How To Handle A Bad Boss: 7 Strategies For ‘Managing Up’

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If you’ve got a lousy boss right now you have my sympathy. Truly. It can really siphon the enjoyment from what might otherwise be a rewarding role, leave you feeling undervalued, and wondering whether you should begin searching for something new. But before you start planning an exit strategy, it would be wise to rethink how you can better manage the boss you already have –for all their flaws and shortcomings.

Having worked with numerous not-so-inspiring bosses in my corporate career, I’ve learned they provide invaluable opportunities for developing  executive leadership skills and learning ‘what not to do’ when managing people who work for you. You just have to be proactive in looking for them and ready to practice some real self-leadership.

New research has found that being overworked is not the reason people leave their jobs. A Danish study of 4,500 public service workers has provided credence to the adage that “people don’t leave jobs, they leave managers.”  According to psychologist Matias Brødsgaard Grynderup, one of the researchers behind the study, “We may have a tendency to associate depression and stress with work pressure and workload; however, our study shows that the workload actually has no effect on workplace depression.”

However fixed in their ways your boss may be, you can always learn ways to better manage him or her.  The secret is to “manage up” without them ever realizing you are doing it. So rather than think of your boss as your boss,  think of them as a difficult client – one you have to figure out how to work with if you want to get ahead, even if you’d rather not.

Hopefully the strategies below will help you on your way. Underpinning each of them is a commitment to take responsibility for your own success, regardless of the different (and difficult) personalities you will inevitably have to encounter throughout your working life.

1.  Know their why: what motivates them

The better you understand what your boss does, and more importantly, why, the better positioned you are to deliver results, manage expectations, and avoid lose:lose situations.  Try to put yourself in their shoes and see the world, and your workplace, as they might.

  • What does he care about?
  • What keeps him up at night?
  • What would he love more of and what would he love less of on a daily basis?  
  • What frightens him?
  • How much importance does he place on impressing others? 
  • How does he measure success and what does he think about failure?

When you know what drives your boss (even if your boss may not be fully conscious of it), you can speak to “his listening,” frame your opinions and use language in ways that line up with his core values, concerns and priorities.

2.  Support their success:  Work around their weaknesses

While it may sound counter intuitive to support a bad boss in becoming more successful, there is absolutely nothing to be gained by making him look bad, going to war or helping him to fail. If he is as bad as you think, he will likely do a pretty good job of that all by himself. Exposing his incompetence will only compound your own misery and may even damage your reputation.

One way is to help your boss focus on his natural strengths. Another is to proactively work around his weaknesses. If you know you have a boss who’s disorganized, then help him to be on top of things rather than whining about his lack of organizational skills. If you know your boss is often late to meetings, offer to kick off the next meeting for him. If he tends to change his mind frequently, or is outright forgetful, be sure to document interactions so you can refer back to them if he ever contradicts himself. If you know your boss is slow to respond, continue to work on a project while you wait to hear back from him.  Making yourself  indispensable and someone your boss can rely on to help him do his job is a valuable asset when you start to look to ‘what’s next?’

By doing what you can to help your boss succeed, you lay a solid foundation for greater success yourself. It may not be an immediate reward, but in the long run, you can never lose by helping others do better than they otherwise would.

3.  Take the high road: Your “Personal Brand” is riding on it

Never let your boss’s bad behavior be an excuse for your own. All too often, people start feeling entitled to slack off, take longer and longer lunches, lose interest or stop performing well because of their bad boss. Don’t do it. Keep your mind focused on top performance. Complain to your spouse or your friends all you want, but when in the office or workplace, stay upbeat and engaged. Actually handling a difficult boss well can really set you apart. You never know who is watching or listening but be assured, people who can open or close future opportunities for you are doing just that!

Evening the score by working slower, taking excessive “mental health” days or longer lunches doesn’t do you any favors and can hurt your own self more in the long run than any irritation or trouble you cause for your boss. On top of that, it may only put you behind in your workload and build a case for your boss to give you the old heave-ho before you’re ready to go. So if your boss is a shouter, don’t react by shouting back. If they are petty or small minded, don’t descend to smallness yourself.  Rather maintain a calm and professional demeanor in dealing with your difficult boss or let your emotions get the better of you. Literally. As Gandhi wrote “Be the change you want to see in the world.” In this case, act like the leader you wish your boss was.

If you feel you’ve run out of options for dealing with him reasonably, then don’t go rumor-mongering or bad-mouthing him to everyone within earshot. That will ultimately say more about you than it does about your boss (and not things you’d want said!)  Rather, follow proper procedures for registering complaints with Human Resources or with higher-level superiors, documenting each step of the way.

4.  Know their preferences: Adapt to them

Observe your boss’s behavioral style, preferences and pet peeves.  Is he fast-paced and quick to make decisions? Is he slow to think about things, needing time to process information?  How does he like to communicate – via e-mail, in person drop-ins, or lengthy memos? The more you can match your style to your boss’s style when communicating, the more he will really hear what you’re saying.

If you’ve ever done any personality assessments such as Myers-Briggs or DISC, then see if your boss has as well and find out what they are.  It can help you adapt your style and spare a lot of strain.  Working with his preferences is an obvious way of managing your boss without his ever knowing it, and it’s a key leadership skill to develop regardless of the kind of boss you are working for.

5.  Don’t be intimidated by a bully: Stand tall, never cower

People who bully get their power from those who respond by cowering and showing fear. If your boss is a yeller, a criticizer, or a judge – stand firm. If you’re doing the best job you can do, keep your head held high and don’t give him the satisfaction of pushing you about.  Rather ask questions, seek to understand, and work to defuse a difficult situation instead of cowering or responding in anger. It takes practice, but over time you will get better at it and he will look elsewhere for his power kick.

If you feel compelled to call your boss on his behavior, go ahead but do so with a cool head and prepare in advance for the ensuing fallout. It could get ugly so think things through beforehand. What are your options?  Who are your allies? Have you documented his behavior? Can you deal with the possibility of the worst outcome?  Sure, it’s important to stand strong, but be smart about it. As I wrote in Stop Playing Safe, “Sometimes you have to go out on a limb and do something where the risks are high. But before you climb out, be sure you’ve managed the risks as best you can and set up a safety net should you fall.”

6.  Speak up: Give your boss a chance to respond 

Early into my career,  I left a good job with a global consulting firm because I had a lousy boss and a toxic work environment.  Upon leaving, the HR lead – a senior partner at this organization – asked to meet with me to find out why I was leaving.  I shared how undervalued I had felt, how the promises made to me upon employment had not been met and how little accountability there was for my colleagues. He was surprised and disturbed and asked if there was anything he could do to make me change my mind. Apparently I’d been ear-marked a hi-po (which would have been nice to have known before then!), but by this point it was too late. I’d already made other plans, hoping for a better work environment, and a better boss.

The lesson for me was this: have the courage to speak up rather than cower in silence for fear of an awkward conversation. The truth is that I’d  been too cowardly to address my concerns with my boss or to go around her.  Admittedly I was young (mid-twenties) and inexperienced, but if I knew then what I do now, it would have been that I owed it to myself, and to my boss at the time, to have at least voiced my concerns, offered up some possible solutions and engaged in a conversation about how we could have improved the situation.  It may not have changed a thing, but at least I could have known that I at least gave her a chance.

So just because it may be easier to say nothing, to just ‘suffer quietly’ or complain loudly to colleagues or to head for the exit as I ultimately did, you at least owe your boss the opportunity to respond. Don’t prejudge and assume they aren’t able to take feedback, or don’t care how miserable you are. When you approach them with respect and with a genuine desire to make things work better, you can open the door to whole new levels of trust, collaboration and outcomes. A door that will remain permanently closed otherwise.

7.  Be Proactive:  Do your research before  jumping ship 

Of course the best way to manage a bad boss is not to have one in the first place. So whenever you are looking to move into a new role in the same company or move to another organization  all together, invest some time to get a sense of the culture, the leadership and the sort of management practices that are tolerated and supported. If you are moving internally, make sure you do your networking ahead of time to get a sense of both the environment within the team you might be moving to, and those  who are creating it. Are they leaders who create an environment where people are inspired and supported to work hard, or do they incite fear about what will happen if people don’t?

If you are moving to a new organization, do your research to make sure you’re not jumping from the frying pan into the fire. Sometimes in our desperation to escape a toxic work environment we fail to take notice of the warning signs that the new job we’re taking will only be worse.  Have a coffee with whoever you know at the new company to get a sense of the culture, employee engagement, moral, and management style. Investing a few hours up front could spare you a few years of frustration. -Margie Warrell

16 Basic Principles for Avoiding Stupidity

Don't be an idiot

 

 

 

 

 

 

Early in my career, someone told me that “not being an idiot is a sustainable competitive advantage.” Unbelievably, it’s the truth. It’s easy to jump past the basics and focus on the challenging, and often confusing, topics that seemingly lead to success.

But the longer I live, the more I’m convinced that understanding and consistently practicing a handful of basic principles, like the 16 below, is the surest path to success. As Shane Parrishsaid, “Spend less time trying to be brilliant and more time trying to avoid obvious stupidity.”

1. Follow Through: Just do what you said you were going to do when you said you were going to do it. If you quoted a price, stick with it. If you promised something, deliver.

2. Say “Thank You”: The world doesn’t owe you anything, so don’t act like it does. When someone acts in your best interest, thank him. If you’re given a gift, thank the person who thought of you. If you’re particularly pleased with someone’s performance…you get the idea.

3. Be On Time: Circumstances occasionally cause a justified aberration. But most of the time, tardiness signals self-importance, a lack of respect, and disorganization. As the saying goes, “Five minutes early is on time, on time is late, and late is unacceptable.”

4. Use Impeccable Grammar: This is the clearest canary in the mine. If someone can’t properly spell, punctuate, or structure a sentence, chances are he a) is not well-educated, b) lacks attention to detail, and c) doesn’t care. Any way you slice it, bad grammar is bad news.

5. Say “Sorry”: Being wrong is being human. Just own up to it, and everyone will move on. Apologizing conveys that you a) care, b) are humble, and c) are self-aware. It’s incredible how much a genuine “sorry” can make up for.

6. Be Intentional: We all have the same amount of time. You can choose to randomly stumble around, hoping to bump into money, meaning, love, friendships, and opportunities. Or you can be intentional. It’s your choice, every single day.

7. Question Why: The smartest people in the world know what they don’t know, and they aren’t scared to look ignorant. If you don’t understand, ask “Why?” until you get it. This simple technique is the greatest antidote for the illogical and inexplicable.

8. Default to SilenceThere’s a reason you have two ears and only one mouth. If you don’t have something meaningful to say, keep your trap shut. This ensures that when a significant thought does arise, people might actually listen.

9. Set Expectations: The formula is simple: Happiness = Reality — Expectations. Changing reality is hard. Setting expectations is easy. Under-promise and fill reality with happiness.

10. Take Responsibility: We love to rationalize blame. While it feels good to play the victim, it’s incredibly destructive, leading to a cynical and jaded life. The far better approach is to say, “It’s all my fault.” It gives you control to change yourself and your circumstances.

11. Say “No”: Life is a game of opportunity costs. If you say “yes,” you’re saying “no” to something else. Have clear priorities, pursue opportunities that align, and say “no” to everything else.

12. Continuously Learn: If you wake up each day trying to get a little better, before long, you’ll find yourself ahead. Read, ask, and listen. If something conflicts with your worldview, dig deeper and determine whether you should embrace it or discard it.

13. Embrace Simplicity: Small bits of complexity add up quickly and exponentially. A little white lie can get you fired. A little gossip can ruin a friendship. A little kiss can end a marriage. Enough small splurges can lead to bankruptcy. Given a choice, always choose simplicity.

14. Gain Perspective: We measure ourselves by our intentions, but others by their actions. But you’re not a special snowflake. Everyone else, regardless of how convinced you are that they’re “doing fine,” is struggling with something. Remember that to have some perspective.

15. Check Yourself: As Warren Buffett says, “Negotiating with one’s self seldom produces a barroom brawl.” Surround yourself with people who will a) call you on your BS, b) thoughtfully help you reason, and c) genuinely understand your weaknesses.

16. Avoid Eating Crap: You were given exactly one container for this life, and the quickest way to damage it is by consistently eating lab-concocted, food-like substances pumped full of chemicals, hormones, and fake nutrition. Simply eat real food that came from something previously living in a recognizable form.

The truth is that 100 percent consistency is impossible, and I’m certainly no exception. In the past two weeks, I’ve been late to a meeting, parroted some gossip, and failed to say “sorry” to two  people who deserved to hear it — and that’s just what I can recall. But I’m constantly striving to walk the talk, and I encourage you to do the same. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.” -Brent Beshore

The Three Habits of Highly Effective Demotivators

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Jake, a young marketing whiz, thought he’d found his perfect match in a well-funded technology startup in the academic sector. (It’s a real company, but I’ve changed all names.) For the first few months, Jake was in heaven: smart colleagues, plenty of autonomy, an open field of savvy customers looking for solutions in a hot sector, behind-the-curve competitors, and a terrific product he could sell with his heart.

The only problem was Lawrence, the startup’s CEO. Lawrence was brilliant, no doubt about it, and great when it came to dazzling the venture crowd. He’d step into a roomful of funders, deliver the gospel as he saw it, paint a thrilling picture of the company’s future, and walk away with bulging pockets.

But among his super-talented employees, most of whom had joined the company because they felt inspired by the service the company offered, Lawrence was known mostly as the “DM.” As in, “The DM’s in the building.” As in, “I’m psyched, but let’s see how the DM spins it.” Those initials? They stand for the demotivator.

It didn’t take Jake long to recognize that Lawrence had an uncanny ability for knocking the wind out of the sails of even the most enthusiastic contributor, a positive genius for turning eager beavers into disheartened slogs. A few moments in his presence were enough to sow doubt where there had been clarity of purpose, depress energy where it abounded, undercut confidence, and instill frustration. As Jake noted, Lawrence had an artist’s touch when it came to disheartening people.

Hearing Jake’s stories, I decided to interview a few people other people in the company to see what lessons a world-class demotivator might have to teach. I talked to Jake’s colleague Cassie, a stellar client relationship manager with a rosy future (likely somewhere else), and to Lee, the IT hotshot Lawrence had enticed away from one of the world’s great tech innovators because Lee loved the idea of supporting education.

Digging down into the experiences of these committed and naturally motivated individuals enabled me to come up with a few tried and true rules for sucking the energy and life out of other people at work. If you seek to undermine your employees—or people in your division or your unit––these three practices will help guarantee your success.

First, great demotivators always tell people how to do things they are already doing— especially if they are doing those things well.

This is a kind of two-fer in the demotivation sweepstakes in that it accomplishes two essential tasks at once. On one hand, it makes clear to your employees that you actually have no idea about the scope or nature of their contributions. This is bound to make them feel that all their efforts are in vain, the psychological sweet spot for which all dedicated demotivators aim.

At the same time, your maneuver sets you up nicely to take credit for your employees’ achievements when they bear fruit. Since you told them what to do, their future success in doing it may then be claimed as a result of your timely intervention.

Second, great demotivators make sure that any humiliation they inflict occurs in public, preferably before an audience that the employee really cares about.

Great demotivators make sure that any humiliation they inflict occurs in public.

Cassie described Lawrence’s mastery of this essential technique. “Whenever I bring clients into meetings––and that’s a big part of my job––I’m always totally on edge. That’s because I’m waiting for Lawrence to come up with some fresh way of making me look like a complete jerk. Just last week I brought reps from a new online learning service in Scandinavia in for a demo of one of our coolest tools. They were loving it when Lawrence piped up, “And here Cassie was convinced you wouldn’t understand this technology!”

Third, great demotivators are connoisseurs of surprise.

Lee, the brains behind Lawrence’s IT program, noted that his boss has a gift for spreading confusion about what’s really going on. For example, Lee has more than once invited a client to meet to discuss a strategy, only to find that Lawrence has already talked to them without letting him know.

As with many demotivators, Lawrence has a ready explanation for his behavior: “We’re moving at warp speed, we don’t have time to worry about who gets credit or who talks to who.” And because the company is growing rapidly, this explanation makes sense to recent hires whose enthusiasm has yet to collapse under the weight of their boss’s efforts to make them feel hopeless. But after a few months in the company, people start to catch on that taking a great product to market is agony if you don’t have support.

Lawrence reminds me of a boss I had in my days as a speechwriter who churned through talent at an alarming rate. One day, after ranting about how great our service was, he turned to me in all seriousness and said, “We’d be a great company if it weren’t for our people.” – Sally Helgesen

I’d like to hear from you. Have you ever worked for a demotivator like Lawrence? How did you handle it, did you stuck around?

7 Ways To Keep Your Employees Happy (And Working Really Hard)

Happy Face

It doesn’t matter what you build, invent or sell; your organization can’t move forward without people. CEOs, company founders and managers the world over know that keeping the teams beneath them moving forward together in harmony means the difference between winning and dying.

Prof. Leonard J. Glick, Professor of management and organizational development at Boston’s Northeastern University, teaches the art of motivating employees for a living. He let FORBES in on a few tips for entrepreneurs and managers looking to keep their people smiling and producing.

You’ve got to get employees to feel that they own the place, not just work there. “One of the principles of self-managed teams is to organize around a whole service or product,” Glick explained. In other words, make sure company personnel feel responsible for what the customer is buying.

One way to inspire that feeling is to have each member of a team become familiar with what other team members are doing, allowing them to bring their ideas for improvement to the table and have input in the whole process. If the roles are not too specialized, have your people rotate responsibilities from time to time. “It all contributes to a feeling of ‘it’s mine,’ and most people, when it’s theirs, don’t want to fail, don’t want to build poor quality and don’t want to dissatisfy the customer,” said Glick.

Trust Employees To Leave Their Comfort Zones

Few employees want to do one specific task over and over again until they quit or retire or die. Don’t be afraid to grant them new responsibilities—it will allow them to grow and become more confident in their abilities while making them feel more valuable to the organization.

Though managers might feel allowing their people to try new things presents a risk to productivity or places workers outside of their established place, it heads off other issues. “To me the bigger risk is having people get burnt out or bored,” explained Glick.

Keep Your Team Informed

Business leaders have a clearer perspective on the bigger picture than their employees do. It pays to tell those under you what’s going on. “Things that managers take for common knowledge about how things are going or what challenges are down the road or what new products are coming… they often don’t take the time to share that with their employees,” Glick said. Spreading the intel lets everyone in on the lay of theland and at the same time strengthens the feeling among workers that they are an important part of the organization.

Your Employees Are Adults—Treat Them Like It

In any business there is going to be bad news. Whether it’s to do with the company as a whole or an individual within the organization, employees need to be dealt with in a straightforward and respectable manner. “They can handle it, usually,” said Glick. If you choose to keep your people in the dark about trying times or issues, the fallout could be a serious pain in the neck. “The rumors are typically worse than reality. In the absence of knowledge people make things up.”

You’re The Boss. You May Have To Act Like It Sometimes (but be consistent)

Though this issue is affected by an organization’s overall culture, there are going to be times when you have to make a decision as a leader, despite whatever efforts you may have made to put yourself on equal footing with your personnel. “Ideally they have an open relationship but not necessarily are peers,” Glick said of the manager-employee relationship. “I think the worst thing is to pretend you’re peer… it’s the inconsistency, I think, which is the bigger problem.”

Money Matters (But Not As Much As You Think)

Compensation packages are a big deal when employees are hired, but once a deal has been struck the source of motivation tends to shift. “The motivation comes from the things I’ve been talking about—the challenge of the work, the purpose of the work, the opportunity to learn, the opportunity to contribute,” Glick explained.

When it comes to finding a salary that will allow your employees to feel they’re being paid fairly, don’t bend over backwards to lowball them. If you do, they will eventually find out and not be happy. “If the salary were open, is it defensible?”

Perks Matter (But Not As Much As You Think)

Some companies (we’re looking at you Google GOOG +0.21%) have received attention for offering lavish perks to their personnel – massages, free gourmet lunches, ping pong tables, childcare facilities – but, like money, these things tend to be less powerful motivators for workers than in-job challenges and the feeling of being a valuable part of a quality team that will recognize their contribution. A manager needs to understand that though those perks are great and release burdens from employees’ shoulders, they are not a substitute for prime sources of professional inspiration.

“I don’t think people work harder, work better because of those things,” said Glick. “It may make it easier for them to come to work, I understand that.”

– Karsten Strauss

Women and Today’s Culture

glass ceiling, generations, baby boomers

Today’s culture will make a change on its own when it comes to men and women and their resilience and success in the workplace. Today’s culture calls for more empathy, nurturing careers and listening to employees.

Never before, have there been 4 generations in the workplace all speaking a different language with different motivators as to why they are there and how they create value for the organization.

I am finding in my consulting engagements that men are having a more difficult time with managing the generation gap. Not because they don’t have the skill set but because many of them still believe in a hierarchal style of management or that women are not equal to men when it comes to experience and ability. Especially many male baby boomers, who are still caught up in how they were treated or better yet how they rose to their current positions. They want their subordinates, especially the Millenniums to adhere to this same principal.

Unfortunately this just doesn’t work and talent is lost as a result of that. Women on the other hand just naturally possess a more nurturing attitude, empathy and the patience to listen. Perhaps it is because they themselves have struggled for acceptance and acknowledgement. I’m not suggesting that they mother these quick witted, sometimes impatient entitlement acting Millenniums, I am saying that they have a wiser way of hearing them out and coaching them in what they need.

We all wake up in the morning and turn off our alarm clock and tune into station WIIFM. “What’s In It For Me”? These are called our intrinsic motivators, it’s what makes us get up in the morning go to work and “kick some…..” It’s when we get to work and those motivators are compromised that we turn up the sound of station WIIFM and tune others , often our supervisors, out. The workplace is full of everyone wanting what they want and it’s all based on what they value and that is what initiates their behavior.

In my coaching and consulting experience I find that men have more difficulty “giving them what they need” versus “giving them what they want them to have”. Women on the other hand have figured out that if you can create a motivating environment by listening to what employees need to be productive, they are able to keep all 4 generations feeling valued.

This is why I believe the culture itself will make a change as women will eventually make their way up the ladder and they will be much more effective as leaders. Ultimately this will cause the gender gap to narrow. Not every organization will embrace this and not every male manager is stuck in the behavioral model they learned. I was fortunate to have worked in an organization in my mid-twenties and broke through the glass ceiling thanks to some wonderful male role models.

My advice to women is to not get caught up in “this glass ceiling affect”. Do your job well, expect to be recognized and you will be. It is changing, perhaps not fast enough but I guarantee you that the younger generation in the workplace does not see gender, they see talent and equality and one day they will be running our organizations. Hang in there…a change is gonna come.

-Sharon Jenks, President of The Jenks Group, Inc. http://www.thejenksgroup.com

 

6 Secrets to Hiring and Retaining Great Employees

1 GiraffesDrupal Connect’s founder John Florez drives the fast growth of his company by stacking his team with top tier talent. Here’s what he looks for when hiring for his Drupal development company and how he keeps them excited about coming in each day.

peacock
Hire Awesome Personalities

Hire people who are not only awesome talents, but awesome to be around as well! You’re building a team; each member has to be able to work well within a collaborative environment. Hiring someone who is talented but a “lone wolf” is a risky and potentially costly endeavor.

2 Monkey
Positive People Are Contagious

Hire cool people who have a positive outlook on life. The employee you want to take on is someone you can share a beer with at the end of the day. Positive attitudes spread, and ultimately come to define your company as a whole.

3 Dog and Frisbee
Keep People Excited About Work

Be a leader who is welcoming and positive, and sees the best in each of their employees. This attitude will trickle down and make for a more positive work experience overall. People want to wake up each morning excited about coming to work. It’s important for a leader to create an environment and culture that people are proud and excited about.

4 Chipmunk
Don’t Nickel-and-Dime Your Employees

Be mindful of the bottom line – but not at the expense of nickel-and-diming! These are tough times for a lot of people out there. But let’s face it: no one wants to work for a cheap boss.

5 Penguins
Coach Your Leaders

Coach your leaders, but don’t manage them. If you find yourself managing your top people, you’re doing something wrong. You’re not inspiring, and you’re therefore not bringing out the best in your lead employees. If you properly coach your leaders by bringing out their best qualities, they will in turn coach those reporting to them.

6 Hippo
Avoid Stagnation

Make constant growth a priority, and encourage your team to contribute to this evolution. Your company is a living, breathing organism that needs to be fed and nurtured, and employees need to be able to contribute to this growth process. For example, six months ago, a team member suggested we create a support and maintenance program to offer to our clients. Today, this program is a thriving and growing part of our company, accounting for 20% of our overall business!

21 Awesome Things to Say to Yourself

businessman-looking-in-mirror-bkt_12170  Self-talk works for some people but not for me. Looking in the mirror and saying, “I am awesome, I am awesome, I am awesome…” is a waste of time since a louder voice in my head is always shouting, “No you’re not! No you’re not!”

But I do like self-talk that results from something I’ve done. Because I’ve earned it, the doubting voice in my head goes silent.

Try it. I guarantee you’ll feel a lot better about yourself. For the next seven days, put aside your standard to-do list and do what it takes to ensure you can say these things to yourself:

1. “I did something no one else was willing to do.” Pick one thing other people aren’t willing to do. Pick something simple. Pick something small. Make the call no one will make. Help the person no one will help. Volunteer for the task everyone else avoids.  Instantly you will be a little different from the rest of the pack. But why stop? Keep going. Every day do one thing no one else is willing to do. After a week you’ll be uncommon. After a month, you’ll be special. After a year you’ll be incredible. You won’t be like anyone else.

You’ll be you.

2. “That wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought…” The most paralyzing fear is fear of the unknown. (At least it is for me.) But nothing ever turns out to be as hard or as scary as you think. Plus it’s exciting to overcome a fear. You’ll get that, “I can’t believe I jumped out of an airplane!” rush, a feeling you may not have experienced for a long time. (And you may find that feeling is addictive, but in a good way.)

3. “It’s totally my fault.” People make mistakes. So we blame them for our problems. But we are almost always to blame, too. Maybe we didn’t provide enough training. Maybe we didn’t foresee a potential problem. Maybe we asked too much, too soon. Maybe we did or did not do something we could or should have. Take responsibility instead: Not in a masochistic, “woe is me” way, but in an empowering way. Take responsibility and then focus on being smarter or better or faster or more creative next time.

4. “I finally got started!” You have plans. You have goals. You have ideas. Who cares? You have nothing until you actually do something. Every day we let hesitation and uncertainty stop us from acting on our ideas. Fear of the unknown and fear of failure often stops me and may be what stops you, too. Pick one plan, one goal, or one idea. And get started. Do something. Do anything. Just take one small step.

The first step is by far the hardest. Every successive step will be a lot easier.

5. “You’re great.” No one receives enough praise. No one. Pick someone who did something well and tell them. Feel free to go back in time. Saying, “I was just thinking about how you handled that project last year” can make just as positive an impact today as it would have then… and maybe a little more impact because you still remember what happened a year later.

Surprise praise is a gift that costs the giver nothing but is priceless to the recipient.

6. “I’ll show you, –hole.” I’m ashamed to admit it, but one of the best ways to motivate me is to insult me (or for me to manufacture a way to feel insulted, regardless of whether I’m justified in feeling that way or not.) Whether I’m justified in feeling slighted or angry is not the point: I use rejection to fuel my motivation to do whatever it takes to prove that person wrong and, more importantly, achieve what I want to achieve.  Call it manufactured anger. Call it artificial competition. Call it, shoot, childish and immature. I don’t care — it works for me. And it can work for you.

So don’t turn the other mental cheek. Get pissed off, even if your anger is unjustified and imaginary — in fact, especially if your anger is unjustified or angry — because that will help shake you out of your same thing different day rut.

7. “Can you help me?” Asking someone for help instantly recognizes their skills and values and conveys your respect and admiration. That’s reason enough to ask someone for help — the fact you will get the help you need is icing on the achievement cake.

8. “Can I help you?” Then flip it around. Many people see asking for help as a sign of weakness so they hesitate. Yet we can all use help. But don’t just say, “Is there anything I can help you with?” Most people will automatically say, “No, I’m all right.” Be specific. Say, “I’ve got a few minutes, can I help you finish that?” Offer in a way that feels collaborative, not patronizing or gratuitous.

And then actually help. You’ll make a real difference in someone’s life–and you’ll take a solid step towards creating a connection with that person.

9. “I don’t care what other people think.” Most of the time you should worry, at least a little, about what other people think… but not if it stands in the way of living the life you really want to live. If you really want to start a business but you’re worried people might think you’re crazy, F ’em. If you really want to change careers but you’re afraid of what people might think, F ’em. If you really want to start working out but you’re afraid people at the gym will think you’re fat or out of shape, F ’em.  Pick one thing you haven’t tried simply because you’re worried about what other people think — and just go do it.

It’s your life. Live it. F ’em.

10. “They’re no different than me.” Incredibly successful people don’t necessarily succeed because they’re smarter or more talented or somehow genetically gifted. The only thing that makes them different from you is the fact they have done what you haven’t done… yet. Find someone successful to talk to; you’ll come away realizing what they have done, you can do too.

You’ll realize you can be them — or, more importantly, you can be better than them.

11. “I’m really sorry.” We’ve all screwed up. We all have things we need to apologize for: Words. Actions. Omissions. Failing to step up, step in, or be supportive. Pick someone you need to apologize to — the more time that’s passed between the day it happened and today, the better. But don’t follow up your apology with a disclaimer like, “But I was really upset…” or, “I thought you were…” or any statement that in any way places even the tiniest amount of blame back on the other person.

Say you’re sorry, say why you’re sorry, and take all the blame. Then you’ll both be in a better place.

12. “I’m the king of the world!” Maybe Leo was on to something. According to Harvard professor Amy Cuddy, two minutes of power posing — standing tall, holding your arms out or towards the sky, or standing like Superman with your hands on hips — will dramatically increase your confidence. Try it before you step into a situation where you know you’ll feel nervous, insecure, or intimidated. (Just make sure no one is watching.)

It may sound freaky, but it works.

13. “Yes.” You’re busy. Your plate is full. There are plenty of reasons to sit tight, safe, keep things as they are. But that also means tomorrow will be just like today. So say yes to something different. Say yes to something scary. Say yes to the opportunity you’re most afraid of. When you say yes, you’re really saying, “I trust myself.”

Trust yourself.

14. “No.” Still, you can’t do everything. You can’t help everyone. You may want to but you can’t. Sometimes you just need to say no: to a favor, to a request, to a family member. Sometimes you really need to be able to focus on what is important to you. Say no at least once this week — the harder it is to say, the better.

And don’t worry if you feel selfish: When your heart is in the right place, what you accomplish by spending more time on your goals will eventually benefit other people, too.

15. “You’re fired.” Maybe there’s an employee you really need to let go but haven’t. Or maybe there’s a customer, or a vendor, or even just a friend. Sometimes the best addition starts with subtraction. Pick someone who is dragging you down or holding you back and let them go.

16. “It’s not perfect… and that’s okay.” Yeah, you only get one chance to make a first impression. Yeah, perfection is the only acceptable outcome. Unfortunately, no product or service is ever perfect, and no project or initiative is perfectly planned. Work hard, do great work, and let it fly. Your customers or your boss will tell you what needs to be improved — which means you’ll get to make improvements that actually matter.

You can’t find out until you let go. You can’t really accomplish anything until you let go.

17. “That’s not my job… but who cares?” Job descriptions are fine until they get in the way of getting things done. No matter what your role or what you’ve accomplished, you’re never too good to roll up your sleeves, get dirty, and do a little grunt work. No job is ever too menial, no task too unskilled or boring.

The next time you see something that needs to be done, do it.

18. “Maybe I should do it that way.” Sure, we’re all individuals. (Okay, I’m not.) We should always set our own courses and follow our own paths. But sometimes the best thing to do is copy what made someone else successful. Pick someone who has accomplished what you would like to accomplish, and follow that path.

One time, don’t try to reinvent a perfectly good wheel.

19. “Jeez, that was stupid. We should do it again!” Sometimes the dumbest things result in our fondest memories: The time you and two employees stayed up all night loading trucks and listening to every Zeppelin album in order; the time you and another employee drove all night so you could arrive at the customer’s warehouse first thing the next morning to sort defective product; the time you and a crew stayed in the plant all weekend during a snowstorm, sleeping on cots and eating vending machine food and cranking out product… All those happened years ago but the memories are surprisingly vivid.

Do something seemingly stupid or outrageous or crazy, the harder the better. You probably won’t love it while it’s happening, but the result will be doing something cool and creating a memory that will always make you smile.

20. “Hi, Mom! Hi Dad!” Your parents love you. They want the best for you. They will always be there for you.

They won’t be around forever. Call them.

21. Nothing. Self talk is awesome, but sometimes, at the end of a day when you’ve worked incredibly hard and kicked serious ass and still made time for friends and family and done everything possible to make sure all the important pieces of your world are in place and taken care of……look in the mirror, smile, and just nod at the person looking back.

Sometimes the best way to end a great day is with a silent acknowledgement of achievement and fulfillment. -Inc Magazine

Need a Pep Talk?

need-pep-talkIn speaking with a variety of entrepreneurs on a daily basis, I’ve noticed a surprising theme: a lack of confidence.

From sales to management, there is always something we feel we can do better. And for those just launching their own business, hearing ‘no’ or dealing with mishaps can take an even bigger toll on your self-esteem. You learn very quickly that working for yourself is an emotional roller coaster, to say the least.

Ironically, when I first started my PR firm fifteen media, I was filled with self-assurance (or more like arrogance). I thought it would be a piece of cake to build my own business.

As I started to get more clients, my overinflated ego would soon deflate. A combination of dealing with not-so-happy clients and constant rejection from the press, made it hard to maintain confidence in my company. To this day, it can still be a challenge to unwaveringly believe in my abilities.

So while I know the difficulty first hand, I also know what a little burst of confidence can do. Here are some tips for giving your self esteem a boost:

Don’t wallow. A few months ago, a client decided to let me go before my contract was up. Despite all my best efforts, I just wasn’t getting them the results they wanted. It caused me to have a full-on emotional breakdown, and it made me question if I was a good publicist.

From that experience, I learned that if I was going to persevere on, I had to get over these scenarios. I have established a one-hour pity party rule, meaning when things don’t go my way, I only have one hour to dwell on it and then it’s back to business.

When you start to feel sorry for yourself, channel positive energy into your startup — focusing on your other clients, customers, products or what have you.

Seek feedback. I realize asking people to critique you can be scary. However, the only way to create the best business you can is to constantly use feedback to improve. I try to periodically check in with my clients to see how they are feeling about my services.

As an entrepreneur, if you do this often, you help to nip problems in the bud, before they become crises. Also, if you are asking for feedback, it won’t all be negative. Nothing is a better confidence booster than hearing the things you are doing well.

Learn how to cut your losses. The greatest strengths of an entrepreneur are determination and persistence, yet, these qualities can also be her biggest weaknesses. Sometimes you just have to learn how to let go.

There will be times when you have to make the decision to part ways with a client or a vendor. If you two don’t have a synchronized vision or every small detail is an uphill battle, it might be in your interest to say goodbye.

A rocky relationship, centered on all the things you are doing wrong, can be very taxing to your ego. To propel a business forward, you don’t need constant negative energy.

Build a support system. Being an entrepreneur can be an isolating experience, and it is easy to become your own worst enemy. Sometimes, I find myself sitting around obsessing over all the things that aren’t quite right. Why isn’t my company growing faster? Will client X rehire me again? Why can’t I get more placements?

Negative thoughts can be very time consuming and detrimental to your vision, so it’s essential to surround yourself with positive people to snap you back to reality. Having a support system to lean on will make you realize there is a world out there beyond your business, which is essential for your mental health.

As an entrepreneur, confidence is your best asset and will be a critical component to building a successful business. However, it can be hard to maintain confidence when you are constantly dealing with rejection. I never used to believe it when people told me that entrepreneurial confidence comes along with time. Once you have seen your business prove itself, you will see the light. In the meantime, fake it until you make it. -Rebekah Epstein is the founder of fifteen media, an agency that works exclusively with PR firms to streamline media relations in a digital era. -Rebekah Epstein is the founder of fifteen media, an agency that works exclusively with PR firms to streamline media relations in a digital era. – Rebekah Epstein

How do you build up your confidence? Let us know in the comment section below.

 

 

How to design a road map toward an engaged workforce

Can you prove the ROI of employee engagement? According to a Gallup survey, companies with world-class engagement have 3.9 times the earnings per share growth rate compared to their competitors with lower engagement. The challenge is planning a route to get employees engaged.Here are four basic tips companies can follow to motivate disengaged employees:

  • Pay according to market value. Many executives don’t like to hear it and would rather offer training or take similar steps. But paying accordingly is critical in moving disengaged employees up.
  • Limit organizational reductions in force. While hard to do, it’s impossible for employees to become engaged if they fear losing their jobs.
  • Manage organizational changes. Whether a market change or a leadership change, proactively communicate it to motivate disengaged workers.
  • Increase trust. Make sure all employees see the value in their company and believe in the brand. Executives must be visible and accountable.

While paying accordingly is important, it isn’t necessarily a motivating factor; it’s a baseline. Employee motivation is like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. People need to be taken care of, have the supplies needed to do the job, know what their job is, and be paid accordingly. Once those baseline needs have been met, you can move employees to becoming engaged.

To accomplish a company’s engagement goals, the process starts with an employee survey to determine what areas need work. The survey should be used as a starting point. To achieve the best results, develop the survey with experts from a third party who understand what motivates employees.
Based on responses, develop a plan for areas that require immediate attention. If there’s something that can be done, work on a plan to make a change. If a change cannot be made, explain why. It’s important for employees to know that action is being taken regarding a survey.
After changes are implemented, measure to see if there’s been an increase in revenue or productivity. Generally, a baseline is measured before the survey and six months to a year later to see if those factors increased.
Engagement takes a long time. But if you are genuinely trying to increase employee engagement, you will get a return on your investment.

What It Takes to Be a Boss Every Employee Loves

takes-boss-everyone-loves, leadership, relationships, behavior

Being a successful leader means being good at what you do and possessing integrity. But more than anything, it’s about your ability to build healthy relationships with others — particularly those who work for you.

As an entrepreneur, you’re viewed differently than you were when you were a manager or colleague in a traditional job. You stand to gain the most from the company’s success, and it is easier for your employees to think you’re more interested in the business than them and their lives. Your success is paramount, but it shouldn’t be achieved at the expense of healthy relationships with those you depend on.

1. Don’t treat people as transactions.
Years ago in my first real job out of college, I was delighted to have my very own assistant. She was a very capable and competent woman who I really liked. One day while a client was visiting the office, I made the naïve mistake of introducing my assistant by saying, “This is Teri. She works for me.” Teri’s response would have served me better in private, but her point was valid none-the-less: “I work with you, Mark, not for you.”

I meant no ill respect with my choice of words, but it suggested to Teri that she was a means to an end, that I was “above” her. And while technically she did report to me, the difference between working for and with someone is critical. The former can make a person feel conquered, while the latter signals collaboration.

Think through how you title and refer to your employees. Focus on reciprocity: look for ways you can help them achieve their work-life goals while they help you achieve yours. And guard against letting tasks trump a true regard and appreciation for the relationship you have with those who have voluntarily chosen to work with you.

2. Invest in those you value.
The ultimate test of value in a relationship is how much time, interest and support you are willing to invest. Rather than ask, “What have you done for me lately?” turn the tables and ask yourself what you’ve done lately for those you truly value.

Here’s one way to invest for great dividends: identify the potential in an employee that he or she doesn’t recognize in him- or herself. Often people are blind to their own abilities or potential, and good leaders not only recognize these latent strengths, they help develop them.

Several years ago, my office manager was spending more time on our website and technology platforms. A colleague was presenting a multi-day event in Las Vegas that I knew would give my team member information and skills to help her in these areas. Going to Las Vegas for the event was an added perk, so I gladly paid for the seminar and trip. She came back better equipped for her work, knowing I was willing to invest in her success.

3. Be involved, but know your limits.

You can work in the same office space with people every day and still be absent because you are preoccupied with your own worries. An open door policy means nothing if you don’t stop what you’re doing long enough to give your attention to those who walk through it.

How can you do this? Make it a point to “check in” with every employee each day. That means a simple but sincere question: “How are things going?” Listen and if necessary, probe for information you can use to support your employees. Identify frustrations they are facing, opportunities they’ve recognized and gauge their emotional energy and commitment to their work.

You’ll know you’re micromanaging when you’re spending more time telling someone how to do something than you are in clarifying what needs to be done. A thorough explanation with a chance to ask questions is vastly different than a droning presentation about how you’d do it. Give people the freedom to achieve the best results in their own way.

4. Show your gratitude.
I’ve heard a lot of complaints from employees who feel underappreciated by their manager, but I’ve never heard anyone complain they were recognized, rewarded or appreciated too much. I’m puzzled at why so many entrepreneurs and leaders are reticent to voice appreciation. Don’t be afraid of over-doing it. You connect with people more deeply when you recognize the best in them and let them know.

Here’s a powerful way to show appreciation: When you get feedback from a customer about someone on your team who has done a great job, get their permission to record it. Then play the recording at the next team meeting. There is even more power in a customer’s expression of a job well done than simply acknowledging it yourself.

Growing your business successfully means doing all that you can to make your team want to work their hardest for your cause. That means connecting with employees in a meaningful way.

By Mark Sanborn  an author, speaker and president of Sanborn & Associates Inc., a leadership development firm based in Lonetree, Colo.

What do you do to deepen your connections with employees?