Leadership

How to Advocate for Yourself

I got some great practice this week in advocating for myself, when I spent several days at the ER and in the hospital with a brown recluse spider bite.

There are two types of self-advocacy, and one may SEEM easier than the other… but they’re both tricky.

Here’s what you need to know about how to advocate for yourself in a way that’s going to get you the outcome you deserve.

How Your Stress Might Be Costing You (Big Time!) At Work

Think you have your stress symptoms under control? Think you do a good job of masking your frustration at your boss and coworkers? Think no one else notices the pressure you feel?

 

Think again.

 

Most of us aren’t very good at hiding it, when we’re stressed. We leave little clues, like a huff in our voice or a death grip on our armrests. I promise you, people notice.

 

Why do we think we should hide our stress? Well, many workplaces recognize that stressed-out employees produce poor work quality, provide bad customer service, and make lousy colleagues. (Some work environments still romanticize stress as a sign of being important, but that’s a whole different problem!) We think we need to hide our stress so we can show that “we got this!” and that we’re a rockstar who can juggle anything given to us.

 

If you’re shoving your stress down thinking no one is noticing, you’re wrong. The little stress signals you’re giving off are speaking volumes to the rest of your colleagues, and they could cause you problems at work, in three major ways:

 

You’ll Be Labeled “Not a Team Player”

 

When you’re under stress, a natural reaction can be to pull away from the group, in order to avoid lashing out or feeling further annoyed. It is a good idea to stay away from situations that will trigger an unprofessional stress response, but sometimes your instincts will cause you to retreat too much.

 

You might not even notice that you’ve pulled away from the group, but your boss probably will. She won’t necessarily realize you’re under stress (because you haven’t told her because you want to get that big promotion so you want to look like you can handle anything!) She’ll just see that you aren’t contributing during meetings, or assisting your coworkers the way you used to, and she’ll think you’re not interested in being a contributing member of the team. Uh oh…

 

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You’ll Drive Away Your Inner Circle

 

But you have one team at work you can always count on, right? Your work buddies! There’s a group you can be honest with, and share your stress.

 

Well… maybe.

 

See, research shows that “venting” is actually an unhelpful form of expressing your frustration with a problem, because you let off just enough steam that it keeps you from actually getting up the energy to make headway against the problem. Think of it like a pot of boiling water that never quite boils over, because you’ve “vented” the lid just enough. If you stay boiling long enough, your friends are going to distance themselves from your negativity. Yikes…

 

You’ll Get Passed Over For That Promotion

 

You’re trying to hide your stress levels precisely because you want to get ahead at work. But those hidden “tells” that you’re letting slip are ratting you out. Your boss is noticing the changes in your behavior, and even if he does realize it’s stress-related, he’s wondering why you haven’t approached him about it.

 

Successful people often (not always, but often) get to where they are by admitting they can’t do everything themselves. My husband, an entrepreneur, is a great example of this for me. He always reminds me that he hires people far smarter than he to do their jobs, and he relies heavily on them when the workload gets high. If your boss thinks you can’t admit when you’re stressed and can’t ask for help, he may think you aren’t qualified for that promotion. And he may (rightly!) be worried that you don’t have enough appropriate stress-management techniques to handle the job. Bye-bye, corner office!

 

 

Even if you think you’re hiding your stress from your boss and coworkers, you probably aren’t. And the symptoms of your stress that are showing are probably hurting you worse in the long run than just admitting you’re stressed. Come clean if you’re feeling stressed, because then you and your team can come up with appropriate ways to successfully get you back in peak form.

 

 

 

 

How to Redefine Success After Life Throws You a Curveball

This is the story about one of the most humbling experiences of my life, and what I learned from it.

After you’ve lived through a tough time, it’s easy to want to get “back to normal.” But often after a difficult experience, your old goals are obsolete.

Here are 2 important considerations to help you redefine your relationship to success (and redefine success itself!) and start achieving again, no matter what you’ve been through!

How to Facilitate Change in the Workplace… No Matter WHAT Your Title Is

Anyone – at all levels of any company – can help make corporate transitions happen more smoothly if they know this one technique to facilitate change.

Whether you’re high up on the totem pole or smack dab in the middle, there’s one thing you can do that will make change a little easier for you AND your colleagues: talk about the purpose of change. Here’s how to do it, so you can stop feeling the discomfort of change and start moving forward.

Stop Hating Your Job

Your alarm goes off. You roll over and bury your head under the comforter. You pinch your eyes shut and wish for it to be Saturday. But it isn’t.

 

If you hate your job, every day feels never-ending. Because we spend so much of our lives at work, it’s better to at least like what you do, even if you don’t love it. So how can you stop hating work, if you and your job just can’t get along anymore?

 

Remember What You Used to Love About It

My dad used to work as an investor. He was so good at his job, they promoted him to manager. He was flattered, except… he hated managing people. He’d rather hole up in his office researching stocks all day. He started to wish he could just go back to his old role, until he got better about protecting his time, and scheduling blocks on his calendar devoted to stock research, where he wouldn’t be interrupted about management issues.

 

If there was something about your job you used to love doing, make time to prioritize that work. There’s probably SOME reason you took this job in the first place, hopefully more than just money (because research shows that thanks to a process called “habituation” or “hedonic adaptation,” the happiness we get from money wears off pretty quickly). Whatever the reason you chose this profession, and accepted this job offer, remind yourself of what your hopes and expectations were, and take steps to build those activities back into your day. Even if, like my dad, you’ve been promoted to new tasks, you can still keep one hand in the activities you love.

 

Plug In To a New Arena

 

Maybe your job hasn’t changed… maybe you’ve changed. Maybe since you started this job, you’ve discovered new passions or skills, and you’d like your work to incorporate some of those new interests. Especially these days, there are lots of creative ways to step outside your normal work functions, like volunteering on the committee for an interest group. You could also spearhead some of the community and volunteer initiatives, or take on training the interns if you’re passionate about teaching. Getting involved in a different part of your company should have you seeing your work and your workplace in a different light, and give you the opportunity to fall in love all over again.

 

Ditch a Complaining Crew

 

Could your work buddies be fueling your bad mood at work? Most likely, yes. If you’re burned out and disillusioned at work, the odds are good that your office friends feel the same way. And the odds are really good that you talk about it together. While sharing your struggles can be a good way to get emotional support, “venting” has been proven to be an unhelpful form of coping, because it keeps the anger simmering right at the surface.

 

To get rid of on-the-job anger, top hanging around people who are burned out and find a new crew. Seek out a completely different friend-set; in fact, hanging with the interns might remind you of how inspired and excited you felt when you first got into the industry

 

Remember the Purpose

I was seventeen pages into editing the annual report, and I was about to give up. If I spelled a single donor’s name wrong, it could cost us a future donation. My eyes were starting to cross and I hadn’t even eaten lunch yet. On my way to the kitchen, I veered off course. I headed out the door and across campus, straight to the shelter where the animals were housed. Ten minutes later, covered in slobber and a pile of cocker spaniel-mix puppies, I was ready to finish the annual report and raise even more money to find homes for those puppies. I just needed to be reminded why my work was so important.

 

In so many roles, we’re buried in our own little piece of the puzzle, and we don’t’ get to see how our piece fits into the larger mission. But when we pop our heads up from our desk and take a look around, we see how our piece is important to our customers, our colleagues, and the world. We see why we do what we do, and we’re reminded that it matters.

 

 

Maybe your job is horrible. Maybe your boss is rotten, the pay is terrible, and your coworkers are jerks. Or maybe you’ve just lost your passion, and you can find it again. Hating your job takes a toll on your mental health, so before you write up that resignation letter, try these 4 steps and see if you can fall in love all over again.

The Best Way to Beat Procrastination and Get Motivated

Procrastination.

We treat it like a bad word. But if you THINK about it that way, you’re more likely to stay stuck.

Procrastination isn’t a bad personality trait or even a bad habit.

Here’s the single best way to tweak the way you think about procrastination so you can get moving and stay successful.

What To Do With Colleagues Who Resist Change

Most of us don’t really like change, but some people are especially nervous when things are in transition. If one of your coworkers is change-resistant, but changes are imminent, you need to act fast to get everyone on board with change.

 

Why Is This Happening? Here’s Why

 

Have you ever had a rough day and found yourself wanting to shout at the universe “why is this happening to me?!?!” As humans, if we must be challenged, we want that challenge to at least have a purpose. I tell a story in one of my books, The Successful Struggle, about a woman who moves across the country after a divorce, to be closer to her family for help raising her child. The move is difficult, finding a new job is challenging, and getting everything settled in a new life is exhausting. The fuel that keeps her going is knowing all the difficulty has a reason, to have a better life for her daughter, and once she makes it through the transition things will ultimately be better.

 

The #1 thing we can do to help our coworkers get on board with change is to help them understand the purpose of change. Why is this happening? What is the benefit to them? Are there more opportunities for a promotion as the company grows? When they understand what the ultimate payoff might be, they’re naturally more willing to navigate through change.

 

Lean On Me

 

Another thing you can do to help your colleagues navigate change is to facilitate connections among the staff. Studies show that employees who feel stronger connections to one another report being happier about change in the workplace.

 

This strategy can be an easy option no matter where you fall on the workplace hierarchy, because building strong workplace relationships doesn’t need approval from a boss. Even actions as simple as eating lunch together, or talking about non-work activities in the breakroom, can foster feelings of connection. If you do have some decision-making power, activities like community volunteering can really solidify the sense of team connections. Remember: you don’t have to go off-site to volunteer – taking an extra-long lunch break one day and making cards for kids in the hospital works, too.

 

The Pied Piper

 

You can’t force your colleagues to get on board with change, but you can lay the groundwork to make change a lot easier to handle. If you have a colleague you know will struggle with change, make sure they understand the purpose behind then change. Then do whatever you can to build that person’s workplace bonds. Understanding “why” and having strong workplace connections make a measurable difference when it comes to navigating change with a good attitude.

 

How To Tell Your Boss You’re Stressed (Without Seeming Like a Whiner)

How do you tell your boss that you’re stressed, without seeming like you’re whining? The key lies in understanding the difference between problem-focused coping and emotion-focused coping. Your boss cares more about the bottom line than about your stress, so use what your boss DOES care about to get your stress level and your workload under control.

9 “Bad” Habits You Need to Start Practicing Today

Here’s some bad news: you can actually be too “good” for your own good.

 

So many of the cultural behaviors we think are good – like always maintaining a positive attitude, or being a hard worker – aren’t always so good for us. These expectations we place on ourselves may in fact drain our strength and our mental energy, so that we aren’t able to be resilient when it really matters.

 

Here are 9 habits that get a bad rap, and why you should reconsider adding them back into your daily routine:

 

#1 – Complain

The world gives bonus points to happy people who don’t gripe, but sharing our struggles with the people around us can be beneficial. It helps us bond, and puts our problems in perspective. The key is to communicate your stress but not dwell TOO long on the problem before moving on to a solution, or else it turns into repetitive venting. In small doses and to the right people, complaining can help you feel supported, understood, and ready to move forward.

 

#2 – Daydream

Thinking about the future is critical for surviving stressful times. Studies of children from difficult backgrounds showed that the children who succeeded despite the odds had something called a “future-orientation.” When you shift your focus toward the future and start making plans, your brain starts to make meaning out of your current struggle, and use it as fuel to get you where you want to go.

 

#3 – Procrastinate

Some deadlines can’t be missed, but others are self-imposed out of some idea of what “successful people” do. In my own business, I often set an artificial timeline on when something “has” to be done, and then I beat myself up when I miss it. But I was busy doing things that were truly more important to my business. It’s 100% okay, and even smart, to move deadlines that don’t make sense anymore.

 

#4 – Say No

I like to think of myself as a nice, helpful person. I hate saying no. As a result, I’ve often spent my days completely overcommitted and overwhelmed. Then a smart friend passed on this bit of advice: “Every yes is a no to something else.” When you say no to something just to be nice, or because you think you should, you’re taking up time for a future activity or opportunity that would be more meaningful to you.

 

#5 – Goof off

When your stress level is high, it might seem like goofing off is the last thing you should do. But when you’re under extreme stress, your brain floods your body with adrenaline and cortisol, sending you into a biological panic mode. While you’re under the influence of adrenaline and cortisol, you aren’t capable of getting high-level work done, because your prehistoric survival brain has taken over.  Take time to not just clear your head, but release the adrenaline and cortisol from your body. By goofing off and doing something enjoyable, like laughing at an internet video, you move your brain out of stress mode and into high-performance mode.

 

#6 – Be weak

There’s a common belief that tough people survive traumatic events with grace and poise, never wavering or having a moment’s doubt. I know from experience that’s a lie. Every one of us who struggles, even those who feel deeply that it will all be okay in the end, have moments where we just can’t stand the suffering. If we all suffer in silence – because we don’t want to appear pathetic or we don’t want to burden anyone else –  then each one of us believes that WE are the only one who is weak. Instead, be honest about your fears and doubts. You’re sure to find that you’re in good company.

 

#7 – Be Selfish

A lot of the narrative about “good people” includes the belief that good people spend their time and resources on other people. A “good mom” is there for her kids 24 hours a day. A “good employee” works late and on weekends. A “good husband”, a “good friend”, a “good boss”… most of these designations involve some form of selflessness. But being 100% selfless is physically and emotionally draining, and is completely unsustainable over the long term. If being “good” means giving everything you have to others, you’re likely to snap at some point. Prioritizing your own needs can actually be a kindness to other people in your life, because it allows you to do good work, behave with patience, and enjoy the world around you.

 

#8 – Get distracted

As humans, we want to avoid the sting of rejection. Whether we don’t get the promotion we were hoping for, or we get dumped by a love interest, rejection is a fact of life. One of the best strategies for coping with a feeling of rejection is to distract yourself. Focus on something else. In a study of sales people who struggle with fear of rejection on sales calls, even something as simple as snapping a rubber band on their wrist helped them distract their mind from the rejection. You may not want to get too distracted in everyday life (like commuting to work!), but if you’re feeling neglected or rejected, find somewhere else to channel your energy and focus, so you can keep moving forward.

 

#9 – Ignore Advice

One of the most common rules for success is “Find a Mentor.” Receiving advice from others, we’re told, is a great way to shorten the learning curve and avoid the mistakes that other people have made. There’s one problem with that plan, though: thanks to a common judgement error called the “Peak-End Rule,” most people don’t remember enough details of their path to success to give very good advice. Because of the limitations of human memory, a mentor or coach can give you some good ideas, but they can’t help you reverse-engineer your way to where you’re trying to go. If you take someone else’s advice and – likely – don’t get the same results, you may start to beat yourself up or think you’re a failure. Instead of taking any advice as gospel, gather suggestions from multiple places, and be your own best guide as you consider what will work for you.

 


 

Throw away the rulebook: these bad habits will help you build more resilience and find greater happiness. As with everything, these bad habits should be taken in moderation. But by resetting your expectation of what is “good,” you’ll find yourself doing a lot more things that are good FOR you.

How to Pay ANYONE a Compliment That Truly Inspires

Happy National Compliment Day!

Everyone loves a compliment, but some praise means more than others. Here’s how to craft the perfect compliment that will have ANYONE (your kids, your colleagues, even your UPS delivery driver) feeling inspired to be their best!