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Category Archives: Tips for Your Life and Work

Resisting Resistance

Resistance is powerful and it’s why you and I aren’t exactly where we want to be.

See what you think of author Steven Pressfield’s assessment of the big R:  “Resistance will tell you anything to keep you from doing your work.  It will perjure, fabricate, falsify; seduce, bully, cajole.  Resistance is protean.  It will assume any form, if that is what it will take to deceive you. It will reason with you like a lawyer or jam a nine-millimeter in your face like a stickup man.  Resistance has no conscience.  It will pledge anything to get a deal, then double-cross you as soon as your back is turned.  If you take Resistance at its word, you deserve everything you get.  Resistance is always lying and always full of shit.”

So, there we are!  But what’s next?  How can we move through Resistance?  Let’s start by taking a closer look at it.  Science tells us that every time we have to make a choice we unconsciously tally all the pros and cons and then act based on how we feel in the moment.  Not what we think, but how we feel.  And if we don’t feel like pursuing that important goal right now then Resistance steps up and pushes us away from where we know we need to go and what we need to do.

But here is the key: We can’t control our feelings, but we can control what we do; how we act.  So, the next time you run up against what you know you should (or shouldn’t) do, don’t hesitate—Right away, remember your commitment and act on it.  Immediately.  It’s your simple and effective way to win and to put Resistance in its place.  For more on this essential topic, read The 5 Second Rule, by Mel Robbins or check out her many videos on YouTube.

Appreciative Inquiry. Instead of Problem-Solving, Try This.

There is a different and powerful way to approach getting things done in organizations today.  It’s called appreciative inquiry.  Now, it’s a pretty radical way of looking at what we do at work, so I hope you’re sitting down.

Instead of looking for problems and what’s wrong in a situation, with appreciative inquiry we look for what has and is working, and what’s possible.  Instead of concentrating on what not to be doing anymore, we focus on what we need to be doing more of.

So, for example, if your team meetings are usually ineffective, you could focus on the problems and try and fix them.  But the appreciative approach would have you all look at the parts of your meetings that do work, and encourage more of that behavior.

Again, focus on what works and do more of that.  Always ask questions like,

“What did we do really well on that project?”
“When our meeting was flowing smoothly today, why was it?
“While making that sale, how did I uncover the client’s needs so easily?
“What did you do to make that customer come back and buy some more?

Get the idea?

Now, appreciative inquiry doesn’t just have to deal with doing things.  It can focus on who people are.  For instance, you can ask, “What do we value most about our team, and how can we foster more of that?”

When you have an idea of what works, then explore how you can bring more of those activities and attitudes into what you do.

I encourage you to try appreciative inquiry for a while.  If you do, you may never go back to solving problems, again.


Cashing Your Emotional Paycheck

Do you know what has the greatest impact on your happiness at work? It’s not money.  It isn’t even what you do all day.  It’s your values.

Really.  Values are what energize and motivate you.  They’re things like: creativity, learning, independence, trust, honesty, humor.  They’re less about what you think and all about how you feel.  In fact, you might say that values are the emotional paycheck of the work we do.

So, how do you spot your values?  Here are three easy ways: The first technique is called Flip it.  Think of something that’s angered you recently, then ask why it makes you mad.  Flip the answer and you have some of your values.  For example, if waiting in a line for a long time recently upset you, you might think that whoever was responsible was inefficient and inconsiderate.  Okay, flip “inefficient” and “inconsiderate” to their opposites and you can see how efficiency and politeness may well be two of your values.

The second way is to look at your heroes.  Think of someone you admire.  What kind of person did that person have to be to accomplish what they did?  If someone comes to mind because he continually took risks in business, maybe risk is one of your values.

The final values-spotting trick is to yell “Fire!”  Imagine coming home one night to find that your house is ablaze.  The fire chief says your family and pets are safe, and that there’s time to rush in to save only one thing.  What would you rescue and why?  If you chose your photo album because the pictures inside reminded you of your family and friends, one value you have might be that of belonging or feeling connected.

Try these exercises several times and note your answers.  Then, keep them in mind as you look at your work.  For example, if you see that expression is a key value of yours, chances are you’ll enjoy yourself more in that sales job you’re thinking about instead of that other opening as a data analyst.

Values are part of who you are, so take on work that lets you express them.  If you do that, then you can discover how to bring more of who you are to what you do.  And once you do that, work will never be the same again.

The Upside of Failure

So, you blew it.  You missed an opportunity, or did something wrong, or said something wrong—and you blew it.  I get that and I also get that it doesn’t feel good.  It rarely does when our reputation is on the line.  And even if no one finds out about our goof, WE still know about it and that can be bad enough.

But here is the point: A mistake is exactly what you make of it, and you can make it good.  Really.  A wise man once said that sometimes you win, and sometimes you learn.  In other words, doing something in a way that doesn’t work can be a fast track to finding out how it IS supposed to be done. Leverage your missteps and see them for the lessons that they are.  If nothing else, your mistake taught you what NOT to do next time, right?  And this also showed you that you aren’t perfect and believe me, when you can accept that about yourself—and others, too, by the way—then you are going to start lightening up, big time.

So, the next time you slip-up try doing these four things: First, just notice your thoughts.  That’s all.  Just hear them rattling around and yelling or whimpering or whatever.  Then, ask yourself how you could react differently and in a way that serves you.  Then, look for the lesson for you in it all.  And finally, just see that the world is still on its axis and life is going on, and celebrate!

Dealing with Stress

You know, when you think about it, there are two ways you can deal with stress.  One thing you can do is to remove the thing that’s stressing you out.  Problem is, one reason it’s probably stressing you is that you can’t get rid of it.  So, what to do?

Well the second way to deal with stress is to change how you see it.  One powerful way to do that is to draw a bull’s-eye with three rings to it.  I know—it sounds a bit weird, but try it.

Once you’re done, write in the outer ring a list of all the things that could be bothering you that you have absolutely no control over.  Death, taxes, rules and people you can’t change.  That sort of thing.  Often, we focus and obsess about things we can’t do anything about, but if we admit we have no control over them, we can lighten up a bit and begin to focus our energies on other things . . .

Like the second ring.  Here, you can list the things and people whom you can influence, but can’t totally control.  If you’re in sales, your customers can go there.  Or maybe someone at work has a say over your project.  You can present to him all the reasons you think things should work the way you want them to, but, in the end, it’s his call.  Obviously you should spend a certain amount of your psychic energy on these things, but with everything in the second ring, you can only do what you can do, and then you need to let go.

Finally, there’s the sweet spot—the center of the circle.  That’s where you enter all the things that you have total control over.  Do you oversee the budget on a project, or how a task gets done?  Or even closer to home, do you control things like the training you get?  The center’s where they all go.

The point is that when you’re stressed out, break the problem into its parts and put each one in the ring where they best fit.  Remember that you put in the outer circle things and people you have no control over.  And, you stop focusing on them.  Next, there’s the middle circle, where you can exert some influence.  Spend some time doing just that.  And, then there’s the center circle, where you list the things you have total control over.  And it is there where you spend most of your energy—psychic and otherwise.

Look, pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional.  When things start stressing you out, remember to put them in their one of three places, then get to work on and only think about what you can actually change.

Try it, and lighten up!

Your personal success team

What if you had a group of people in your life who only wanted the best for you? People who wanted you to succeed, and people you could support the same way? Well, such groups exist. They’re called by different names like success teams and strategic support groups, and they all are meant to help their members grow and do well at work.

Now, there’s no perfect model for a success team, but here are some general guidelines you can use to start your own.

It’s best if you have 5 to 10 members. Whether your group is made up of co-workers or friends who work elsewhere, they need to be people who can trust each other and hold confidences. That is essential.

Find a convenient time and place to meet and do so once every week or two. Your group is a place to kvetch, for sure—a little complaining can go a long way. But make sure your conversations are more strategic than anything else. Your group can be the perfect place to set career goals and plan how you’ll achieve them. It can also be a great group in which to brainstorm how to make things happen at work and deal with challenges. And it’s the ideal place to get and offer feedback about how group members are either succeeding or sabotaging themselves.

Make sure that each meeting has some structure so everyone has some time to talk and to ask for what he or she wants from the group. And make sure that everybody gives themselves homework to do by the next meeting. This is a great way to make sure everyone is actually doing something to accomplish what they want.

Gather the right people and follow these simple rules and you’ll be taking a significant step towards realizing your dreams at work. It’s the sort of teamwork that pays off for everybody.

Success without struggle

So, how’s work? Does your job tend to be something you enjoy for the most part, or is it a struggle, full of busy-ness, and stress, strained relationships, and exhaustion?

It seems that we’ve all been raised to believe that to get anything important done, it takes hard work, effort and, well, more hard work.

But while some things that we want to get done can take a lot of work, it doesn’t have to be a lot of hard labor—it doesn’t have to be a pain—work doesn’t have to be a struggle. Sure, work can be full of problems and challenges, but here’s the point: Are they interesting problems and challenges for you? When work gets interesting—when you care about what you’re doing—it gets easier, more fun, and you get more productive.

If work isn’t as interesting as you want it to be, think about how you can do less of the work you don’t care about, and take on more of the problems and challenges that you do care about. If you’re having a hard time with that one, sit down with a friend, co-worker, or how about your manager? Then, brainstorm ideas around this. It could be the most important conversation you have in a long time.

Your Real Work–Management as More

According to a recent Career Builder survey, here in 2014, fully 21 percent of employees are planning to quit their jobs and find new work. (Last year the number was 17 percent.) And reports that more people are quitting their jobs now than at any time since 2008. With so many people getting ready to bolt, you have to wonder what that means for your own workplace. The cost of replacing an employee can easily be as much as his or her first year’s salary. That’s too much to pay. Luckily, you don’t have to.

Fortunately, we know that engagement makes people want to stay with their organizations even in the good times, and perform in ways that allow their teams and their organizations to succeed. The numbers back this up. Gallup has found that organizations where most of the employees are highly engaged are:

• 27% more likely to report higher profitability.
• 38% more likely to have above-average productivity
• 56% more likely to have higher customer loyalty, and
• 50% more likely to have lower turnover.

So, engagement is essential, but what does that mean, exactly? I see engagement as the experiencing of one’s values and strengths. Values have been called the emotional paycheck of work. They are the positive feelings we have when we do our work in ways that matter to us. Values can’t be taught. They’re a part of who we are. Experiencing feelings of creativity, expression or accomplishment are examples.

And whereas values are feelings-based, strengths are defined more by innate talents and activities, specifically things we do without effort like being able to stay on task without supervision, or deliberate well, or to see the bigger picture. Gallup’s wide-ranging and in-depth research shows that in organizations where leadership focuses on strengths, employees are over eight times more likely to be engaged in their work than workers with managers who do not focus on strengths.

Therefore, I suggest that if you are a manager, your real work isn’t making sure that the job gets done. Your real work is something more. It’s helping those you manage to be engaged while the job gets done. That means that your real work includes helping them to discover and leverage their values and their strengths. There are many ways to do those two things. I can assist with advice and workshops, and then help you learn how to have powerful coaching conversations with your people to support their engagement over time.

When you start having those kinds of exchanges you will start to see what I mean about management being more, because what this kind of conversation does is lift you and your employees up and out of how work has always been done. Up and out of the kind of work where you’re waiting for the end of the day, for Friday, for your vacation, and finally, retirement. This, then, becomes work worthy of you and your people. It becomes work where you all get paid to be yourselves because when you are, your organization and your customers win, as well. This truly is management as more, and if you want it to be, it can become what your real work will be from now on.

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