Busyness and a Better Tomorrow

“Busyness that moves you towards a goal and a better place is a good busy.”

All right, this is not the most profound thing ever spoken, but it worked for a client yesterday. I started working with a new person and she is in a tough place. She left her employer of eight years in the spring for what she thought was a step up. It turned out the she signed on with a maniac for a boss, someone not opposed to micro-management and public humiliation. The boss seems to enjoy it.

What is an employee to do?

In this case, my client has endured so much abuse after so much previous success that she seemed paralyzed and felt trapped. Unable to think and afraid to say the wrong thing, she has become physically ill from the environment. Finally, she did something about it and called me.

As we walked through the steps of how I could help her, I learned more and made some suggestions for her to move her search forward. After the conversation she commented, “I’m going to be busy this afternoon.” That’s when I came out with the line at the top, and she liked it. Here’s why.

When we are faced with a difficult situation, one that seems limiting and hopeless, even a small step can make a big difference. One or two activities that lead away from today’s pain and towards a better tomorrow get the mind realizing that all is not lost. The abusive boss is not a permanent fixture. The employee is one day closer to firing that monster.

If you feel like my client, like your situation is terrible and you don’t know what to do, think and act. What do you have to do to improve your situation? What small step can you take today and tomorrow and the next day? If your goal is to find a new job, break it down into smaller pieces, including things that you can do now. Here are a few examples:

“Tonight I am going to take one hour to write down my accomplishments from the last year and the things that make me marketable.”

“This weekend I am going to update my résumé with my accomplishments.”

“Today I am going to reconnect with two colleagues from my last job to strengthen my network.”

Every action will make you feel better and more able to tolerate today’s situation while you lay the foundation for tomorrow’s change. Activity leads to options, options to hope, and hope to change. Plan your escape and get busy on those goals!

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Do What You Can

“10 Things You Can Do Today to Master the Universe.” “Do These Three Things to Live to 100.” Those are headlines that social media and content marketers would recommend. I get it. Suggesting that you should do what you can isn’t as sexy. Maybe it’s even dull, but let me explain.

I had a conversation with a person who was very down about her circumstances and her chances to improve her situation. Listening to her, you would believe that everything was wrong in her life. She had no skills that anyone would want. Her options were bad and none.

What I was seeing – an articulate, professional person – and what I was hearing did not match, leading me to ask, “So what things have you done well in your life? What have you done that people have praised and thanked you for?” Surprise! This same person who moments later had nothing positive to say was telling me about how she was so good at her last job that clients asked for her specifically and her boss publicly commented that she was “her best person.” She was the firefighter, sent in to fix problems created by other far less competent coworkers.

Where did the disconnect come from? How did she come to see herself as having so little to offer when others felt otherwise and had told her so? Here are two possibilities.

Sometimes our immediate circumstances and recent defeats cause us to think that we have changed for the worse. Maybe I’ve lost it, or maybe the world has changed around me and I have not kept up. There could be some truth to that, especially if you are talking about a technical skill in a fast moving industry, but there are some talents that we all have that don’t just disappear. Things like critical thinking, communication and relationship building skills are examples.

It could also be that some people just give up too easily or need some encouragement. If you need that encouragement, connect with the people in your life who can give it. If you see someone doing something well or know that someone needs a boost, offer those positive words. You can’t know how important they will be to someone who so desperately needs them.

We all hit rough spots, but we also have plenty to offer. We may never be a CEO of a top company or an inductee into a Hall of Fame, but we are all good at something. Figure out what that thing is and work at it. Forget about the things that you can’t and will never do. You are more likely to find success and satisfaction in doing what you can than wasting time and emotional energy dwelling on what you can’t.

Try this: 1)Set an achievable, realistic goal. 2)Do it. 3)Celebrate. 4)Repeat.

Before you know it, your negativity will be in the past and your self-esteem will be giving you the fuel to win.

Some thoughts on encouragement: 100% Sustainable

Bill Florin, CPRW is President of Resu-mazing Services Company

Lay Off? Move. Now!

If you or someone you know has gotten laid off, or expects it soon, get ready to work hard and fast to get back into the workforce right away. If that means working some 12 hours days and weekends during the first days and weeks of unemployment, so be it. A column in Bloomberg Business Week shares some sobering data, including the point that long-term unemployment does not help workers and likely hurts as job skills and professional networks get stale.

What should you do if that pink slip and cardboard box for your personal items comes your way? Here are a few ideas:

Get all of your career marketing materials refreshed. This includes your résumé, LinkedIn profile, executive biography and executive project summary/portfolios, as well as any online presence you may have.

Quickly move to contact people in your network. Let them know that you are available and open to discussing new opportunities. Don’t rely on an email. Pick up the phone and make a call. Buy coffee. Get out there!

Get creative in considering what you will do next. It may be that a less than perfect job now is better than hanging on hoping for just the right thing that may never come. Don’t forget the lessons of the long-term unemployed: it is a downward spiral that can be tough to overcome.

Build a routine to stay sharp. Get out of bed, get some exercise, get dressed and get ready for the opportunity to meet people. What if you pick up the phone – or someone calls you – and you have to get across town in 30 minutes for a cup at Starbucks? Will you be ready?

Plan your day and week like you would on the job. Check off your task list as you complete it. The accomplishments and record of achievement will give you a sense of satisfaction at the end of the day.

Rely on your support system. Friends and family are going to play an important role. Keep talking and sharing your wins and frustrations. Sometimes talking can make a huge difference as others can give you outsiders’ perspectives on your own blind spots.

Engage in professional groups. This can include on-ground physical groups or virtual groups on LinkedIn, Quora or other forums. This will keep you thinking about and staying current on your profession.

Work hard, work fast and get back to work.  

 

Creativity: No Permission Needed

Have you seen this turtle? How about the pirate? Maybe you saw them while growing up in your favorite comic book. Draw the turtle, send in your work and find out if you are good enough to attend the correspondence art school. Do you think the admissions standards were tough? I remember seeing these guys on matchbooks. It’s fun to think about some guy sitting in his F150 with his new pack of Marlboro Reds thinking, “Maybe I am good enough to get into art school!” OK. It’s a Saturday and we are getting ready for a big party with coolers filled with frosty drinks, so forgive me for the silliness, but consider this: Has anyone ever made you believe you aren’t creative.

Conformity and uniformity are valued by some, and we are all taught it from the very beginning. Boys and girls, line up against the wall, and no talking! Order and discipline have their places, for sure, but have you ingested this sleeping serum at the expense of your creativity and quest to do something great.

We aren’t talking about writing the next great novel, though that would be fine. What do you want to do? What do you think about when you sit around on January 1st considering the next 365 ¼ days? What is keeping you from using your gifts, interests and talents?

Think about the technology and tools that you have at your disposal right now to do something creative and special. Do you want to write? Start a blog. Take pictures? Start shooting. Start a new business? Get to work and write a description of your idea on an index card. Do you want to help others or get deeper into your faith? Do it, whatever it is. Do something
and don’t worry about what other people think. You will make mistakes and you will have failures, but you will learn. And don’t worry about asking for permission.

Errors & Outcomes

Everyone makes mistakes. That is no revelation, for sure. Not everyone learns from those mistakes, though. If you don’t take risks and push the envelope of your own performance, you may never make mistakes, at least not serious ones. But if you are constantly challenging yourself to reach for higher performance and exploring new opportunities, you will fall. Sometimes you will fall hard. The outcome of these experiences is the measure of their worth.

When you make a mistake, or suffer a total failure, what do you take from the experience? Is your reaction one of withdrawal and muttering under your breath? “I am never going to take a risk like that again.” Or do you reflect on what went wrong, what went right and how you could do better in the future? Growth and development do not come from taking the easy road.

What risk can you take today that could lead to the next breakthrough or the next big flop? No matter the outcome, you will learn something if you take the time to reflect and look for the learning opportunities. Don’t be afraid to take a chance and scrape your knees. That’s why they make Band-Aids. Just remember to learn from and repeat the successes while avoiding making the same mistakes in the future.

Leadership: Royals & The Rest of Us

Friday, April 29, 2011 was an important day in the United Kingdom and provided some escapism for over two billion people around the world who watched some or all of the coverage of the royal wedding. William and Kate fulfilled their roles perfectly, giving the world an opportunity to share fleetingly in their lives, courtesy of high definition television and world wide media coverage. It was fun.

William and Kate and the rest of “The Firm,” as the royal family is sometimes called, clearly live a life much different than us commoners. For one, we don’t have an army of aides ready to fluff our dress or hold our gloves. Though they have a leadership role in their country, and have a vested interest in keeping the monarchy alive and well, that lifestyle is not one that we should expect in any leadership position to which any of us might aspire. Quite the contrary.

Leadership in our world, as we carry out our activities at work, in our homes, in civic and religious life, or in any other pursuit you might mention is better defined by our service to those we lead, rather than the servitude we might mistakenly expect from our followers. If you are a leader who expects curtseys and bows as you walk down the hall, I’ll bet that your list of followers is small.

The most successful leaders, leaders that we want to follow, are those whom help us reach our potentials by challenging us, encouraging us and helping us secure the resources we need to be successful. The body of work on servant leadership is enormous, and it doesn’t describe anything that we see as “Royal Watchers.” Enjoy the fairy tale, but leave it as that: a fun story that someone else gets to live. Now get back to leading your followers by helping them succeed.

Encouragement: 100% Sustainable

Over the last several days, I have been running across the theme of encouragement. John Maxwell’s slim volume on mentoring and a message from the pulpit by Rev. Kregg Gabor are two examples that come to mind. A quick Google search for quotes about encouragement delivers hundreds of good ones in a second. Here is one that I want to share, and I promise to keep my comments it brief.

Correction does much, but encouragement does more.

– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

If you have ever hit a tough time in your life, whether in your career, your personal life or in some other pursuit, you know that adversity can sometimes shut you down. We all know that high achievers learn from these challenges, adapt and move on to greatness. Some of us could use some help in getting past the challenge, and that is where encouragement comes in.

If you work with others in any capacity – and this includes most everyone – you are in constant relationship with others. How do you choose to engage in that relationship? Are you a negative force, providing a constant stream of criticism and doubt? Or are you one who affirms and encourages, giving others the fuel that they need to drive through challenges? To leverage Goethe’s quote, are you a corrector or an encourager?

The great thing about encouragement is that it is free to give, gives energy to both the giver and the receiver, and creates a virtuous cycle in which everyone helps others achieve amazing things. If you are in a formal leadership position, your free giving of encouragement is even more valuable and powerful. I have seen people nearly vibrate with excitement from a few positive words from a senior leader. Can you do this? Yes!

Here is my question for you: When have you received encouragement that got you through the tough times? What did the other person say? How big a difference did it make to you? We would all enjoy hearing your story.