Workplace

What NOT To Do As You Navigate out of COVID-19

The world is showing signs of emerging from its long, COVID-19 fog. As restrictions lift, groups gather, and businesses bounce back, people are expressing excitement to return to some kind of normalcy.

But if you aren’t prepared for the changes we’re going to be experiencing – both individually and within organizations – the transition into a post-COVID world may not be comfortable or successful for you. Here are 4 important problems to avoid as you shake off the COVID fog.

Trap #1: Going back to “The Plan” Post-COVID

Most of us were raised to believe that successful people make a plan, work hard, and get rewarded. So it’s no surprise that we want to cling to The Plan at all costs, even when circumstances change.

In 2021, I worked with the University of Northern Colorado to conduct research on how well people can adapt, and 74% of respondents expressed an unwillingness to improvise, change, and learn as they go in unfamiliar situations. Most of us struggle in some way when forced to redirect our plans and goals.

The Plan is alluring. It feels comfortable. It feels like the shortest path to success. But it’s not the same world as it was in 2019. You’re not the same person. To more easily let go of The Plan, remind yourself that The Plan 1.0 had problems, too. You may not have gotten far along enough on the journey to find them yet, but they were there. Spend your energy focusing on how to make The Plan 2.0 (or 3.0, or 117.0) the best it can be.

Trap #2: Expecting to Feel Better Right Away

There’s a lot to celebrate as more people get vaccinated and regular activities can start to resume. There’s also a lot to feel conflicted about. How do we celebrate when so many have died? How do we get excited when so many have lost everything?

Even if you’re personally MORE than ready to had back into the office or send kids back to school, and you have no fear of variants popping up, you might run into unexpected grief for the months you missed.

For the healthiest re-entry, don’t ignore the potential for grief to pop back up in surprising ways. Allow yourself to have mixed feelings about letting go of The Plan 1.0 (see above). In my research, the younger you are the easier it may be for you to move on to a new plan, possibly because you’ve invested less time than if you’re older (and committed to your plans for a longer time).

Trap #3: Thinking You Have to Operate at 100% Immediately

If you’re a “do-er” like me, you may be chomping at the bit to resume what feels like normal levels of productivity. But trying to go from wherever you are to top speed may surprisingly make you less successful.

Because of something called action-bias, many of us are primed to jump to action before we fully evaluate our options. Scientists who study brainstorming say the ideas that come up later in the brainstorming process that are more innovative and creative. Take advantage of this time to come up with new goals and strategies. Maybe the pandemic exposed new opportunities for your business or your life. Maybe it revealed gaps that you now know how to fix.

Resist the temptation to dive in and make up for lost time post-COVID. Instead, use this time intentionally to create new goals and new ways of operating that will lead to greater accomplishment in the long run.

Trap #4: Navigating Change Alone

What do you think of when you think of a resilient person? Many people imagine someone with a sense of toughness who draws on internal strength. In reality, studies show the most resilient people aren’t lone wolves relying on their own inner power, but those with strong support systems.

Many of us have spent parts of the pandemic alone or in small bubbles. We may be (or feel) less connected than we’ve ever been. But lone-wolfing isn’t a good way to accomplish your goals. In my research, the older you are, the better you get at leaning on others to help you… and the more you seek input and advice from others, the smarter the decisions you make!

Ready or Not…

If you’re expecting to run headlong back into “the way things used to be” at top speed, be prepared for a rude awakening. The changes we’re about to experience as we go *back* to life post-COVID are not that much different than the changes we faced when the world shuddered to a halt in early 2020. There will be changes, both operationally and emotionally. But if you’re prepared for them, you’ll be able to successfully make the transition back.

What’s “Adaptive Thinking” and Why Does it = Success During COVID-19?

I couldn’t keep my new research to myself any more. Dealing with COVID-19 is actually the PERFECT time to bring the concept of “Adaptive Thinking” to the world.

If you’re struggling with the new reality of your work, your business, your home life… whatever, Adaptive Thinking is a concrete, constructive way to pivot and find a way to be successful when the world is uncertain.

Yesterday I gave a short presentation on the Adaptive Thinking concept to a group in California, and I realized that with everything that’s going on with COVID-19 and its impacts on the way we’re working and living, I couldn‘t wait any longer to send it out to everybody.

I’ve been learning a LOT over the past 18 months researching how people can develop Adaptive Thinking (and there’s still more to learn!), but here’s a very short introduction into something you can do TODAY to help you start thinking more adaptively and getting your brain primed for survival and success in this new world.

If you’ve got more questions about what Adaptive Thinking is and how it can help you – ask ’em! I’m going to be shooting more videos in the coming days and weeks.

Why Choose Courtney for a Keynote?

If you’re wondering “how do I choose a keynote speaker for my conference?” you’re not alone. It’s a tough job to find a speaker who will keep your audience engaged, teach them something, make them laugh, and motivate them – ALL AT THE SAME TIME!

 

Courtney Clark isn’t your average keynote speaker.

 

She’s inspirational, for sure. She’s high energy, interactive, and fun. But she also grounds all her work in research. She offers what she calls “content-based motivation,” so when you work with Courtney, you’ll create a customized blend of research, strategies, interaction, humor, and stories. Your participants will leave with both the *feelings* and the *skills* to be more successful in today’s fast-changing world.

 

If you’re looking for a keynote speaker on change, resilience speaker Courtney Clark will bring your group the tools and attitude they need!

How to Avoid End-of-the-Year Work Burnout (Part 2)

Tidings of comfort and joy may be what the popular song calls for, but they can be pretty hard to find during the stress-filled holiday season. Here are a few resilience exercises to calm the storm and get through the end of the year in peace. Missed Part 1 of this series? Check it out here!

 

Step 3 – Make Time For the Truly Important Things, And Ditch the Should-Be-Important Things

Along with setting realistic expectations, the holidays can also cause us to think we have to celebrate in a certain way.  Maybe because family tradition dictates it. Maybe because we saw a beautiful layout in a magazine. Maybe because we used to work somewhere that had an awesome Christmas party and wicked Secret Santa exchange, and we wish our new boss did that.

In your home life, sit down and make a list of the things that are the most important to you and your loved ones, and prioritize those things.  By making space for them, instead of cramming the holidays full, you will actually be able to enjoy them more and stress less.

At work, think through the most important, big picture pieces of what needs to be accomplished before year-end in order to start the next year strong. When I’m thinking of my to-dos, I like to picture a target. The outer rings aren’t worth nothing, but I get the most points for aiming toward the middle. What’s the middle of the target? What’s the highest value activity that will set you up for success moving into the new year?

There are only so many hours in the holiday season.  Trying to incorporate every single possible activity, tradition, and to-do into a few short weeks isn’t enjoyable, it’s stressful.

Step 4 – Seek Moderation

For years we’ve been hearing health professionals tell us that the holidays shouldn’t be an excuse to indulge. Whether it’s food, wine, shopping, or anything else, the end of the year doesn’t need to be a free-for-all, because having a “feast or famine” type attitude to indulgences means you’ll only rebound harder when the celebratory season is over.

That same attitude holds true at work. Don’t get distracted and let off the gas, or spend work time online shopping. But on the other hand, December isn’t the time to panic and try to get everything finished. You may be trying to show off before a December review or a January bonus, but the odds are good that the impression you made the other 11 months of the year is what really matters.

Just like your pumpkin pie intake, try to balance the last month of the year with work and play. Think “consistency” instead of “get it all done.”

By the end of the year, most of us are running on an empty gas tank.  But these four techniques for powering through December will have you avoiding stress and burnout, and feeling like celebrating by the time you ring in the New Year.

How to Avoid End-of-the-Year Work Burnout (Part 1)

The final few weeks before the winter holidays can be full of stress. That makes it peak time for burnout. If burnout is creeping in for you or your team, practicing a few resilience techniques can mean the difference between losing your cool and feeling peace on Earth.

Step 1 – Breathe and Break

The end of the year brings with it stressors that no other time of year seems to. At work there is often budgeting, fitting in last-minute meetings, and strategic planning for the next year.  At home there is frantic shopping, too much baking, and a whirlwind of parties you are expected to make room for in the busy calendar.

When we’re stressed, our brains produce the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol. When we add these stress hormones into the mix, our brains become worse at higher-order processing, the very skill we need to perform most jobs. So when we’re frantically crossing things off our to-do list, we probably aren’t completing those tasks at a very high level. To be at our best, we have to stop and breathe. We have to take a moment to let the adrenaline and cortisol clear out of our systems.

School teachers have known for years that the weeks leading up to the holidays are the exact wrong time to try to cram in last-minute work.  So take a cue from their playbook and schedule your day with fewer tasks and more breaks, getting done the very most important things and letting the others slide.  Find time to stop and take deep breaths in the middle of the chaos. The pile in your inbox will still be there the first week in January.

Step 2 – Set Realistic Expectations

We have a rosy picture of how the holiday season is supposed to go.  When it doesn’t meet our expectations, we’re filled with frustration.  But that frustration is of our own making, so being realistic on the front end can curb that freak-out feeling on the back end.

A large chunk of holiday stress comes from the mistaken belief that this time of year is going to be magically perfect and everyone should be happy. But people can’t be happy when they’re held to unrealistic standards – including you!

No, your toddler twins might not sit still for a greeting card picture, so don’t expect them to.  Your grandmother’s holiday roast recipe might not turn out as juicy as you remember it.  And your extended family might squabble from the stress of sharing one bathroom. If you prepare for reality to be… well… real in advance, and leave room for humans to be humans, and traffic to be traffic, and work to be work, and life to be life, you may find that some of the holiday screwups lead to the best stories that you’ll laugh at for years to come.

Check back after Thanksgiving for 2 more strategies to sidestep end-of-the-year work burnout!

Do You Have a Bad Attitude at Work? 8 Signs YOU’RE the Toxic Coworker (yes, #3 is real!)

Everybody gets stressed out by work. But regularly having a negative attitude at work can cause everyone to suffer: your coworkers, for having to put up with your negativity, and you, because you’ll miss opportunities and promotions in favor of people with good attitudes.

#1 – You gossip or complain to coworkers

This is the classic sign of someone with a bad attitude. Venting and gossiping at work is a telltale behavior of an employee who is feeling toxic and doesn’t care about bringing other people down with them. Venting feels good in the moment, but it’s been proven to be a poor strategy for relieving stress, because it fails to address the root problem.

#2 – You shoot down your colleagues’ ideas in early stages

If you find yourself rejecting someone else’s idea before you’ve followed the thought process through and really considered it, odds are good your colleagues are frustrated with you. It’s healthy for colleagues to question and test one another’s ideas. But if you shoot something down by saying “that’ll never work,” before the group has had time to really turn the idea over, you’ll be blocking conversation that can lead to good solutions.

#3 – You feel tired most of the day

Feeling that 3pm slump is normal. Feeling tired all day isn’t normal, and it’s a sign that you could be really disengaged at work. When I work with companies to help their teams build resilience, I remind them that burnout isn’t just about being busy – it’s about being busy plus having a lack of meaning and purpose in their work. If you feel like what you’re contributing doesn’t matter, then it may be hard for you to feel awake and excited to do your job.

#4 – You aren’t respectful to the people lower on the company hierarchy

I once worked with a guy who said “it’s not worth my time to care about Jan (at the front desk.) She doesn’t sign my checks!” What this guy didn’t know is that Jan often made decisions about which salesperson to transfer new callers to! Not to mention she ordered the company supplies, and could “rush” things if she wanted to. She was a good ally to have in your corner… but that guy didn’t know it. If you think it’s only worth kissing up to the higher-ups, your attitude could be harming your career more than you know. People notice, and people talk. Being respectful takes no more time than being rude, so make it a point to show respect to everyone.

#5 – You don’t pay attention during meetings or conversations

I get it: team meetings can interrupt your day and be a source of frustration. But tuning out isn’t the right solution. If a line of conversation doesn’t directly involve you, it’s a good idea to still listen, because it’s likely that somebody is going to get pulled into the conversation to answer a question or solve a problem. And if it’s you, you’re going to look silly if you were checking your phone or daydreaming about your fantasy football team.

#6 – You have large responses to small annoyances

My therapist calls this “turning a 2 into a 10.” Do you find yourself getting aggravated with everyday frustrations like somebody taking your sticky note pad? Or replying “thanks!” to an email chain that they could have just let drop? Sometimes we feel like life is frustrating, but it’s really our own reactions that are making us experience more frustration than we need to.

#7 – You don’t care or seem invested in critical workplace issues

When everyone else on your team is jumping to solve an important problem, are you hanging back? Being checked out at work can be particularly noticeable during a crunch time, when other people are spitballing ideas and getting creative. If you’ve lost your passion for your work, as we talked about in #3, then it’s hard to get invested in problem-solving.

#8 – You respond to simple corrections by correcting the other person back

Nobody likes being corrected. But watch your reaction next time somebody makes a small correction to your work. Do you find yourself wanting to correct a mistake of theirs? Or tell them why, in fact, your original version was right? It’s human nature to not enjoy being corrected, but successful companies are made up of employees with different backgrounds and strengths for a reason. The more eyes and hands on a project, the better the end result will be. Just take the direction, because we all need to get and give corrections sometimes.

 

These 8 behaviors don’t have to mean you’re a bad employee – they could mean that you’re a good employee who’s on the verge of burning out. But whether it’s your innate attitude or unaddressed burnout, it’s critical to take action and curb these behaviors before they impact your work any more.

Burned Out By Your Job? It’s Never Too Late to Change Careers

Are you burned out at work?

Thinking it’s time for a career change?

But worried you’re too old to change careers?

In fact, if you’re feeling burned out, a lack of motivation, and disconnected in your current career path, it’s NEVER too late to change careers!

Here are 3 steps to follow to make a career change at any age…

The Real Reason You Aren’t Getting a Promotion at Work

When I work with teams to help employees be more resilient, one concern people tell me is that they get frustrated at work when they don’t get a promotion. Promote-able employees are – in general – positive, flexible, coachable, and resilient.

 

So if you’re hoping for a promotion soon, here are 4 key behaviors to keep an eye on:

 

Who Looks Up to You?

Promotions mean more responsibilities. Making the leap from contributor to managing other people is one type of responsibility that often causes problems after a promotion. If you’re being considered to move to a position that includes managing other people, or even interfacing with more important people, decision-makers will be paying attention to who looks up to you. Are you coaching new hires? Are you mentoring younger team members? Do other members of the team look up to you? Behave like a leader before you have leadership responsibilities, and you’ll be the first one your bosses think of when a promotion comes up.

 

Watch Your Language

The words you speak at the office influence your promote-ability. Do you talk about possibilities, or only problems? Great leaders aren’t blind to problems, but they keep the conversation going until they have possible solutions. Start using solution-oriented language in meetings. Another language-related behavior to consider: How do you receive feedback? Bosses are more likely to promote team members who are coachable. Practice receiving coaching and feedback in a confident manner. Bosses often share with me that they’re telling their employees exactly what it takes to get promoted, but too many people get defensive. Only the coachable employees take the feedback and make the change.

 

Examine the Company you Keep

Did your parents ever tell you “if you lie down with dogs, you wake up with fleas”? Workplace gossip is a common occurrence. While social chatter with your colleagues isn’t usually a problem, what is a problem is something called “venting.” Venting is a type of communication where a frustration is rehashed over and over, with no solution (check out this blog post I wrote for the Office Dynamics Conference, to learn more). Venting is toxic to team culture, and being involved in venting – even if you’re just the listener, not the venter – can get you branded a complainer. Resilient employees don’t complain, they solve. To get a promotion, be a person who is up-front about bringing problems to the boss in a solution-oriented manner, not the person who vents offline behind the boss’s back.

 

Consider your Contribution

It’s one thing to say you want a promotion. But it’s most likely to be given to the person who shows they’re ready with their actions, not just words. Do you volunteer to take on more responsibilities? Are you involved in workplace activities or affinity groups? To rise up through the company, you’ll want to see it from different angles besides just your corner of the business. Going beyond your job description isn’t a “brown nose” tactic. It’s a smart way to be exposed to more people and ideas in your organization, which will give you the knowledge you need to keep climbing the ladder.

 

 

The decision to promote you is in your boss’s hands, but it’s in your power to show your boss that you’re the perfect person to be promoted. Perfect these four behaviors, and your days of getting passed over are behind you!

 

How to Get Along With your Frustrating Coworker

Do you get along with EVERYBODY in your office? (and if you do, do you work from home?) 🤣

Office conflict stinks. So if you have a frustrating coworker, here are 3 steps to making peace, getting along, and working together successfully.

(Spoiler Alert: if you’re having problems, you’re probably starting with Step 3 instead of Step 1!) Follow the steps in order, and you’ll be able to survive a difficult colleague in no time.

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.