Leadership

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.

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.

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.

 

4 Things To Do To Stop Feeling Burned Out

🔥You don’t have to just suffer, if you feel burnout at work (or in life!)

There are 4 important changes you can make that go right to the heart of burnout, and we’ll keep you from throwing in the towel. Learn which 4 small adjustments you can make in your situation to side step burnout before you get burned!

Confession: I’ve Already Broken My Resolution

I ate macaroni and cheese last night.

 

Now, I didn’t specifically make a New Year’s Resolution to only eat green things that grow in the ground (after 39 years on this planet, I know myself better than that!) But I’ve been wanting to make up for scarfing all of my Mother-in-Law’s Christmas cookies, so I’ve been trying to “be good” for the past two weeks.

 

Whoops.

 

Like me, you probably know what it feels like to let a resolution slip by the wayside. Or fail at a goal. A huge majority of resolutions fail.

 

But this isn’t going to be one of those articles about how to be in the 8-or-whatever-% of people who keep their resolutions and stay strong. Just google that stuff if that’s what you’re into – there’s plenty out there about that. This is about how to keep moving forward if you’re one of the mere humans, like most of us, who have already gotten off track and wonder what to do next.

 

Like It Never Happened

You’ve probably heard, like I have, that when you slip up on a goal or make a mistake, you should forgive yourself and just get back at it the next day. That’s kiiiiiiiinda right. You shouldn’t beat yourself up, but you also shouldn’t make some big deal out of needing to forgive yourself. By putting too much focus on forgiving yourself, you could actually slip into “ruminating” and negative self talk, which is a self-defeating behavior. Instead, Charles Duhigg, the author of The Power of Habit, suggests that you just let it go and pretend it never happened. Just erase that day or that slipup, and proceed forward!

 

Just Stop

Sometimes when a resolution is hard to keep, or a goal seems impossible to hit, that means it isn’t the right resolution. Maybe you set an unrealistic goal, or maybe you just don’t have the structure in place to do what you said you wanted to do. I really like this article about “key dependencies” and how they can sometimes get in the way of our goals. And I don’t think dependencies have to be other people, either! For example, do you have a resolution to work out every day, but you are ALSO a person who wants to spend time with his kids? And volunteer in the community? And cook a home cooked meal every night? AND read a book a week? You might have resolutions that naturally conflict with other goals and resolutions. We assume that if we slip on a resolution, it’s a failure in our willpower. But that’s not always true! Sometimes our goals just bump up against the wall of reality. So just stop, and reevaluate if there’s an external obstacle to your goal that you didn’t realize.

 

Resolution 2.0

Repeat after me: you are NOT a loser if you give up on a goal that isn’t working, revise it, and try again later. That’s literally called LIFE! Whether it happens in January or July, we’re all always setting out to accomplish something, gathering information, and adjusting course accordingly. So if you’ve already discovered that you and your resolution can’t be long-term BFFs, then let it go. In fact, the sooner you let it go, the sooner you can brush it off and move on to evaluating and selecting a better goal. Cut your losses now, because the more you beat yourself up, the longer you keep up the “I’m lazy, I have no willpower, I can’t do it…” self-talk, the more you’re doing damage to the part of your thinking called “self-efficacy.” Stop wasting time, and start getting prepared for the 2nd(or 3rd, or 4th… no judgement here!) version of your resolution.

 

I wish I could give up on the idea of resolutions all together, but even when I don’t CALL them that, there’s something about a fresh year that makes me want to set fresh goals. I’ll always have a plan for my new year, but if I don’t cross everything off the list, oh well. It’s still gonna be a great year.

How to Set Career Goals that Inspire You

You could plod along a career path, taking whatever promotion comes your way, or you could set clear goals and get on a path to achievement. Which one sounds better? Probably the latter! Setting career goals is a great way to make sure you have the success and fulfillment we all hope for.

 

But the process of goal setting doesn’t begin the way you think it does. If you think goal setting is as simple as deciding what future job you want, listen up! The correct way to set career goals involves a 4-step process that has you working toward something that’s about achievement and inspiration.

 

First, Think Back…

When people think about setting goals, they usually think about the future. That makes sense, because that’s when your goals will be achieved! But by thinking backwards, first, you’re giving yourself an extra perspective on your goals. Start by reflecting: how long has this been your goal? What led you down this path? Are you currently in the place you imagined, when you started? Have you reached the prior goals you’ve set? Did you get to where you currently are by achieving prior goals, or more by accident?

 

Taking time to reflect on the past accomplishes several things: you can evaluate your experience with these goals, and you can also evaluate your relationship to goals in general (some people are great at goal-setting, and others struggle with it, so it’s good to know where you fall on the spectrum before you get any further into the process). It’s also an important reminder of how far you’ve come! It’s easy to just focus on moving forward, but getting perspective on how far you’ve come is great fuel for those days you get frustrated.

 

…THEN Think Forward

After you’ve reflected back, it’s time to fire up your imagination and think forward. Studies have shown that orienting our thoughts toward the future can be a powerful driver for success. In fact, having what psychologists call a “future orientation” can help you move through stressful and challenging situations more easily. That’s the reason dentists give kids candy after a teeth cleaning! When you have something to look forward to, it makes even difficult tasks go more smoothly. So what do YOU have to look forward to? What goals would thrill you to accomplish? When you keep those in mind, the day-to-day of work becomes much more enjoyable.

 

Think Big Picture…

As you’re thinking forward, start to broaden out your goals and think about how your career goals will impact your life moving forward. Can you picture what your existence will look like once you’ve achieved those goals? Do your current goals conflict with any other goals, like family goals? Make sure that you’re making room in your personal and social life for the achievement you’re planning. What would come next, after you’ve achieved your goals?

 

…Then Think Small Details

Finally, flip that big picture thinking around and look critically at the goals. Do you know sacrifices you’re likely to have to make, and are you okay with that? Do you really have the time and the desire to work toward the goals you’ve set? Or are they the goals someone else thinks should be next for you? Make sure the goals you are setting are YOUR goals, and not just what society, or your dad, or your best friend, thinks you should want.

 

I faced this decision when I was running my small nonprofit. I loved our mission, and I loved getting to sit at the head of a small startup community group. When I started thinking about moving on, my friends and colleagues couldn’t believe it. “But.. you’re winning awards!” “You’re on the front page of the newspaper!” I loved what I was doing and I was getting recognition for it, but I had seen how many nonprofits failed to thrive when their founder stayed in place for too long. I knew I needed to help it grow by getting out. It didn’t make immediate sense to the rest of the world, but that didn’t matter. It was MY goal.

 

Your exact goal doesn’t matter. But having a goal matters, and setting yourself up properly to achieve your goal matters a lot. Follow these 4 steps to be successful, strategic, and inspired.

What To Do When You Want to Quit But Can’t

If you’ve ever had one of those moments where you just wanted to scream “I quit!” and clean out your desk, then you know what I’m talking about.

 

I recently got a LinkedIn connection request from the worst manager I ever had. He refused to stick up for me (or any of my colleagues) when we were being undermined, bullied, harassed, and prevented from doing our jobs by the manager of another department. Employee after employee asked for his help getting this other manager out of our way. Employee after employee begged him to intervene. Employee after employee quit.

 

There were so many times during this job that I just wanted to pack my stuff up and go home. The problem? I LOVED what I was doing. Everything besides the toxic leadership at this job was amazing. The work was great, my other colleagues were great… and of course I needed the paycheck.

 

During those long months before I finally handed in my resignation letter, I came up with a plan to make staying survivable. Here’s what I did when I wanted to quit, but couldn’t:

 

Start In Two Places At The Same Time

 

When you’re facing a frustrating situation, our brains tend to recognize two ways we can help ourselves feel better: fixing the problem, or soothing our emotions. Psychologists call these two strategies Problem-Focused Coping and Emotion-Focused Coping. Research shows that using coping techniques that fall into not one but both categories – simultaneously – gets us the best results. (So if you were one of those people who learned that successful people only use Problem-Focused Coping, it’s time to un-learn that bad habit!)

 

The Heart of the Matter

 

Emotion-Focused Coping in the middle of a bad job experience can be things like finding a friend or mental health professional to talk to about the stress. Leaning on other people for support is a coping mechanism that most of us take for granted, but it’s one of the strongest ones we can use. The only catch is that sometimes we may find ourselves “venting” instead of actually processing. Venting is when we just rehash our anger over and over, always staying at the boiling point. In a healthy conversation, you’ll want to use your listener as support to help you feel better and maybe even find some new coping ideas.

 

Another option is volunteering. When I was researching my book The Giving Prescription, I found that giving back to others is one of the best ways to help you get perspective even when life is challenging or frustrating. All through my initial cancer diagnosis, I was volunteering every week at a nursing home, doing singing and dancing performances with a group of other young women. I was scared and struggling, but two things happened during those evening performances: I could see I wasn’t the only one struggling in life, and I also recognized that despite my illness, I had the ability to bring joy to people’s lives.

 

Taking Baby Steps

 

Problem-Focused Coping is using strategies and taking action that will hopefully solve the root cause of the issue. Interestingly, though, studies show that just taking any action might be enough to help you feel better, even if the action doesn’t have a direct result, because action-taking helps us feel more in control.

 

When it comes to staying in a job where you want to quit but can’t, Problem-Focused Coping might look like coming up with ways to keep your boss happy and conflict at a minimum. In my job with the poor manager who let the other manager harass us, I started anticipating ways the other manager was going to “accidentally” sabotage my programs, and building in safeguards to make it more difficult for that to happen.

 

It might also mean starting to make a plan for when you can look for a new job. An important element that helps internal resilience is something called “future orientation.” When we make plans for the future, it helps us keep our drive up, even in tough situations. So tell yourself “I can’t quit now. But I can start job hunting in six months.” And then work backwards from there. “So I’ll need to start brushing up my resume in five months. Maybe I’ll hire a career counselor in four months to help rewrite the resume. So starting next month, I can start putting some money aside for that career coach…” And all of a sudden you’ve got something you can do right now to help plan for the future.

 

It’s More In Your Hands Than You Think

 

When you want to quit but can’t, it’s easy to feel stuck. But even if you can’t make the final move right now, you can set yourself up – both emotionally and tactically – so you’ll be ready to move on and be successful as soon as possible.

How to Fix a Conflict Between Your Coworkers

If your coworkers are fighting, it’s hard to get much work done.

But it turns out that most workplace conflict is actually the HEALTHY kind of conflict!

And there are some things you can do, even as a colleague, to help the conflict resolve faster and get your office back on an even keel. Here’s something important you need to know about workplace conflict so you can make it work in your favor!