Tag Archives: Career development

5 Ways to Re-energize Your Environment, Career and Life

Spring is in the air and this time of year is ideal for bringing new life into YOUR life. You’ve probably heard the expression, “Out with the old and in with the new”, right?

When you purge yourself of old things, you make energetic ‘space’ for new, more pertinent things to come into your life.  It’s difficult to attract the things you need when your environment is filled with clutter, ‘dead’ stuff, unnecessary stuff, not longer relevant stuff. If you’ve been reading these articles for a while, you know I’m a big fan of cleansing, purging and releasing.

Here are 5 activities you can easily carry out to put more “spring” in your step

1. Clean out your cupboards and closets
This past weekend, I released two shopping bags full of plastic containers that had been clogging up cabinet. It was fun and freeing. It didn’t take that long and knocked an item off my one-day-I’ll-get-around-to-it list. That in itself made me happy. Clean out your file cabinets. and throw away or shred papers that are no longer relevant.

2. Trim away dead plants (or have someone do it for you)
The winter frosts we had damaged many of the plants in our back yard. While the landscaper took care of the weeds that were about to get out of control from the rain and large trees that needed trimming, I enjoy connecting with nature through plants. So the touching and caring for them that light pruning involves, grounds me. So I snipped away at all the brown stuff leaving healthy, green, vibrant remains.

Don’t have any dead plants?  Trim away counterproductive people in your life.  Minimize your engagement with them.  Think you can’t extricate yourself? Trim away the emotions you let arise within yourself when they’re around.  You have choices about what you think and how you respond. Exercise them.

3. Reconnect with the past
A former colleague sent me a LinkedIn message that someone else we had both worked with at Kraft Foods headquarters in Chicago almost 30 years ago (yikes!) had moved to Phoenix.  After we talked, other Chicago memories arose in my consciousness allowing me to integrate the growth I’ve experienced over the decades in new ways.

4. Set new intentions
I always have a to-do list but they tend to be somewhat short term. It’s critical to routinely set aside time be more strategic and look out over a longer time horizon.  Intentions can be things you want to accomplish (goals) or characteristics you want to become or exhibit. Always be working on yourself.

5. Be open to and look for new opportunities
The universe recognizes when you take action. (It knows when you’ve been sleeping, it knows when you’re awake.  It knows when you’ve been bad or good so be good for goodness sake!)

Part of being successful is being on the lookout for opportunities (they are there, I promise you) and taking action when you see them.

The more you act on your hunches the stronger your intuition will become. The stronger your intuition becomes, the more doors you’ll see and the more courage you’ll find to open them up and step through them.

The Oscars and the Art of Business Leadership

“What do the Oscars have to do with business leadership?”, you may be asking. There are five things I believe Oscar nominees and winners demonstrate that land them the preeminent recognition for their artistic achievements.

1. Vision

Having a clear vision is almost a cliché attribute of a leader. However without it, it’s hard to give an outstanding, authentic performance as an actor.  In the absence of ‘where am I going with this character?’, the actor would likely amble around, missing opportunities to clearly define what defines him or her. How would they know how to respond in certain situations?

When an actor is able to do this, we find ourselves watching a scene unfold that evokes powerful emotions within us riveting us to the screen and the characters.

A lack of vision would make directing a film equally a challenge. The director must communicate the vision for the overall project so that the players can find themselves and clarify their roles in the film.  The players are then able to bring their best into the role and forge a path toward the vision that is theirs uniquely to make.

This ability to articulate a clear vision advances any kind of project, whether it’s being played out in Hollywood, Boise or Philadelphia.

2. Intention
I researched the dictionary for the definition of ‘intention’ because although I know it when I feel it, I wasn’t sure how to describe it.

Here’s part of what I found:
An act or instance of determining mentally upon some action; purpose or attitude.

The definition that was most revealing however, was that of the word as used in a medical context: “a manner or process of healing (as in the healing of a lesion or fracture).

This brought a whole new perspective to that which occurs in acting, directing, filming and leading.  Imagine that the intention one brings reflects the healing and fusing of two (or more) disparate entities, goals, purposes, personae, people.

In this way, it reflects a sort of will to bring together that which might not have happened that leaves the new ‘whole’ greater than the sum of its parts.

When you’re leading, isn’t that exactly what you’re doing?

3. Going all out
You may have heard the phrase, “Leave it all on the floor”. Oscar nominees put everything they have into their

performance.  They completely ‘spend’ themselves.  I’ve heard actors say they actually abandon their own personality and dive as deeply as they can into their portrayal character.

That kind of energy, passion and commitment serves a leader as well.  Think about people who have deeply inspired you.  They didn’t give up  their own personality, but they probably did give what they were at work on, everything they had.

It was this demonstration of going for the gusto, that probably had you step up and excel in your own performance.

4. Attention to detail
Think about the mountain of details that must be involved in films as visually complex as Inception and Avatar.

Even the characters in Inception were focused on keeping every detail of the dream levels as realistic as possible.

When you’re a leader, you don’t need to attend to all of the details, but you must keenly care about them and communicate that care to the people whose job it is to attend to them.

5. Challenging the bounds of reality and ‘what’s possible’
It’s a delicate trick to balance reality and possibility.  Films need to have some semblance to reality or else they won’t be understood.

However, if all they reflect is reality and don’t challenge the edges, we’ll be bored watching them.

Successful screen writing requires some sort of break with the predictable; some dichotomy or unexpected crisis is needed to keep the plot interesting. Great actors are able to take ordinary people (even in bit roles) and make memorable characters,even heroes out of them.

Exemplary leaders are able to stand in the reality of where things are now, both the circumstances and the people. They are equally able to articulate what’s possible and galvanize people around getting there. They don’t succumb to ‘it’s never been done before’.  They’re actually challenged by that and rise to the occasion. As they rise and light the path ahead, they elevate us all.

Imagine what it would take for you to bring the traits of an Academy Award winner into ‘playing’ out your leadership role, whether at work, at home or in your community.

How might you behave differently?  What would you and those around you be able to accomplish? Think about that the next time you step onto your ‘stage’.

What’s Your Exit Strategy? What’s Your Stay Strategy?

Whether you own your own company or work for someone else, it’s critical that you have an exit strategy.  Unless you plan to work until you die, you need to start taking actions NOW for how you’re going to gracefully step out and how you’ll spend your time once you do.

In the last couple of weeks, I’ve had a number of conversations with executives, professionals and business owners (primarily women) who have dreams of life beyond their current circumstances.

They envision being well compensated in a job or business they love, having the respect and credibility from peers, bosses or clients they believe they deserve and having the time and resources to pursue their dreams.

They all, however, were dealing or putting up with circumstances that were literally suffocating their souls, extinguishing their dreams and leaving them feeling exhausted, sad or even worried about their future.

The one thing they each were lacking was – can you guess?…

CONFIDENCE!

At some level, they didn’t feel fully equipped to have their dream life NOW.  They felt at the effect of others around them who seemed to hold all of the power.

From my perspective, it seemed there were three key ingredients that, if implemented, would make all the difference in the world.

1. Self-definition
Because it felt to them that others were more powerful than they, that they were unable to truly define, and stand for, who they are and what is important to them.

They felt stuck in the roles they had been given to play and looked longingly toward the future when they would finally be happier.

My advice to them (or you if you find yourself in a similar situation): be true to yourself.  This is your life and it won’t last forever.  Know what makes you happy and what doesn’t. Don’t buy solely into other people’s dreams and expectations that are counter to who you know yourself to be.

2. Self-determination
Once you’re clear about where you stand, it will be easier to let others know who you are and what you need.  Without that, you’ll continue to feel frustrated, hopeless, resigned, depressed and afraid.

My advice to them and you: don’t wait.  Be clear and public about your needs and goals NOW. Make requests.  Make demands when necessary.  Make life go the way YOU want – now.

3. Focused action toward their goals
It’s one thing to dream big, it’s quite another to make those dreams a reality.  When you’ve defined yourself and your direction, the path before you will become clear.

It still requires you to take action.  Seeing the path and having it in front of you is not the same as walking on the path.  Rita Mae Brown defined insanity as “Doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result.”

Action is required. Action builds confidence.  Action gets results.

My advice to them and you: Take action.  Identify one thing you can do like making a request, taking a class, telling someone “No”, researching your passion or getting help to make it happen.  No one can or should try to do any worthy effort alone. And living a big life is definitely a worthy effort.

So what does this have to do with an exit or stay strategy? Start working on your exit strategy now.  Don’t wait until ‘the time has come’.  You’ll be scrambling then.  And it may come sooner than you expect.  Plan now. Act now.

Make sure you have a stay strategy that isn’t just going along for the ride.  Use your self-definition and self-deterimination to make your current life/career/business more to your liking now.  Again, act now.

Your life is in your hands.  Make sure you’re living YOUR life, not someone else’s.

7 Keys to Being a Brilliant Leader

Many people think that leaders are born, not made and that if they aren’t officially a Manager, Director, Executive Directory, Vice President, President or CEO, that they are really a leader.

I beg to differ.  Leadership is a set of specific behaviors that can be learned.

Here are seven keys I believe are critical to transforming ordinary people into extraordinary leaders.

1. Evoke the emotions of others
True leaders inspire people.  They touch their hearts on issues that are important to them.  They raise hope while acknowledging and accepting the human frailties we all possess.  Leaders make people connect the change they are striving to cause to their own needs and desires.

2. Believe in people
It’s hard for us to see skeptics or critical, negative people as leaders because they don’t do anything proactive to make us feel good about ourselves.  On the other hand, leaders see the rough diamonds buried in our hearts and bring them to light so that WE can see them too.

3. Have a compelling vision and be passionate in expressing it
Great leaders see a future that is dramatically different than the present we live in and they don’t keep it a secret.  They articulate that future and tell us WHY it’s important that we move toward it. They know they are on the right track even when the rest of the world is still asleep to or in denial about the problem.

4. Never give up but stay flexible
Leaders with big visions are often seen as crack pots or zealots before the masses catch on to the imoportance of their platform.  Expect to encounter some resistance at the beginning, but don’t give up on what you believe in.  Do however, stay present to new developments and trends and what’s on the minds of the people in your burgeoning ‘tribe’.  Find common ground with them an incorporate what you can into your vision, but don’t dilute it too much by trying to please everyone. You won’t.

5. Be an exemplary model
The increased visibility that your leadership will generate will put you in the spotlight. Keep your hands clean.  Don’t be tempted by your growing power and influence.  Also, don’t avoid leadershp if you have a shady past.  If you have truly repented, take ownership for your humanity and mistakes.  Share what you’ve learned from your errant ways and promise to stay on the straight and narrow.  And then stay there.

6. Demonstrate integrity
Keep your word. Be consistent in your actions.  Do what you say you’re going to do.  Tell the truth. Make decisions your mother, spouse, children, grandmother would be proud of.  Live as though your life will be played out in the media because it might actually end up there.

7. Ask for input and help
Don’t try to get to ‘the promised land’ alone.  You can’t. And even if you do, it won’t be very gratifying. As you enroll others in your vision, identify key people in your cause and solicit their opinions and help.  The more people you have actively engaged and on the bandwagon with you leading others as well, the easier your road trip will be.

Do these things consistently and you’ll find yourself living a fulfilled life, making a difference and leaving the world in a better place than you found it.  That is your purpose so go live it.

3 Questions You MUST Ask to Keep Your Job or Clients and Make More Money

It’s easy to get caught up in the daily grind of responding to all of the urgent requests you get.  If that’s all you do, you could be putting your livelihood at risk.

Early in my career, I worked at the worldwide headquarters for Kraft Foods as the Corporate Recruiter.  The VP of HR gave everyone in the department a token for our desks to remind us how to stay focused.

It displayed 3 simple questions…

1. What’s my job?
You must be clear about what’s expected of you.  How are you supposed to spend your time and energy?  What are you supposed to do?

People (bosses, employees, clients and vendors) make assumptions about what’s supposed to be done.  They often assume that the other person has the same understanding that they do.  This is not always the case.  It’s critical that you confirm your understanding of your job with your boss or clients.

Be clear. Write down your understanding. Have the review your document and then discuss it.

2. What counts?
Once you have the clarity, the next step is setting priorities. I remember hearing a story about a new senior manager at Apple asking her Director boss if her job was to get things done or make people happy.  She knew technically what she was supposed to do – oversee the implementation of all software development projects.  She just needed clarity about HOW to go about making that happen.

If trade-offs have to happen, make sure you’re clear about what criteria will be used to make those trade-offs.

3. How am I doing?
This is a great question to ask yourself AND the people you’re delivering your service to.  You know if your slacking or not.

You may not know though how well your boss or client think you’re doing.

Better to check in periodically than risk being blinded-sided by the sudden disclosure you’re not measuring up.  People are sometimes reluctant to offer negative feedback. So they may just put up with being unhappy until they can’t stand it anymore.  Then they fire you when you don’t measure up to their (uncommunicated) standards.

Don’t be caught by surprise.  Assess your performance constantly and get feedback from people important to your success to make sure you stay on track.