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Entries for the 'Newsletter Articles' Category

Surviving Uncertainty and Stress

Monday, August 25th, 2008

Uncertainty and Stress

What’s the most stressful part of hearing rumors of lay-offs? Possibly losing one’s job? Possibly losing a valuable team member? No. Neither actually. It’s the uncertainty.

Think about it. Uncertainty.

How will the weak economy affect you? Uncertainty. What will happen at your performance review? Uncertainty. The person who hired you is fired. Uncertainty. An unexpected opportunity presents itself. Uncertainty.

Give me a defined problem any day. I can face a disaster. I can get help with a problem. I can develop a new skill. I can confront a bully. But please don’t leave me hanging.

The key to surviving uncertainty is not to beg, bargain or complain, manipulate or manufacture certainty. Certainty is elusive at best and not possible in many instances.

The key to surviving uncertainty is to identify which choices are in your control and which choices are not. By letting go of the things outside of your control (e.g. the economy, a supervisor’s idiosyncracies, the weaknesses over in the sales department, etc.), you can focus on the things you can control.

Where do you have control? Ask yourself, “Where can my choices make a difference?”

You can find new ways to add value and engage more fully with your current position. You can nurture your network of relationships, near and far, so that you have positive connections in a variety of contexts. You can find opportunities to learn new skills and expand current ones, especially skills that are transferable across a variety of fields.

The negative stress associated with uncertainty will be replaced with a sense of purposefulness and personal power. Though those with more power in the organization may make decisions that complicate your life, you will know that you are doing all you can to be a value-adding team member, a well-connected community member, and an irrepressible transferable skill developer.

Instead of worrying, you will be ready to make your next decision. Now, that feels good!

On your side,

– Karl Edwards

Do Your Goals Haunt or Lure?

Tuesday, April 29th, 2008

Do your goals haunt or lure?

It’s the difference between having your goals behind you or in front of you.

Behind you, the best goals can do is accuse you. They can goad you with fear or haunt like some guilting ghoul. From behind you, your goals will send one message, “You are still not there yet. What is your problem?”

In front of you, goals can serve as an alluring tempter or temptress. They will draw you toward an extremely attractive future. Out in front, your goals will send a message of motivation, “What you want is over here. Achieve and live it. It’s worth the effort.”

And so back to the original question. Do your goals haunt or lure?

I believe the distinction lies within two questions. 1) Have you owned each goal as your own? And, 2) Do you interpret missteps as damning failures or learning opportunities?

For example: What goals were set in your last performance review? Who initiated them, you or your supervisor? If your supervisor, have you made them your own yet? If not, then I’ll bet you’ll feel like the goals are haunting you all year. “Are you there yet?” “Your raise depends on this.” “Don’t mess up now.”

On the other hand, if you’ve owned the goals as your own, then your motivation comes from within instead of outside of yourself. You want; therefore you work. The achievement is associated with a positive desire (hence “lure”) instead of a negative judgment (aka fear.)

Regarding the inevitable missteps along the way, if every one feels like a failure to you, then your road to goal achievement is primarily an experience of obstacles and setbacks. Your spirit gets progressively beaten down instead of nourished and energized as it would if you felt you were learning and improving along the way.

And so we need to deliberately choose to view our errors as gifts. Gifts we open with gratitude and from which we choose to benefit. Benefit by learning: becoming wiser, more skilled and more committed to playing at the top of our professional game.

For today it is enough to simply pause and reflect on the initial question: Do your goals haunt or lure?

On your side,

– Karl

Would You Prefer to Change or Adjust?

Tuesday, February 5th, 2008

As much as we might want it, lasting change often eludes us. Whether we’re leaders or team members, we hope to become something better. We hope to see differently and learn to work differently. But relating in new ways doesn’t come as easily as we would like.

I’m not going to try to explain it. I’d be a different person myself if I could slip into the changes I’ve wanted through the years. The fact is that I still have many of the habits that I’ve had for most of my professional career.

Getting frustrated doesn’t help. Kicking myself doesn’t help. I need an alternative. How about simply making an adjustment?

Maybe change requires a more patient, less performance-oriented approach than many self-help books would have us believe. Growing up personally and professionally is a developmental process as much as a trained and practiced process.

Maturity comes before proficiency. That means I take practical steps in small increments. I don’t aim for wholesale changes or sweeping transformations. Instead, through small every day decisions, I gradually mature into:

  • increased self-awareness
  • internal integrity
  • outward consistency
  • relational connectedness

It’s worth the effort, because the results are real:

  • enhanced performance
  • increased professional confidence
  • consistent creative energy
  • sustained drive

Okay, those are a lot of big words and abstract concepts. They come down to this: adjust where you can and go from there. Don’t worry so much that you’re not where you think you should be (or others think you should be). Just keep trying something new every once in a while and see how it goes.

We don’t want to be the proverbial guy who keeps hitting his head on the same low-hanging door lintel. Nor do we avoid hitting our heads by never getting up at all. We simply learn to duck. We learn to adjust.

What strategies have helped you adjust–either professional, personally or both?

No Excuses in 2008!

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2008

No excuses in 2008!

Instead of a long list of well-meant resolutions, let’s launch the new year with a single intention: No excuses in 2008!

Others may let me down, circumstances may conspire against me, but I will make no excuse for my own choices. Not in my work, not at my home, not in my attitude.

Though I may face harsh realities outside of my control, I still control my response to those difficulties. Like the tennis player in a difficult match, I do not choose what comes at me. But I do choose whether or not I will stay in the game. I choose whether I will stay prepared and alert for the unexpected. I choose when my reactions remain primarily defensive and when I turn the tables to take the offense.

No excuses.

I will make bold decisions, and I will accept responsibility that those decisions affect the quality of my life and work. The more I recognize my own responsibility in the story, the more I discover my own power to change the story.

Even through the storms of workplace conflict, career suffocation, stagnant economies, or unexpected job loss, I make no excuses. I will expand my repertoire of responses. I will get help from friends and associates. I will invest in myself and my career. I will try new approaches. I will be honest with myself about what is not working well and try something different. I will learn from my mistakes.

No excuses.

I will stay in the game. Let’s make 2008 the best yet.

On your side,

– Karl

Do Promotions Make Perfect?

Tuesday, November 27th, 2007

Why won’t my new boss ask for help? He is obviously in over his head.” If you are like most employees, you’ve wondered about your newly promoted boss before.

Of course, she can’t yet know what she’s talking about in certain areas. But you understand those areas. You could help if only she talked to you before making some of her decisions, before it is too late.

Scary, eh? Would you believe most people feel they have to continually prove they deserve leadership? As much as we want and expect to be promoted, very few of us feel we deserve it. Instead, many leaders are plagued with doubt. Will I be able to (more…)

Focus In On That Fog

Monday, October 29th, 2007

Many people cannot “see the forest for the trees.” Not me. I have trouble seeing the forest because I also see the meadow and the skyline and the distant skyscrapers and all the people rushing to work and the implications of global warming and the hope of world peace… You get the idea.

Learning to focus has been a personal goal of mine for longer than I care to admit. I hope to experience it at least once before moving on to experience the infinite. I’ve even tried tying my ankles to the chair in order to see a project through to completion. But then I just made a mess when I hobbled over, chair in tow, to refill my coffee mug.

Focus is hard because the world is a busy place. How do people know exactly what deserves (more…)

So, What Do You Want?

Friday, September 21st, 2007

Nobody likes to feel stressed, stuck, or bored at work. We say, “I want a job I love,” but we trip over our tongues when trying to articulate what that perfect job would look like.Maybe you are looking for different responsibilities? Fewer interruptions? More regular hours? A more trusting boss? More people interaction? Do you want to make a social contribution? To create something new? To bring order to something chaotic?

I like every day to be wildly different. One close friend prefers every day to be predictably the same. Knowing what you want is a crucial aspect of building it into your work life. (more…)

Motivating Yourself at Work

Sunday, July 15th, 2007

We all have occasional days of excruciating boredom. Every office has its share of petty in-fighting. Anyone who sees a towering in-box spill across the desk wants to weep openly.Push does come to shove, and most of us have the bruises to show for it. But productive people still motivate themselves at work in spite of circumstances. Sure, bad leadership is disappointing and unacceptable. Those with power in the organization may create an office culture that saps the life out of hard-working, valuable people. Or worse, our supervisors simply don’t notice that we’re having a difficult time getting the motivational juices flowing. (more…)

Crazed by Clutter?

Friday, June 15th, 2007

I know my cluttered style needs attention (again) because I can no longer see my desk. I do not exaggerate. Unwieldy piles of paper, files, and books compete for cascading dominance.

I’ve personally stopped trying to become a super neat or organized person. I’m simply not. But sometimes the clutter gets in the way. I can’t find an important document. Or I simply can’t focus. My work space is too messy, and I am overwhelmed by the blur of important projects literally swirling around me. I can’t focus on one task without addressing all of the tasks—so I do nothing at all.

Do you lack focus, too? Do you feel overwhelmed? Are you having trouble discerning (more…)

Five Sure Fire Ways to Get Problems to Backfire

Tuesday, May 15th, 2007

Some people are so certain that everything will turn out right in the end. They treat each problem like nothing more than a passing nuisance. They do not allow anything to interrupt their progress.

Are you one of these people? Nothing ever backfire on you? Your success streak defying all odds? This month we pass on five sure fire ways to make your efforts backfire.

Tip #1: Assume that your next problem will take care of itself. Let as much time go by as possible so events have a chance to sort themselves out.

Tip #2: Protect team morale by refusing to acknowledge the existence of any (more…)