Category Archives: Reframe

Think Your Job Is Secure? Think Again. PLEASE.

Recruitment or Employment Issues Chalk Drawing

Think They Can’t Do Without You?

There are lots of reasons that we think we are indispensable at work.  We know more than anyone else.  We’ve been there longer.  We have a close interdependent relationship with the boss.  We’re way better than others who have been there forever.  Whatever it is that you think about why you are indispensable, you are wrong.  NO ONE is indispensable, not even you.  Think about it:

  • The boss who thinks you are the best thing since sliced bread could be gone tomorrow.  It is unlikely that the new boss will instantly see your worth and if you were a favorite, it is likely that your peers aren’t feeling all that warm and fuzzy about you.
  • You might have been the best of the best at one time, but does that still apply?
  • How expensive are you?  Are there new people (maybe straight out of school with more developed technical skills?) who are as good or almost as good?
  • Do your peers sing your praises?  Or do they try to scuttle your high horse?
  • Have you consistently over delivered incredible results . . . except for the last 6 months-or even worse-the last year?
  • Is the organization shifting its priorities away from your area of expertise?
  • Do you have a reputation of being negative? Or a diva? Or high maintenance?

They CAN Do Without You!

There are all kinds of reasons that organizations decide to part company with people.  SO MANY of those people are shocked because in their own eyes and mind they were indispensable.  The water closes over you head as you leave with barely a ripple.  People remember you and speak of you occasionally, BUT THEY GO ON WITH THEIR JOB.  They figure out workarounds to close the gap left in your absence.  And those gaps close pretty quickly.

So Why Am I Telling You This?

I’m telling you this so that you will come out of your delusion and will do what it takes to either prevent this situation or be able to deal with it if it happens.  I’m telling you this to get your attention before you find yourself on the outside looking in with total disbelief.

Do you remember what it was like when you started your first job, or your latest new job?  Do you remember how focused you were on understanding everything you needed to know.  Do you remember how careful you were in understanding what your boss wanted and in trying to deliver it?  Do you remember how much you tried to understand the unwritten rules of your organization? If you can re-achieve that heightened level of awareness and attentiveness, then you are much more likely not to take your situation for granted.  You are much more likely to escape being marginalized and finding yourself out the door.

What Should You Do?

Every week (yes, EVERY week):

  • Remind yourself to treat your boss the way you did in your first week in this job
  • Remind yourself that your peers can take you out faster than your boss. How are you helping them?  How do they perceive you?  What can you do to further their agendas?
  • Do something to build your network, both inside and outside the organization.  Who at the top of the organization outside your own management chain knows you?  Who do you know at other organizations that interest you?
  • Keep your skills current.  Get certificates.  Go to school.  Know the latest technology. Stay up to date on what is going on in your industry/field.
  • Ask yourself what you’ve done to add value THIS week.

And maybe then you’ll be indispensable:-)

 

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Filed under Bosses, Career Development, Derailment, Executive Development, Networking, Personal Change, Recession Proof, Reframe

Do You Ever Think About Your Legacy?

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This has been a tough week.  A dear friend’s husband had a stroke.  A young acquaintance died.  A friend lost a job.  Another friend had a baby girl. The juxtaposition of all these events has made me think of  mortality and therefore, my legacy.  What will people remember about me?  What difference will I make in the world?  Whether today is my last day or I have 50 more years, what impact will I have on my world?

Steven Covey, in his best seller, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, made one of the habits “Begin with the end in mind.”  Obviously, it is hard for us to begin with our legacy in mind.  As children, we can’t grasp the concept of a legacy.  We feel immortal and think in the present.  As children we aren’t able to grasp how we can/will have an impact.  We live our lives, usually as best we can, and we get smarter.  At some point, we suddenly realize that our existence in this world can change the world and that we can influence that.  That’s the really cool part.  We can influence it.

Have you thought about it?  I probably first thought about it when I attended a Leadership Development program in my late twenties.  I was about the same age as the young acquaintance who died this week.  They had us write an obituary.  Begin with the end in mind.  When you read obituaries, you get a snapshot of people’s  lives–what was important to them–

  • their families
  • their military record
  • their accomplishments
  • their publications
  • their interests

(For one of the most interesting obituaries, read this one.)

Obituaries take it down to the most important things in your life.  So for you, what is that?  Are you focused on the things that are most important to you?  Is that how you spend your time?  Or do you spend your time on what other people think is important?

When you encounter life events like I have this week–a death of a young person, a friend with a stroke, a birth of a baby–it helps to re-focus you on what is important.

The most important things to me are:

  • my family
  • my work
  • my students and clients
  • learning

What about you?  What will people say about you?  What are you focused on?  What are you ‘wasting’ your time on?  Are you proud of what you have accomplished so far?  What else do you want to accomplish?  What are you going to do about it?  You have the ability to influence it.  Today.  Tomorrow.  As many tomorrows as you have.

Enjoy.

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Filed under Goal Setting, Personal Change, Reframe

How Do You Know When You’re In Trouble With Your Boss?

I used to get feedback on 360° assessments that I was unreadable.  I didn’t do much about it because I really didn’t see it as a problem.  I knew what was going on inside my head and I wasn’t thinking anything bad about any of the people who found me difficult to read.  I knew that if something was wrong, I was crystal clear with the person who did whatever it was.  I’m a direct person and I was direct with those who made me unhappy.  If I wasn’t unhappy, then, despite the fact that I was “unreadable,” everything was OK.

Unfortunately, no one but me had access to what was in my head.  My employees created versions of what was going on in my head.  Most of those versions not only weren’t correct, they were really way off.  I know this because they told me later.  After I learned to be more obvious about what was going on in my head.  After I learned to be direct to people who were doing things right.  People stop being scared of what is going on in your head when they know that you’ll tell them.

BadBoss

This post is about signs that your boss really DOES have a problem with you.  How do you know what is going on in your bosses head when it isn’t obvious?  You have to look for the more subtle signs.  The first thing you have to do, though, is to give your boss the benefit of the doubt.  Assume that your boss is happy with your performance if you don’t see signs otherwise. Some signs to watch out for and to take seriously are:

  • If your boss doesn’t meet your eyes.  Unless your boss does this with everyone, it isn’t a good sign.
  • If your boss avoids you.  This one isn’t as straight-forward.  Sometimes bosses have cliques or favorites.  If s/he spends more time with others than with you, then that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, although it’s not necessarily good boss behavior.  Pay attention to whether you are the only one on the out.  If not, give your boss the benefit of the doubt (we’ll talk another time about how to deal with bosses who have favorites).  Assume that things are ok, maybe could be better, but are ok.  If, however, your boss really obviously avoids you, then you have a problem. 
  • If your boss constantly finds fault.  Again, is it just you or is s/he this way with everyone?  If s/he is like this across the board, then I’d go get another boss, but it isn’t specifically bad for you.  If, however, the boss nit picks everything you do, you are in trouble.  This could be a style or a communication problem, but whatever it is, it is a problem.
  • If your boss gives you worse assignments than anyone else.  Sometimes you get harder assignments because your boss thinks you can tackle harder issues than others.  If, however, your boss is giving you easier assignments or impossible assignments, then try to figure out why.  Are you new at your job,or to the group?  Have you not lived up to expectations on previous assignments?  On the other hand, do you feel like the assignments that you’re getting are designed to make you fail?  The assignments you get should be at least as hard as those given to everyone else or harder if you’re more experienced or trying to get a promotion, but not impossible.
  • If your boss always takes someone else’s side.  You don’t have a problem if you boss occasionally takes someone else’s side (in fact, that is actually better than if s/he always takes your side).  If, however, you are always on the short end of the stick, then you’re got a problem.
  • If your boss doesn’t seem comfortable with you.  Try not to assume things that aren’t here, but if your boss seems uncomfortable in dealing with you, doesn’t have small social conversations with you, never  sits near you when the occasion arises, then you mayhave a problem.  (You’ll note that I’m not as clear about this one–bosses are regular people–they can be socially dysfunctional just like the rest of us.)

I hope that you’ve read this list and decided that despite appearances, your boss is just fine with you.  That is most likely the case.  If you recognize your situation here, then you need to do something about it.  Over time, I’ll write about what to do about each one of these situations.  If you have a specific situation that you’d like to have my suggestions on, let me know and I’ll give it a go.

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Filed under Career Development, Derailment, Personal Change, Recession Proof, Reframe

How Do You Get Motivated On Sunday?

Dreading Sunday Evening?

I recently had someone ask me how to get motivated on Sunday.  Great question!  My question is what do you need to be motivated to do?  I assume that when most people wake up on Sunday, they’re relatively motivated to do whatever is on the agenda for Sunday.  I assume that  the question is really about being appropriately motivated for Monday.  All of us have occasional difficulty with giving up our “off” weekend time to recommit to the structure and duties of the work week.  If you regularly dread going to work on Monday, and especially if you start that dread on Sunday, then it’s time to look at what’s going on.

Why Do You Dread Going To Work?

Are you dreading the start of the work week because:

  • You don’t like the work?
  • The atmosphere of work?
  • How you feel about yourself at work?
  • What you won’t be able to do?

Whatever it is, there are some things you can do about it.  Some are short term and others are longer term.  The first thing to figure out, if you can, is why you aren’t motivated.  That will help you understand what the best approach is. 

If you don’t like the work, then you need to figure out how to find different work (longer term solution).  The best way to be motivated to go to work is to do work that you love so much that it isn’t work.  Check out a previous blog post, Are You a Wanna Be, for some suggestions.  There are things that you can do, though, in the short term to help you get motivated.

  1. Reframe the way you think about work.  Figure out a way that the work you do now is a step on the way to doing the work you want to do.  What can you learn?  Who can you meet? Who can mentor you? What training can you get? What software or systems can you learn?  What resumé value can you get out of this job that will help you get the job you really want?
  2. Put something on your calendar every day that you can look forward to.  Put something very special on your calendar on Monday.  Have lunch with someone you really want to spend time with.  Block an hour to learn something new.  Read a book during lunch. 
  3. Plan out your next week on Friday and then set the plan aside until Monday.  Sometimes when you have a plan ready to go, you can relax and enjoy the weekend and start the week ready on Monday.  At the same time, you’ll work on next week’s tasks in your subconscious and may be further ahead when Monday starts.
  4. Understand the specifics of what motivates you and create an environment that is full of those things.  If you are a list person who loves to check off the “dones?”  Do you work for rewards?  Give yourself rewards.  If you work for approval, find someone who can/will approve when you accomplish things.  Create a motivation rich environment that helps you be eager to go to work.

If the reason you dread going to work on Monday is the atmosphere, then there are two things to do. 

  1. First, figure out what it is about the atmosphere.  Is it the people?  Is it the culture?  Is it what you are asked to do?
  2. Second, figure out how to change it. Moving away from the situation may be the long term solution.  Short term there are ways to get along with even the most difficult people.

Do you feel incompetent at work?  Do you feel like a failure at work?  These are frequently the reason that some people dread work.  Feeling incompetent is a completely normal way to feel when you are learning new skills.  It is not pleasant to be in that stage, but it is a normal stage, and it is relatively short-lived.  If you feel like a failure, you have to ask yourself–is it you or is it true.  If it is true, then take one step each day to turn it around.  If it is in your head, get therapy.  That is the fastest, easiest, safest way to solve that problem.

Is it that you want to keep doing what you do on the weekend, not what you do during the work week?  If so, what is it that you like so much about what you do on the weekend?  Spending time with your family?  Relaxing? Exercising? Working on your hobby?  Maybe there are some clues here about what your ultimate, dream work  should be.  Maybe these are some things that you could use to motivate  yourself (by scheduling more of) during the week.  Maybe these are some things you can set up as rewards to get motivated.  However you do it, if you’re doing things that make you happy on the weekend and not so much during the week, you need to fix that.

You Can Change This

The bottom line is that when you start dreading going to work, refocus your energy toward figuring out exactly what it is that is creating that dread.  You CAN have a life in which going to work on Monday is as fun as getting up Sunday.  You can create that life through deep personal understanding and by dealing with the situation in the short term while you work toward a plan for the long term.

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Filed under Career Development, Personal Change, Reframe

Bosses Are People Too

You Think The Same As You Did Before

For those of you who are over the age of 25, you know how you feel the same no matter how old you are?  The outside may seem older, but to yourself—inside your mind—you feel the same age.  It’s really weird.  You would think that as you age, you would think differently, but if you do, you don’t notice it.

The same is true when you become a boss.  You think of yourself as the same.  You have different responsibilities and you have to do them differently than you did before you were a boss (you have more power and that helps get things done), but you think of yourself as being the same.  Again, when you become an executive, how other people think of you changes, but how you think of yourself stays much the same.  The problem is (in both cases–age and organization level) that other people see you differently.

Power Changes Things

When you are a boss, you have positional power over people–you have the ability and the right to decide their fate.  You can give them a good review, or put them on “a program.”  You decide how much raise they get (within parmeters established by the company) and therefore whether their quality of life goes up or down.  You give them assignments which can create visibility or push them beyond their ability to perform.  You believe in your own head that you are fair, that you make the right decisions on all of these things, and that you are a good and likeable person.  Right?

Just by virtue of having this power, however, you will frequently stop being given the benefit of the doubt.  Your motivations will not be seen as virtuous, your decisions will not be seen as fair (by everyone) and your subordinates will begin to feel a distance toward  you–even those who are your friends.  It is just the way it is.  If you are a boss, you need to be aware of this.  To do your job, you must exercise positional power.  You can counterbalance the negative side of positional power, however, by building your personal power.  Personal power is acquired through respect by others.  Personal power comes in several flavors:  referent power, information power, connection power.  When you have personal power, that benefit of the doubt comes back.  Personal power stays with you when you leave the specific job.  Personal power does not alienate people as much as positional power does.  Personal power helps others view you as “a people” too.

Treat Your Boss Like “A People”

Now, flip the switch.  Think about your own boss(es).  They have the same issues.  S/he sees herself as fair, virtuous, and trying to do the right thing.  S/he is puzzled about why her subordinates don’t see her that way.  Consider giving him/her the benefit of the doubt.  Try to overlook the positional power and treat him/her like “a people.”  You will stand out.  You will engender trust by trusting.  And that will begin to build your personal power with your boss.

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Filed under Career Development, Executive Development, Reframe, Trust

Get Better At Your Job. Now.

How Good Do You Want To Be?

What kind of employee do you want to be?  What kind of a manager?  What kind of a leader?  What kind of a boss? What kind of a sales person?  What kind of a General Manager?  What kind of an Executive?  This is a serious question (or I guess several serious questions).  Do you want to be “OK” at your job?  Do you want to be good at it?  Or do you want to be extraordinary?  What is your ideal performance?  Are you hitting it?

If you’re not hitting it, I’m not going to ask you why not.  That conversation is for another time.  I’m going to ask you what, precisely, would you be doing if you were performing at your ideal level?  Would you be spending more time at something?  Would you be finishing things (in a more timely manner)?  Would you be talking to people you aren’t talking to?  Would you be hustling harder?  Would you be less complacent? Would you be getting better results?  Would your boss be happier with you?

What Would It Take?

Write down the things that you would be delivering if you were hitting your ideal job performance.  Be precise.  Look at the list.  What do you have to do differently than you are doing now to get those results?  Would you be on the Internet as much as you are?  Would you be taking hour lunches?  Would you be wasting your time in hour long meetings that could get the same results in 15 minutes?  Would you be going along to get along?  Would you be delegating better?  Leading more? Would you be more focused on what you are doing–all the time?

Do you work like you want to be the best?  Or do you work like you want to be “OK?”  The difference is a change in attitude.  Get serious about what you’re doing.  Don’t treat it like a job–9 to 5–it’ll be here tomorrow if I don’t get it done.  Treat it like a dead-serious goal.  You’ve GOT to get it done.  You’ve GOT to increase your performance.  You’ve GOT to keep it moving.

Try changing your attitude–even for a day and notice the difference.  It is much more fun, interesting and fulfilling when you are ALL IN.

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Filed under Career Development, Career Goals, Executive Development, Personal Change, Reframe

Are You Making Mistakes On Purpose?

We all make mistakes.  Mistakes have consequences.  We learn from our mistakes and don’t make them again.  Or do we?  Sometimes, especially when you find yourself doing something over and over again—being late, forgetting to send something, leaving certain people off invitations, forgetting status reports, losing important information, doing things that make the boss mad—it isn’t just a mistake.  Sometimes it is self-sabotage.  Shooting yourself in the foot.  Failing on purpose (albeit sometimes unconsciously).  Proving that you aren’t ‘good enough,’ ‘ready for the position,’ ‘at the right level.’

Identity

Each of us has a self-image that pretty much dictates our identity.  I’m a mother, a daughter, an introvert, smart, good at math, an Executive, a business woman, etc., etc.  When something happens that challenges that identity, we have something called cognitive dissonance.  Cognitive dissonance is the experience of having two conflicting “cognitions”—ideas, thoughts, ‘mental models’—simultaneously.  This is so stressful to us that we take action to bring them into alignment.

For example, when I wrote “good at math” above (which I am not), I went back three different times to amend it.  I first put “(just kidding),” erased it and then put “not really,” erased that and then wrote “(wanna be)” in front of it.  I was so uncomfortable with writing something that is so much not a part of my identity that I had a really hard time leaving it unadorned while I wrote the rest of the paragraph.  If I have such a strong reaction to something so minuscule, imagine the difficulty I would have if something happened to challenge my “mother” or “business woman” or “Executive” identities.

This is why people who are laid off have such a hard time.  Most of us these days identify with what we do.  If we can’t do it anymore, then it is extremely painful.

Why Do We Self-Sabotage?

This is equally true of good things about our identity and bad things about it.  If we think badly about certain aspects of ourselves—that we aren’t good at math, or that we aren’t smart or that we shouldn’t be at an Executive-level, or that we aren’t likeable—then we will struggle to reconcile those two cognitions.  We will do things that prove, despite the fact that we just got promoted, or that we are being praised for a job well done, or that our boss likes us—that we don’t deserve the promotion, or being praised, or liked.  We will self-sabotage until we are back where we are most comfortable.  We will do things like miss important appointments, become unresponsive to assignments, or tell off our boss until we prove (to ourselves and others) that our self-image is right.

So How Do You Know If You’re Self-Sabotaging

Pay attention to what is going on.  Are there consistent patterns that keep you from getting to where (you think) you want?  Do you have the same experience in position after position, or in company after company, or in relationship after relationship?  Do you get uncomfortable when people praise you or when you are considered for/get a promotion?  Do you keep getting stuck at a certain level in organizations and not seem to be able to climb to the next rung, no matter what?  These can all be signs of self-sabotage.

Recognizing it is most of the battle.  If you see that you’re doing it, then you will have to do some really hard work to adjust your self-image.  If you never see it, however, you never have the opportunity to start changing.  Self-sabotage is related to your self-image.  Once you change your self-image, then stopping the self-sabotage is pretty easy.   You have already changed your self-image.  You don’t think the same of yourself as you did at 12 or 18 or 24 or . . .  You can change again, and again.  You just need to be more conscious, mindful and determined to create the self-image that you want.

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Filed under Career Development, Derailment, Executive Development, Reframe, Success