column) or bookmark the blog page. The next post one will feature: TNT – The Blow It Up Type – think of a ‘Mike Holmes’ like worker who sees many things that need fixing and thrives on change yet balks at routine work.
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According to Gallup State of the Global Workplace 2017, 85% of employees worldwide are not engaged or are actively disengaged in their job.
“The low percentages of engaged employees represent a barrier to creating high performing cultures around the world. They imply a stunning amount of wasted potential.”
Wasted potential. How that phrase resonates with me!
Death by Administration
I'm sad to say, I was one of the walking ‘wasted potential’ not too many years ago. It was a dark and miserable time. My employer was doing a massive restructure, de-layering spans and levels and it was my job to implement it for my division.
The work I so loved and excelled at suddenly switched from senior level advisor to a massive load of mundane administrative tasks Every. Single. Day. It went on for months.
This kind of work was my worst nightmare and, the truth is, I wasn’t very good at it. What a waste!
People can’t thrive when they are doing the wrong work. It devalues them, misuses talents and creates unnecessary pressure.
During stress-filled change, leaders can fall asleep at the helm; too busy ducking for cover, they completely overlook the signs of utter disengagement around them.
Don’t waste your best resources like that; you will surely lose your highest potential people when you don’t pay attention.
A great way to stem the tide of employee disengagement is to tap into the abilities of EACH and every person on your team. Get people doing the right work using their best skills, long before a change occurs.
According to Gallup's survey analytics it is your high potential talent that will take a walk if they are not engaged, long before the others. These top talent are the experts to learn from!
Here is what they say:
The best leaders demonstrate they care about each and every team member by taking an interest. They pay attention, particularly during stressful times, leveraging potential vs wasting it. They make it a practice to develop potential, all the time. They allocate work in a way that plays to their people’s strength and they keep them connected to the bigger picture.
When you demonstrate YOUR engagement, harnessing the potential of your best and brightest, you are guaranteed better results for highly engaged employees.
If you have a disengaged team (or team member) or are leading through stressful times and need support, I’m only an email away! I help leaders grow and develop by working with them through the toughest of times.
I want to hear from you, tell me about your own experience in the reply section below.
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Change can be a dirty word in many work environments today. Lets face it “Transformation” is the buzzword de jour! Almost everyone is feeling the affect of increased workload and the speed of change in their job.
It may be brought on from process improvement, new-fangled technologies to learn, added responsibility, regulatory scrutiny, or the most-feared-change of all…downsizing!
Constantly having to adapt, even for the best leaders, takes quite a toll. As a leader not only do you have to continually reframe and communicate the gist of the changes to your team, but you are also expected to be ‘on’ and supportive of whatever is thrown your way. This can be downright exhausting!
So how IS change affecting you? Are you coping? Or are you nearing burnout?
Take this simple assessment to find out:
Pump Your Brake Assessment © (Answer Y/N):
Here’s the thing, change is hard when it is imposed on you, yet, making your own change can be immensely exhilarating when it is something you want to do.
When you find yourself in a constant state of change, inflicted beyond your control, you will eventually shut down if you don’t find good coping strategies. Your health may be adversely affected, your family life may be impacted and for sure, your work performance will suffer when you burnout.
Fear not! You CAN find balance again. First step is recognizing the issue. Just like slowing a car down on a slippery road you can 'pump the brake' to prevent burnout.
The trick is finding ways to regain control over changes that affect YOU. Here are 5 action steps you can begin right now…today!
1. Book Yourself a Break – NOW!
I strongly believe in taking time back from work when you begin to feel frustrated and stressed. If you don’t make time for yourself, no one else will give it to you!
If you are a nose-to-the-grindstone type then taking time back may seem tough for you… initially. But taking back time for yourself is a game-changer to regaining balance.
Action Step: Start with small steps – book an hour into your calendar a few times through the week. RIGHT NOW – look at your calendar and book it…..yep, right now, it will only take a moment.
If you are already at the ‘burnout point’ then take a much bigger step - book a two-week break. Yes TWO! Detach completely – no phones/computer or email. You need the extra time to properly let go and become refreshed.
Why do this? Because pushing yourself harder and harder will not make you accomplish anything faster or better. In fact, it is when you pause, step back, reflect, giving yourself a break that you will become most effective, more able to make sense of the various changes and give yourself greater perspective to move forward.
2. Bust Your Paradigm
Paradigms are patterns you have adopted or think to be true. A paradigm can also be the way you approach your day. Often a paradigm is something we adopted based on what we think others expect of us.
Take crisis management at work for instance. If you are the Olivia Pope in your business that fixes every crisis, then you become the one everyone brings the crisis to.
Action Step: Hand off crisis tasks. In leadership roles it is true, the buck stops with you. But handing off crisis tasks to the right people on your team versus being the one who ‘does’ it provides big growth opportunity to others.
Delegation of important tasks takes leadership courage. It takes great trust. It means giving your team the confidence in handling very important work, with you as their safety net. You remain involved yet you set high expectations, selecting the right people for the right tasks. Watch how they rise to the challenge!
This is not an easy shift when you are known for being ‘the fixer’, yet once you master this hand-off, you will achieve far greater results with far less stress in the future.
Why do this? It’s a win-win! Giving others the accountability to fix big fat meaty issues stimulate their capabilities to grow as well as improve overall team engagement because they see you have faith in them.
As an individual takes on work that stretches their thinking, it pushes them out of their comfort zone; in turn they build new skills and develop. This then frees you up to act as a guide/mentor versus the doer. The results are far more gratifying for both you and the team.
3. Share - Give Work Away
Similarly most leaders, who are hit by wave after wave of change, take on more work than they give away. Often under the assumption it is easier to do it himself or herself rather than ask someone else to.
Action Step: At the end of each day write down two things that you did that someone else could have done for you. They might be administrative tasks, attending a meeting or simply to-do items that someone else could have accomplished just as easily. The next day, delegate those items and begin to make this a daily practice.
Why do this? You may think that you’re a master delegator and that you’re maximizing your productivity every day, but this simple habit will help you measure your delegating skills each and every day.
4. First Things First
In Stephen Covey’s well-known book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, he points out how important it is to ‘Put First Things First’ as Habit #3.
During changing times you can get bogged down with task work that doesn’t actually move you forward. When you practice choosing what you spend your time on, you will get the highest return on your investment.
Action Step: Refer to Eisenhower's Urgent/Important Principle that Covey talks about. Begin to organize tasks using these key principles focusing on the most important priorities.
Why do this? Get the biggest payoff for your time at work! Spend most of your time in the upper green zones. Avoid or eliminate time-wasting activities and ensure you delegate distracting work that doesn’t provide payback. By practicing these tried and true methods you maximize your time and you become a better leader.
5. Let Go of Perfection
According to Dr. Brené Brown, world renowned researcher and author:
“Perfectionism is a self-destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: If I look perfect, live perfectly, and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of shame, judgment and blame.”
Every leader I know who suffers because of today’s pace of change, has some degree of perfectionistic qualities. They have very high standards; they surround themselves with over achievers (just like themselves), which is great, however they can be very hard on themselves and others too. They tend to put in long gruelling hours to complete everything to their satisfaction and they struggle with handing off and delegating.
Action Steps: Become aware of your tendency for perfectionism. Be kind to yourself, review your goals and validate when you are being too hard on yourself – is what you want attainable or realistic? If not, cut yourself some slack!! Involve your team, be more choosey on what you personally take on.
Self-worth is at the core of perfectionism, take stock of all the great work you do well to help change your emphasis and perspective on being perfect.
Use a Lifeline When You Need One
When work pace and change is getting to you it is OK to seek assistance from a professional. Many people need extra help to ‘pump their brake’ until they develop new habits.
Some of the benefits working with a professional include:
Drop me a line when you’re getting frustrated or fear burnout. I will help you find a path to take back control, refocus your time and energy into work that makes you want to get up and go in the morning again!
Watching political leaders wrangle for position, launch smear campaigns and talk trash about each other sure fires up the leadership coach in me. Grown adults identified as so-called “leaders” who choose bully tactics, intimidation and demeaning others as their campaign strategy gets to me every. single. time!
The Canadian province where I live is currently embroiled in a smear-filled provincial election fraught with insults and put-downs; it is such a miserable and appalling ‘gong show’ - wish I could bong the gong to put an end to this conduct!
I am not naïve enough to think anyone could simply fix what seems to be wrong with such political behaviour overnight but I hope I live long enough to witness a group of leaders stand and face the masses, clearly state their position, demonstrate what they believe in (without being wishy-washy) and then once elected, set a concrete plan working to get it done in a professional “principled” fashion.
In my books, everyone in a leadership position, regardless if they’re running for office or managing a team of 2-20,000 people can be a better leader by leading with principles.
My Kind of Principled Leadership
Note: Seeking, receiving and acting on feedback are skills many of us need to develop further. If you have yet to receive constructive criticism from your people about YOU, it is a good sign you have room to grow. If you have received it, consider it a great gift! Now, how did you address it?
The Core Principles in Action
One senior level corporate leader I worked with (Katrina McGee….yah, not her real name) truly exemplified the core principles I look for as a Principled Leader.
Such a pleasure to work with. I recall one time we were working on a very sensitive and difficult message about a pending reorganization (sadly, one of many). It was a very stress filled period for her. She painstakingly agonized about every change to the department and fretted over each and every word choice because she personally felt the impact of the tough decisions being made – people truly mattered to her.
We were working in her office around 9pm at night, long after others had gone home, when we heard the cleaner in the outer office area singing quite passionately to himself with headphones on. He passed by her door a couple of times - clearly he hadn’t noticed us but we did him. Instead of getting annoyed at the “I hope he buys you flowers” being belted out, she asked if we could take a quick break.
She collected up the garbage from around her room and grabbed a fresh bottle of water from her sideboard and went to the outer office. She startled him as she emptied her bin into his cart and then took a moment to chat, giving him the bottle of water and acknowledged his singing prowess. It was obvious they had spoken before as they shared a little chuckle before she returned to the office.
You see, she treated everyone with that level of respect and consideration - from the cleaner to every member of her global team to her C-suite colleagues. So genuine was her care for everyone that I can honestly say anybody who ever had the opportunity to work with her would go to the end of the earth to support her agenda. A master at Principled Leadership I would say!
I know most of you want to be that kind of leader too. Here are some of the core principles that make all the difference to the teams who look to you as a leader:
Principled Leaders put the interests of people first. Their every action sends a message that everyone is equal and their ideas and opinions matter. It doesn’t mean they will do everything people want, but they ensure their teams feel heard and acknowledged.
Respect is Earned
Principled Leaders operate with respect for others in everything they do – there is no put down, no intimidation or bullying. They gain the respect of others by treating others fairly and with respect, regardless of their position.
Principled Leaders have a positive attitude. They act in a positive, genuine manner, even during some of the toughest times, ensuring everyone remains calm and productive.
Consistency is the Key
Principled Leaders are who they are regardless of the situation. Whether riding the elevator, walking through the office or sitting in a board meeting, their every move is consistent and in-line with their good character.
Curiosity is a Game Changer
Principled Leaders love learning and knowing but will acknowledge openly they actually don’t know everything. They ask a million questions of people – how does that work, why does that happen, why can’t we do that, how can we make it happen. This inquisitiveness comes in handy, seldom are they duped and inevitably they know exactly who to go to if help is needed because they understand the roles/process in their team as well as other groups.
Delivering is their Jam
Principled Leaders are obsessed with getting done what they set out to do. They are doggedly determined. They make sure all of their team understand the mission and remain steadfast in overcoming whatever obstacles are in the way to deliver on their promises.
Can you measure up to being a Principled Leader? Of course you can! You’re likely well on your way if you took time out to read this article and thought about what you currently do!
Keep Dots Leadership Solutions in mind as you determine your own development needs and plans for improvement. I’d like to be your personal and confidential leadership development guide. My coaching clients will tell you I hold them accountable to deliver against any goals they set passing along many tips and tactics to help them be a Principled Leader.
My style is direct (don't worry, I won't bong the gong on you), yet highly supportive and I bring 25+ years of experience working with leaders from many different industries both big and small – give me a call or drop me an email when you’re ready.
Elaine Adamson is a leadership consultant with Dots Leadership Solutions Inc. A natural dot connector. Passionate about coaching team effectiveness and leadership development she shares over 25+ years of real-life tips and tricks that really work!
Elaine believes you can discover and leverage strengths to forge a strong team dynamic despite business challenges or organizational change.