You can change the world today

Here is a true story from the 70s. We are in Cambodia. The Khmer Rouge are in charge and rule the country brutally. Within 4 years up to two million people die. In those years, a baby is found by a swiss lady working for the red cross. The baby lays abandoned near the road to die. The forces of the Khmer Rouge are close and the lady decides quickly: she rescures the little baby girl, takes her to Switzerland and finds parents for adoption.

Roughly 35 years later, that former baby girl is now a highly educated, healthy woman – with a family of her own. She and her husband visit her roots – being in Cambodia for the first time. They fall in love with the country and the people. They decide to move to Cambodia and start an NGO that helps hundreds of kids and teens every week to get education, food and a vision for their life. Hundreds are blessed today, because one lady back in the 70s takes an abandoned baby girl from the street – without fearing the consequences.

I have heard the story many times. I have been to the NGO in Cambodia. And still, I am in awe every time I think of that storylining again. That one woman fleeing the Khmer Rouge changes a whole generation of Cambodian people today who live in that area.

It leads to the question: Are you aware that the decisions you take today can influence many people in the future?

What if the young professional you are training today, becomes the next head of a big department? What did that person learn from you and most likely will use in his/her leadership style?

What if you could speak potential and positivity in your team mates instead of bringing your emotional ‘bad-hair-day’ to work? You have a position today – no matter how insignificant you might feel. And it is up to you how you fill your work day and interaction with clients and colleagues.

Let’s think of this for a moment: Everytime you consider the long term perspective, a lot of the current hustle becomes irrelevant. The emotionally nagging moments get flattened when you think of what good can come out of it.

You lost an important client? – That’s bad. But how do you react? And who is watching? What kind of an example are you?

You could pick a fight with a colleague – or you surrender and ‘loose’ this one argument for winning a favour in the future?

You have an impact on your team mates everyday. You choose what kind of an example you want to be.

Wanna keep your job?

Interestingly, there are some people who will always tell you how much they have to do, how stressful their job is and when coming to complaining about colleagues and bosses the day doesn’t have enough hours to contain their words. It seems, their whole life is awful and punished by the few people around them. Often I am wondering, whether they are aware that one part of their misery is the constant echo of their stressful workday in their private lives!?

But aside from crashing the atmosphere at home, most likely their job isn’t that bad after all – at least they haven’t changed positions or applied for a new role. Most likely, a huge part of their complain is letting everyone know how important and unexchangeable they are in their position. Which opens room for a change of perspective: how does their boss and colleagues see that person? Does he/she contribute to the team success? What is the effect of the complain of that person towards the team mates?

Even the brightest mind and the deepest content of a colleague is overruled by a bad attitude. Someone complaining much – regardless the topic – stresses the team more than the actual work will contribute. People will see and learn from that behaviour – managing around colleagues whose attitude is counterproductive. In turn, when it comes to team size reduction – these people won’t have anyone speaking up for their important contribution to the team success despite their story of having so much stress and hence, being so important.

So, if you want to be part of the crew kept on board, think of this: your teammates and leads need you to do your job. They need you to take responsibility for your tasks so that they can trust you and your results. Very often you can decide what ‘your job’ involves. One major part is fixing problems. Often these problems won’t be part of your initial job description. But if you are known for a mindset that thinks of solutions instead of complain, your teammates and leads will love to work with you and will do anything, to keep you in the team.

Why does my boss earn so much money?

“Whether my boss is there or not – it doesn’t make any difference”, I recently heard someone say. It displays the missing transparency of what is a boss’ job. One thing that is quickly mentioned in this discussion, is the high salary that one gets for being in a management position. And most likely, the person mentioning the money, is the one trying to reach a management position, too.

Unluckily, this perception of a boss not doing anything useful to the companies cause, leads to many new managers following that same approach – not realizing of how mistaken they are.

So, if you want to become a successful person in a managing role in your company, think of the following ‘to dos’ and check whether you are willing to do them. For sure, you will find people in your organisation that are in management positions not doing the named points. But you can decide for yourself, what kind of leader you want to become.

Take decisions

One essential part of a management position is the responsibility of taking decision. People will come to you with options, but it will be your responsibility of choosing on how to proceed. You can probably recall several ocasions in which the respective leader did not take a decision – and how harmful the result was.

Taking decisions makes you vulnerable in a way. People will know where you stand and what opinion you have. This is why many leaders refrain from taking a decision. Often this comes in shades of procastination or delegation of the decision to a gremium or lower rank.

But lets be clear: part of the salary of a management role is the responsibility for taking decisions – even the controverse and hard ones.

Give feedback

As long as all your team members are working fine, reaching their goals and have no conflicts, feedback sessions are easy. Giving praise and appreciation is the fun part of feedback. But if destructive behaviour of single people are destroying the atmosphere or weak results are torpedating the company results, it becomes tough.

Addressing destructive behaviour can result in conflict – and conflict needs energy, time and clear guidance. And this is for sure part of the management role and salary. Yet, a lot of managers refrain from walking into this métier. They neither want to spend the time nor their energy in confronting people with feedback. They are rather hoping that the problem somehow goes away.

Unluckily, un-feedbacked bad behaviour will expand and eventually kill the atmosphere; resulting in low cooperation, less delivery quality and in the end high attrition.

What helps is ‘radical candor’ as Kim Scott names it (see her book ‘Radical Candor’). Radical Candor means being totally clear about the content while having the heart of developing the person who gets feedback. No sugar coating. But also no condemnation. Setting clear boundaries and rules for the team and giving freedom for everyone to develop. It’s hard, as it requires a lot of self-reflection of the leader. But it is part of the management role.

Think ahead

Ideally, leaders don’t only focus on the present but have an idea of where they want to be in 5 or 10 years from now. They are not consumed by all problems at hand but have the capacity of thinking several steps ahead. They can anticipate what impact their decision might have.

This ability as well as the time of getting to a well-thought-through decision is part of the their job. As hence, is displayed in their salary.

If you like to have a boss with the named qualities, take action and become that boss yourself.

Air time: how to get more time from your boss

“My boss hardly talks to me.” “I don’t get any air time.” “It’s almost impossible to get an appointment with my boss.” – these complaints can be heard quite often. The consequences are obvious: little interaction leads to little growth in the relationship and, in consequence, the promotion goes to a colleague – that surprisingly got more time of interaction with the boss.

So what can you do in order to get more time with your boss – and especially one-on-one time in which you can proof your abilities and let him/her see of what you are capable of.

Let’s change perspectives for that matter. Why should your boss talk to you?

Think about this question. If you feel it’s his/her f*** job to listen to you – you might be right, but that doesn’t get you what you want. So again: What is it that your boss hears/sees/experiences when she/he is talking to you?

From what I have experienced in and heard of many of those talks, it goes as follows: a lot of complain… then some mediocre chit-chat… and quite often a demand for more responsibility, a new role or even the promotion. The first will be overheard by your boss because there is too much negativity in life anyways. The second is irrelevant for him/her – and by the time you start demanding something, the mind of your boss spins about ending this talk soon. Therefore, let me ask you – and please be honest: What is in this talk for your boss?

Your boss is a human being as well. He/she is working under constant pressure, too. And when you are one of the many interactions that intensifies the daily pressure… it is only human nature when he/she avoids talking to you.

If you could be one of the positive interactions for your boss during that day – she/he will love to talk to you in the future. If he/she can trust, that there will be fun and laughter involved when talking to you: be assured that they are looking forward to talking to you.

But bringing in a positive atmosphere is only a one part. Even more important is: be relevant! Ideally you belong to the solution of your boss’s problem. If you are the go-to-person for problem-solving, your boss will know your capabilities and worth.

Let’s talk about examples: If your boss knows that team building is important but neither have the time nor the creativity to do anything, be the person organizing the team event. Ask her/him what should be on the agenda, bring in ideas and make sure that he/she looks good when opening the event. For sure, be mindful not to become the event planner forever, but use the event to proof your skill set in project management. In addition, use the time bonding with your boss and let him/her feel important.

This type of working with your boss can be done in any change situation in your team or company. Classically, people will resist change – and your boss needs to implement the changed processes and procedures. If you act as a change agent, you can solve some of your boss’s problems without much effort and get the recognition you are thriving for.

Once you are known to your boss, become relevant for a certain topic or skill. Be the one, your boss asks when it is about… tax, regulatory questions, IT functions in your new system – you name it. Either you are already an expert – so leverage on your existing knowledge. Or you are an expert in the making – then find relevant topics around you, get skilled and support your boss.

Most likely, inwardly you sense some unrighteousness: your boss should be the one taking time for you. People development is part of the job description (and salary) of most leading positions in business – therefore, it feels fair if more effort is done on the leadership side. Yet, reality is that most bosses neither take the time nor have the awareness what they could do differently. And that shouldn’t stop you in working with your boss in a way that builds the relationship in a positive way.

Successful team leads focus on these topics

It’s a never ending discussion: should you focus on strengths or weaknesses when developing yourself and others?

What is your opinion? How do you develop yourself? And in consequence: how do you develop your team?

Research shows that 20% of your team will disengage from their work, when you as their manager focus solely on their weaknesses. While only 1% disengage when you focus on their strength (see Strengthsfinder 2.0 from Gallup, 2007, p. IV). There is just one thing that is even worse than focussing on weaknesses or strengths: ignoring your people completely. Research shows that 40% of your staff disengages in their work when not being developed at all.

But what are strengths, you can find in yourself? What are the focus areas you could search for in your team?

Here are some examples – pulled together from classical ressources like Johari adjectives, strengthsfinder or MBTI:

  • Straight communication
  • Analytical correctness
  • Love for detail
  • Ambition to win
  • Stick to rules
  • Focus on deadlines
  • Good time management
  • Feeling for team atmosphere
  • Vision for project setup
  • Courage to speak up
  • Persistence in argument

All of these strengths bring in positive and negative situations within a team. Your job as a manager is to find the right spot where each person can shine.

Same is true, if you feel unhappy in your current position. Maybe you cannot work according to your strengths and you need a change. Analyse who you are and what you need – and then find the place where you fit in.

It’s just a small nugget to give you food for thought. Dig deeper through the named sources if you want to develop yourself in this area.

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.

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.

The cycle of success

Add more components of what you love doing in your workday and your job will become easier. With you feeling lighter and more joyful, your clients and colleagues will be touched, too. This is how you start a positive cycle of success…

“For my job I like getting up in the morning”, my friend smiles. Four years ago he quit his studies. Low motivation and missing focus led to bad grades and slowly to the conviction that he was on the wrong path. Still, giving up on a lifestyle that is socially accepted and getting on a perceived lower track isn’t easy on the ego. Today he is happy with his daily tasks. Consequently, his joy and power transfers on his clients and colleagues, leading to success in business which nourishes the positive feelings towards the job. “When you love what you do, success is inevitable”, he says with a broad smile.

When you love what you do, success is inevitable

Experience

Is your cycle of “I love my job and my job loves me” working?

What is happening for you when reading this question? Do you even believe that there is a job constellation for you in which you would actually love working? Or are your already there?

Independent from which angle you are looking at the cycle-question let me give you a few questions to reflect on. Take some time to think about each one and take notes of what is running through your mind. These moments of reflection are healthy to become aware of your status quo. Sometimes life rushes by and without noticing a year passed and you didn’t live intentionally and with purpose. But it is in your hands to add components of what you truly love to your workday and thereby keeping the cycle of success spinning.

What did you like doing when you were a child? – Reflect and write down what comes to your mind. This questions assumes that you have been doing things as a child that felt natural and joyful to you. Maybe you won’t do exactly the same things today – but you might find tasks that use the same skill that you have trained as a kid.

With what kind of people do you like spending your time? – The answer to this question might also be: no people at all. That’s totally fine, too. The important thing is that you know what you like and find as many moments in your day that reflect your preference.

How do you recharge? – The idea of this question is simple: if you recharge while doing the work you get paid for, you will not leave your workplace exhausted but rather thrilled and excited. If you could add a few components of the aspects of how you recharge, you will have more power during the day and feel much happier at work.

How do you express thankfulness and love? – Usually human beings get happy when they can show their thankfulness to others. Therefore it is an easy exercise to increase your happiness during the day. You choose whether you need to give a gift, speak words of affirmation or clap someone on the shoulder. If you know yourself, you can activate these resources in you anytime.

Start your cycle of success

No matter how well your cycle of success is already working, you can keep it up and running by investing in yourself. Your personal well-being during the day and your mindset towards workplace situations are keys to your personal success. Start by integrating short components of your favourite situations and expand the timeframe to your energizing moments whenever possible. Soon you will see how your positivity and power will affect your colleagues and clients positively.

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.