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New Directions
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What is Your Strategy?

Have a vision, get a plan, and stay the course.” – Fredrick Hudson

As professionals, we devote time and attention to what matters, and to those activities which will get us to where we want to go. Do you have a career strategy, or better yet, a life strategy? When you sit down and think about it, where do you allocate your time, resources and energy? These are questions you should be contemplating as you develop a career strategy. Most of us don’t graduate from college knowing with certainty what we want to do. As we navigate the ups and downs of a career, we normally find our way into something we enjoy doing…most of the time anyway.  I was recently reading How Will You Measure Your Life?, by Clayton Christensen, a Harvard Business School professor. He discusses how he tracked MBAs from the business school and despite their professional accomplishments post graduation, many of them were unhappy with their career choices. Sometimes it takes many years to find our way in life, but it does not need to be that way. Thinking about this recently, I realized it all comes down to our individual DNA. Some of us have a high need for achievement, for success and wealth. Others seek personal fulfillment in their jobs and careers. Regardless, we are wired in certain ways. Coming to terms with that is how your strategy begins. For many of us, finding that passion, or DNA comes naturally. For others, it can take years to realize this. And that is okay as well. The important thing is finding it, and then doing it.

Until next time…

Jim

Every Job is Temporary…

To be clear: This is not my job. This is my career. I’m in charge of that.” – Connie Schultz, Author & Columist

Recently, I was reading the PARADE magazine in the LA Times and stumbled across the above quote. It resonated with me as you think about the concept of “career” and the meaning of a job. We are the only ones in charge of our career, not the organization or any specific third party, JUST YOU. Thinking more broadly about this topic, and as you think about every job you have held during your career, they are all really temporary. However, your career is not temporary. The real definition of a career is a series of life-long role related experiences over your entire life. We will hold many different jobs over our career. The concept of “lifetime employment” is something of the past generation. You are now in charge of your career and a free agent to work where you want. The self-managed career gives us freedom to choose. This can be empowering. Why is that? As we struggle to navigate the difficultities of our jobs, i.e., bad boss, cantankerous co-worker, etc, we have some comfort in the fact that the job is really temporary. Moreover, if a specific situation is not working and helping your career move forward, think about a job change, or possibly even a career change. You current position may last two years or ten years. Or it may not. Regardless, think of yourself as a free agent with the freedom to choose where you work and what position you hold. The by-product of this mindset is taking control and not putting the company or organization before all else in life.

Until next time…

Jim

Cell Phone Captive…

“Today is a new day, make the most of it, tell someone you love them, smile at someone, give them a hug, hold a hand, or just listen for a minute, and be a friend.” – Anonymous

I was recently out having dinner with my wife and could not help but notice the couple next to us. They had their cell phones neatly placed on the table and the entire eveing could not put them down. I don’t think they said one word to each other the entire night. Sad but true. Have you ever felt you were tethered to your blackberry or iPhone? Or had the feeling you were a captive to your cell phone, not wanting to be away from any action at work, the office or that latest incoming email? As a result, we find ourselves cut off from the rest of the world. In today’s competitive business environment, we are expected to respond to emails as they come it. Moreover, reaction time in business is critical and often does separate excellent performance from average performance. However, there is a balance in all of this! At what point have we gone too far in never putting the blackberry away for a few minutes to just enjoy the moment and forget about work. Going too far is allowing our connection to work through our cell phone take precedent over relationships, both business and/or personal.

Until next time…

Jim

Job Burnout – Part 2

Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.” – Charles R. Swindoll

At some point in our working career, we all feel the effects of being burnt out. When thinking about how to deal with burnout, the above quote rings true! How we react to it does determine the outcome. Unless you are dealing with severe depression or anxiety, which may require professional help, the first step in dealing with job burnout is recognizing what’s going on and accepting there is a problem. Remember, job burnout is not terminal. Taking action steps to change will lead to recovery. Steps to recovery may include taking time off from work, giving yourself time to rest, reflect and heal. Simply slowing down is important. Also, you can not get better alone. Friends and family are critical to recovery. Simply sharing your feelings with another person will release some of the burden. Lastly, re-evaluate your goals and priorities. Perhaps a job change, life change or career change is in order. Find out what really makes you happy, them develop a plan to get you there. One of the best books to read on this topic is Life Launch, by Fredrick Hudson. I recommend everyone read this book. It truly is “a passionate guide to the rest of your life.” Regardless, make sure you take steps to fully recovery before making any life changing decisions.

Until next time…

Jim

Job Burnout – Part 1

Burnout is nature’s way of telling you, you’ve been going through the motions your soul has departed; you’re a zombie, a member of the walking dead, a sleepwalker.” Sam Keen, American philosopher

Since the financial crisis employees have been asked to do more with less. Longer hours have become part of the norm. Moreover, reduced staffing levels are now the new corporate reality. These factors place more pressure on us to perform, often without additional compensation. All of this can lead to job burnout. What exactly causes someone to become burnt out from work? In simple terms, prolonged stress is the answer. Do you feel overworked, undervalued and generally under-appreciated? Feelings of helplessness to change your situation can also lead to burnout. This may apply to you or someone you know, i.e., colleague, family member, etc. A gradual decline in job performance is a sign there may be an issue. We all have good days and bad days at work. This is normal. However, physical signs like lack of sleep, feeling tired and drained, and even worse, illness are signs there is a bigger problem. You don’t want to “sleepwalk” through life, so if any of this resonates with you, it’s time to take control to make changes. Part 2 next week will address solutions to job burnout.

Until next time…

Jim

The know it all…

It is impossible for a man to learn what he thinks he already knows” – Epictetus

During my corporate career, I witnessed just about all aspects of annoying workplace behaviors. The most difficult was the “know-it-all.” At some point in time we all end up working with someone like this, or worse, we may find ourselves working directly for someone who simply “knows everything.” This is the arrogant, stubborn, know-it-all type person who must show every one how smart they are. In his book What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, Marshall Goldsmith says, ”being smart turns people on. Announcing how smart you are turns them off.” So, the question is how does one deal with this behavior?  This is not easy, unless you take the position to simply ignore it. Remember, you can’t force someone to change, or mandate a change in personality. However, if you are willing to take some risk, there are steps to consider. First, it’s important to approach the topic objectively and constructively, without becoming too personal. “Know-it-all” personality type people often seek and need validation. That’s what drives their behavior. An approach to dealing with this might start with acknowledging that their information or position has merit, then follow that with other ideas which might also be considered. Feedback is also a powerful motivator. You may have an opportunity to participate in a 360-degree feedback process where colleagues and subordinates are asked for specific feedback on a person. This is used to develop a comprehensive assessment of the person’s strengths and weaknesses. This is your opportunity to offer balanced and constructive information, which can be used to coach the person. There are no easy answers to this at the end of the day. Helping the individual to discover some insight on their own is a place to start.

Until next time…

Jim

Mental Models?

We don’t see things the way they are, we see things the way we are” – The Talmud

I recently came across the above quote and it resonated with me. We all know that the wisdom found in the accent Hebrew text was profound.  As humans, we form certain mental models about people, places and things. For example, a negative reaction is often associated with the words snake or spider. In the workplace our mental models can be either positive or negative, depending on the situation. I often hear from friends and former colleagues that they are unhappy in their jobs. They do not like the organization they work for, have a difficult boss, are unhappy in their current role or position, etc. The list is endless. These situations can lead to negative attitudes, pessimism and in extreme situations depression. I’m the first to say that often a change is exactly what’s needed for someone to get a fresh start. However, in situations where a change is not optimal, there are ways to improve one’s situation. Starting with self-observation, what are your own problematic behaviors effecting a given situation? For example, do you have a tendency to interrupt? Do you have problems listening? More specifically, are you defensive when given constructive feedback? Feedback should be perceived as worthwhile. It’s important to be mindful of what you are thinking and feeling at any particular time. It can influence the outcome. Adopting a learner mindset will help. For example, what can you personally contribute to moving a situation forward toward improvement. This type of mindset is more accepting of self and others. Remember, changing any giving situation starts with you.

Until next time…

Jim

What is Competition?

The ultimate victory in competition is dervived from the inner satisfaction of knowing that you have done your best and that you have gotton the most out of what you had to give” – Howard Cosell

In business, as in sports, we compete. Externally, businesses compete for marketshare, revenue and profits. Internally, employees compete for individual success, recognition, the next promotion, etc. Often this internal competition can, and does get in the way of our progress and success. In my view internal competition is not about gaining an advantage over your oponent, as it is in sports.  Rather, it’s striving to reach your potential and being the best you can be. Regardless of your choosen profession or trade, at the end of the day, personal fullfillment is what’s important. Feeling good about your performance is what matters. Define success for yourself. Often in business you see individuals playing what I call the “got ya” game. That’s the “I win/you loose” mentality. This behavior leads to negative politics and self-protection, rather than openness, growth  and learning. I prefer to think of win-win scenarios in business. While we cannot control other people’s behaviors, we can conduct ourselves differently, and still have career success. It happens all the time. Howard Cosell’s quote is spot on – “Have you gotton the most out of what you had to give?”

Until next time…

Jim

 

Individual Makeup…

“Each person is made up of a unique combination of strengths, weaknesses, abilities and talents, and any one of us can only truly maximize our potential in the context of that individual makeup.” – Pete Carroll

I love this quote from Pete Carroll because it embodies everything I believe. What is your individual makeup? Do you know yourself well enough to articulate it? In my career coaching work, I spend a great deal of time on this topic. It does not matter if you are in a career transition or thinking about how to navigate your next move within your current organization – having a clear understanding of “who you are” is key. In his book Winning, Pete Carroll discusses the meaning of talent, which he describes as the sum total of your strengths, weaknesses and abilities. I would also add desire and passion to that definition. Truly understanding yourself from this perspective gives you a significant advantage as you compete in the workplace. Why is that? Well, for one, you can focus on those things which you are good at. Don’t waste your time pursuing something if it does not play to your strengths and abilities. Understanding who you are and what makes you the person you are is really understanding your “core self.” In many ways we are always preparing for our next job, position or career move. Knowing your individual makeup will help you in that process.

Until next time…

Jim

 

What’s in your 2014 toolbox?

“I can’t change the direction of the wind. But I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination” – Jimmy Dean

It does not matter what you do for a living: plumber, carpenter, lawyer, business owner or entrepreneur. As professionals we need to think about those areas we want to change or improve in the coming year. Where did you find success in 2013? What do you want to really focus on changing this year? I have the following thoughts about a 2014 toolbox toward success:

  1. Find your passion, and do it. You get the future you want by taking action and making it happen. If you are unhappy in your current job/career, make a detailed plan to change it. Suppose you want to take that next step into a higher level position offering more money and advancement. Put a plan in place to get you there.
  2. Always reinvent and improve yourself. Find three things you want to improve about yourself and make a plan to do it. Focus on those three things. Seek the help of friends and colleagues to help you improve and you will will make significant progress.
  3. Make a plan to increase your skills in some way. As professionals we must be continuous learners, acquiring new skills and tools to help us grow and develop. Make a 2014 plan. Attend that seminar you have been thinking about, take that course on social media, volunteer for a new project at work, something that gets you out of your comfort zone. In other words, keep up with what’s new and use that to your advantage.
  4. Expect the unexpected. Seldom do our plans follow a linear path. There is always an unexpected curve ball thrown at us. Flex to the moment.

Until next time…

Jim