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How to Deal With Things Out of Your Control

Feeling out-of-control is so frustrating. I’ll be honest… a LOT of things have felt out-of-control this year. I’m moving, packing, and budgeting for a major home renovation, while dealing with some health issues.

I’ve been relying on some of the coping skills I’ve researched, like “locus of control,” but ALSO adding some new ones of my own that seem to be working for me.

Are you feeling stressed or frustrated at things that are out of your control? Check out what I’m doing and see if it’ll work for you, too.

And comment below about what’s keeping you up at night, so we’ll all be in it together!!!

4 Secrets To Make Workplace Change Go Smoothly

Delivering the opening keynote at a recent conference, a woman told me she had just found out the day before arriving that her company was being bought out by a larger company. She and her colleagues were facing a huge change, and she was (understandably) nervous about what to expect.

 

Every company is different, and every change is different, but there are a few things you can do to navigate workplace change and make the transition a little easier on yourself – and maybe some of your colleagues, too.

 

Volunteer to Help With the Change

Longitudinal research of companies going through change found that employees who reported feeling “connected” at work also reported feeling confident and positive about the situation. Employees who are engaged with the change are the ones who have a seat at the table, and may even have the opportunity to direct certain aspects of the change. Raise your hand and get involved! Usually when a company change is happening, committees spring up. Maybe there’s a committee researching this new technology versus that new technology. Maybe there’s a committee planning an all-hands staff meeting to celebrate the launch of the new direction. Find a way to volunteer, because getting involved won’t just help you feel more positive, it will give you a way to participate and maybe even give input into the change.

 

Ask Questions

If you’ve been blindsided by an announcement of change, you and your colleagues might not have had the wherewithal, in the moment, to get answers to every detail about what happens next. But don’t let that stop you from getting your questions answered! It’s not only okay, but actually a good thing to ask your manager or boss about what’s going on. (If you’re a manager, check out this post on 5 Things a Good Leader Does During Change for more info) The best questions you can ask are “why” questions, like “why is this the direction we’re choosing?” “why is this going to be good for the employees/customers/etc.?” The more everyone involved understands the purpose of the change, the more smoothly the process goes. So don’t be afraid to ask why.

 

Be Patient

Change takes more time than you think. In my research, I’ve noticed that a lot of company changes actually fail not during the change itself, but during the period afterward, known as “transition.” Transitioning to the new normal can be uncomfortable for a lot of people. During transition, you don’t have the robust support and intense focus you had during the time of change. Everyone assumes that since the change is over, we should get back to top performance. But there may be new systems, new processes, new technology, new employees… you get the idea. If you expect everything to fall back into place right away, you’ll be disappointed.

 

Make Comparisons

You can get on-board mentally with change by making positive comparisons. Are there things that frustrated you or were challenging before? Change is a great opportunity to start fresh and fix those problems! But sometimes we don’t even notice when something changes for the better, so we don’t give ourselves the opportunity to be happy about it. (Sorry, our brains are just wired that way.) Instead, make a note of the way things were before, so that you can actually look back and make a positive comparison after the change. That will give you something to appreciate, even if there are some hiccups during the transition period.

 

Workplace change is never easy, but it can be positive, if you handle it correctly. Whether you’re facing a merger, a restructuring, a new boss, or anything that shakes up your team, it’s time to stop dreading change and get on board.

What NOT To Say When Someone is Struggling

I hate to tell you this…but at some point in your life, you’ve probably said the #1 thing NOT to say to a loved one who is struggling.

I’VE done it. We’ve all done it. It’s almost like a habit. But these common platitudes we offer people who are suffering through a difficult time… they don’t help. And they can actually HURT.

Here’s what to say to your friend or family member who is struggling, INSTEAD of one of these platitudes, and why it’s more likely to help them feel better (and probably cement your relationship with them, too).

The Three Worst Habits of Weak Teams (and How To Break Them!)

Nobody wants to work in a dysfunctional workplace. A healthy office culture plays a critical role in not only productivity, but also employee retention and happiness.

 

You can identify a weak team by looking for common dysfunctional behaviors. Most teams with problems exhibit more than one of these behaviors, and they’ve become a habitual part of the team culture. But there’s hope! There are ways to break these bad habits, if the whole team can start practicing healthier behaviors instead.

 

The Company Grapevine Is Sour

Gossip is one of the worst habits a work team can get into, but it’s one of the most common. It often starts with good intentions, when someone needs to process, share, or let off steam, so they turn to a friendly colleague and start to unload. But the basis of gossiping is “venting,” which is an unhealthy coping strategy (check out this blog post I wrote for IAAP to learn more), and bad for office culture. And when you gossip and vent with other team members, you’re probably doing that instead of actually talking to your manager.

 

Break the Habit By…

Communicating instead of gossiping. Real communication involves not withholding important information. If you’re frustrated, your manager needs to know. If something is going wrong, your manager needs to know. If you don’t have what you need to be effective, your manager needs to know. To break this habit, remember what you learned as a child: “if you wouldn’t say it to their face, think about whether you should be saying it at all.” It’s fine to lean on your colleague friends for support, but in most cases,  it should be done after you’ve started the conversation with your boss.

 

You Can’t Whine Your Way to the Top

Good for you for deciding to have a conversation with your boss about something that’s been weighing on you! But before you walk in there, let’s take a look at what you’re going to say. In my second job out of college, the cultural norm was that people complained to their bosses A. Lot. I didn’t realize how much I had internalized the habit until I moved into my next job, with a management title. It was my job to solve problems as a manager, yet I was routinely approaching my boss with complaints, and no solutions

 

Break the Habit By…

Solving instead of complaining. Think up at least one potential solution before you walk into your boss’s office. That solution may not work. It may not even be feasible to try! But your boss will likely give you bonus points simply for having a solution-oriented mindset. And the more you practice this new habit, the better you’ll get at coming up with workable solutions.

 

Look Like an Ass…umption

In today’s work environment, time is at a premium. Faster is always better. And because we value speed, I’ve noticed that a lot of workplaces rely on assumptions. Workers assume that X will be handled the way it always has. They assume that Y colleague is taking care of Z issue. Making assumptions can save time, but only if the assumptions are correct. If they’re wrong? Well, you’ve wasted far more time than you’ve saved.

 

Break the Habit by…

Asking instead of assuming. When I work with organizations going through change, I often hear employees saying “I don’t want to ask because I don’t want to look stupid” or “I didn’t ask because if I asked about the project, I thought they might assign me more work and I’m already too busy.” This points to both a trust issue and a communication issue. But no matter your title, you can model healthy inquiry (that doesn’t earn you more work or a label of being stupid!) by phrasing things like “I’d love more context on X, so that I can answer any questions the clients may have” or “you seem to be really knowledgeable about Z, and I’d love to know more. Could I buy you a cup of coffee and tap into your wisdom?”

 

It’s hard for one person to change an office culture alone. And if you notice these bad habits at your workplace, it may take more than just you to fix it. But if you start with open communication with your superiors, then show them that you’re a problem-solver who isn’t afraid to ask tough questions, you may just have a shot at influencing a team-wide culture change.

How To Use Humor in a Crisis

One of the fastest ways to stop freaking out when life is stressful is to use humor. But do you know how to tap into the funny stuff in life, even when things stink?

Well, thanks to a broken rib, I’ve had a crummy week. But it reminded me of how to laugh my way through the difficult moments. Here’s what you can do, even BEFORE things get stressful, to help you survive the tough times with a little humor.

5 Things a Good Leader Does During Change

Change is intimidating for just about every member of every organization, from the top right on down to the newest, fresh-out-of-college hire. One of the main reasons change freaks us out is that humans tend to adapt to our environment. So even if we don’t like the status quo, we’ve figured out ways to work around it and survive. Change brings with it the unknown, and the threat that we’ll have to rebuild all of our survival mechanisms in the new environment.

Knowing how threatening change can feel, what’s a good leader to do to make change go more smoothly for their team?

 

Leaders Give Advance Notice

In my work with organizations, I’ve heard a lot of companies make the assumption “we’ll tell the rest of the employees more about this change once we know more.” But there’s always *more* information to be gathered, and announcements about change can get pushed back and pushed back until the very last minute. I’ve even spoken to some companies where they delayed in making the official announcement for so long that employees accidentally found out about an upcoming change from someone outside the company!

There are obvious reasons not to announce a change when there’s no other information to share, but employees across industries report that they would prefer to be notified of impending changes – and even possible changes – sooner rather than later. Early inclusion of employees is a way to show appreciation, but it’s not just good practice from a retention standpoint. When a company seeks input from workers across all levels, they’re more likely to identify potential issues. Susan in Purchasing may not be high on the food chain, but she may know a small but significant detail that leadership doesn’t know, that might derail your big plans! With everyone involved, you can better predict potential problems.

 

Leaders Give Context

Human beings want to know “why?” From the time we’re tiny children pointing up at the clouds in the sky, it feels good to have our questions answered. As a leader, it should be your job to put upcoming changes in context for your team. As an organization, the company has probably talked about why this change is good for the company: higher sales, lower costs, faster turnaround, greater innovation…

Now your job is to tell your team not just that explanation, but take it a step further. Why is this change not just good for the company, but also good for them? What opportunities might come from this change? Will it eliminate a cumbersome reporting process? Will it mean new hires to help spread the workload around? Will it mean chances for promotions and raises? Show them how this change will benefit not just the company, but them individually, and it will make the stress of change a lot easier to swallow.

 

Leaders Give Opportunities to Communicate

A longitudinal study on change showed that employees were happier about change when they felt more engaged in the workplace. An upcoming change is a perfect time to make sure the lines of communication are fully open among your team. For maximum engagement, employees should communicate now just upward, to you, but also among one another. This is the perfect time to make sure your team meetings are interactive and participatory (and not just one boring report after another). Another strategy to consider is activities that build teamwork, like an off-site volunteer service afternoon. The more your team communicates and feels cohesive, the more smoothly the change will go.

 

Leaders Give Benchmarks

Did you ever take a long car ride as a kid, and keep asking “are we there yet?” If so, then you know the importance of benchmarks. When we moved from Texas to Illinois, my little sister was a Barney-the-Dinosaur-obsessed toddler. We survived the drive with a VCR player strapped to two armrests, and a basket full of Barney VHS tapes. Every time she would ask “are we there yet, we would say “5 more Barneys until we stop.” “2 more Barneys.”

Help your team manage the uncertainty of change by sharing benchmarks with them, even if they benchmarks don’t directly impact them. Tell them “The initial review team has completed X, and now the plan is moving to the Z Department. If everything goes according to plan, we’ll be moving on to Phase C, and I expect our team to start doing Y within the next 2 weeks.” Feeling in the loop, especially about how long things are expected to take, will keep your team motivated.

 

Leaders Give (Meaningful) Accolades

As the change seems to come to a close, it’s great to acknowledge everyone’s contributions. But in order to make that acknowledgement meaningful, you need to really know how your team likes to be thanked. I’ll never forget the time I was sitting at a table after delivering a keynote speech: most of the table around me was leadership, with a few less-senior employees. The exercise was to talk about ways to thank employees, and the leaders were excitedly dreaming up lots of big thank-you’s on the company Intranet, parties, etc… the employees at the table were silent. Finally, one spoke up. “Um… most of us would feel embarrassed to be thanked so publicly. We don’t really want cake or anything. Maybe just a note from my boss?” It was a big wake-up call to leaders that what matters is how the employees want to be thanked, not how you think they want to be thanked. To make your employee appreciation meaningful, be sure it’s a thank-you they’ll appreciate.

 

Leading through change is tough. There will be confusion, frustration, and probably even a little fear. But if you can give your team these 5 things to help them navigate change, your team will be stronger and better on the other side.

The #1 Question I Get Asked

I get asked this question ALL. THE. TIME:

“How do I help X person in my life get a better perspective? How do I help them be more resilient?”

It’s a tough question, because there’s not a perfect answer. You can’t GIVE somebody else perspective.

But because everyone seems to want to know the answer, I’ve done some research and some thinking, and there are 3 things you CAN do to help.

#1 is probably the toughest, because it requires vulnerability that we may not want to show.

If there’s someone in your life (your child, your employee, your sibling…) who could stand to be a bit tougher, check out this 4 minute video on what you can do to help them find resilience.

Is Your Company Resilient? 4 Qualities Resilient Companies Have in Common

Resilience is an attribute that many companies appreciate, yet can’t describe. Like a lot of corporate culture issues, it can be a matter of “I don’t know how to ask for it, but I’ll know it when I see it.” So how does a company become a resilient company, and create a corporate culture that values resilience?

 

There are 4 main qualities you’ll find in resilient companies. And by the way, not all successful companies are resilient companies! Some companies are successful but haven’t yet weathered a big storm. But most resilient companies can turn out to be successful companies, because they have these 4 characteristics in place, to allow them to adapt and grow.

 

A Leader Who Has Struggled

John Paul DeJoria is the founder of Paul Mitchell haircare and Patron tequila. But before he shampooed some of the most famous people in Hollywood, he lived in his car and sold hair products door to door. He credits his early life difficulties to helping him develop the work ethic that built his global businesses. But he’s also notorious for retaining the same employees for decades! Some leaders act like they can only get the best out of their team members by pushing them to the breaking point. But leaders who have truly struggled in life tend to understand that true leadership has more in common with compassion than fear. With that perspective, they can help their teams learn the lessons of resilience.

 

Managers Who Aren’t Afraid of Conflict

Workplace conflict can be distracting. But it doesn’t have to be destructive. In fact, there are two types of conflict, and one of those types of conflict is GOOD for your organization! Task-related conflict is when two people disagree on *how* something should get done, but they agree on the desired end result. This kind of conflict, if handled correctly, can help companies be more solution-oriented and innovative. Of course, if handled incorrectly or ignored, even the good kind of conflict can turn into people-related conflict, which is the bad kind. To build a resilient company culture, managers need to not be afraid to step in and keep conflict task-related. (If you need more information about telling the difference between task-related conflict and people-related conflict, check out my video here.)

 

Vertical Communication

Many companies know that vertical communication and letting employees’ voices be heard is an important part of employee engagement and building an inclusive corporate culture. But it’s also part of building a resilient company, as well. Vertical communication builds resilience within your culture by helping your organization identify and respond to all possible problems and issues quickly. If only the highest levels of leadership are talking back and forth, and then communicating *down* to the staff but not listening back, they may be missing major problems on the horizon. This kind of communication is important all the time, but it’s *especially* critical during change. When a company is going through transition, employees need to feel like communication is happening in all directions, so they can get on board with the change.

 

Great HR and Hiring Practices

A company can’t be resilient if it doesn’t have resilient employees. And it can’t have resilient employees if it doesn’t hire for resilience, train for resilience, and let go of people who can’t be part of a resilient culture. In fact, failure to let go of underperformers and employees with poor attitudes is a major resilience-drainer for organizations. A company with a resilience built in to the corporate culture will make it a priority to hire and retain employees who show individual resilience, and those priorities should be reflected in writing in their HR practices.

 

Nothing ruins a great job like bad company culture. If you’re looking for a company that has a strong culture, it’s hard to know what to look for when you’re just interviewing. These 4 qualities are key indicators that the company may have what it takes to both be successful and be a great place to work, at the same time.

 

How to Tell Your Partner You’re Mad Without Causing a Fight

When it comes to love and conflict, we believe a lot of weird things:

“Love is supposed to be easy.”

“If it’s true love, you’ll fit together like puzzle pieces.”

“Love means never having to say you’re sorry.”

WRONG!

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, here’s my helpful guide to saying “I’m upset,” without it spiraling into a big fight.

Because the truth is, life is hard. And that can make our relationships stressful. But just because you’re frustrated, it doesn’t HAVE to mean you’re going to get into some big fight with your spouse or partner!

So I have a extra-special secret phrase you can use, to communicate something that bothers you, WITHOUT starting a fight.

How to Tell Your Boss You’re Feeling Burnout

With all the hours you spend at your job, it’s normal if you feel stressed at work (and yeah, I say “if” knowing full well that you ARE stressed at work a lot of the time, if the numbers are right.) And if you’re TOO stressed, you’re at risk of burnout.

Burnout is a leading cause of unnecessary job turnover, and yet it keeps happening because no one seems to know exactly how to handle it. Companies have few official resources for employees at risk of burning out, bosses don’t know how to address it, and employees worry that if they bring up their stress levels, they’ll be labeled “incapable” or “whiny.” Until we can address the ways our society has glorified stress as being a symbol of importance (I’m working on it, I promise!), it will be up to individuals to speak up for ourselves in a way that doesn’t risk our career success.

So how do you say “I’m about to burnout!” to your boss without committing career suicide?

Be Clear About What You Mean

It might be best to not even say the word burnout to your boss. If you think your boss might judge you for being stressed, or be the kind of manager who doesn’t care about your mindset as long as work gets done, then you can have this conversation without ever saying “burnout.” Instead, bring up specific challenges you’re facing that are getting in the way of your success, like being interrupted too much, not having the information you need, etc.

And did you know there are different kinds of burnout? Psychologists say there are 3 burnout subtypes: “frenetic,” “underchallenged,” and “worn out.” So even if you say “burnout” or “stress,” your boss’s idea of what that means might be different from yours. So clearly articulate whether you need more help from colleagues, more time on deadlines, or whatever it is that will actually help you manage the situation.

Be Solution-Oriented

In this video about telling your boss you’re stressed without seeming whiny, I go over the two types of coping: problem-focused and emotion-focused. In the workplace, most bosses prefer problem-focused coping. So before you talk to your boss, prepare at least three possible ideas for making the situation better. 

By coming to the meeting with ideas already ready, your boss will see that you aren’t just looking for an excuse or a reason to complain, but that you’re actually looking for help at doing the best possible job. Your boss may have more suggestions for you, or be able to help you help you find the resources you need to implement your ideas. But by showing up with a plan, you’re showing positivity and a willingness to fix the situation.

Be Laser-Focused

The odds are good that there are many issues causing you stress that are leading to your feelings of burned out. And it can be tempting to want to address ALL of them in this meeting. But when you’re on the verge of burnout, be aware that your brain isn’t operating at its best. If you try to address every single outstanding issue at your organization all at once, you might get distracted and fall down the rabbit hole, amping up your own irritation in the meantime. Stick to one or two main issues that are leading to your feelings of burnout. Issues that – if resolved – will clear up the majority of your frustration. Refer back to the list you made above, and your boss will hopefully get on board.


Don’t let the risk of burnout drive you away from a job you enjoy. It’s possible to work hard without being burned out, so if you think you’re on the verge, talk to your boss sooner rather than later and make a plan that will keep you productive and successful.

Courtney Clark first name signature keynote speaker
First name signature for resilience speaker Courtney Clark