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?

A good leader can admit failure

People love leaders who bring in their whole self into their leadership role including their flaws and failures – at least when they are capable of admitting them.

Can you think of a situation when you admitted you had been wrong? Have you ever apologized to your team taking a wrong decision in the past?

If those questions irritate you, it is a good moment to think. I have met a lot of people in leadership positions who I never heard apologizing. Having even talked to some who were convinced that being wrong is a weakness one should not show.

But be honest: Even the most thoughtful leader will make a weak decision at one point. We are all human beings. Independent from our best intentions we will fail.

Based on what I have seen when leaders actually were apologizing, one could say: the credibility of a leader is increasing when admitting a mistake.

Why is that? Admitting a fault shows that you can reflect on yourself and your behaviour. It gives your team the freedom to fail, too. It opens up for honesty and giving grace to one another.

Having said that, be precise when admitting a wrong decision. As a leader people need to trust your decisions. If every decision you take, turns out to be wrong … well, people might question whether they should keep following you. Nevertheless, you are a human being. Admitting flaws and failure adds to your personal side in the role of leadership.

Why being UNHAPPY is actually great

First day of the week. Hitting the office right on time, starting your computer, getting the first cup of coffee, checking your email while trying to enjoy the first zip. The routine is killing you 15minutes into the new working week.

And yet, you keep getting back at this desk every day. Emotionless. Unhappy. But steady and on time.

I know why. The paycheck is convenient. It pays your rent. Your family. Puts money into your bank account to pile up for the future. The future… you are convinced that it will be brighter than today. Just a few more office days like these and then…

I had lots of talks like this with colleagues over coffee. Being unhappy, yet neither willing nor able to change.

Truth is, my mornings look quite the same. Yet, I am looking forward to each one of those working days, loving what I do – although I most certainly don`t like each moment of it. Where is the difference?

The greatest traveller is he who has been able once to take a tour around himself.

Confucius

Conficius is talking about taking new perspectives of oneself. Once you are able to change your thinking and getting a new mindset, you become aware of who you are and who you are not. You challenge all those “I cannot, because…” and start questioning “How could I …?” You get bold in questioning all your assumptions, e.g. “I will never be…”, “xy is impossible because…”. And while you are taking a tour around yourself, you might realize that you actually don`t need to travel away from your current location, but rather from your current mindset.

Here is an example: I know that I am most happy, when I can be a blessing to other people. I feel fulfilled when others are having a good time talking to me. [Will I get this right every moment of my life? No. But I am trying. I decided to bring the best version of me into conversations.] Therefore, I asked myself “How can I be happy at work?” Answer: By being a blessing for my colleagues. And while I bring the best version of myself to work, I experience a lot of positive moments, making others – and ultimately me – happy. I realized, I don`t have to change my job. I rather have to change my mindset and attitude. And all of a sudden everything falls into place and I am happy.

If you are currently in this unhappy place, be bold enough to check on your assumpations and narratives. Coaching can be a tool that is helping you getting your thoughts around the important stuff that matters. Be asured: there is absolutely no reason why you should be hating your life. Unhappiness is just a great indicator that it is time to think about yourself and start travelling around yourself.

Why are you such an asshole?

What makes people turn into their worst version in the workplace?

I guess, no one starts in the job with the intention to become a management asshole. Nevertheless, when listening to young professionals and checking on organizations a lot of assholes can be found.

But when almost none wants to be an asshole in the beginning, how come that so many assholes can be found in management positions? What happens along the way? Where is the transition point where assholes are made?

The Start

The term ‘asshole’ is emotionally loaded, and it depends massively on the perspective whom one would classify to belong into that category. Still, if you walked into a group and asked, “who is the asshole?” – most likely all fingers will point to particular people. Therefore, it is worthwhile to check on the defining traits of an ‘asshole’.

An asshole believes the game of business can be won

An asshole is someone who believes he/she can win the game of career or business. Simon Sinek describes this mindset as a finite mindset – believing that career or business is a game with a finite end that can be won. But that is not true. Business is an infinite game that will continue even when we retire. The only question is, in what shape do we leave the company!?

With a finite mindset people will always try to win single battles – believing it leads to an ultimate victory. Truth is, the battle will harm a lot of colleagues – you might even “win” the next promotion – but the distrust and hate resulting from that behavior in your peer slowly kills the company.

An asshole believes that values are bullshit

Usually a company defines values. When these values are not put into action people will feel that they are shallow. It gets worse when people – especially the ones in leadership – start making fun of the company’s values or actively act against them. A mindset often displayed is “I do my own rules”.

There is something about leadership where we expect leaders to align their behavior with the company they are representing. And when they are undermining the company’s values by speaking or acting against the common values, the impact on the staff is much higher than of a regular staff member.

When talking to leaders they often express that they don’t understand why their behavior is even relevant to young professionals – referring to themselves as normal staff members. Unluckily they are not common staff members, but their organizational role adds a certain visibility and role model function to them. They are perceived as part of the brand young professionals work for. Therefore, when these role models act against company values, they are perceived as assholes.

An asshole believes “I” is more important than “we”

While students and young professionals are trained to work together and finding win-win-situations, the asshole puts “I, myself, me and mine” first. It is not about “us” working together, but about “me” who is doing a career. When this mindset comes into play, soon collaboration collapses.  

An asshole believes that quitters are weak

Part of the asshole’s personal narrative is being special strong when ‘surviving’ in a toxic environment – instead of changing the environment for the better. Hence, a high attrition rate fuels the misperception of being special strong because he/she is ‘surviving’. You can easily tell whether someone is believing in this narrative by listening to their wording – very often they will refer to their work environment as hard. One must be very special to make it in there. Warlike wording is very common in such communications.

The Transition

Having examined some of the defining traits of an ‘asshole’ let’s have a look when the transition from “collaborative young professional” to “management asshole” is happening.

When talking to young professionals in their second or third year they are already complaining – about colleagues who take advantage from collaboratively produced results, about bosses who shy away from communicating tough decisions or about backbiting in the department.

They are hurt. They are disenchanted. They have to make a decision.

Without realizing you get into these defining moments where you need to decide how you handle your emotions. Will you let disappointment, sadness and disillusion manipulate your inner compass?

Truth is you can only take care of your own mindset and actions. Some of your colleagues will decide to take that advantage, mistreat project members, lie in order to be well-positioned. But how will you react? What kind of leader do you want to become?

Whenever you are hurt by a colleague or boss, ask yourself whether you want to turn into that type of person. Actively think and decide. Because it is always easier to put yourself first instead of the team, hold a grudge instead of forgiving or bullying others instead of speaking friendly when you are angry.

Becoming an asshole is the easiest of all choices. It is following your ego and emotions without reflection. Going in for revenge, holding that grudge, giving backbiting room in your behaviour. And all of a sudden you are the asshole you never wanted to become. Unluckily your team members are most likely too intimidated to tell you – and so you get lonely without knowing why, telling every quitter that he/she is too weak to ‘survive’ in this job.

Ideally there are already some leaders with integrity in place who can serve as examples and be an active corrective towards misbehaving colleagues. Being in such an environment raises the probability of having less assholes in management.

Nevertheless, even if there is little leadership around you, you can decide for yourself. You are aware of the asshole behaviour. If you want to change your environment, don’t become one!

The Future

Independently from the status quo you can decide to be part of the change. Whenever a society should have been changed in the past, every leader started investing into the next generation. In people whos mindset still can be formed or at least changed. In Business context this ‘next generation’ is not limited to age but rather to mindset and personal narrative.

Therefore, first check on your own mindset and self-believes. Are you the leader you would like to follow?

If you are, watch out for leaders, peers and team mates who have the same mindset. Huddle together, align on values and step out boldly as leaders of the new generation. Create the working environment for which people stand up an hour earlier. Build that team which people don’t leave even if they get a higher paycheck offered. Design that trusting team that clients cherish and love to have on board.

A compliment a day keeps burnout away

They are doing an experiment: walking to people and tell them that they are beautiful. The result is captured on video and the faces are stunning. Everyone smiles. Shy. Proud. Happy.

Watching these clips even makes me smiling. Seeing happy people resonates within me and I get happy, too. Can you relate? When we smile during the day all of the sudden the tension of a moment is gone and life seems easier.

What if we could use this effect at work?

Last week I could see this effect on my colleagues, too. I actively looked at my colleagues’ reaction when I had the chance to speak support, hope and encouragement in their lives. They all smiled.

Getting in contact with someone who has good and honest intentions for us opens our hearts and gives us a moment of relaxation. Having those moments at work gives back energy and people can progress in their day more energized. All that is needed is you. This one person that is watching out where to spend the next honest compliment or the next story of hope.

Let’s do a challenge this week: Find one person a day that smiles because of you.

You are not good enough

When doing a career, stop sabotaging yourself!

Just recently I watched one of my favourite stand-up comedians. He was putting himself in the perspective of someone living and thinking only in stereotypes and thereby the whole scene clearly got preposterous. Although the audience knew that he was acting out, the truth of the displayed mindset was too real to applaud immediately. Rather – the audience went quiet every once in a while, knowing that this mindset was part of their reality, too. The comedian got to his goal. Making his audience aware of the little box in their heads that sets boundaries to their mindset.

Sometimes your mindset is bound to stereotypes or limited by lies, too. As long as they are not challenged, you probably won’t even notice which fixed assumptions are navigating your thoughts.

But here is an important aspect: Your thoughts are directing your decisions. Your mindset is influencing your behaviour unconsciously.

As long as you are happy with your life, choices and results, you probably won’t see a need to check on your mindset. (Sidenote: it still might be valuable to reflect on your self-believes.) But when you are not as successful as you want to be or if you are successful but extremely exhausted, it might be helpful to check on your assumptions.

For the next few lines the scenario is plainly focused on success in business – although you can extend the thought-provoking ideas also to your private life. One classical mindset will be taken as an example and examined from the out- and in-side. Maybe you find yourself in this. Maybe you have a different mindset that needs challenge. In any case, be bold to rethink your assumptions.

Let’s assume you are convinced: “I am not good enough.”

This conviction can be deep inside you although you are very successful in your career. Still, whenever there is a new challenge, you will need to prove to you or others that you are good enough for it. In consequence, you are almost always overachieving. You are best in class or top in your peer. Nevertheless, deep within you, you know exactly what you could have done better… in essence: you are not good enough.

This inner mindset of not being good enough costs you a lot of energy. It is this fear that keeps you up all night studying and turning the numbers on a sunny sunday. And even when you score best, deep within you are not satisfied. This voice isn’t silenced.

For your own time of reflection let me ask you this:

  1. How well does your mindset serve you?
  2. What other assumptions do you believe and where are they leading you to?

My bonus shows I am undervalued

If you handle failure the right way, you win nonetheless.

There are these times – the promotion has been denied, the deal has been lost, the project failed. The bonus is lower than expected and the pay raise had been higher once. Despite all the time and personal invest, you are confronted with failure. What usually worked, all of a sudden doesn’t.

Although everyone knows that the paycheck doesn’t reflect a person’s worth, very often people feel tremendously undervalued when not achieving their aspired goals. High performing business people invest so much time and energy into their professional success that the reward gets mentally linked to their identity and self-esteem. As long as win follows win this connection feels awesome. It is not only a professional win – it is also a validation of the person, to some even their personality. Sometimes the feeling of invincibility is visible from the outside by posture and gesture.

This grown connection between success and personality or even identity becomes dangerous when success is being delayed. Or worse: if failure is settling in. One bad situation might be handled. But if failure after failure is hitting, the impact cannot be ignored. All of a sudden the business flop feels like being a failure as a person. Bad comments of colleagues on top and the self-esteem crumbles. Depending on the person, the downward slide can take pretty long and is quite devastating.

Crack the causal connection of success and identity

When in a downward spiral it is quite easy to spot the unhealthy connections between success and self-esteem. It can be felt deep inside. Thoughts of failure keep nagging. So, if you currently feel like you are a total loser check on this connection in your brain. Yes, you might have failed in business issues. And no, that doesn’t define who you are as a person. Use this awareness to crack the causal connection of success and identity within you and explore who you are as a person. Thereby you win as a person although you are walking through failure.

But even when there is no failure trend in sight, it is helpful to disconnect personal success from the feeling of self-worth. Only because you are successful, e.g. got the promotion or won the big deal, doesn’t mean that you are more worth than anybody else. Step away from entitlement and be thankful for what you have. This way you can enjoy your success and you are prepared for times of failure.