Your list of „Why not“ kills your career

How do you like people telling you first thing why your ideas and plans won‘t work?

While a reality check is quite healthy from time to time, way too often people rather think of „why not“ instead of „how“. I see this daily with my clients and some of my colleagues. Instead of being the driver of change, they know all the reasons and risks why an idea will fail.

But guess what … you are not being paid for listing all the „why not possible“ points. Your boss employed you to solve problems. And that is basically why your clients pay your company, too. You solve a problem for them, they cannot solve on their own.

Whether you are providing a service or a product – at core, you are adding value to your clients lives. And if you don’t add value, you are – quite frankly – useless.

If you are self-employed, you see the effects in your sales numbers immediatly. The bigger the organization you are working for, the effect of your problem-focussed mindset will be less obvious. Maybe you wonder why you don‘t get the promotion you are longing for. Maybe you are not asked to work on the interesting assigntments.

Check on your words for a while. What are you talking about when asked? Are you the one that knows all the „why not“ or can you improve ideas by adding potential „how to“?

Challenge yourself a bit and start thinking in new ways. If you are very trained in thinking and speaking „why not“ this will feel wired – maybe even unrealistic. But keep in mind: unless you are not precisely asked what the risks of an option are, you will be perceived as a stumbling block to the idea and people will take you out of scope.

Instead, if you can add value by bringing up some ideas how things can work, you stay in the conversation. And when the reality check is due, you can add all the relevant risks that you see.

You see, it is not about leaving all „why not“ out of consideration. But it is about timing. New ideas need some space to evolve. The reality check comes in later.

Build the workplace of your dreams

„You can do this“, a glimpse of encouragement runs through her mind while she is facing her challenge. Despite her fear she lifts her chin and takes the next step. „You can do this“, she recalls the words of her friends and family. Confidence rises. „I can do this“, she speaks out loud and takes the leap.

Independent whether you need to make a decison, want to face your fear or take the next step in your work, encouragement will always lift the weight of insecurity and worry. Life gets easier when you have the courage and vision for the path ahead.

Same is true in your working environment. Each day you face new tasks, projects or people. Having a voice of encouragement around will increase your mood and things will work more smoothly.

Encourage [en-kur-ij]

To inspire with courage, spirit or confidence

Dictionary

Encouragement literally means to inspire someone or oneself with courage. By speaking words of encouragement to someone you actually speak courage and confidence in that person`s life. For people these positive words are like water to a plant. It is a necessity to grow.

The beautiful truth is that you can be an encouragement to your clients, colleagues and bosses. Every day you can decide whether you want to water the souls of the people around you. By speaking words of encouragement people around you will start blooming – giving you the possibility to work and live with people that are happy and courageous.

I am convinced that you can build the team of your dreams when you start speaking positive affirmation to the people around you. Be aware: It requires you to take control of your thoughts and words. If you think shit all day, probability is high that you will speak shitty, e.g. destructive comments or gossip. But if you master your thoughts and direct your words to the uplifting of people, you will see an effect in the people around you within weeks.

Same is true for your boss. People in leadership roles hear very seldomly positive talk. This is due to their role; when all is well, they won’t get involved in the matter. But when there are problems, they are the adress of escalation, leading to a lot of negative topics on their table. Ideally they are mature enough to handle the negativity; reality is that they often push down their negativity on the team. Take advantage of such behaviour and invest encouragement into your boss. Be the one with joy at work and give your boss a good time talking to you – which doesn’t mean to avoid the hard topics. It just means that you speak hope and confidence when it is appropriate.

Who will you encourage today?

I am in the wrong job

Once you realize you are not happy in your current position, get real and find out what you really want.

The emotion can hit you hard: I. am. in. the. wrong. job.

Independently of how long you are working in you profession, the overwhelming desire of getting a change can sweep you off your feet. Especially after a longer break over christmas and the first few days back in the job, you feel problematic areas even stronger. Back in the holidays you were at peace, but in your work environment you are being confronted with all this negative emotion.

Feeling this inner turmoil, it’s very easy to attribute all the worst reasons to your environment, colleagues, clients and tasks. Finding external factors for your misery is the easiest way. Truth is that these intense emotions are a good moment to get to know yourself a lot better.

  • Why exactly are you feeling the way you feel?
  • What are your expectations towards yourself, your job and the people around you?

While you benefit from getting to know yourself a lot better [thanks, dear turmoil times in life!], you still need to find some sort of solution for your issue with the working environment. Let’s explore the options.

Change it!

The first question arising is: What can be changed? Where is your influence? What is in your hands?

You can change yourself and you can change the situation but you absolutely cannot change other people. Only they can do that.

Joanna Trollope

The writer Joanna Trollope puts it quite well. You need to accept that you cannot change the people around you. You might change yourself – meaning your attitude, expectations, perspective. And you can also change the situation, e.g. not attending a certain meeting, change your seating or regroup your team members. But other people’s behaviour and attitude – including your boss, colleagues, clients – is out of your hand.

Take a moment of analyzing your status quo. What can be changed about the situation? What can be changed in your attitude?

If you are sensing that a lot of your ‘problems’ lay in the behaviour of other people, you might need to check the next paragraphs for a solution.

Love it!

Sometimes a broader view and a different angle of the perspective works miracles. Maybe you don’t really like all aspects of your daily tasks – but you only have a 10 minute drive to work. Or you feel overwhelmed by a lot of responsibility, yet the potential freedom in structuring your time during the day is unique to your position.

When feeling unhappy about a certain aspect in your work life, there is the risk of focussing too much on this particular thing – increasing the problem even further. At the end you only see the negative.

Take some time to write down all the positive aspects of your job. Actively refocus and check areas you haven’t considered yet: location, travel time needed, freedom of selecting tasks or allocating time, payment, tasks, additional benefits of your employer like canteen, sports or health support. Make sure that your brain doesn’t play a trick on you by only focussing on one negative thing that becomes the center of your universe.

Aside from taking a broader view also think of the people around you. Generally spoken, everyone tries to do the ‘best’ in life. So while your colleague or boss might annoy you, keep in mind that they are also just acting based on their perception of what is ‘the best thing to do’. Even if you consider their behavior as ‘stupid’, other people might classify of your actions ‘unreasonable’.

While thinking about all aspects of your status quo, you might already get a different attitude. Are you able to love certain flaws and downsides of your current job – including colleagues – when considering the whole package?

If not, maybe the last option is for you.

Leave it!

Sometimes the feeling of not belonging to a certain place is a good wake up call to leave a job or position. But leaving includes a risk: Why are you sure not running into the same problems in your next job?

If you leave only to avoid certain problems, chances are high that you will end up in exactly the same problems – only with different people. This is why the first two paragraphs are so important to you – or even more important when you consider leaving over staying.

Ideally, you know yourself and the environment you need to thrive. Then you can start searching for that spot in the working market. Rather be ‘drawn to’ a new opportunity, than ‘running away’ from your status quo. With all respect, be aware: if you choose based on wrong motives, you might even end up worse than your current state.

I. am. in. the. wrong. job.

If that’s your feeling right now, use the momentum to explore your status quo. Where is this emotion rooted? What actually needs to change? What do you want in your work life?

Stop complaining and get real.

If your job makes you wanna puke – this helps!

The sailing ship is strong in the teeth of the wind. The waves are hitting short and forceful and the whole boat is vibrating. Despite the lovely sunshine and amazing deep blue sea all around, my sense of balance tells me that I am not on firm ground. Before I am getting too dizzy, I fix my eyes on the horizon. The only sight that can give me focus, direction and a sense of security right now. And while my view is resting on the long calming horizon, I actually enjoy this sailing trip despite strong winds.

In our career it is actually the same. Sometimes we feel dizzy, misplaced and if we are honest the job makes us wanna puke. Very often this happens when we are some time into a thing – our studies, the first job, the latest career position. The sense and hype of the new has just gone and all of a sudden we ask ourselves what are we doing!?

If you have ever been in that moment, you know how these thoughts of giving up are slowly emerging. What had seemed to be a very good decision once, now feels empty and even exhausting. Why continuing?

If you are at that point, it is time to look at the horizon again.

  • Where are you heading?
  • What is your goal?
  • Why did you choose your majors / your job in the first place?

Although it might be a good time to recalibrate your life, maybe you just need to fixate the horizon again and keep going. Not every part of the way is awesome fun – sometimes you need to get through a time of recession or a plateau in your career. And during these hard times it is worthwhile to recall your long-term goals and dreams. Do you still want to reach them? Is your way still leading to that destination? Then keep on moving.

How aristotle can help with sexual harassment

He lays his hand on her knee. “Well, sweetie, we should work on this together”, he speaks with a broad smile – leaving open whether he is referring to the content on the desktop or the interhuman relationship. She freezes. Unable to move or speak. Her heart is bumping, in her head thousands of thoughts – “Should I speak up?”, “Is this already sexual harassment?”, “Am I too upright?”, “We need to work for at least half a year together…”, “He will rate me at the end of the project…”, “Speak now or never…” … tic toc, the seconds elapse.

What would you do? How do you react when you are witness of such a moment?

Situations like these need one thing for sure: Courage. Courage to make a decision. Courage to speak up. Courage in this sense is not an extreme in which one person leaning. It is not about being an extremist on a scale. It is rather acting based on a virtue.

According to the greek philosophers aligning the daily actions with a set of virtues lead to a fulfilled life – simply set – to happiness. Therefore lets see how ancient philosophy can help us today.

Aristotle describes courage as a balanced state – a “mean” – between two extremes. Courage lies between cowardliness and rashness. A coward will never step up. Fear is holding him so intensely that he is not willing or able to overcome the barrier. Fear of rejection is so powerful that a lot of people never act how they want to. They always assume the worst reaction of their environment – and so they rather stay silent than speaking up. The other extreme are people acting in rashness – without considering consequences. They are not afraid, but overconfidence can lead to unhealthy decisions, too.

Courage is a mean with regard to fear and confidence.

Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics 3.6

Therefore, courage is action in confidence despite fear. An action that is rooted in a virtue that drives behaviour. Courageous people know that feeling of fear. That bumping of the heart. That moment when you know that it is up to you to make that decision. Mixed in that emotion is a deep confidence that for some reason it is the right thing to do. And right there it is – courage!

Coming back to the hand-on-the-knee-story. As you have guessed correctly – it is a real story. What happened back then?

She actively takes the hand of him off her knee telling him clearly: Never put your hand on this spot again! She sets a healthy boundary. They still can work together. But touching the other person is out of line.

STOP! Don’t do a career!

In the newspaper of last weekend was an interesting cartoon – the hierarchy of needs by Maslow reframed for a classical consulting career. It named this order from bottom upwards:

  1. Finalize high class MBA
  2. Buy a Porsche
  3. Become shareholder of the consulting company
  4. Become naming partner of your company
  5. Hike Camino de Santiago (and find yourself)

If you know some consultants you might find a person for each stage. Because there is some truth in it: Some are doing the career for money and status. They are good in what they do, get rewarded and walk on. Only when the reward is so high that it is hardly possible to increase it any further – but the emptiness inwardly stays the same – people start changing their paths to look for fulfillment in a different area of life.

But what happened to people who have searched for fulfillment in that different style? People who have eaten, prayed and loved. People who were gone for a while to hike the Camino de Santiago. People who sold their ferraris. All of them found new aspects in life, increased inner peace and got deeper insights. But basically they had the same 24 hours on a daily basis as everyone else. They needed to make a living, too. Although they had a special time dedicated for special actions, they all came back to a regular life – some with different jobs but at least with some sort of work that paid the bills. So in consequence, it seems that it is less about the lifestyle but rather about the mindset of a person.

So why do people hit No. 5 in the named hierarchy of needs?

People need to have an answer to their “WHY”. Why are you doing what you are doing? As long as you are running an imaginary path that you didn’t even choose nor created you will hit a point in which you wonder: why?

Why the stress? Why the hustle? Why the long hours?

In the beginning of your career you are certain that the answer will come along the way. Thoughts like “when I reach x amount of salary …” or “if I become partner …” postpone the essential question of “Why are you getting up in the morning?”. You just assume that the answer will be behind the next promotion.

Spoiler: You will not find the answer to your “WHY” along your career path.

Therefore it does make sense to invest some severe thinking and time of reflection right now – and create that new mindset. Who are you? What do you like? Why do you get up in the morning? What motivates you?

When you found your answers, you can still be successful in your career – but you probably have stopped to do a career only to chase for an answer you assume coming with the next promotion. You are having fun in doing what you are doing – and if that happens to be a highly paid job it’s totally cool.

What is the benefit when you do what you love?

You become more resilient towards setbacks. Because you are not working for a future result, the dependency of the targeted reward decreases. If you get that promotion: Awesome! Celebrate! If you don’t get that promotion: you still liked every day of your work because you know why you got up in the morning.

Your colleagues and friends will like to be with you, because everyone will sense that you like what you do. You will be more at ease with yourself and therefore more likeable for all around you.

All of this starts with a bold answer to the little question: Why are you doing what you are doing?

Will your tombstone inspire others?

Make sure your name is associated with positive attributes that people love to remember.

Lately I had a chat with a colleague coming from another continent – consequently having an unfamiliar name to an European ear. Immediately he was offering a German name as substitute. Since the name was so special – lets say old-school – I asked him laughing why he had chosen it. “Easy”, he said, “I went jogging on the graveyard regularly and I saw that particular name so often on tombstones that I got inspired to pick it for myself.” 

“Wow. Inspired by a tombstone”, I thought – not sure whether to be impressed or awkwardly moved. 

And then my thoughts began to wander… what will be written on my tombstone when the day of tombstone-necessity comes? Will it be inspiring? With what characteristics do I want to be remembered? 

While I continued thinking, I realized that positive remembrance is not limited to death – actually I can recall several leaders in my life whose major attributes I easily can determine and whose attitude impressed me in a way that I wanted to be like them in that particular behavior. If I had to sum up what made them special, most certainly I put on the list: authentic behavior, a trustworthy charisma and interest in people. 

Authentic Behavior 

Despite the fact that I didn’t like all facets of my leaders, I could always rely on their authenticity. The mixture of strengths and flaws made them unique, approachable and – simply put – human. They used to communicate when they were having a bad day. So it was easy to know that a more quiet behavior didn’t mean that there is a problem around. 

In addition, all of them had a basic set of behaviour you could rely on. They were approachable for team members, always open-minded and friendly. One leader put it this simple: don’t scream at people and don’t throw stuff. 

Don’t scream at people and don’t throw stuff. 

A Leader

Trustworthy Charisma 

People I can recall as influential leaders in my life all had a certain charisma. I don’t think of an unspecific atmosphere or esoteric type of feeling, but rather a respect that rose in people who have worked with these people over a longer period of time. Foremost this respect was fueled by a predictability of the leaders behaviour. Everyone knew how this person would react to a specific situation (mainly calm, well-thought-through but clear), and this predictability would allow team members to take decisions. Team members could predict whether they will have the backing of their boss – and this led to freedom, respect and trust. 

Interest in people

Last but not least, leaders I recall as inspiring always had an interest in me. And in others. They “saw” their team and spoke to people on an individual level. It’s probably one of the hardest parts – having an intense job with extreme responsibilities and still take time to show interest in people. To stop at the coffee kitchen for 30 seconds just to ask how it is going or to pad someone shoulder for great work the day before. 

But if you think back – you remember the names of exactly those people. People who saw you. People who were interested in you and your well-being. 

And even when their names will be written on a tombstone, they will be remembered.