Category Archives: Personal Change

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

Fat People Aren’t Good Workers.

I don’t really believe that fat people aren’t good workers.  In fact, I am a fat people (or at least I used to be) and I happen to think that I am a good worker.  There are a lot of people who do believe this, though.  I believe that this is just fuzzy thinking.

fat people are discriminated against

A lecturer at NYU recently tweeted “Dear obese PhD applicants: If you don’t have the willpower to stop eating carbs, you won’t have the willpower to do a dissertation. #truth.”  More fuzzy thinking:

fuzzy thinking re obesity

What does will power re: food have to do with willpower over anything else?  Why don’t people who don’t have willpower re: other things–alcohol, sex, spending, gambling, exercise, hoarding–fall into this guys criticism.  This guy is an evolutionary psychologist–a scientist–who should have more discipline in his thinking.

He’s not the only one.  Recruiters (I once had a recruiter proudly tell me that he made overweight candidates walk up four flights of steps to interviews and if they couldn’t do it, they didn’t get to the next level.  Why?  Is walking up stairs a job requirement?  If he doesn’t do that for normal weight people, then how does he know that they can (if it is a requirement of getting to the next level?), hiring managers, supervisors, co-workers, sales people, customers all make decisions about people based on their weight.  Is it relevant?  Sometimes.  More often not.

Prejudice against fat people is an acceptable prejudice.  It is close to the last acceptable prejudice.  If you find yourself being prejudice against overweight people, challenge your thinking.  Examine what you believe about fat people, thought by thought by thought.  Do they really support one another?

fat lazy fuzzy thinkingDo you just not like fat people?  Do you just think that fat people should do better/be better/act better?  Is this a big enough deal that they should not get a job or a promotion?  Do you believe that being fat is an indicator of someone’s character?  There is a recent study that shows that children as young as four are prejudiced.

OK, So I Think This Discrimination Is Wrong

But it is not illegal.  It is hard to prove (and a lot of people think it is justified).  So . . . if you are overweight, this is something that you can actually do to affect your employability and promotability.  It might have as much of an impact (or more) as getting more education, or more experience, or even more networking.

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Filed under Diversity, Job Hunt, New Job, Personal Change

Reactions To My Discrimination Post

generations at work

Reactions to Reactions To My Discrimination Post

I had readers respond to my Are They Discriminating Against You?  Probably. blog post in a couple of different ways.  First, one reader challenged me about “accepting” discrimination.  He believed that I should advocate challenging the ‘discriminatory behaviors’ of others through complaining to the powers that be and/or Human Resources within the organization, or through the legal system.  I certainly don’t mean to suggest that those aren’t legitimate avenues.  It depends on your goals, though.  Do you want to help fix discrimination long term?  In your company? For everyone?  Then routing yourself around the problem and going to find some place and someone(s) who can judge you for what you are and what you bring and make decisions based on that (as suggested in my last blog) is NOT the solution.  Challenging the status quo is the right thing to do.  Go for it.  Those of us who wimp out on that will really appreciate you.  And support you.  And do whatever you need us to do.

If you need to get a job this month, then you need to find a place that doesn’t discriminate.  You need to find decision makers who are smarter, have better judgement and who are worthy of you.  Leave the others in the dirt–where they belong.

The other people admitted that they themselves discriminate and were unhappy with doing so.  One person who reacted wrote that she found herself sometimes on the side of being a discriminator.  She finds herself feeling the way about young people that older people used to feel about her.  Yet another person who responded–same issue–being a discriminator–just can’t break her thinking of older people as ‘time to go-ers.’ The good news is that both of these readers don’t think that it is ‘right’ to think the way they do–they just feel justified.

So What Do You Do?

I guess my first advice is to acknowledge that there is a huge “humans are this way” element to this. We think of people who are different from us as, well, different.  Not as good.   And then my second advice is to do what I do–struggle with yourself every day to challenge this thinking.  Instead of seeing the instances when the young or old person, does something completely wrong, look for when they make sense.  Work really hard to see it from their perspective.  What do you know that they don’t know that would change their perspective.  What EXPERIENCE (not advice or ‘telling’) could you help them have that would help shift their thinking.  Don’t give them the experience and then take credit for it.  Give them experience and let it go.  Give them the experience and try to figure out the next one that will lead them to an understanding of your point of view.  Think of it as an experiment.  Keep trying things.  Try with one person.  Try with two people.  Compare.  What worked and why.  What didn’t work and why?

Now experiment  with yourself.  Listen to your language.  Are you “them” and “us” -ing?  Are you plopping damning stereotypes on a whole category of people?  Work to see each as an individual.  Note the ways in which the person is ‘different’ from the stereotype.  Another thing we humans do–we make fairer judgements about others who we see as ‘exceptions’ to the stereotype.  “Well, s/he is DIFFERENT.”  Of course s/he is–we are ALL different.  None of us completely fit the damning stereotype.  The sooner you can stop applying that stereotype, the sooner you can stop discriminating.

Go for it!

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Filed under Diversity, Inclusion, Personal Change

Who Are You And How Did You Get That Way?

In the mirror

Understand Yourself

One of the most important tasks of becoming a great leader and a successful Executive (and those things are not necessarily the same thing) is to REALLY understand yourself.  You need to understand what makes you tick–what motivates you, what slows you down, what scares you and what gets in your way.  You need to understand how others see you.  You also need to understand that what goes on in your head is absolutely invisible to those around you.  They don’t know why you do what you do and they certainly don’t know what you are thinking.  You need to understand your strengths and your weaknesses, your learning style and your interpersonal style.  And then you need to show enough of your internal workings and motivations to help others understand you.

We all think we know ourselves.  We are mostly wrong.  That is why it is really good to get feedback from others.  I highly recommend getting 360 assessments done–pretty regularly.  These are assessments that get feedback from you, your boss and your subordinates.  When you look at your opinion of yourself against that of your boss and your subordinates, you frequently get a surprise.   If your boss doesn’t agree with your opinion of yourself, then it’s important to note the differences.  If your subordinates don’t agree with you and your boss about your strengths–another important factor.  These instruments just measure behaviors, though–what can actually be seen.  When you get feedback that indicates behaviors that can derail your career, it is important that you CHANGE that behavior.  It is possible for you to change your behavior without understanding how and why you do what you do.  You just change.  Right?  Most of us can’t do that.

The Why of Your Behavior

When I identify that I need to change a behavior–interpersonal interactions, eating, exercising, time management–it really helps me to understand WHY I do (or don’t do) what I do.  For example, I used to get feedback that I was “unreadable.”  As I tried to figure out why people thought that, I also tried to figure out WHY I was unreadable.  What did they mean that I was unreadable?  I started asking people (not the one’s who had given the feedback, but others):  “What does it mean when people say I’m unreadable?  Why do they care? What could I do differently?”  The answers surprised me.  It turns out that I used few happy facial expressions.  I wasn’t aware of this.  Whether I was happy, pissed or someplace in between, I was using the same facial expressions. I had very neutral (or so I thought) facial expressions.   I really wasn’t aware of this.  When I thought long and hard about it,  I realized that some things had happened in my childhood that made me very guarded about my thoughts and feelings.  OK.  That was legitimate.  Then.  Those things no longer existed.  And not only that, it was interfering with my effectiveness as a leader because when left to their own imagination, people frequently assume the worse (that I’m pissed AT THEM).  I was able to (deliberately) change this because I was made aware of it, I asked about it to understand it, and then I could persuade myself that the coping behavior from my childhood was no longer necessary.  I was able to change more easily with this realization.

Some of the things that can impact the way your are and can shape your behaviors as a leader are:

  • Your birth order and your relationships with your siblings
  • Your relationships with your parents
  • Your beliefs about how things work (your mental models)
  • Your beliefs about the “rules” of organizations
  • What you believe about hierarchy and how that fits with your organization, your boss and your subordinates
  • Your beliefs about what makes people tick (Theory X, Theory Y)
  • What you believe about people’s responsibility to the organization and the organization’s responsibility to people

Start With Feedback

It all starts with feedback, though.  You can’t know what behaviors are really working and not working unless people tell you.  They probably won’t tell you unless you ask them.  Once you know the behaviors that you should address, think long and hard about where those behaviors come from.  Then do something about it.

Then Change

Sooner rather than later.

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Filed under Career Development, Career Goals, Derailment, Executive Development, Feedback, Personal Change

Are You Stuck?

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Have you noticed that you’re not moving up in your organization any more?  Have your last couple of job changes been laterals?  Have your last couple of reviews been ho-hum? Are you starting to get the message that you’re stuck in your career trajectory?  There are some common causes and, believe it or not, some things that YOU can do about it.

Are You Bored?

Do you find yourself finding other things to do (other than your job) at work?  Are you consistently late for work and early to leave? Do you think you can do your job in your sleep? Have you done it and done it and done it and don’t want to do it anymore? Do you remember when you were challenged by the tasks of your job, but that was a long time ago?  Boredom is a common cause of burnout and demotivation in a job.  And it shows.  You may be the most experienced, the one with the longest tenure, but if you aren’t engaged with your job, it shows.  People who aren’t engaged don’t get promoted.  People who are bored are obvious about being bored.  People who are bored don’t get promoted.

Are You Under-Performing?

Have you noticed that people are passing you up?  Are they getting promoted (or appreciated and recognized) when you sit there like chopped liver?  This is the time to be really honest with yourself.  Are you really performing as well as them?  I know you’ve been telling yourself that you are, but are you really?  Are you making deadlines?  Are you over-delivering?  Are you looking for ways to improve what you do?  Are you looking at what you boss (and her boss) needs and trying to figure out how to get that done in addition to what you’re supposed to work on?  If your peers are over-performing, then you aren’t making the cut if you are merely performing.

Do You Have an “Attitude”?  That Shows?

Are you pissed?  Are you aware that you’ve been treated unfairly, badly, been ‘wronged’?  If so it shows.  No matter how much you try to keep it under wraps, it shows.  If it shows, people back off from you.  They can ‘feel’ your anger.  They certainly don’t promote angry people-even people who are out-performing others.

Are You Falling Behind?

We are constantly barraged by new systems, new tools, new processes at work.  Are you up-to-date on all of them?  Even the ones that you don’t need to use very often?  These tools, systems and processes change the way our minds work.  If you’re not keeping up, then you mind is not in sync with your co-workers’ minds.  Or your bosses.  People who can’t do the latest systems and tools rationalize it–I can do the same thing–the old way.  That may be true.  For a while.  Then others can take it to the next level and then the level beyond that.  And you can’t go there with the old way.  You may not even know what you can’t do if you don’t understand the new way.  Think about the things that you don’t do.  Texting?  Excel Pivot tables? Macs? Photoshop? Prezi? Dropbox?  Get with it. Do it.  Keep up.

Are You Being Rigid?

This is somewhat related to the item above, but that is more about tools and systems.  This is more about the way you think.  Are you open to new ideas?  I do organizational change management for major organizational changes.  I do a lot of ‘readiness’ workshops.  I see the rigid ones.  They are hard to get to the sessions.  They sit in the back and glare.  They bring up all the ways/reasons/causes that this won’t work.  My personal favorite, “We tried this before.”  Everyone resists some changes–that is completely normal.  If you resist all changes, if you are the one who knows all the ways and reasons this won’t work, then you aren’t fun to have around.  You certainly aren’t likely to be promoted.

Are You Not A Good Fit For Your Organization Anymore?

Organizations change.  People change.  Just like with marriages, sometimes you’ve grown apart.  Sometimes it’s time to move on.  The hard part is knowing when.  I used to work for an organization that was fairly small when I started and very large when I left.  It was a midwestern company when I started and an European conglomerate when I left.  It had one kind of product when I started and lots of kinds of products when I left.  Over the course of time from when I started and when I left there was an ebb and flow to the ‘fit’ for me.  Some management changes made it worse and some made it better.  Some positions were good fits for me and some were lousy.  In the end, it was me who had changed the most.  It was me who figured out what I liked about the work I had done for this company and figured out that I could find more of that kind of work as a consultant than as an employee at that company. It was a gradual evolutionary change in the relationship.  It happens.  It takes considerable thought and analysis to figure out whether it is a normal ebb and flow in the relationship or time to move on.  When it is time, either for you or the organization, then it isn’t likely that you will keep moving up.

What Do You Do?

Even if you decide that the fit isn’t right, there are things you can do in the mean time.  You have to really be honest with yourself.

  • If you’re bored, figure out how you can start to out-perform your peers.
  • Figure out how you can over-deliver.  Figure out how, in addition to your normal responsibilities, how to deliver something that your boss really needs.
  • If you’re angry, get some professional help to understand where it is coming from and to decide what to do about it.
  • If you are behind on the technology or systems or processes in your organization, then dedicate yourself to catching up and becoming an expert.
  • If you’re rigid, start to experiment with loosening up.  If you find yourself having a negative reaction to an idea, explore–privately at first–what would actually be the worst thing that could happen if the event took place.  Little steps can take you a long way to letting go of your rigidity.  Once you’re comfortable with letting go a little, then start to be more vocal about that openness.
  • If you are not a good fit for your organization, figure out why not, what you need in an organization and then GO FIND IT.
  • Any and all of these will relieve your boredom.  When you are experimenting with new behavior and thinking, it is really hard to be bored.

When your boss and peers see changes in you, it is highly likely that your upward trajectory will restart.

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Filed under Career Development, Career Goals, Derailment, Personal Change, Success, Uncategorized

Learning From Goodbye

Goodbyes Come With The Territory

I’m a consultant.  That means I change jobs a lot.  I am in and out of organizations.  I meet a lot of people, work with a lot of people and say goodbye to a lot of people.  I do different things in every gig, even though I go into organizations as a “change management expert.”  That crosses a lot of boundaries and takes in a lot of different kinds of cultures, situations, tasks, and tools.  I love what I do.  I hate the goodbyes, though.  I hate leaving the organization and its specialness.  I hate leaving the familiarity and quirks.

Lessons Learned

Every time I leave, I do a ‘Lessons Learned” for myself.

  • What did I learn?
  • How could I have prevented some of the things that went wrong?
  • What went right?
  • Which of my skills got used?
  • Which skills did I grow?
  • Which skills did I need that I didn’t have?
  • What can I do differently for the next gig that will speed up my onboarding?
  • What could I have done differently and if I had a chance I would go back and change?

What about the people?

  • Which ones was I wrong about on first impression?
  • Which ones were the biggest help to me?  How and why?
  • Which ones did I have the hardest time with?  How and why?
  • How could I have started differently to change that?
  • What could I have done throughout the gig to improve my interactions with people?
  • Which people will I keep?  (I always try to collect and keep the great people I meet in each and every gig–thank goodness for LinkedIn!!!) How will I make sure that I stay in touch? How can I expand my interactions with these people going forward?

Patterns

  • Are there things that happened during this gig that are the same as past gigs?
  • Can I leverage the patterns?
  • Do I need to break the patterns?
  • Can I learn from the patterns?

What will I do differently?

  • How will I be different in my next gig based on what I learned in this one?
  • How will I enforce doing these things differently?  In other words, how will I remember to spot and change my behavior?

What will I do the same or do more?

  • How will I enforce doing these things the same?  How will I remember?

Count My Blessings

I LOVE what I do.  I am so lucky to get to have experiences in different organizations and meet so many great people.  Even though I find the goodbyes painful, I am so blessed to have had the experiences!

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Filed under Learning, Personal Change

Lessons from Business For Life

Time To Learn

There are a lot of things that businesses do as a matter of course that if we did them in our personal lives, things might run more smoothly:

Have a Mission

  • What is the purpose of your life?  A business probably couldn’t get a way with having a “just go with the flow” approach to mission.
  • Why do you exist?  Check out mission statements from Fortune 500 companies.  Some are better than others, but they all are a statement of why that organization exists.
  • Do you have a mission statement? Is your purpose in life to make the world better?  To impact your family?  Your community? To grow yourself in some way?  If you think it through and write it down, then it is more likely to happen.

Have a Strategy

  • How are you going to accomplish your mission?
  • What are your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT).
  • What is your timeline.
  • Who are your competitors?
  • Challenges?
  • What actions will you take.
  • What help do you need?
  • Where will you find it?

Set Quarterly Goals

I think corporations take this focus on quarterly goals too far, but I do think that having an annually goal and quarterly milestones do help keep things focused and on track.

  • Do you even have annual goals?
  • Do you break down the milestones necessary to meet these goals?  It will help you get there.

Remove ‘C’ Players

Ok, Ok, maybe some of those ‘C’ players are family.  I’m not advocating getting rid of family.  If, however, you have people in your life who are naysayers, bullies, constantly critical or who sabotage you, then it’s time to think about ‘firing’ them.  They aren’t supporting your goals or mission, and they are dead weight that you’re carrying.  Get them out.  (And if they’re family, maybe figure out how to get them into therapy or at least spend less time with them!)

Manage the Money

  • Have revenue goals.
  • Have spending constraints.
  • Manage cash flow.
  • Establish and keep good credit.
  • Use the tools–budget, review, track, adjust–that businesses use.

Have a Recognizable Brand

  • Who are you?
  • What do you stand for?
  • What value do you add?
  • When people think of you, what do they think of?  (Aunt Alice is always late . . . Dad is always grumpy . . .Brother always resists . . .Sally is always knowledgeable and cheerful).
  • Figure out what you want to be known for.  Figure out how to establish a brand that does that.

Market

  • Market yourself.
  • Market the things that you believe in.
  • People don’t know things about you unless you tell them.

Communicate Effectively

  • Focus on being clear about your message–so many problems in family and friend relationships are the result o communication problems. If you were having the same kinds of issues with your boss or your subordinates, chances are you would seek help or spend a lot of energy trying to find a solution.
  • LISTEN.  Most failures of communication are actually failures of listening.  Let the person you are communicating with KNOW that you hear what they are saying (even if you don’t agree) BEFORE you respond.
  • Choose the right media for communicating–be careful what you put into text or email.  Try to be face to face or at least voice to voice during important communications.

Be a Leader . . . and a Manager

  • Set the vision
  • Inspire
  • Don’t give up
  • Focus on the systems and structures of your life.  Set up systems that run themselves and are supported by your life’s structure.
  • Balance long-term and short-term views.

What Lessons From Business Would You Add To Your Life?

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Filed under Personal Change, Uncategorized