Leading from the middle isn’t easy. To do it well, you must be able to manage up, down and sideways, juggling the demands of your boss, the needs of your direct reports, and the collaboration desired by your peers. You need to understand the company vision and strategy while at the same time be able to manage the details of your department. You must handle the pressure of needing to be all things to all people and balance the competing priorities within the organization.
The key to succeeding in a middle management role is to stay focused, communicate often, and don’t take things personally. You can make a significant difference in your organization by figuring out how to navigate the ins and outs of the company structure to get things done. And when you lead well from the middle, you’re not likely to stay in the middle for long. Here are some tips.
Communication is Critical
In most organizations, communication has a trickle-down effect and the ‘why’ gets diluted the further it gets from the top. Do not let this happen to you. Great middle managers know how to ask for information and then distill it down to actionable tasks that his or her team can execute. Make sure you are on the same page as your boss, ask for advice when appropriate, and talk to your team as often as possible.
Great managers are honest and direct in their communication. Both your manager and your employees should always know where you stand. To give feedback effectively be clear, be positive, focus on the behavior rather than the person, be specific, and make it a two-way conversation.
Giving feedback is hard to do and great managers take it like a champ, making it as easy as possible on those who are forward with constructive criticism. Show your willingness to take feedback by listening closely to what’s being said. Ask clarifying questions and refrain from making excuses or getting defensive. Say thank you and then take action to show that you heard and valued the feedback.
Middle managers must be able to handle stress, uncertainty, and setbacks with grace as shifting priorities and miss-communication can put them in difficult situations. Don’t take setbacks personally...they are part of the job. Treat every problem as part of your learning process, don’t over dramatize the issue, find a positive outcome, and then move on.
Stop talking and start listening. To be a great middle manager, you need to understand what your boss, your employees, and your customers are truly saying so you can make better decisions. There are nuisances in every conversation and if you catch them, you’ll be better able to navigate office politics. Pay attention to your employees’ feedback and suggestions; act to show that you can effectively solve problems.
As management guru and author Kenneth Blanchard said, "The key to successful leadership today is influence, not authority." To get things done, you must be able to influence those around you. While being a manager gives you a certain amount of influence, you can be more effective if you take the time to build trust and prove that you want to help others succeed. To cultivate influence, learn about others’ working styles, goals, and priorities, be personable, and listen mindfully. Get out of your office and engage.
Great middle managers know that they must work well with their peers to break down silos and get big projects done. Forging ties with management peers enhances individual success and improves the company’s bottom line. Seek out opportunities to connect with your peers, bridge gaps between departments by being helpful, share information and follow up often.
Do Your Work with Integrity
Effective leadership is all about getting results the right way. Do your work with impeccable integrity and intention. Don’t cut corners, cheat, violate values, or step on others to get the job done. If you make a mistake, take ownership of it. People who demonstrate integrity draw others to them because they are trustworthy and dependable.
More than ever, great managers are needed at every level of an organization. Be bold and accept the challenge of middle management. You’ll emerge a far better leader and you’ll create new opportunities to stretch yourself and your team.
As always, thank you for reading! I welcome and encourage likes, shares, and comments.
I love riding my Peloton spin bike. I’m addicted to it. Not only are the classes challenging, I am inspired by the instructors’ moving stories and thought-provoking comments. A recent ride on the Peloton taught me a new acronym that I can’t stop telling others about…and applying to my daily life with diligence.
W.A.I.T: Why Am I Trippin’?
I like to think of myself as a positive, optimistic person, but I often find myself getting frustrated, or annoyed...and sometimes even angry. I am good at letting things go quickly, but if I’m honest with myself, I probably let unimportant things get to me too much.
Hence my new mantra: W.A.I.T.
As soon as I feel my temperature start to rise, I pause and ask, “Why am I trippin’? Is feeling angry and annoyed worth it? Can I change anything about this situation? Does getting angry serve me well? Does it help me show up as the positive, optimistic person I believe myself to be? Is acting this way helpful to me or anyone else?”
I have found is that 99% of the time, the answers to these questions are NO; they just aren’t that big of a deal. Seeing this has helped me change my mindset and my reactions. Instead of letting the annoyance ruin the moment, I let it go. Instead of complaining or criticizing, I respond in a positive, more inspiring way.
And it’s working! I’ve been applying W.A.I.T to my life for the past few months and the results are remarkable. I feel happier. I’ve had more meaningful interactions with everyone around me. I am better able to defuse emotional situations. I am more accountable.
I share this with you in hopes that you, too, can find it to be a powerful tool to create a happier, more fulfilling life.
Thanks for reading and as always, I appreciate comments, shares and likes!
I recently found myself in a situation where I needed to apologize to someone I hurt. I was conflicted, my thoughts filled with self-justifying righteousness, “I am right, and I am hurt, too!” Yet at the same time, I was filled with regret, choking on unfinished words and self-reproach. “This isn’t turning out the way I want it to,” I said to myself. Ugh…the only way to get myself out of my self-inflected situation was to say, “I’m sorry.”
Apologizing is difficult, especially when the stakes are high and the hurt runs deep. It’s easy to let yourself off the hook, blaming the other person and minimizing your role in the situation. When you finally bring yourself to say the words, stress hormones flood the body creating fight or flight responses. Your brain screams, “Don’t do it! Run!” or “Get mad! Don’t go down without a fight!” It’s takes everything in your power to go through with it. Your mind spins as you think of the million ways to express yourself. But in the end, it’s worth it. When you apologize, it allows space for both you and the other person to move forward, to let go, to forgive. It will make you and the other person feel better.
So how do you apologize the right way?
Write Down the Outcomes You Want
Before you go into a high stress situation, know what you want to get out of it. Write down your desired outcomes and keep them handy during the conversation; it will help you stay on track if the person responds emotionally and you can review them if you find yourself getting emotional or making excuses. Examples of outcomes might be to repair a damaged relationship, defuse an emotional situation, or simply to own your part in a conflict.
Check Your Emotions. Choose How You Want to Feel
Emotions don’t have to dictate your feelings and reactions. Even when they are strong, you can still choose how you want to feel. You can choose to feel compassion, relief, or ownership. Or you can also choose to feel angry, justified, or shameful. It’s up to you to determine your outlook on the situation, so check your emotions and choose to see the bright side of apologizing.
Apologize. Own it. Don’t Over Explain Your Actions
It’s best to just say, “I am sorry; I own what I did.” Most people don’t want to hear excuses because they water down the apology and make it feel insincere. Sometimes though, it may be appropriate to explain your side, but only do it to help the person forgive, not to minimize your role in what happened. Over explaining sounds like excuse making.
Express Regret, Be Specific
In addition to saying, “I’m sorry,” you should express regret for hurting the other person. For example, “I regret hurting you; it was wrong of me to blame you and it damaged our relationship. Our relationship is important to me and I understand that I have to earn your trust back.” This validates the person’s feelings which is what most people want out of an apology. Being specific brings a tone of sincerity and it shows you understand how your actions affected the person.
Ask Questions and Listen
Remember, the person you are apologizing to isn’t there to only hear you out. Give him or her the opportunity to respond. Ask questions to draw out meaningful dialogue, listen carefully and don’t get defensive.
Make Commitments and Keep Them
After you’ve apologized and expressed regret, make a commitment to change your behavior. Outline what you are going to do differently and follow through. Everyone makes mistakes but there is nothing worse than repeating it because you didn’t change your behavior. Trust can be rebuilt quickly if you demonstrate that you’ve learned from what happened.
Smile, Say Thank You and Leave
At the end of your apology, smile. Smiling makes everyone feel better and it releases tension. Thank the person for listening and then leave. Most people need time to process and hanging around afterwards doesn’t allow the space required to do so.
Following these steps will help you deliver a sincere, meaningful apology and will start the process of forgiveness. As famous cartoonist Lynn Johnson famously wrote, “An apology is the super glue of life. It can repair just about anything.”
Thanks for reading and as always, I appreciate comments, likes and shares!
Whatif by Shel Silverstein
Last night, while I lay thinking here,
Some Whatifs crawled inside my ear
And pranced and partied all night long
And sang their same old Whatif song:
Whatif I'm dumb in school?
Whatif they've closed the swimming pool?
Whatif I get beat up?
Whatif there's poison in my cup?
Whatif I start to cry?
Whatif I get sick and die?
Whatif I flunk that test?
Whatif green hair grows on my chest?
Whatif nobody likes me?
Whatif a bolt of lightning strikes me?
Whatif I don't grow tall?
Whatif my head starts getting smaller?
Whatif the fish won't bite?
Whatif the wind tears up my kite?
Whatif they start a war?
Whatif my parents get divorced?
Whatif the bus is late?
Whatif my teeth don't grow in straight?
Whatif I tear my pants?
Whatif I never learn to dance?
Everything seems swell, and then
The nighttime Whatifs strike again!
Some people are lucky and can escape the dark trap of endlessly worrying. Others…not so much; they have the "whatifs" crawling inside their ears, whispering stories of danger, fear, doubt, failure, pain, and heartbreak. What if I fail, what if I look stupid, what if I get fired, what if I die….
We all worry. According to a Psychology Today article, “at least one in four Americans - about 65 million of us—will meet the criteria for an anxiety disorder at some point in our lifetime. Even those individuals whose lives are going well may worry excessively on occasion.” In our best moments, worry can take us down a spiral of fear where our minds play out dramas that leave us feeling powerless, vulnerable, and afraid. In our worst moments, worry can be paralyzing and health-diminishing. Excessive worrying can lead to poor decision making and deter us from taking life-improving risks.
The crazy-making part of worry is that 99.9% of the time, the things we fret about never happen. Worry is a time waster, an energy suck, a diminisher of life quality. Engaging in it rarely changes anything. Unfortunately, it’s hard to stop worrying. Good news though; there are some ways to get out of your brain-spinning story of fear and worry. Here are 5 tips:
1. Get some exercise
Moving your body is guaranteed to make you feel better. It not only provides a distraction, but exercise also causes your body to release endorphins which are “feel good” hormones that increase happiness, focus, and energy. Work up a sweat, get your blood pumping, and then notice how you feel. My bet is that you’ll feel better. In my experience, exercising is the number one way to reduce stress and anxiety.
2. Challenge the Worry with Tough Questions
Put your worry into perspective by journaling about it. Write down what you are worried about and why. Then ask yourself these questions, recording the answers in your notebook.
3. Power Pose
Amy Cuddy’s powerful TED Talk on Power Posing outlines the benefits of using dominant body postures to gain confidence and reduce anxiety. While there are Power Posing naysayers, I have found doing them to be incredibly helpful when I am feeling anxious, especially when it comes to speaking in front of people. Power Posing is easy; find someplace private, put your hands on your hips like Wonder Woman, stand up straight, puff out your chest, and breathe deeply with a smile on your face. Hold the pose for a few minutes and you’ll be surprised how much better you feel.
4. Talk it Out
Talking about your worry allows you to process it while gaining perspective and insight. Ask a confidant to listen and offer advice (if appropriate). If that doesn’t work, a therapist can be a good listener and provide you with worry-management tools. If your worry is around another person’s feelings, actions, etc., go talk to the person. While initiating the conversation may be difficult, you’ll have a sense of relief when you get to the bottom of it. You may not like what you hear but at least you’ll have concrete information and/or feedback. Even better, you may find out that your worry was all for naught and you can let it go.
5. Get Some Sleep
Sleep deprivation has been proven to increase anxiety and depression, compounding the "what if" problem. To better handle what life so throws at you, get 7-8 hours of sleep each night. Of course, excessive worrying can cause insomnia, creating a cycle that’s hard to break. Here is a great article on why sleep deprivation amplifies anxiety and some tips on how to improve your sleep routine.
A small amount of worry is healthy but letting it take over your life can lead to major health issues. The good news is that most of what you worry about will never come to be. For those things that do...trust yourself and your capacity to handle whatever life throws at you. You can cope with, survive, and move beyond whatever happens. Believe in yourself and you will be pleasantly surprised.
Thank you for reading! I welcome and am grateful for comments, like and shares.
Human nature drives us to avoid situations that feel scary; fear and anxiety overwhelm and we hunker down, looking for relief from uncomfortable feelings. Yet, to reach our full potential, we must overcome the instinctual urge to fight or flight and challenge ourselves to do new and bigger things. We must get outside our comfort zones.
What does getting outside your comfort zone mean?
Your comfort zone is defined as a place or situation where you feel safe or at ease and without stress. It’s a cozy place, but if you stay too long, you’ll miss out on valuable opportunities to grow. You have to take some risks, try new things, and push your boundaries. You must embrace discomfort and shove fear aside.
Why is getting outside of your comfort zone good?
Let’s say you want a promotion but you are worried about failing. You have two choices: 1) take on a high profile project that, if successful, could catapult your career but is risky because it’s outside your area of expertise and failure is a possibility; or 2) play it safe, put your head down, and do your daily tasks in hopes that someone will see your potential and give you a shot. The first option creates an opportunity; the second option leaves that opportunity in another’s hand. Being willing to get outside your comfort zone allows you to create a better life. You won’t get a promotion, leave a bad job, gain a new skill, develop a meaningful relationship, or build your confidence if you always avoid discomfort.
What holds people back from doing it more often?
Fear of failure causes us to doubt our ability to take on a challenge and succeed. We create stories of doom and gloom that make us want to retreat to the warm cocoon of predictability and ignorant bliss. It’s scary being out on a limb. But if you are honest with yourself, how many times did the doom and gloom turn out to be as horrible as you anticipated? How often did you rise to the challenge when you pushed yourself to do something new? When you failed, was it really that bad? Didn’t you learn something incredibly valuable? Don’t let a false narrative hold you back.
How do you get outside your comfort zone?
The only way to get out of your comfort zone is to, well, get out of your comfort zone. Yes, it’s obvious and yes, it’s the only way. Stop listening to the voice telling you dreadful stories of failure and humiliation. Ask yourself these questions: if I take this risk, what’s the worst that can happen? What’s the best that can happen? What’s most likely to happen? This process helps you see a ‘middle of the road’ outcome that is not total failure but also doesn’t leave you disappointed if you don’t achieve your highest expectations. Another way is to be vulnerable and share your fears with someone else. You’ll find courage by connecting with others and hearing how they overcame self-doubt. Other ideas? Change your morning routine, sign up for a class to learn a new skill, read inspiring books, hang out with people more successful than you, take on a new project at work, or give someone candid feedback. There are a million ways to push yourself; you just have to do it.
What happens if you are always outside of your comfort zone?
Many of us have been living perpetually outside of our comfort zones for some time now; I know I’ve been. The chaos of fast moving change, increased demands on time, and the pressure to deliver results and perform can be overwhelming. While it’s good to push yourself, doing so for too long can lead to burn out. “When demands become too great for us to handle, when the pressure overwhelms us, too much to do with too little time or support, we enter the zone of bad stress,” author Daniel Goleman writes in Psychology Today. “Just beyond the optimal zone at the top or the performance arc, there is a tipping point where the brain secretes too many stress hormones, and they start to interfere with our ability to work well, to learn, to innovate, to listen, and to plan effectively.” If you find yourself in this state, step back, ask for help, and take a few days off. It may seem impossible, but you’ll find that you will feel refreshed and able to take on more after some down time.
While staying in your comfort zone may feel predictable and consistent, in the long run you’ll lose out. Taking on challenges and being open to new experiences create opportunities that can take your success to the next level. Think about the last time you did something you were proud of? Were you pushing yourself or on autopilot? Don’t be afraid of getting to close to the edge of your perceived limitations. If you walk right up and look over, you’ll see all kinds of paths that lead you to a more enriched and engaged life.
Thanks for reading! As always, I am grateful for your shares, likes, and/or comments so please do so if you feel inclined!
There are many attributes and qualities that can be assigned to good managers such as being a decent listener, accountable, organized, motivating, honest, and having a positive outlook on life. While these are all important, they are the minimum requirements of good management.
So what makes a manager GREAT?
In developing my own managerial skills and helping others to do the same, I have found that accomplishing these six things will help a good manager become a GREAT manager.
1. Connect Through Regular One-on-One Meetings
The best way to build strong relationships is to have regular one-on-one meetings with each team member. Most people want to share certain aspects of their lives and appreciate when their boss takes the time to get to know them better, especially when it comes to personal and career aspirations. Use these one-on-one meetings to ask good questions, discuss professional development and performance, solve problems, and review priorities and projects. Effective one-on-one meetings will result in more effective relationships.
2. Right Seat on the Bus
It’s not enough to have talent on your team; your employees must be in the right seat on the bus to do fantastic work. Great managers recognize their employees will be at their best when their talents and strengths are in alignment with their roles. It takes time to gain meaningful insights to what makes your employees tick, but doing so will help you create, tweak, or change roles to help them do what they are best at every day. This will result in happier, more productive and engaged team members who enjoy their work.
3. Continuous Improvement
There are many ways to make an organization better and great managers are committed to always improving. They understand that the intentional pursuit of honing processes, teamwork, goal-setting, cultural issues, communication, collaboration, and quality and content of work product will reduce obstacles that frustrate employees and in turn, make the organization stronger.
4. Good Decision-Making
Leaders who make good decisions and who empower their teams to do the same are highly regarded in most organizations. Good decision-making builds trust and credibility and creates success. While your team might not always agree with your decisions, it’s hard to argue when they turn out to be good ones. Improve your decision-making skills by slowing down, listening more, and considering all possibilities. Ask questions and obtain as much input as possible. Recognize that you (and everyone else) are full of biases that cloud your judgment. The more you expose your biases, the better decisions you will make. Read my blog on bias here for more insight on better decision making.
5.Rally Teams Around the Bigger Picture by Tying it to the Daily Picture
A job is just a job (aka a paycheck) when you can’t see how it’s tied to the bigger picture. Great managers understand that most of us want to be part of something greater than ourselves and tap into that motivation by ensuring every employee understands and cares about the company strategy and vision for the future. The key is tying strategy to the work a person does each day including well thought out and communicated departmental plans, KPIs, work prioritization, and individual goals. Be transparent, talk about and get feedback on the vision and strategy often, engage more than just the usual suspects in vision and goal development, and celebrate small and big wins often. The more connected your team is to the bigger picture, the greater chance for success.
6. Radically Candid
I saved the most important for last; if you must pick only one of these points to work on, improving how you give feedback should be at the top of the list. Great managers are always candid and address performance issues directly and timely. They show they care by being honest, compassionate, and holding their team accountable to high standards. They never take the easy way out by putting off tough conversations, sugar coating bad news, or letting their desire to be liked to get in the way. They understand that every person on their team deserves to know how they are performing, what they need to do to improve, and how they are perceived within the organization. You cannot be a great boss if you are not giving regular, candid feedback. Repeat this mantra over and over. If you want to get better at giving feedback, I highly recommend reading “Radical Candor: Be a Kickass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity” by Kim Scott. It’s a game changer.
Mastering these six points will not only help you become a better manager, but more importantly, will help you develop good employees into great ones. And that’s the legacy all rock star managers should want to leave behind.
Thanks for reading. As always, comments, like and shares are appreciated so please do so if you are inclined.
Deflection: How to NOT Shrug off Responsibility and Pin Poor Performance and Decision Making on Someone Else
Accountability is the cornerstone of authentic and inspirational leadership. True accountability means you understand and accept that you and only you are responsible for your attitude, actions, decisions, communication, and health of your relationships. It’s hard work, requiring vulnerability, humility, integrity, and a willingness to put your ego aside. It’s uncommon to find this kind of accountability; for some reason these qualities are labeled as signs of weakness. I believe they are just the opposite.
Rather than hold oneself truly accountable, many people use deflection to shrug off responsibility and pin poor performance and decision making on someone or something else.
Deflection may sound something like this:
We shouldn’t tolerate this type of behavior from ourselves and from those around us.
So how do you stop yourself from being a deflector?
It starts with awareness. Think back on the times you were given tough feedback. Did you own it or did you blame someone or something else? Did you say thank you for the feedback or did you minimize your role in the situation? Be honest; you can’t make changes unless you embrace the hard truths about yourself. It may seem like silly advice but the only way to be accountable is to start being accountable. The only way to stop deflecting is to stop deflecting. When you hear yourself saying things like, “yeah, but” or “you always do XYZ” or “it’s not my fault” stop immediately and instead say, “I was just about to deflect blame and I don’t want to do that. Thank you for this feedback.” Then listen.
Next, take ownership and focus on the things you can control. Sure, there could be many reasons why something happened; it’s natural to want to look for causes outside of yourself, but the only way to improve a situation is to own your part. Don’t let yourself off the hook. And really, if everything is everyone else’s fault, then what part do you play in your own life? Do your actions not have any consequences? Are you truly powerless over the decisions you make and the outcomes that are a result of your decisions? I didn’t think so.
Now it’s time to create a new habit; an accountability habit. Ask someone to call you out when you start to deflect. Look for opportunities to take more ownership when things aren’t going perfectly. Pay attention to what triggers your “blame something else” mechanism so you can gain more insight around when you start to deflect. Apologize when you slip up and blame someone else.
Now how do you deal with a person who deflects all the time?
When dealing with deflection in the moment, the best technique I have found is to bring the focus back to the person by saying something like this:
Handling deflections in such a way does two things; first, it acknowledges that there are extenuating circumstances to every situation which may deserve digging into and second, it shifts the conversation towards accountability which is where solutions can be derived.
I also suggest giving honest and direct feedback. The deflector may not realize how often he or she does it and with a little coaching, could change the habit. Have a few concrete examples prepared and say something like this, “I want to share some feedback with you, if that’s okay. I’ve noticed that anytime we discuss the issues with this project, you shift the blame to someone else. For example, when you say things like “this project was handed to make like this” or “I wasn’t part of the team when that happened’ it makes you sound unaccountable and undermines your credibility as a leader and team player. I know that this is not how you want to be perceived so that’s why I wanted to bring it up. Were you aware that you’ve been doing this? Is there something going on that you want to get off your chest?” Show you care by courageously giving feedback.
Sometimes though, it may be best to ignore the “blame game” and focus on finding a solution. While shifting gears without addressing the deflection doesn’t solve the issue, it can be more productive than getting the other person to accept responsibility. There are times when you just need to move past the “what happened and who did it” phase to the “how are we going to fix it” phase. But even in those times where giving feedback in the moment doesn’t make sense, I always recommend circling back and having the conversation. No one can improve without candid feedback and we shouldn’t be fearful of giving it in a kind and helpful way.
My only other advice is to not take things the blamer says personally and don’t get defensive; I know dealing with deflectors can be frustrating but remember, their blaming isn’t about you, even if it feels like it. I also suggest trying to limit your interaction; habitual blaming can be a form of narcissism and most narcissists (at least the ones I know) have no interest in changing because they don’t think they are doing anything wrong.
There is nothing more honorable than accepting responsibility for your actions and decisions. Don’t be afraid to admit your role in tough situations. Show gratitude and compassion when others admit their own faults, too. We should encourage and applaud each other when we show up with sincere, honest accountability.
In closing, I’ll leave you with a quote from American writer Ralph Marston:
Concern yourself more with accepting responsibility than with assigning blame. Let the possibilities inspire you more than the obstacles discourage you.
Thank you for reading. Please share, like and comment if you are so inclined. Click here to sign up to receive my blogs in your inbox.
Did you know that being kind inspires kindness in others? Numerous studies show that when someone shows you kindness, you are likely to pay it forward. Think about it…when a person holds the door for you and smiles warmly, you tend to want to reciprocate. You find that the next time you can hold a door open for someone, you do so with pleasure. It feels good to be kind.
While it seems unassuming, being kind is truly powerful. Think what we could achieve if we chose (yes, it is a choice) to be kind to everyone with whom we interact. The world would immediately be a better place for each of us. Rather than feeling judged, shamed, shunned, or ignored, we would feel seen, appreciated, accepted, and respected. Since our moods and emotions tend to be contagious, we would be spreading happiness rather than yuckiness.
Always being kind, no matter the person or situation, is a simple way to dramatically improve our world. The best thing about it is that being kind requires no rules, laws, or government regulation. It’s a way for humanity to take back…well…our humanity. We as individuals can lead by example and maybe, just maybe, those who lead our communities, organizations, and countries will follow suit, showing that in the end, all that really matters is how kind we are to each other.
Here are some easy ways to start being more kind. They take no extra investment, just a conscious mindset shift and purposeful interactions.
Smile and Make Eye Contact
Show people that you see and appreciate their humanity no matter where they come from, what their belief system is, or what the situation they find themselves in. Smile and make eye contact with everyone…your coworkers, your children, the homeless guy on the corner, the clerk at the grocery store. You’ll receive smiles in return and you’ll instantly feel better, as will the people you smile at.
Being polite is simple yet respectful. Say “yes please”, “no thank you”, and “I’m sorry” often. Let someone else go first, hold the door open for others, and acknowledge people with a smile. When conversing with another, be positive, refrain from gossiping, and for goodness sake, put your phone away.
Random Acts of Kindness
I’ll never forget one morning when I walked into my office and found a little slip of paper with the words “You Have a Nice Smile” typed upon it. This little slip of paper made my day; I had a spring in my step for weeks because of this simple, anonymous acknowledgment. It’s still taped to my monitor today. Spread joy by doing small things for the people around you. Buy a stranger a cup of coffee, leave a note of appreciation on a coworker’s keyboard, send flowers to a friend, randomly leave Hershey’s Kisses on peoples’ desks, pick up litter in your neighbor’s front yard…it’s the little things that can make a person’s day and performing a random act of kindness increases the chance that others will pay it forward, too.
Being helpful is an easy way to show kindness. Take a moment out of your busy day to give a stranger directions, aid someone in picking up the papers he dropped, make eye contact and engage when a coworker asks for your assistance, and help your spouse load the dishwasher. It only takes a few moments to be helpful and it can make a big difference in a person’s day.
Reach Out to Someone Who is in Need
We all go through tough times and it’s nice to receive kindness when you’re down in the dumps. Call a friend going through a divorce, hug a coworker who just lost a loved one, send a note to someone going through a hard time to let her know you are thinking of her, or give a tissue to a crying stranger. Don’t be afraid to reach out; just a simple acknowledgement of someone’s pain can help ease the feeling of loneliness and despair.
Send a Nice Email to Someone Everyday
It stakes 60 seconds to send an email expressing gratitude and appreciation; those 60 seconds can go a long way to spread kindness in the world. Make sending a sincerely kind email to friends, coworkers, community leaders, etc. a daily habit.
Drive with Kindness in Mind
Be a kind driver; let some enter the lane in front of you and don’t tailgate or speed up quickly behind a slower driver. Don’t get angry when someone cuts you off; instead smile and wish him a nice day. Choose to be a non-aggressive driver. You’ll not only be happier but you’ll also inspire others to be kinder drivers and you’ll improve the safety of everyone on the road.
Find Something to Appreciate About Those Who are Different Than You
I like Heineken’s “Worlds Apart” commercial; it shows how two strangers with very different views can find commonalities that unite them rather than divide them. Yes, this ad simplifies the issues causing the mass polarization of humans today, but if you pause to consider that those you dislike may not be all that different from you, you might be more inclined be kinder to everyone. And really, what life improvement comes from hating someone who believes differently than you? All it does is bring self-pain and self-suffering while the rest of us go on being who we are, not really thinking too much about why you hate us; we are too busy focusing on our own life issues such as why it’s so hard to find a good paying job, affordable housing, a loving relationship, and someone to watch our children without breaking the bank. Sound familiar? Yeah, I thought so. We aren’t so different after all.
Science and psychology show that humans tend to mirror each other; we reflect what we see in others. This is especially true of our leaders as we tend to emulate them the most. Choose your actions and your corresponding reflections carefully as they can make a profound difference in the happiness, kindness, and generosity in others. Choose to use this wonderful superpower we all carry within us to change the world for the better.
Thanks for reading. As always, I appreciate comments, likes, shares and retweets; please do so if you are inclined.
Whether you are a leader, manager, or an employee who wants to be a high performer, there is almost nothing more important than creating more time to think. It may seem next to impossible in this fast paced, constantly-plugged-in world, but it must be a priority if personal and professional growth are important to you. Why? Because if you aren’t making time to think through problems, the future, and your role in what comes next, you will always be reacting. If you are constantly reacting, you aren’t giving yourself time to see the possibilities, think through potential consequences, calm down, and ultimately, make better decisions. I don’t know about you, but I like making good decisions, therefore I make time to think.
Respond vs reacting
First, let’s consider why responding is so much better than reacting. When you find yourself in a situation where you must react, fight or flight mode kicks in. Stress hormones wash through your body and you feel compelled to say or do something that you may later regret. Reacting is a natural urge, it happens automatically and it must be consciously resisted. Instead of reacting, choose to respond. You can do this by taking a breath (literally) and giving yourself time to reflect on what’s happening in the moment. This pause can be a few seconds, a few minutes, or a few days and it will allow you to observe what’s going on inside and out, making it easier to gain control of your emotions and decision making process.
Stop Wasting So Much Time
Facebook, Twitter, news feeds, television and other distractions should be reduced to a minimum if you want to create a more time to think. These things diverts precious time and creates background noise that clogs your thinking. Do you actually do anything with the steady stream of content that comes from these sources anyway? When was the last time you had a profound, personally life changing realization from a tweet or an Instagram post? Never? Me, neither. So shut it down and fill your new found time with things like reading thought-provoking writing, writing your personal vision, thinking about how to best achieve your goals, and brainstorming ways to improve your relationships. There are so many meaty things to think about…things that could change your life…if you would just stop and think about them.
"The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything." This quote by Warren Buffet pretty much sums it up. The busier you are, the less time you have to think. The less time you have to think, the harder it is to be really successful. Buffet continues, “I insist on a lot of time being spent, almost every day, to just sit and think.” It’s hard to argue with one of the most successful people on the planet. Simplifying will help you focus on what’s most important. Here’s an exercise: write down all the things you feel are priorities in these categories: work, family, personal wellness/fulfillment. List at least 20 items in each category. Then force yourself to pick the top three in each category. Don’t do anything else but these 9 things until you’ve mastered them. Now that’s simplifying! Focus is the key to success.
Another way of simplifying your life is to delegate. Are you really THE person who MUST do all the tasks on your list? Hire a someone to clean your house; have groceries delivered to your door; make your kids ride the bus to school; ask a coworker to help you with a task; approach your boss about getting administrative support on a big project. If you are a manager or a leader, make sure you hire people you can delegate to and empower them to take on challenging assignments. Give them projects that you might normally do yourself. When you find yourself performing tasks that are in the weeds, ask yourself, “should I be doing this or managing this?” If the answer is managing it, delegate it.
Being disorganized is a time suck. Plan your day so you don’t waste time looking for items that should be handy, doing things twice, and working on unimportant tasks. Be disciplined; make a daily agenda that lines out your day. This list shouldn’t be too long and should include a block of time used to think as well as the three things you must do to move the ball down the field on your most important priorities. I love this new Self Journal; I just started using it and it’s working well for me. I also you Evernote to track my to-do lists.
Take a Lunch Break
Resist the temptation to work while you scarf down a sandwich; lunchtime is the perfect time to ponder. Step away from your desk and breathe deeply. Jot down new ideas in a notebook; reflect on your day and come up with ways you could be doing things better; consider what you might be missing when tackling a big problem at home or work. Better yet, take a walk and let your mind wonder; be curious as to where your thoughts take you. Use this 30 minutes to get away from the grind and think.
Find Your Method
There are lots of different ways to do your best thinking. Mine happens when I am exercising. The trouble is that I forget everything as soon as I stop, therefore I use notetaking and audio recording apps so I can capture ideas as I work out. Pausing during a run to type out a few ideas isn’t ideal but it works for me. I also frequently read and listen to audiobooks and I use the same apps to record ideas sparked from consuming thought-provoking content. Writing is a great outlet whether it be expressing an idea to a colleague via email, journaling, outlining your thoughts on paper, or writing a draft memo to your boss. Other people do their best thinking in the shower, while walking the dog, during long flights, or when laying on the beach starting at the ocean…find yours and do it as often as possible. The outcome will be better decisions, more intentional responses, a clearer pathway to a fulfilling life.
As always, thanks for reading! Please like, share, and comment if you are so inclined. Click here to sign up to receive my blogs in your inbox.
Promotions are not given; they are earned.
There is nothing more important to remember than this statement when you are looking to grow within your organization. If you are being passed up for promotions, there is a reason why. Rather than blame your “playing favorites” boss or your “brown nosing” coworkers, take responsibility for what you can control which includes your attitude, performance, and teamwork. Then follow these steps to work your way into a new role.
Develop a Good Relationship with Your Boss
Your boss should be your biggest supporter and he or she can’t be this unless the two of you have a strong relationship. How do you build a strong relationship with your boss? Remember the universal truth…all managers want people on their teams who make their jobs easier. Do your best to make your boss look good; it usually pays dividends. Produce quality and timely work. Look for ways to help her achieve more. Ask for feedback and take action on it. Be forthcoming about ways she can successfully manage you. Build rapport by learning more about him. Put effort into understanding his personality traits and triggers. There are many ways to build a relationship with your manager; it may take some trial and error as you learn what works and what doesn’t, but it’s worth the effort….there is a good chance that he or she will be the one promoting you.
Be an Expert at Your Job
The fastest way to get a promotion is to be a rock star in your current role. Sure, there may be things you don’t like about the job you have now, but so what? Do all parts of your job well; become an expert at it by learning as much as you can, read books and other publications on the subject, ask for more training, acquire new skills and knowledge, and always produce high quality work. Remember, you will never get a promotion if you aren’t doing a great job in your current role.
Add Value and Help the Company Execute its Strategy
Make sure you are working on the right things…things that help the company meet its goals and execute its strategy. If you’re not sure how your job ties to the strategy, ask. Always prioritize your work and do what’s most important first. Don’t let yourself get distracted by things that don’t matter.
Be Seen as Helpful
Being a team player builds your credibility throughout the organization and will make you the go-to person when a tough problem needs to be solved. Put the team first, help out a struggling coworker, give credit to others, volunteer to help at company events...there are a million ways to exhibit helpfulness and be a true team player. Remember, though, that perception is reality; it doesn’t matter if you think you are a helpful teammate, what matters more is that others think you are.
Be a Problem Solver
People who expect “management” to fix all the problems in the workplace aren’t typically seen as helpful nor are they often promoted. It takes everyone within the organization to create an effective work environment so if you see a place where the organization can improve, develop some solutions to address the issue and discuss them with your boss. Volunteer to be part of a team tackling tough interdepartmental problems. Proactively address a communication issue with a coworker rather than triangulate through your boss; challenge yourself to achieve a positive outcome. Suggest a better process to ease frustration on a project. In short, be a problem solver, not a problem creator.
People with a positive attitude are generally easier to work with, hence more promotable. Keep your head up in the face of adversity, meet tough challenges head-on with a smile on your face, and view problems as opportunities to make things better. Be friendly, help others, smile more, and complain less. Commit to having a positive effect on everyone you interact with.
Look and Act Professionally - Always
If you want a promotion, look and act the part. Dress professionally, be well groomed, communicate clearly and articulately, use proper grammar, refrain from swearing, don’t gossip, don’t complain, ask questions, smile, and work hard (i.e. while at work stay off of Facebook, don’t text your friends, and refrain from chit chatting endlessly with coworkers). Choose a professional role model and emulate what he or she does.
If those doing the promoting don’t know about the good things you are doing, you won’t be on the radar for a promotion. Self-promotion is an art…it has to be done in a way that balances talking about yourself with humility. You don’t want to be perceived as bragging; that’s just obnoxious. First, make sure your boss knows your career aspirations and engage him or her in creating a career development plan with you (having a career plan is crucial to growing within your organization). Ping your boss regularly, giving updates on progress you’ve made. Keep your boss and peers informed on major projects and broadly share the team’s accomplishments. Bring attention to a big win by asking your boss if you can celebrate by taking the team to lunch. Approach your boss with a solution to a tough problem and ask him or her for support as you take the lead to fix it. Develop a relationship with a mentor higher within the organization who can sing your praises. Well executed self-promotion is subtle, tactful and highly useful.
These are my tips for getting a promotion. While doing these things don’t guarantee a promotion, you increases your chances by doing them well. On the flip side, here are some surefire ways to NOT get a promotion:
Hopefully this article sends you in the right direction…one that places you in the “indispensable” category and helps you achieve the next step in your career. There is almost nothing more rewarding than being recognized for a job well done with an opportunity to grow via a promotion. Remember…
“Do your best, and be a little better than you are.” - Gordon B Hinckley
Good luck and thanks for reading. As always, I appreciate likes, shares, retweets and comments. Please do so if you are so inclined. Click here to sign up to receive my blogs in your inbox.
References: Change Anything: The New Science of Personal Success by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, David Maxfield. Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler
A Quick Blurb on what this blog is about.
Welcome to my blog! My name is Kerry Siggins and plain speaking, honest leadership is my mantra. My intention is to help those who lead (or want to lead) become better at saying and doing what needs to be said and done in a way that it can be heard and seen, one person at a time.