The #1 Way to Combat Anixety

The news headlines are relentless. The reports of COVID-19 spreading like wildfire has sports seasons halted, entertainment venues and gyms closed, meetings and events cancelled or postponed until further notice. It is easy to get caught up in all the drama and get pulled down a tunnel of darkness.

The antidote? Focus on what you can control, and you control what you think about. This post uses the analogy that your mind is like a garden. In order for any garden to grow, flourish and produce beautiful flowers or delicious produce it needs tending.

The “garden of your mind” must never be left unattended. No matter how healthy the garden may seem, there will always be opportunities to allow weeds and thorns to creep in and bring destruction. When this happens, you can experience everything from poor health to depression and emotional upheaval affecting your career, relationships, well-being, and success.

“’Whatever we plant in our subconscious mind and nourish with repetition and emotion will one day become reality.” – Earl Nightingale

Sowing good seeds to produce a healthy garden in your mind requires you to pay attention to where you focus your thoughts each and every day. The influences in your daily life can be but are not necessarily all bad things. Your choices for entertainment, reading material, music, social media and even the people you surround yourself are all some type of seed. You must be willing to ask yourself which ones are pushing you towards your destiny and which are just stealing your time or inhibiting the healthy growth in the garden of your mind.
When it comes to taking care of our garden to ensure it matches our vision and pushes us toward our desired goals, we must do whatever is necessary to change our inner dialogue.

Therefore, a regular examination of our influences, both inner and outer will not only reveal some root causes of stress in our lives but it can help us prioritize what we allow ourselves to become involved in and help us to regain control.
Success is not a destination it is part of the journey. Visualize yourself being successful each and every step of the way. Of course, weeds will creep into our garden. The key is focusing on what is good and positive and let the rest fall away.

Today I want to offer you another resource, it is my free course Stop Anxiety in its Tracks. Click here to take advantage of this offer while it lasts.

How to experience more joy at work

“To love what you do and feel that it matters—how could anything be more fun?” Katharine Graham, the first female CEO of a Fortune 500 company (the Washington Post Company).

A few months ago, I was talking with my brother about a program I was developing with a colleague. I told him how much fun I was having working with her on this project. He remarked, “Fun, at work?” I exclaimed: “Yes, absolutely. We do good work together and have a great time in the process.” His response, “Based on my career history, that’s pretty rare.”

The data on this subject varies, and I’m using the words fun, joy, and happiness to mean one in the same. One study in a CNBC survey reports 85% of US workers are happy with their jobs. In 2013 a Gallup report, only 30% of the U.S. workforce is satisfied and happy on the job. While Google discovered a 37% increase in employee productivity when they implemented strategies focused on employee support and satisfaction. And interestingly enough Harvard researcher and author, Shawn Achor, found that happiness is the key to success, not the other way around. When we are feeling positive, our brain works significantly better, allowing you to be smarter and more creative. According to Achor, “Only 25 percent of job success is based upon IQ. Seventy-five percent is about how your brain believes your behavior matters, connects to other people, and manages stress.”

So, if you feel stuck in a job you dislike is there anything you can do besides look for other work? Yes, there is. Practice gratitude. In Achor’s work he found that when workers spent two minutes to take four quick actions, it improved their happiness over the long term. Those four actions were:

Writing down a meaningful experience they had in the past 24 hours. Our brain is wired to default to remember negative experiences because the number one job of our brain is to keep us safe. Our ancestors couldn’t stop to smell the roses, if they did, a hungry animal would have them for dinner. In order to keep you alive your brain is constantly scanning the environment for danger. Positive experiences are like Teflon, they slip away. Tracking a positive experience keeps it alive in your memory and makes it much sticker – like Velcro.

Writing down three things you are grateful for. Keep a small journal and record those three things at the end of each day.

Writing a positive message to someone — and then sending it to them via Facebook or another social media platform. Everyone loves to get encouraging words.

Meditate. Don’t believe mediation works? Google the story of Dr. Joe Dispenza and discover how a daily mediation practice changed his life.

Ready to make a commitment to having more fun and finding joy on the job? Post one action step here.

The best way to discover your brilliance and why it matters.

You’ve probably heard it said – do what you love, and you will never work a day in your life. Sounds good, right? Yet many Americans aren’t doing work they love. Gallup’s research suggests that only about 36% of us are engaged at work and the rest are just showing up and going through the motions or worse as small percentage are actually undermining the work of others. Given that fact that the average person will spend 90,000 hours or roughly 1/3 of their life the job, discovering what it is you love to do is important from an overall life satisfaction perspective.

Don’t believe me? Talk to people who’ve worked all their life in a role they hated. The lawyer who really wanted to become a chef, but his father and grandfather were both successful attorneys and a career in the culinary arts was frowned up. The accountant who wanted to be a film maker but didn’t dare risk the security of a good job to do creative work. The sales professional who wanted photography to be more than a hobby but was making too much money to pursue their true passion.

No matter where you are in your career, remember the quote often attributed to George Elliot – “It is never too late to be what you might have been”. Start today and discover the intersection of your brilliance and what the market will pay.

Step 1. Get out your journal and write down the answer to the following questions.
What are your unique skills, knowledge, and abilities (SKA’s?)
What are you doing when you are working at something and hours pass yet it seems like a few minutes? (In other words, doing what you love to do.)

Step 2. Marry the two together. Do some research. What kinds of jobs require your unique SKA’s? Based on your answer what jobs have both your SKA’s and allow you to work at what you love?

Step 3. Identify people you know who are currently doing the work you want to do. Don’t know them personally? Read the biographies of people you want to emulate. Use their stories as a model for yours.

Step 4. Create a plan of action. What can you do today, this week, this month, this year to move you closer to having a career you will love? Post your plan where you will see it every day to track your progress.

Step 5. Turn off the voice in your head that says changing your life is impossible. Even the word itself says I’m possible. Replace negative self-talk with positive affirmations.

Step 6. Celebrate along the way. Every time you take action on your dreams reward yourself in some small way. Share a glass of wine with a friend, do a happy dance, proclaim it on your social media page. Whatever reward will keep you taking action and moving forward.

I love what Oliver Wendell Holmes had to say about this – “The greatest thing in this world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving.” What is one thing you are willing to do today to find a job that requires your brilliance? Post that here.

Three Steps to Living a More Empowered Life

Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your permission.” This applies to the way you feel about yourself as well as your response to what others say about you. I’ve spent a good deal of my life worried about what other people might think of me and consequently created a lot of negative self-talk that I wasn’t good enough, smart enough, attractive enough. You get the picture. Until I learned the opinions of other don’t matter. All that matters is my opinion of me and aligning my actions around my vision and giving myself grace in the process.

A vision is the big picture of what you want your life to look like. Creating a vision statement is useful to guide decisions about your daily life. Consider using one of the following to help you craft your vision statement. Pick a date in the future, maybe the day you retire or your 70th birthday. There will be a celebration and at this party someone asks you to tell them about your life and some of your significant accomplishments. What do you want that answer to be?

Or you may prefer to write out what the ideal day looks like in your life 5 years from now. Where do you work? Who do you interact with? What does your office look like? Write as much detail as possible to get a clear picture of the perfect day for you.

Now, do your day to day, week to week, activities line up with your answer in one or both of those exercises? If not, what will you change to make your dreams come true?

Read your vision statement out load each morning so you can take action on making it happen. An accountability partner or a coach can help you keep on track. We often break promises we make to our self. We often keep promises we make to others especially when we know we will have to share the action we or did not take.

Mistakes and setbacks will occur. Be kind to yourself. Avoid spending time complaining about what didn’t work out or beating yourself up because you failed.

When Edison was working on inventing the light bulb, he didn’t consider his previous attempts failure, just ways that didn’t work. Lucky for us he didn’t let those attempts stop him from discovering a way that did work. Write about the mistake in your journal or tell the story once to one close friend. Avoid the temptation to repeat the story to anyone who will listen or replay the scenario over and over again in your mind. Learn from it and then move on. Take the next action that will move you in the direction of your goal. 

Need help crafting a vision statement? Request my free resource Creating a Vision Statement here.

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Three Ways to Build Your Credibility

Over the last four months the headlines proclaim danger, danger, danger! As we face the challenge of the spread of a dangerous virus, we face the challenge of bringing our teams together in a new and unique work environment, relying on technology to communicate instead meeting with people in person. It can take a long time to build a solid business relationship and only a few misspoken words or actions to break it apart. An unknown person once said, “Trust usually takes years to build, seconds to break, and forever to repair.” If you are concerned that this virtual world may decrease your credibility here are three things you can do to build (or repair) maintain the trust and respect of the people you work with. Be true to your word, take responsibility for your actions and align your body language with your words.
You build credibility by doing what you say you are going to do. Promise an employee you will investigate a complaint and you fail to follow through, you lose credibility. Avoid making promises you know you can’t keep. Failing to live up to expectations, both explicit and implicit promises, can destroy a business relationship.
Let another person take the blame for something you did or failed to do; you lose credibility. You build trust with your people by your day to day actions. If your actions are consistently positive, supportive, and truthful day in and day out and you make a mistake, you will most likely be forgiven. On the other hand if people never know what to expect from you, you are moody and negative, you fail to return calls or e-mails or fail to support someone and you make a mistake, people are much less likely to forgive and forget.
Align your verbal language with your body language. In the 1950’s professor of psychology, Albert Mehrabian, studied the importance of non-verbal communication and the effects of conflicting messages. He developed the 7-38-55 communication model. Mehrabian found that 7% of the what we communicate comes from our words, 38% comes from our tone of voice and 58% from our body language. And all three must be congruent for us to be credible. If you are yelling and screaming, and you say you aren’t angry or upset there is a disconnect between your words and your actions. And if someone asks, “how are you?” and you respond by whispering, “Fine.”, with shoulders slumped and downcast eyes the person who asked you won’t believe you. In a virtual world, where we are living on camera most of the focus is on your face. Be certain to align your words, voice, and face. Have your camera at eye level so your head and shoulders are in the center of the screen. Check your lighting so the light comes from behind the camera, not behind you. This will allow others to see your face without shadows. Avoid the temptation to multitask or shift your attention away from the screen. Smile at the camera, sit up straight, and focus your attention on the conversation. On screen actions bolster or diminish your credibility. 
Need to create a plan to improve your credibility? Let’s talk. Contact me to schedule your complimentary conversation today.

#1 thing to do to be a better manager

If you lead a team of people you have a choice. You can communicate with your team in the same way you’ve always led, or you can opt to improve how you interact with your direct reports. The number one step to take toward improvement is to be curious about the people you lead. The word curious is an adjective meaning – eager to know or learn something. What if you approached each interaction with the question I wonder why, in the back of your mind? Here are a few examples.
One of your employees goes above and beyond when they are taking a call from a client. Instead of taking for granted this person is just a natural at customer service, have a conversation about why they took the extra steps they did to make sure the customer got what they needed.
When someone shows up and does just what they are expected to do, no more, no less, get curious. Find out what they like and dislike about the work they do. Avoid waiting until their annual performance review. Schedule time today to ask them.
If job performance misses the mark be curious about that too.
All too often we assume we know the reason for an employee’s behavior. Keep in mind that most people are dealing with an issue you know nothing about. Maybe something minor like spilling coffee in the car on the way to work. Or maybe more serious like a fight with their teenager. Or maybe they received some devastating news like a family member died suddenly. We may never know the cause or the reason, and there is no need to guess. Approach the situation with the attitude that the person is well intended, and something got in the way of them doing their best.
Research findings indicate that when we are curious, we are less defensive in a stressful situation. For many supervisors, a conversation about poor performance is stressful. The study also found we have a less aggressive reaction to frustration with an inquisitive mindset. Nothing makes a discussion about an employee’s performance take a turn for the worse then when a supervisor becomes upset or angry.
Next time you have a conversation with one of your employees approach it with curiosity. I’d love to hear what happens, post a comment below.

A New Era For Performance Conversations

Until the middle of March this year most of us reported to work outside of our home. Now more than half of the people who are still working log on to our computers to report to work each day (56% according to a recent study by GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics.com). This same group estimates about 30% of jobs will now be remote as opposed to 3.6% before COVID19. Most people and the organizations they work for are adjusting and in many cases productivity has improved. A survey conducted by YouGov in partnership with USA Today and LinkedIn 54% of respondents (ages 18 to 74) reported an increase in their daily output. Meetings have shifted from in-person to virtual along with conversations with customers, vendors, and co-workers. This will mean that conversations regarding performance will shift as well.

Managers from a variety of industries have expressed concern about virtual performance conversations. The biggest being the inability to read body language if the conversation is audio-only. The remedy? State meeting expectations up front. Use the virtual platform provided by your company. And most importantly prepare for the meeting. Make a note of your talking points using the following framework.

Craft your opening line. You could use one of the following: “As your supervisor, it’s my job to help you be successful and I want to discuss your lack of progress on the ABC project.” Or I want to talk to you today because you are an important part of this team and last week you failed to turn in your progress report.” Be clear and specific. Avoid starting with a question. Use a statement that describes the reason for the conversation.

Describe the impact their behavior is having on the team, the project, or the organization. You might say: “When you fail to meet the project deadline, that impacts our ability to meet customer demands.

The goal of the conversation is to gain agreement on they will do differently in the future. Allow them to create a plan of action to remedy the problem. Ask for a specific timeline and get agreement on next steps. Then set a date for follow up.

If you would like a copy of my 12 Points to Master a Performance Conversation, send me an e-mail with 12 Point Plan in the subject line and I’ll send it on its way.

Workplace Drama – Truth & Impact

The truth about workplace drama and how it impacts you.

Workplace DramaDaily interactions with people at work seem almost insignificant. Yet every time we interact with a coworker, boss, or customer we are creating an environment that is either cohesive or adversarial. You’ve seen it happen, suddenly two people who were working together with no problem can no longer get along.  Initially, it seems like it will have little effect on overall operations.   It may have started with a sideways glance or vicious remark.  Now its escalated to the point where the two people aren’t speaking to each other.  And it’s costly.

According to a 2008 study on workplace conflict commissioned by CPP Inc.–publishers of the Myers-Briggs Assessment and the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument – employees spend 2.8 hours each week dealing with conflict.  This could include things like backbiting, gossiping, retaliating, and choosing sides. Here is another way to calculate the cost.   Based on an average hourly wage of $17.95 the cost of workplace drama amounts to approximately $359 billion in paid hours or the equivalent of 385 million working days. Plus, there is an impact on morale, attendance, and turnover. The CPP Inc. study found 25 percent of employees said that avoiding conflict led to sickness or absence from work. Equally shocking, nearly 10 percent reported that workplace conflict led to project failure and more than one-third said that conflict resulted in someone quitting or being fired.

People who lead teams that are embroiled in workplace drama often wonder what to do, and most of the time they do nothing.   They ignore the situation and hope it will resolve itself.  Instead of overlooking the problem, address it. The minute you get wind that communication has stopped, enlist the services of a professional coach to bring the parties together and resolve out the issue.  Avoid the temptation to be the intermediary and broker a peace treaty.  Typically, when the boss interviews each person separately to determine the problem and find a solution it is perceived as taking sides.  Each person will wonder what the other said in the meeting with the boss.  Better to select someone outside your organization to help you bring the parties together and seek a solution.

In addition, avoid hiring a consultant to lead a conflict management training. Over the years I’ve learned when two people are creating drama and causing chaos, training is not the answer.  An individual’s behavior cannot be effectively addressed in a group setting.

If you are experiencing workplace drama, let’s talk.  Schedule a 30-minute consultation with me by clicking on the link to my calendar.  No cost or obligation on your part. Think how good it will feel to have a plan of action to put an end to the drama.

Lake Story

Lake StoryHave you ever watched a storm come across a lake? A couple of years ago my husband and I were traveling through northern Indiana on our way home to Michigan.  We stopped for dinner at a small lakeside restaurant with large windows overlooking the lake.  While looking over the menu and waiting for our drinks to be delivered we looked out over the water.  My husband realized he left his glasses in the car.  As he stood up to go to the car and retrieve them, I stopped him and said look outside, it’s pouring rain.  We had not been in the restaurant for five minutes, it started to rain that fast.  We watched a speed boat making for cover, the passengers holding beach towels above their heads to fend off the downpour.  The waves rising higher and higher with each gust of wind, slowing down their travel.  And almost as soon as it started the rain stopped and the sun came out.  The boat and its passengers made it safely to the dock and my husband went to the car and came back with his glasses.  All was well as we enjoyed our dinner and watched a magnificent sunset over the lake.

As I’ve been reflecting on the challenges we face today with the pandemic, I was thinking about our dinner that evening.  It seems like we had little warning.  One day it was business as usual and the next we are staying at home to stay safe. But just like any storm, after we run for cover (like the boat and its passengers) or stay put (like my husband did), the rain ends, and the sun comes out. I am certain this will be the case with this crisis.  It is what we do during the storm that makes the difference in our life when the sky clears.

One thing we all have control over is our thoughts we think and where we focus our attention.  Make it a point to fill your mind with messages of hope.  Avoid negative messages and people. Do a good deed. Call someone and offer encouragement. Send a note or a card to a friend or relative telling them how important they are to you. What is one positive action you have taken to weather this storm? Share it here in the comments.