Posts Tagged ‘take charge of your career’
Fifteen years ago, I quit my corporate job to start Candid Culture. I had almost no business relationships or contacts outside of my corporate job. Thinking I should network, I registered to attend the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) National Conference in Las Vegas. It’s the largest HR conference in the world; approximately 15,000 people attend. I flew to Las Vegas to attend the conference but I was so terrified about my new undertaking, I spent three days in bed, ordering bad room service, paralyzed by fear. I barely left my hotel room and attended almost none of the conference.
Last week I spoke at that same conference – the SHRM National Conference – also in Las Vegas, to an in-person audience of 750 people. Things have come full circle.
When something feels big and I’m not sure what to do, I do nothing. And my hunch is I’m not alone. The key to getting through anything large, scary, or intimidating is to start. Any action will do. The key is simply taking action.
Here are five actions you and your manager can take to make taking action more likely:
Action #1: What often stands in the way of taking action is that we aren’t sure what to do. Perhaps we aren’t sure we can do the task at hand. Or we can’t see what the end result should look like. Or the project feels so big that even thinking about starting is tiring. Ask questions and ask for help.
Most managers aren’t great delegators. When assigning a project, managers often ask, “Do you have any questions?” This is an ineffective question because few people want to admit to having questions about a project that feels so big, all they want to do is avoid it. Or managers ask, “What do you need from me?” when most people have no idea what they need.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions until you’re clear about what a good job looks like, and ask for help.
Action #2: Managers, ask better questions. Rather than asking if employees have questions, ask, “What’s your plan? What are you doing to do first? What are you doing to do next?” These questions will tell you what employees know and don’t know. Asking, “Do you have any questions” or “does this make sense” tells you nothing.
Action #3: Do one small thing, anything, towards achieving the goal. And do it now. Don’t wait until the right time. There is no right time.
Action #4: Managers, delegate projects with multiple, short deadlines. Ask to review work as it’s completed versus when the entire project is due.
Action #5: Give yourself small windows of time to work on a project. If you give yourself 30 uninterrupted minutes to work, you’re likely to invest that time. If you dedicate a day, you’re likely to get distracted and fill the time with other things.
Trust that you can do what’s in front of you. Someone wouldn’t have asked you to do something if they’d didn’t have confidence that you could do it. And if this is a goal you set for yourself, and it’s something you really want, deep down, you know you’re capable of doing it.
If you’re overwhelmed or don’t believe you can do something, call someone who has more faith in you than you have in yourself. Let that person fill you with confidence until you can generate it for yourself. When I started Candid Culture, I was filled with fear and quite honestly, was convinced I was going to fail. But everyone around me believed I could do it. And their confidence carried me until I could generate my own.
When something ‘bad’ happens, my seven-year-old is quick to ask who is at fault, hoping, of course, it’s not him. I’m trying to get him to use the word accountability instead, and to understand that if he has some accountability, he has some control over what happens. If he has no accountability, he has no control. A tough concept for a seven-year-old.
Stuff happens. People won’t give you what you need to complete projects. Things will break. When breakdowns happen, I always ask myself, “What could I have done to prevent this situation?” or “What did I do to help create this situation?”
It may sound odd that I always look at myself when breakdowns occur, even when it’s someone else who didn’t do their job. It’s just easier. When I can identify something I could have done to make a situation go differently, I feel more in control – aka better.
I’m the person who gets off a highway jammed with traffic. The alternative route may end up taking longer, but at least I’m moving. I feel like I’m doing something and thus have more control. Taking responsibility for what happens to you is similar. When you’re accountable for what happens, you can do something to improve your situation. When someone else is accountable, you’re at the mercy of other people and have very little control.
There are, of course, exceptions to the practice that “we’re accountable.” Terrible and unfair acts of violence, crime, and illness happen to people, about which they have no control. But in general, in our day-to-day lives, there is typically something we did to contribute to a bad situation or something we can do to improve it.
Here are four practices for improving difficult situations even when you didn’t create the mess (alone).
- Ask more questions. If you’re not clear as to what someone is expecting from you, ask. Even if their instructions aren’t clear, it is you who will likely be held accountable later.
- Tell people what you think they’re expecting and what you’re planning to do, to ensure everyone’s expectations are aligned. This beats doing weeks’ worth of work, only to discover what you created isn’t what someone else had it mind.
- Ask for specific feedback as projects progress. Don’t wait until the end of a project to find out how you performed.
- Admit when you make a mistake or when you wish you had done something differently. Don’t wait for someone to tell you. Saying, “I’m sorry. How can I make this right with you?” goes a long way.
These are really delegation practices.
I am always asking the questions, “What could I have done differently? What did I do to contribute to this situation, what can I do now to make this situation better?” I encourage you to do the same, even when someone else drops the ball. You can’t control others, but you can control you. And your happiness and success is your responsibility.
Most people wait way too long to give feedback. Instead of waiting to give feedback until you’re about to explode in frustration, or until a formal review, give feedback every time you meet with someone.
Managers, make it a practice to meet with each of your employees at least once a month. Short meetings twice a month or weekly would be better. But if you’re not doing one-on-one meetings now, start meeting monthly. If you’re meeting monthly, start meeting twice a month. Employees need one-on-one time with their boss. Team meetings and casual conversations do not replace individual meetings.
Direct Report One-on-One Meeting Agenda:
The direct report comes to the meeting ready to discuss:
1. What they are working on that is going well.
2. What they are working on that is not going well.
3. What they need help with.
4. Then the manager gives feedback on what went well since the last meeting and what could be improved.
5. The employee also gives the manager feedback on what has gone well since the last meeting and what could be improved.
Feedback goes both directions. Managers, if you want your employees to be open to your feedback, ask for feedback from your employees on what they need from you. Give feedback on both the work and your working relationship. A poor working relationship often motivates employees to leave a job, but it’s the last thing that gets discussed.
Feedback discussions should be short. You can say anything in two minutes or fewer. No one wants to be told they aren’t cutting it for 20 minutes. Say what you need to say and end the conversation or move on to another topic.
If you’re not giving your employees regular feedback, you can use this language to start:
“I’m realizing that I’m not giving you enough feedback. I want to be helpful to you. If I don’t provide regular, timely feedback, I’m not being as helpful as I could be. I’d like to start a regular practice of meeting monthly, getting an update from you on how things are going, and giving each other feedback on what went well and what could be improved since our last meeting.”
If you work for someone who is not forthcoming with feedback, ask for feedback. You’re 100% accountable for your career. Don’t wait for your manager, customers or peers to give you feedback. Ask for feedback on a regular basis.
Here’s how you can ask for feedback from your manager:
“Your feedback helps ensure I’m focused on the right work. Can we put a monthly meeting on the calendar, and I’ll tell you what I’m working on, where I do and don’t need help, and we can discuss how things are going?”
If meetings get cancelled, reschedule them. If your manager says these meetings aren’t necessary or they don’t have time, tell them, “Your regular input is helpful to me. What’s the best way to ensure we catch each other for a few minutes each month?” Meaning, push the issue.
If your manager still doesn’t make time for the meetings or doesn’t provide clear and specific feedback, even when you ask for examples, ask your internal and external customers and coworkers for feedback. The people you work closely with see you work and will likely give feedback, if asked.
No news is not necessarily good news. Waiting six months or a year to receive performance feedback is like going on a road trip from St. Louis to Los Angeles but not consulting a map until you arrive in New York, frustrated and far from your desired destination.
Managers: Meet with employees monthly, semi-monthly or weekly, and give feedback every time you meet.
Employees: Ask your managers, customers, and coworkers for regular feedback, and take control of your career.
It’s the time of year when people start to think about their goals for 2022 and make New Year’s resolutions. I won’t suggest you do either. You likely have enough to do. My only suggestion (in this arena) is to ensure you’re doing what you really want to do.
There are lots of things we need to do and think we should be doing. And it’s really easy to get caught up in that long list of could and should do’s. If that list brings you joy, do those things. If not, consider another path.
I’m pretty sure at least one person reading this blog has a magnet or card hung at their desk with the words, “What are you going to do with your one precious life?” As far as we know, we only get one go around. So, while the question may be overused, what are you going to do to create your life with the time you’re given?
I have an existential friend who is trying to convince me that there is no such thing as time. I am not persuaded. All we have is time, and it’s the only thing we can’t get back. You can gain weight and lose weight, make money and lose it, make friends and lose them, but you can never get back your time. So, what are you doing with your time?
You create your life.
A few questions to consider:
- What do you love doing most? How often are you doing that?
- What’s most important to you in life? Does what’s most important to you make up a majority of where your time and energy goes?
- How much time do you spend doing things you think you should be doing, but don’t really want to be doing?
- How much time do you spend doing things someone else wants you to do?
I’m not suggesting you live an indulgent life without compromise. If you’re in relationship with other people, you will, at times, do things you don’t want to do. But I’m hoping that doing things out of obligation is not what your life’s about.
Not everyone in your life will approve of your choices. That’s ok. This is your life. Don’t knowingly harm anyone or anything. Besides that, I don’t know of any rules, except for this, don’t get to the end of the road and wonder “what if.” Create your life.
Read How to Say Anything to Anyone and take charge of your career and life. Holiday offer! Buy 3 books at candidculturepress.com and we’ll send you a 4th book free. Offer ends 1/10/22.