One of the topics I speak about is what I refer to as your Dream Destination. It’s not a desirable vacation spot. Rather, it’s where your career and life would be 5 – 10 years in the future if things had gone far beyond your wildest dreams.
Imagine that for a minute.
You’ve accomplished more than you thought possible. You’re happier and more fulfilled than you’ve ever been. The people around you…in fact your entire world, feels joyful and light.
What’s that like for you?
The reason I ask is that I know how critical it is to be keenly aware of where you’re going with your life and your career.
As Dionne Warwick sang back in the 60’s,
What’s it all about, Alfie?
Is it just for the moment we live?
It’s not! Although it’s easy to get consumed and pulled into the day-to-day chaos and fire-fighting of our jobs.
In the moment, there’s ‘stuff’ to do; meetings to attend; deadlines to meet; accomplishments to make.
What makes all this ‘stuff’ more bearable is remembering why you’re doing it in the first place.
Is it so that you can create enough financial security so that you don’t have to work so hard? Would you then spend more time with family? Travel the world? Write that book?
I was walking toward the mountain near my home Monday. I kept my gaze near the mountain top. While it seemed close on one hand, as much as I walked, it didn’t seem to get much closer. Keeping my focus there however, made me forget I was walking up hill. It took my attention off the effort of the incline. I didn’t notice I was breathing hard.
All I could think about were the crevices, cacti, sagebrush and other features of the mountain that I could see. I imagined myself there, on the mountain top, looking out over the valley. I felt big, powerful, light and free.
That’s the value of having a Big Goal and keeping your attention on it. It makes the drudgery, tediousness and challenges of the present moment less irritating because you know WHY you’re doing them. Without that motivation, there’s just too much work.
Have a big goal. Know your “why”. Make sure your team knows their “why”, both individually and for the team. You’ll have more fun and probably get ‘there’ faster.
This week has been filled with serendipity. Yesterday, I spoke with a prospect who found me on the internet and created a new friendship. I invited her to join me last night at an incredibly fun ‘girlfriend’ clothing swap party where we all ‘shopped’ with discarded but wonderful ‘treasurers’ from each others closets.
I ended up having conversations with some of the women about a business opportunity with someone else they knew and that woman called me first thing this morning! We had been scheduled to talk next month, but her business timeline has been escalated and she needed to talk with me sooner. It’s really exciting!
While I’m all about driving for results, sometimes I have to remember to just ‘go with the flow’.
When we go with the flow and ‘allow’ (rather than force) life to unfold, amazing things happen.
There are however, some things we do that stop the upward flow of our careers. Make sure you’re not doing these.
1. Complaining about your boss or colleagues at work
First of all, complaining about anything to anyone who isn’t in a position to fix the issue is a huge waste of time and energy. Key #4 in my book, 6 Keys to Dissolving Disputes: When ‘Off with their Heads!’ Won’t Work is “Convert complaints to requests”. This means if you have an issue about something, rather than whine about what you don’t want, figure out specifically what you do need that would correct the situation. Then identify the person who has enough power to grant your request. Framing it terms of how giving you what you want will help them will dramatically increase the odds that they say ‘yes’.
If the complaints are about your boss or co-workers, talk directly to them! Gossiping behind their back might give you some temporary relief and even help you ‘bond’ with other people who are similarly suffering, but in the long-run, it won’t do a darn bit of good. And in fact can completely backfire on you. You don’t always know who’s friends with whom and how quickly word could get back to the person you’re complaining about. Best to nip it at the bud and talk with them directly before they hear about how you lambasted them with someone who didn’t need to know you even had an issue with them.
Offer the person constructive feedback (there’ll be an article about this in the future) and ask directly for what you want.
2. Blaming other people or circumstances for your short-comings
Nothing makes you look like a loser more than not taking responsibility for your actions. People who are unable to make things happen because someone else or something else got in their way have completely abdicated their power. None of us is perfect. We’re not equally skilled in every behavior, talent, competency. Know what you’re good and and what you’re not. Be honest with people about where you shine and where you don’t.
Flip Wilson’s comment (for those of you old enough to remember) “The devil made me do it” was funny but at work, it just makes you pathetic. Don’t be a victim of anything.
3. Covering up your mistakes
Worse than blaming others is hiding and lying about mistakes when you make them. It takes courage to admit that you messed up, especially if you messed up in a big way. You might be afraid that if you own up to your mistakes, you’ll suffer severe consequences, get reprimanded, maybe even fired. And that is a risk you run.
However recognize that it’s likely that your mistake will be discovered anyway. It will be so much better if you bring it to the table yourself rather than sweeping it under the rug. Fall on your own sword rather than having one thrust in you by the person who discovered the gaffaw. Honesty about your big blunder may actually save your job not lose it.
4. Underestimating your talents
Some people are good at promoting their skills, abilities and results. Some are actually obnoxious about it. So I’m not suggesting you be one of the obnoxious ones but I am encouraging you to make sure you’re getting proper credit when you do something good.
Women are especially humble about this and need to get over it. While you may think that if something comes easily to you (whether man or woman) that it must be unimportant or easy for everyone, you’re dead wrong. Recognize and appreciate your gifts. Make sure you’re in a job, company and culture that appreciates them as well. If they don’t, they don’t deserve you. Find another job.
Keep a list of the things you’ve accomplished along with the positive impact those accomplishments created for your department, boss, company, community and industry. Quantify the impact if you can (increased sales, decreased processing time, increase in pipeline/prospects, etc.) Allow yourself to let in the contribution you make to the world around you. Remind your boss at review time just how valuable you are by providing your list of this year’s big wins.
5. Reminding your boss you’re smarter than they are.
While smart bosses do hire people that are smarter than them, few of us want to be reminded of that on a regular basis. While it’s important to communicate your value to your boss, you must do so in a supportive, not holier-than-thou way.
If your boss asks you for something and you have a better idea, tell him or her you’ll get it for them right away. Say ‘oh by the way, what if we did it this way?’ and then let them decide. They are the boss.
Works the same for clients. Several years ago, when I was working in HR, an internal client asked me for some information. I thought I had a better way to present it and so gave it to her in that ‘better’ form. She didn’t say anything to me but later went to my boss to ask for what she had originally wanted. My boss suggested that in the future when I have a better idea, to give the client what they ask for and also give them my better idea. It gives them a choice and leaves them feeling valued while still showing your value.
In a recent call during my Leaders without Limits group coaching program, almost all of the participants were dealing with bosses that were in some way, paralyzed and not taking the necessary action to move their organizations forward.
My suggestions to each of them were to:
pledge to the boss their complete support and commitment to making the boss look good,
engage the boss by asking what’s most important to them,
ask what the boss’s biggest concerns are about the project and
find out what the boss would most like to see happen.
Then go forth and make it happen.
If you avoid these career limiting moves I’ve identfied here, your career will soar and you will not end up looking like a…donkey.
Believe it or not, there’s a bird over there, cleverly disguised against the desert terrain.
The photo is a little fuzzy because I was zooming fast to capture this quail (I think). He beat out his competition for the female that is nearby but off screen.
Right before I snapped this picture, there were two male birds challenging each other and trying to win the attention of the nearby female bird.
She walked away while they ‘duked’ it out. When the ‘hero’ emerged and I captured him on digital film, he was following her up the hill for a little fun and merriment and family making.
So what does this have to do with you?
Few of us are in businesses that are so unique that we don’t have any competition. So as a result, we’re constantly having to distinguish ourselves as different, better than, smarter than, more prestigious than, cheaper than…You get the picture. It’s a primitive battle where only the strongest survive. And it’s really hard getting deals done like that.
The key is to position yourself as the go-to expert so that your reputation raises your above the herd. When you do that, you get people seeking you out. When they seek you out, they’re already pre-sold on you. They’ve already decided they want YOU so there is less need for you to ‘convince’ them that you’re the best choice. You become a client magnet!
So how do you become that expert & client magnet? There are 3 ways to do that.
Speaking – Most people are literally scared to death of speaking in public. You’ve probably heard that when surveyed, people rate speaking in public ahead of dying as their top fear. So if you have the guts to stand up in front of a crowd (even a small one) and have your voice be heard, automatically, you’re a rock star in the eyes of the audience. Even if you’re quaking in your boots on the inside, you’ve still accomplished a mighty feat from their perspective.
Writing – Whether writing articles for a national publication or your local neighborhood periodical, having your name in print makes you look smart! Clearly the national publication will get you seen by WAY more people, but you’ll get credibility none-the-less with the readers of your work
Publicity – Being written about is even more compelling. That third party endorsement goes a long way toward building credibility. When someone with familiarity, name recognition and credibility (like a report) writes about you, their importance and credibility transfers over to you. It’s like having someone make a referral introduction for you.
I’ve been using all three of these strategies for years and now I get to reap the benefits of them. Whereever I go, people tell me “I see you everywhere!”
Can you imagine how great (and humbled) that makes me feel? Can you imagine if people were saying that about you, that you wouldn’t have to work so hard to dredge up new clients? You betcha! So start using these three magic strategies to raise your visibility, credibility and client-magnet quotient.
I have to confess…OK, this is a bit embarrassing….My office is sometimes in shambles. When I return after a series of meetings with multiple project folders and an action item or two for each, I haven’t always been disciplined about sorting through everything before calling it a day.
It had gotten to the point where I couldn’t think straight anymore. I hated being in my office. I felt confused and tired and finally I’d had enough!
I spent a good part of the weekend clearing out old files and making room in my file cabinets to store some of the piles that had been accumulating on my desk, bookcase, floor and…You get the idea.
I filled up half of the recycle container and salvaged enough paper that had only been printed on one side to last for months of printing. If felt as though the fog had lifted.
I was actually surprised and delighted with how easy it was to make decisions about what to keep and what to discard. Over the last several months, working with my coach and mastermind group, I’ve organized my energy around three primary topics.
I speak, train &coach on:
Leadership & management
Sales & marketing
So as I went through folders, it was immediately obvious what needed to be retained and what could be tossed.
Why am I telling you this? Well, whether you’re a neat-nick whose desk is always clear or more like me, it’s important to periodically take stock and release the things in our lives that no longer serve us. The purging process clears the mind and heart I believe and opens us up to receive more goodness in our lives.
While the sky is grey in the photo, the rainbow to me symbolizes a brighter future…the doorway (or skyway) to new opportunities, better times, unlimited potential and unseen possibilities.
Here are some tips for clearing away the clutter in your life…
Buy a label maker if you don’t have one
My label maker was one of the most fun and productive tools I used in this cleaning process. Papers that didn’t have a ‘home’ found one in a folder with their ‘name’ on it. Printed labels will make the folders easier to find in the future, saving even more time.
Make a commitment and set aside a few hours
It had been so long since I last did this, it took several hours. Make sure you have enough time to devote so that you get an experience of satisfaction with the progress you make.
Keep items you’ll use the most, the closest to where you work
Prime real estate is right around your desk. Keep only those projects you’re working on RIGHT NOW on your desk. Files you access regularly can be nearby. Things you access only rarely can be in file cabinets
Put on music that moves you
I find music energizing and uplifting. Have you ever noticed how much faster your workout routine seems to go when you’re listing to your mp3 player? The same dynamic helps with the clean-up process as well.
Label the storage boxes for easy retrieval of those items
I’ve seen some people whose clean up process is to take everything not needed right away and stick it all in a box.. Then they shove the box into a closet or garage with no label for later retrieval When they need to find the item, they don’t know if it’s in the box from last week, last month or the several from last year. Big time wast. Put similar items in the box then label it. f
Remember to drink lots of water
Our bodies need water to thrive. When we’re focused on a task, however, we forget (or ignore) those faint yearnings for refreshment. I LOVE water, yet I can hear myself sometimes say “in a minute” and before I know it an hour has passed and I’m even more parched. Listen to your body and respond when it talks to you.
Take breaks more often than you think you need to
Do something completely different. Sing, play music, go for a walk. Set time frames for your efforts. “I’ll work 1 hour on purging this file drawer” “I’ll spend 30 minutes filing these receipts” Be disciplined and focused but resist the urge to keep your nose to the grindstone for too long. You’ll drain your brain and your body unnecessarily.
In the future, before filing a project away, throw out the interim emails and sticky notes
As I went through my files, I found many emails and sticky notes that were important at the time, but that were completely irrelevant once the project was complete. If you puge the files as you ‘close out’ the project, you’ll save yourself lots of time later on.
Purge yourself of relationships that are no longer serving you
People can really drain you. If there are people in your life that you dread being around, stop being around them. If you’re in groups, teams or a family where it’s difficult to avoid them, set boundaries for the behavior you’ll tolerate. You ARE in charge of your life and if you’re suffering silently, you need to stop. Either drop the relationship or take responsibility for altering its direction.
Whew! That was a lot. The bottom line is…Just do it!