Bounce Back!

Resilience: The ability to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness

Resilience is key to the short and long-term success of our careers. Over the course of time, we are thrown curveballs that require us to bounce back and show our toughness. Here are 4 ideas for building resilience for yourself and your team:

  • Frame the Situation.  When a situation turns out badly or something negative impacts you, how do you think about it? Is it a blame game? Do you kick yourself for “doing something stupid?” Stop. In every situation multiple elements impact the outcome. While it’s important to consider your own role, look at the various other players and their roles in the setback. Don’t look at them to place blame, but to learn.
  • Ask Questions to Find Understanding.  After assessing what role various people or institutions or situations played, follow up with questions for yourself. What was controllable? What wasn’t? What lessons can I learn? What could be different next time?
  • Take Time. Sometimes, the curveball has some pretty significant impact. Be sure to set aside some time to work through the emotions. Unpack them, label them, and try to understand them.
  • Be Expansive. Resilient people mark the ending of any setback by moving forward. They acknowledge and attend to their feelings, but don’t wallow in self-pity or self-blame. They put what happened in it’s place and take steps to make new things happen. When one door closes, they open others.

If you think about a difficult experience as an opportunity instead of an obstacle you’re more likely to grow from the experience and more likely to bounce back quickly.

Here’s to resilience in a turbulent world!

Pushing Through the Fears that Hold You Back

I came across a great quote yesterday:

“ When you commit, when you really put yourself forward and push through that fear, even though you can’t see through to the other side because it seems so overwhelming, things start to open up for you.” — Matt Pohlson, co-founder of Omaze

It’s part of a short video on Inc.com about dealing with fear. He shares his own experience of getting his MBA, turning down a lucrative offer from McKinsey, jumping into the unknown and starting his company.

The quote really struck me because I think we all get caught up in the fear of what’s on the other side. We get comfortable. Even if we don’t think what’s going on right now is the best, it’s what we know. When faced with the potential of a new situation, we often fill in the blanks with the downsides. We feel like we’ve had a level of success to this point so why mess with a good thing. Or we just don’t think of ourselves as risk takers.

Pohlson noted that we look at people like Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg or Elon Musk and think of them as fearless innovators. Truth is, every game changer has fear. How do they – and how can you—push through it?

Four Steps

Here are four steps to help you deal with the fears that are holding you back:

1. Recognize the emotion. Fear is an emotion just like happiness, anger, frustration, or joy. Stop, breathe and recognize when you are feeling it.

2. Label the emotion. You have more control over an emotion if you can label it. When you label it, you’ve created a frame of reference to work with.

3. Own the emotion. Too often, we try to suppress negative emotions which allows them to have greater impact on us later. Instead, own the emotion. Tell yourself you are afraid and that it is a natural, normal feeling or emotion.

4. Decide how to move forward. Now that you’ve recognized it, labeled it and owned it, you have more control over what to do with that fear. You can put it in a place just like you would other emotions. You can control what you are going to do. As Pohlson, says, now you have the option to push through it and see what’s on the other side. You can reframe it and see the opportunity rather than the loss. You can decide that, the risk is too much for you, and you need to take a different route. Rather than allowing the fear to make the decision for you, the decision is up to you.

These techniques work whether you’re dealing with your reaction to a major organizational change, a personal life event, or a one-off challenge like giving a big speech in front of a new audience. Give it a try. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how well it can work.

Spending Time With the Right People at Work?

Now that we’ve reached the middle of the year, it’s a good time to take a step back and assess how we are progressing. Usually, when we do this type of assessment, we look at progress against our business plan, project timelines or other priorities we’ve identified.

I suggest we all take a look at our key work relationships and assess how those are going.  We all know that our work relationships are important for a wide variety of reasons. We also know that these relationships shift over time. Perhaps someone who it wasn’t important to have a good working relationship with in the past is now an important partner. Someone who we worked closely with in the past moved to a new role or division and we don’t really work together anymore. And sometimes, there are people we need to build relationships with but we don’t because they are difficult… or perhaps building a new relationship with them is outside of our comfort zone.

Assess the balance in your network of work relationships and ask:

  • Who are you spending a great deal of time with? 
  • Why do you spend that much time with them – familiarity? The ease of the relationships? Because you need them to get work done? It could be a combination of reasons.
  • Based on what you want to achieve, is that the right amount of time to be spending with them?
  • Who are you spending less time with but should spend more because they are important to success?
  • What needs to happen for you to be able to spend more time building the relationship?  Do you need to spend less time on those relationships that are comfortable but not as important to the work? Do you need to force yourself out of your comfort zone?
  • What’s your plan for building or expanding the relationships you need to work on? Set 2 or 3 goals for making the necessary changes to rebalance your relationships and put them into action now.

Who Is On Your Personal Advisory Board?

You’re standing at the precipice of a career-level decision. But all the options seem to have relatively equal merit – or equally poor merit. Perhaps the consequences seem a bit murky. What do you do? How do you choose? If you’ve developed an advisory board, you reach out to them for counsel. After you gain some perspective, you’re better prepared to make the decision and deal with the challenges that come with it.

Everyone should have one. Few of us do.

A personal advisory board is similar to an advisory board that many organizations make use of. Except that it’s for individuals. It’s typically not formal. And most boards don’t meet as a group, though some leaders are capable of garnering that level of support. For most professionals, it’s simply your own set of advisors that you can tap into. Sometimes, it’s for basic conversations; sometimes for helping you “sound out” ideas. Other times, for pointed advice.

A good advisory board is more than just a random group of networking colleagues. To be sure, it leverages your networking skills to “assemble” the board, but it’s more intentional in its construction and purposeful in its usage. It certainly serves as part of your broader networking efforts, but is designed from the start to be more strategic and deeply advisory in nature.

7 Guidelines for Building Your Advisory Board

When seeking out and choosing board members, most people are not going to ask “want to be on my advisory board?” The board is more of a virtual construct, though it serves a very real purpose. In any case, you should try to cultivate a trusting relationship and be up front with them . “I value your perspective and would like to be able to chat with you from time to time. Get your advice on occasion.” Some of this might happen in the normal course of your day, if it’s someone you work with or are formally mentored by. Here are some guidelines for building your personal advisory board:

  • Be Intentional – Your board is assembled based on your career aspirations and specific professional goals. What types of knowledge, experience, and skills would be most helpful to you? Which roles, businesses, and industry exposure do you need? Create a list or a spreadsheet. From there, you identify the people you would like to “recruit” for your board.
  • Think 360 Degrees – Seek out a varied set of people… those in leadership levels above AND below yours. Choose peers and employees. Leverage both clients and service providers. A well-rounded board is critical to helping you develop an agile approach to your thinking and decision-making.
  • Diversify – One of the biggest mistakes leaders can make on the job is surrounding themselves with those who think, decide, and act just as they would. It creates group-think and limits the depth and breadth of your team’s capabilities. Know your blind spots and aggressively address them. The same applies to your board. Choose from across gender, ethnic and generational boundaries, among others. The more diverse your board, the richer your perspective.
  • Evolve it– as your career and development needs change over time, so too should your board. You will have different challenges as an executive than you did as a supervisor. When you change roles or industries, the mix of your board should change as well. Also, no matter how carefully you choose your board members, some of them won’t work out. Perhaps their advice turns out to be ineffective. Or maybe they’re never available to you. Re-evaluate both the overall composition and individual members of your board at least annually.
  • Selective but Multi-level – you have only so much time to devote to your own development, so you have to make choices. There’s no magic number, but 5-10 people seems about right. You should network more broadly but create at least two levels of your board. The 80/20 rule can apply here. You spend 80% of your time with 20% of your primary network. The rest is spent finding and cultivating relationships that will be important to you down the road.
  • Pick straight-shooters – the worst advice is often the advice you don’t receive. You can’t afford to get sugar-coated or partial thoughts and ideas from people. Choose people who you know to be straight-forward communicators. And make your desire for frankness known. Finally, look for people who have the emotional intelligence to deliver such talk in a way you can hear and use.
  • Practice Reciprocity – so far this all sounds a bit self-serving. It shouldn’t be. The only way this works in the long run is if you approach this from a win-win perspective. What do I have to offer? Do your members sometimes need advice, an introduction to someone, or help on a quick project? Return the favor. Even if one of your board members is a mentor well above your pay grade, ask sincerely and confidently how you can help them.

How you leverage your board will depend greatly on a number of factors, including your comfort level and the type and quality of the members you recruit. Some people will stick to occasional conversations where they will try to absorb information and ideas. Others will ask for formal mentoring.

A growing number of people have formal, scheduled developmental or problem-solving conversations every month, sometimes in small groups. Each person comes with one or two challenges they need to figure out, and they spend time bouncing ideas off each other. There’s no exact formula, but the more specific you are about your needs and your understanding of others’ needs, generally the more productive the relationship.

We’ve all read the advice that we should manage our careers like we do our jobs. We should also take a page from forward-thinking organizations that leverage advisory boards. These boards become a strategic partner, helping the company with insights and advice critical to their success. By taking an intentional, disciplined approach to development and decision-making ability, leaders at all levels can reap the same rewards.

How To Leverage A Toxic Boss

Virtually everyone has a bad manager story. But what about truly toxic bosses? According to a study by the Employment Law Alliance, nearly 50% of all employees have had a toxic boss at some point in their career. I know I have.

Should you run away from him as fast as you can? It depends (see below).  Skillful management of the situation can actually be a career advantage. Accomplishing results under a difficult boss builds Emotional Intelligence, develops resilience and gets you noticed. Not bad if you can handle it.

Two caveats before we begin:

  • A single toxic behavior doesn’t make for a toxic manager. Like most things, there are degrees of toxicity. Be careful not to generalize. For example, someone may have astronomical performance expectations, but otherwise is a likeable, capable manager. Or another manager may be insensitively blunt, but fair-minded. These managers happen to have huge blind spots that need to be brought to their attention.
  • Not all toxic bosses are alike. Some are bullies who yell and scream. Some are sophisticated manipulators… quiet but tyrannical, with a complete lack of empathy. Check out Roy Lubit’s article for more details on the different types of toxicity.

Typical Approaches

We aren’t going to completely rid ourselves of toxic bosses anytime soon. When you review the literature, you’ll find there are different strategies you can try that can help the situation but each has its drawbacks.

  • Lie Low. Acquiesce to her demands, try to avoid confrontation, hope that it gets better, or one of you leaves the company. This only works when you’re 100% sure she’s not your boss for long. Otherwise it’s demoralizing, creates a victim mentality, and invites further and deeper abuse.
  • Reason With Them. Try to engage, explain how he makes you feel, or try to “work out” your differences in a heat-to heart. Unlikely to work. If this is someone who purposefully or uncontrollably makes your life a living hell, he doesn’t care how you feel.
  • Report Them. You’ve had enough, so you bring it to HR. It’s often the “right” thing to do, and some situations almost demand it. Know that it’s a big risk. HR usually has a high bar to side with you over your manager. And you could win the battle but lose the war. You could get an undeserved reputation as a tattle-tale or a malcontent which could follow you for years. The good news: more organizations and HR functions are clamping down on toxic bosses, particularly around harassment. Get unbiased advice and proceed carefully.
  • Fight Them. Confront them aggressively. Or use passive-aggressive tactics like pretending you didn’t hear them or acting out behind their backs. A Baylor University study clames it’s the most successful approach (which tells you how bad the others are, by comparison). Be extremely cautious. It requires excellent EQ, otherwise solid performance, and not a little luck. And it’s not exactly taking the high road.
  • Leave the Company or the department for another role. This is often an excellent option. But not for everyone, and it can take several months to find a better situation. Also, don’t be surprised if you run into him again. Maybe because of a reorganization. Maybe as a project manager. Or hired to replace your boss at the new company. I’ve seen it happen.

A Better Way: Manage Your Boss

This is not a tongue-in-cheek suggestion. You should think about this like you would a project or a developmental assignment. Approach it with some rigor and discipline. There are three main considerations.

Manage Yourself: This is the most critical element of managing your manager. You must reframe how you think of your boss and your relationship. You will certainly need to make adjustments along the way, but you must fully commit to this new approach.

  •  Make the Decision.  Is this the right approach? If so, attack this as a project, and think about it objectively. Put the focus on you… your performance, your career, and serving your clients’ best interests. While thinking about things like “destroying your boss” might feel good in the moment, the negativity will eat you up, and make it much harder to accomplish your goals.
  • Be Positive and Maintain Your Self-Esteem. Keep focused on the end result. Management usually knows who the difficult bosses are and they’ll be impressed with how you handle yourself in the toughest of situations.
  • Don’t Let Yourself Get Isolated. Continue to build your network. Maintain your visibility. Bounce ideas off trusted peers. Promote yourself discretely.

Be Openly Respectful even if he or she doesn’t always deserve it. Don’t engage in gossip or character assassination. Don’t make your boss look bad. It’s likely other people know at least a little about your toxic boss’ behavior.  They are also looking at you and evaluating how you respond. And wondering, “would he treat me the same way behind my back?”

Know Your Manager: The better you understand what makes your boss tick, the better you can avoid, counteract or even leverage their own behaviors to everyone’s advantage. This is a capability that’s useful as you work with even the best of managers.

  • Put Yourself in Their Shoes. Work to understand the challenges and pressures the boss is facing and be empathetic. Like you, she may have overly aggressive goals, too much on their plate, not enough resources, unrealistic timelines, or maybe even a toxic boss themselves.
  • Ask Yourself What Motivates Them? When irritated by someone, most people perceive what motivates themselves in a positive light and routinely question the motivations of others. “He makes my life hell because he’s on a power trip.” Maybe. Could it also be that he is struggling to be a good manager and doesn’t understand that this isn’t how you do it? What have his bosses modeled for him?
  • Learn Your Boss’s Strengths and Weaknesses. Employees and their managers are linked together whether they like it or not. So it is really important for employees to pay close attention to a manager’s work habits, management style, and how they operate on a daily basis. Observe:
  • Likes and dislikes?
  • Emotional intelligence?
  • Personality quirks?
  • What things set off the boss?

There is no substitute for finding out what makes a boss tick and understanding the things that motivate him or her. Failing to do so puts you at a disadvantage when developing strategies to work more effectively with your boss.

Collaborate: Even the worst bosses appreciate employees who help them look good. And, it’s relatively easy to work productively with people you like. Learning to collaborate with even the most difficult people will develops your EQ and boosts your career.  

  • Get Aligned. Do you know and FOCUS on your bosses goals? Have a conversation about goals, responsibilities and tasks.
  • Communicate Their Way. Some people prefer to talk things through while others prefer to think about it first. Some people like long narratives, others prefer a few bullet points. Some want frequent communication, others don’t. Learn what your manager likes. And, don’t be afraid to ask. They will probably appreciate that you are taking their preferences into account.
  • Be a Problem Solver. Never identify a problem or bring a complaint to your boss without having a at least one potential solution in hand that you have thought through. Better yet – provide options. Even bad bosses like employees who solve problems for them.
  • Communicate in Writing as Much as Possible to ensure you’re on the same page and that you’re able to demonstrate your work. Make sure you adapt that writing to your boss’ preferences. After important meetings, send emails to confirm what was agreed upon.
  • Pick Your Battles. This isn’t about subservience. You should still maintain your dignity, and stand up for yourself when necessary. The more you know about your boss, and the more you demonstrate your collaborative behavior, the easier it will be to address your concerns. Don’t do it often. Don’t do it in front of other people.
  • Know When It’s Time to Go. Even if you do all of the above, you may decide that you can’t work in this situation. Decide when and how you’ll move on. Do it with grace and with a focus on maintaining as positive a relationship as you can. Burning bridges doesn’t help anyone. Document truly toxic behavior in case you need to provide it.

Every situation is different. Make a decision with eyes wide open about who you are, what you are willing to tolerate, what the pros and cons are. If you’re lucky, you may never work for a toxic boss. However, managing your boss is good advice no matter the circumstances. It allows you to take control of your performance and gain some control over the relationship with your manager in a way that helps you, your boss, and your organization.

How Do I Get to the Next Level?

I woke up the other morning and the calendar said it was December.  December!
How can it already by the end of the year? This realization made me think about the goals I had set at the beginning of the year and where I stood against those goals. I asked myself, ‘How can I take my performance to the next level?” At this time of year, especially in companies that have end-year check-ins as part of their performance management process, you and your people may have this same question.

What do I need to do to get to the next level?

When our people ask this question, they are usually looking for us to help them navigate the performance of career development waters and give them the answer for where they should be taking their performance or career. When asked this question, use the GOAL Development Conversation Framework to guide the conversation.

First, determine the individual’s Goals. Review where the individual is in his or her current role. Are they ready for a move? What are the individual’s personal and career goals?

Second, gain the individual’s Observations on what he or she does well, areas of interest and development needs. Ask for examples.

Third, add your Assessment and the assessment of others, if you know them for a fact. If your team member is interested in moving to another role, what skills and competencies does someone need to be successful in that role? How does this person compare to that profile right now? What do they need to develop? How does it align (or not align) with their interests?

Finally, create a Learning plan. What more do you or your team member need to learn about the role in which he or she is interested? What skills or competencies do they need to develop? How do they need to better showcase strengths?

What’s Your Talent Investment Plan?

Knowledge Investment

“Knowledge and skills have become the global currency of 21st-century economies, but there is no central bank that prints this currency. Everyone has to decide on their own how much they will print.”

–Andreas Schleicher, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development

Schleicher’s quote is from Pass the Books. Hold the Oil by Tom Friedman in the March 10 New York Times. The piece talks about how performance on Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA, exam is correlated with how few natural resources a country has. The fewer the natural resources the better the performance on the exam. As another contributor to the article, K.R. Sridhar, founder of a fuel cell energy company in Silicon Valley says, “When you don’t have resources, you become resourceful.”

Those countries with the least natural resources have learned that in order to compete over the long term on a world stage they need to invest in educating their student populations.

Over the past few years, most businesses would say they’ve learned a difficult lesson of what it is like to live in a resource constrained environment. And the ones that will achieve continued success are those who have continued to invest in developing the skills and capabilities that will bring the biggest return on investment for their business. There’s no one perfect solution for every business. It needs to work in your business and in your business environment.

In the 21st century, competitive advantage comes from the strength of the people you have. As Schleicher argues “the only sustainable way is to grow our way out (of the recession) by giving more people the knowledge and skills to compete, collaborate and connect in a way that drives our countries forward,”

What is your talent investment plan?

Who Are You, Really?

Personal brandThink about all the different leaders you’ve known. Now think of three words, maybe a short sentence, to describe each one. There may be one who was the company’s ‘go to guy.’ Maybe there was the one who was ‘good natured but inept’. Another could be ‘the one who wanted great people around’.

Each of these describes a brand. We hear the word brand thrown around a lot these days. Companies or products have a brand. We hear about our social media brand. We’re told to cultivate our brand. Whether we like it or not, each of us already has a brand that has been developed over the years by our words and actions.

A personal or leadership brand is important. It gives people a quick way to think about who you are, and what they can expect when interacting with you; or when asking you to get involved in a project, or asking you to take on a new role.

The question is how do you cultivate your brand? Some things to think about are:

  • Who are you, really? We all have things that we value. We all have strengths. Your brand should reflect who you really are. If it’s not genuine people will see that.
  • How do your actions reflect who you really are? If you say you are all about getting results but never create them, your actions don’t reflect that brand. Be careful of latching onto what you think others want to see.
  • Are you making yourself visible? Like it or not, organizations are not pure meritocracies. People have to have visibility to who you are and what you’re all about. Keeping your head down and just getting your work done is not all you need to be doing. Making others aware of what you’re doing and how that is adding value is important. Volunteer for projects that will allow you to highlight your brand. Engage in conversations with others to learn how they are adding value and letting them know what you are doing too. Step out of your zone. I know someone who had some perspectives on how her company was approaching diversity. She contacted an executive in her company about an article he wrote for an internal newsletter on the topic. He asked her to write an article sharing her views and soon she was put in charge of diversity for the company.

Create your personal branding action plan. Let people know who you are and the great things you’re doing.

 

 

Edith Onderick-Harvey is a recognized organizational and leadership development expert. She works with Fortune 500 firms, growing companies, and universities to design their organizations, develop their leaders and continually elevate performance.  She has been quoted in The New York Times, Human Resource Executive, CNN and is the author of the newly released book “Getting Real:  Strategies for Leadership in Today’s Innovation-Hungry, Time-Strapped, Multi-Tasking World of Work”

WHO COULD USE AN ATTITUDE ADJUSTMENT?

Attitude Adjustment 260x173
I recently contributed to an article on positioning yourself for promotion in which I talk about the importance of attitude when being considered for a promotion.

How many of you have a team member who has asked several times to be promoted and the issue is attitude? I hear it frequently from clients and people are often struggling with getting the message across.

If someone you know needs an attitude adjustment, consider the following:

    • Explain what the poor attitude is. “You need to change your attitude” is not an effective piece of feedback. Before addressing the issue, define exactly what the issue is. What does the person do that demonstrates a bad attitude? Is it the tone of voice they use when dealing with co-workers? Is it the grumbling every time they are asked to help out in the department? Be specific.
    • It’s not just what you do but how you do it. Most people can go through the list of job responsibilities and say “I do that.” However, how he is doing it can be just as, if not more, important. Does he just report the customer data or does he also provide an overview of key findings and their implications? Is she proactively asking how else she can help her client or just doing what’s required? Give examples of how promotion-ready people behave.
    • Is he or she feeling the love? When someone wants something — like a promotion — and keeps being told no, that person’s attitude may slide because he isn’t getting what he wants. If attitude is not the reason the promotion can’t happen, make sure you are letting the person know you see the good work being done and have plan for moving him to the promotion.
    • Do we have a fit issue? Sometimes people are just in the wrong job. That feeling of being in the wrong place can cause attitude to take the deep dive. Have a frank conversation with the person. Bring up the idea that this may be a bad fit for her. Ask her if she feels the same. Create a plan for helping the person get to where she needs to be — inside or outside the company.

First, Find Your Successor

Richard BransonI was watching TV this weekend when I came across an interview with Sir Richard Branson. As the interview was coming to a close, the interviewer asked him his advice for a new CEO. He said, “Find your successor and teach that person everything you know. That way you can focus on the bigger things.” The interviewer replied that finding and developing your successor is intimidating for some leaders. His reply? They are weak leaders.

Real leaders understand the need for and benefit of identifying a successor. It doesn’t matter if you are the CEO or a first-time manager, identifying and developing someone who can do your job should be a priority. Early in my career, I was a couple of months into a new job when my boss told me to think about who could take over for me in 18 months. I was floored, feeling like I didn’t even know what my job was yet. And, I didn’t identify and develop a successor. Shame on me. It interfered with my ability to move to another role, jeopardized the department’s talent pipeline and kept someone from being developed. Since then, I’ve prioritized developing those around me, informally and formally.

When we surround ourselves with great talent and help that talent become as successful as we are, we demonstrate one of the keys to leadership success — our ability to bring others along on the journey.