7 Ways Assertiveness Gives You an Edge

7 Ways Assertiveness Gives You an Edge

 

Assertiveness can be a game changer. It can give your career and personal life a boost in ways you might not expect. When you’re assertive, you embrace honesty, open communication, and level-headedness. You are also confident enough to welcome differing opinions and consider others’ points of view.

Assertiveness is the sweet spot between passivity and aggression. Many of us tend to be off-balanced in our approach, either allowing others to walk all over us or exerting our authority in a way that seems forceful or demanding.

There is a better way.

When you’re assertive, you’re candid about your intentions, wants, and desires. You aren’t forcing them on others, but you’re willing to express them and own them. You’re also being respectful by not hiding your intentions.

If you’re used to acting in passive mode or behaving aggressively, it may take time to find the balance and practice assertiveness. Be mindful of both what you say and how you say things. Pay attention to your interactions and reflect on how you might modify your behavior to be more assertive.

Your effort will be worth it. Assertiveness has many beneficial side effects, including these seven:

1. Elevated self-esteem

When you speak up and take action to influence the world around you, your self-esteem gets a boost. Assertiveness involves fearlessly taking on responsibility and being authentic to your true self, which can build a positive self-image.

2. Improved confidence

Acting confident (even if you don’t truly feel it) can lead to actual confidence. Leadership expert Amy Cuddy says, “Don’t fake it ‘til you make it. Fake it ‘til you become it.” Your external attitude can lead to an internal confidence boost.

3. Sharpened image

When you feel more confident, you’ll be perceived as confident. People assume you’re more capable, intelligent, and have better leadership skills than someone who is less confident. It’s attractive to others.

4. Enhanced communication

Part of being assertive involves speaking up for what you want and being open with others about your thoughts and feelings. Assertive people have an openness about them that is not only refreshing, but can help build interpersonal relationships. Conversely, passivity demonstrates that you believe others’ opinions are more important than yours, while aggression demonstrates that you believe your ideas are more viable. When you’re assertive and also open to others’ ideas, you encourage those around you to follow suit. This creates a bond of trust which can lead to better interpersonal communication and relationships.

5. Amplified results

Not only will assertiveness lead to better relationships, it also leads to better idea generation and, therefore, results. When you’re open with your opinions and thoughts, you’ll be shocked by how much more effective you (and your team) can be. Even the simple act of offering an opinion or suggestion (which could be as simple as, “I’d like to try XYZ restaurant” or “I prefer the orange marketing color scheme instead of the red one”) can influence others to share. An accepting, open environment leads to enhanced strategizing, as well as improved innovation and results.

6. Increased understanding of your emotions

By consistently examining, sharing and pursuing yours desires, you gain a better understanding of yourself. That type of open vulnerability can also help others connect with you on an emotional level, as well.

7. Augmented negotiation skills

Negotiations are difficult for those who miss the mark on assertiveness, landing either on the passive or aggressive side of things. Those who are passive may base decisions on the least confrontational solution; those who are aggressive tend to force their stance on others. Those who practice assertiveness take a more neutral position. They are open enough to admit the limitations of their knowledge and they put forth their opinions. This leads to open, honest discussions that result in informed actions.

 

Making a conscious effort to think and act more assertively can have a profound impact on both your personal life and career. Start embracing your assertive side today. Think about how you can act confidently and competently in every meeting, email, or interaction, and start seeing results.

If you’d like to learn other methods for building successful relationships and improving communication, please feel free to contact me.

Is Accountability a Centerpiece of Your Leadership?

“It is not only what we do, but what we do not do, for which we are accountable.” –Moliere

 

If your workplace is free of accountability, it is likely filled with blame and distrust. When a project fails or a client leaves, it is natural for people to want answers, which may lead to suspicion and finger-pointing. An accountability-free workplace can easily turn ugly.

As David Gebler, author of The 3 Power Values, says, “Accountability is the number one success factor in any change effort.” If leadership does not hold their team accountable, it is difficult for integrity to be taken seriously. In a workplace where “anything goes” and inaction or missteps are ignored, there is little motivation to do good work. In such a haphazard culture, employees can miss deadlines, show up late, refuse to hold up their end of a project, or mishandle clients…all without consequence.

Unfortunately, many workplaces lack a clear system of accountability. Margery Weinstein of Training Mag cites a Workplace Accountability Study which reveals that “82 percent of respondents admit they have limited-to-no ability to hold others accountable successfully.” This number is especially startling because 91 percent of respondents said that accountability is one of the “top leadership development needs in their organization.”

This lack of accountability may cause interpersonal conflicts, distrust, or the constant need to make excuses. It also allows the dominant personalities in your workplace to direct the company’s ethics. The behavior of influential individuals can easily sway the entire tone of the workplace (which may or may not be a good thing!).

What to do? As a leader, it is tempting to react to a lack of accountability by hovering over your team and micro-managing their every move. There are many reasons why this is a flawed approach (some of which I address in a past blog post), but suffice it to say that your work team will not react well to micro-managing. However, a culture of accountability can be created without setting your team member’s schedules or closely monitoring their work projects. It’s all about striking a balance.

Here are five tips for creating a system of accountability in your workplace:

Clearly Communicate Expectations

Set your team up for success by clearly communicating goals, deadlines, and expected outcomes. Your team members should also understand the consequences of failing to meet a particular aspect of a project or action.

Articulate Your Team’s Value

“When employees aren’t valued, they’re less likely to be engaged with their work,” (Sean Pomeroy, Talent Culture.com). Make sure each member of your team is aware of their worth and the value they bring to the team. Communicate often and openly to your employees to let them know you appreciate their contributions.

Follow Through

Don’t deliver empty warnings. If you’ve made it clear that those who do not meet a specific project deadline will be removed from the project, then follow through with that disciplinary action. You may choose to use a three-strike system to soften the blow for those who have erred for the first or second time. However, be sure to talk to the offender, even if it’s her first time making a mistake, so she knows what your expectations are for the future.

Hold Yourself to the Same Standards

Lead by example. If you make a mistake, own up to it and articulate how you will correct the error and take preventative action so that the same mistake will not occur in the future. If you are exempt from being held accountable, how can you effectively enforce accountability?

Treat Mistakes as Learning Opportunities

Instead of sweeping mistakes under the rug, making excuses, or becoming overly distraught, try to look at workplace errors as an opportunity. Talk openly about the mistake with your team and strategize ways to overcome it and create a better system for the future.

 

Company leadership has the power to create a culture of accountability. When all members of a workplace community assume personal responsibility for their actions and inactions, the company can focus on solutions and strategy, rather than blame and distrust.

 

Contact Juli for insight and guidance for YOUR company.

Effective Strategies for Communicating with Extroverts

Effective Strategies for Communicating with Extroverts

If you’re a person with introverted tendencies, working with extroverts can seem taxing and chaotic. But it doesn’t have to be. Once you understand the causes behind extroverted behavior, effective workplace communication with extroverts begins to seem like common sense.

People with extroverted behavior may be inclined to interact with others due to simple biology. Dopamine, a neurological chemical, plays a major role in the reward and pleasure centers of the brain and extroverts have a stronger dopamine response to reward than introverts. When extroverts interact with others, they are more energized and motivated by the possibility of reward.

Recognizing how this heightened dopamine response fuels extroverted personalities is vital to effective inter-office communication. Social interactions are filled with opportunities for reward, and extroverts are determined to make the most of them. Consequently, the more rewarding you make your conversation to an extrovert, the happier they’ll feel. Keeping that in mind, here are a few best-practice communication strategies guaranteed to light up an extrovert’s reward system and build healthy interpersonal communication, both in and outside of the office.

 

STAY POSITIVE

Extroverts typically find social situations to be more inherently interesting than introverts do. One study found that extroverts were more stimulated by pictures of people than introverted participants were, suggesting extroverts place greater significance on social interaction. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that an extrovert would be disappointed when an interaction doesn’t go particularly well. With that in mind, keep conversations with an extrovert positive to foster a strong working relationship. Let it be known that you appreciate your time with them, and they’ll likely look forward to talking with you again.

 

OFFER A RISK OR CHALLENGE

High-stakes, high-reward opportunities tend to go hand-in-hand with extroversion. Unpredictability isn’t necessarily viewed as a bad thing by extroverts, but rather a challenge to overcome.  An experiment involving a gambling task found that extroverts had a stronger neurological response to both surprise and positive results than introverts did. If you’re trying to convince an extrovert to take on a task or join you in an endeavor, frame it as an adventure or a big opportunity. Adding a little bit of a risk-factor is definitely a plus.

 

GIVE THEM TIME TO TALK

Extroverts like to talk. So naturally, when you communicate with an extrovert, it’s best not to cut them off. Give them the time to say what they want to say, and more likely than not, they’ll leave you plenty of time to talk once they’ve completed their thought. If not, don’t hesitate to politely let them know you’d like a chance to speak; extroverts are excited by many different aspects of social interactions, so they’ll be interested in hearing what you have to say, too.

GET TO KNOW THE UNIQUE INDIVIDUAL

The problem with the extrovert-introvert dichotomy is that it treats each group like two different species. In reality, extroversion and introversion exist on a spectrum, and most of us fall somewhere in the middle. When communicating, it’s important not to assume people are extroverted or introverted. Rather, get a sense for each person’s unique preferences and tendencies, and try to gauge how they’re feeling during your interaction. As with any type of interaction, awareness is key.

 

 

Your extroverted co-workers can add energy, creative ideas, and candidness to the workplace. By giving them the space to shine and respecting their needs, and can help your business reach its full potential. Remember, the most well-rounded, innovative workplaces embrace a variety of different people with different communication tendencies.

 

Do you have communication difficulties in YOUR office? Contact me and let’s talk.

Effective Strategies for Communicating with Introverts

Effective strategies for communicating with introverts

You’re likely familiar with the basic definitions of introversion and extroversion. Introverts draw energy from being alone, while extroverts draw energy from being with other people.

Though this may seem to make sense, there isn’t a neat dividing line between introverts and extroverts and both groups can exhibit behaviors typically characteristic of their opposite type. In fact, a study recently confirmed that extroverts also can be drained by social interaction just as introverts are, and sometimes need alone-time to “recharge.” Similarly, there is a common misconception that introverts don’t like social interaction, when many introverts actually lead very rich social lives and can also be very effective team members.

This blog contains some effective strategies for communicating with introverts that are based on peer-reviewed studies, not just conventional wisdom. (Note: in my next blog, I will cover important aspects of working with extroverts.)

 

AVOID SMALL-TALK

If an introvert doesn’t seem to be totally into your discussion about the weather outside, it’s not because they abhor social interaction – rather, introverts aren’t particularly keen on engaging in conversation just for the sake of conversation, or what is often called small talk. One study measuring attention in introverts and extroverts found that extroverts tended to be more sensitive to social stimuli than neutral stimuli, while introverts reacted similarly to both types of stimuli. In other words, extroverts may see reward in social interaction in and of itself, whereas introverts don’t necessarily experience social interaction differently than any other source of stimuli. With that in mind, instead of using small talk with introvert colleagues, try engaging in a conversation with some substance (think scientific studies, new technology, or the latest global news).

 

BE PATIENT AND ALLOW SPACE TO THINK

While much conventional wisdom about introverts isn’t built on concrete evidence, the phrase “still water runs deep” does have some merit. A Harvard University study discovered that introverts had thicker gray matter in the part of the brain linked to decision-making and abstract thought (the prefrontal cortex) than do extroverts. This suggests that introverts are more inclined to meticulous, drawn-out thought, meaning they may need time and space to think things through before they make decisions or take action. Further, introverts get pleasure from turning inward, rewarded with a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine. With these elements in mind, don’t push for a quick decision from an introvert. Be patient and give them the time they need to think.

 

CHOOSE A COMFORTABLE ENVIRONMENT

There’s a reason introverts aren’t as attracted to loud, crowded parties as extroverts – and it’s not because they don’t like being around people. Mainly, a “party” atmosphere is chock-full of external stimuli, and it can become too much for an introvert’s active prefrontal cortex to process at one time, especially over longer periods of time. If you’re going to meet up with an introvert, find a small, quiet place without distractions so they can focus on you, not the music blaring through the speakers.

 

GET TO KNOW THE UNIQUE INDIVIDUAL

The problem with the introvert-extrovert dichotomy is that it treats each group like two different species. In reality, introversion and extroversion exist on a spectrum, and most of us fall somewhere in the middle. When communicating, it’s important not to assume people are introverted or extroverted. Rather, get a sense for each person’s unique preferences and tendencies, and try to gauge how they’re feeling during your interaction. As with any type of interaction, awareness is key.

 

Your introverted co-workers have a lot to offer. Give them the time and space to share their ideas and insights and you may be surprised by what they give back. Keep in mind that a diverse, yet inclusive workplace creates fertile ground for innovative ideas and creativity.

 

 

Having trouble working with an introverted co-worker or team? Contact me and let’s discuss it.

The Subtle Art of Managing Up

the subtle art of managing up

If you’re looking to grow as a leader, expand your responsibilities, or create a better framework for your job, you may want to try managing up. Especially if you’re working for a boss who doesn’t invest much time in leadership, it’s a good idea to take the initiative to build leadership responsibilities into your current role.

What, exactly is managing up?

The Harvard Business Review defines it as, “being the most effective employee you can be, creating value for your boss and your company.” But it goes beyond that. Rosanne Badowski, co-author of Managing Up: How to Forge an Effective Relationship With Those Above You, says that when someone tells you to manage up, they are encouraging you to stretch yourself and go “above and beyond the tasks assigned to you so that you can enhance your manager’s work.”

When done in the right spirit, managing up aims to benefit you, your boss, and your company. It’s not about manipulation; it’s about filling a gap in your company’s framework and providing valuable services.

How do you start managing up?

First of all, start thinking in big-picture terms. Reflect on the company’s needs and how you can help fill them. This kind of thinking is akin to “CEO thinking.” As author John Baldini says, “You’re looking at the holistic point of view for what your department does and how it relates to the rest of your firm.” Pay attention and start to understand the processes and people that make your company successful and what obstacles are blocking potential success.

But careful not to step on any toes! Managing up does not mean taking over your boss’ responsibilities. Nor does it mean telling your supervisor what to do. It means educating, rather than intimidating. Strive to create an open dialogue with your boss and share your ideas.

Get to know who your manager is and what’s important to him. What successes led to his current role? What is his vision moving forward? What does he struggle with, that you may be able to help fulfill?

Part of managing up involves building trust between yourself and your superiors. This goes beyond simply turning in assignments on time or reaching sales goals. It means anticipating your manager’s needs and acting accordingly. It also means tracking your time, projects, and progress.

When you measure your efforts, it’s easier to report them to your boss or your work team during a meeting. It also demonstrates your willingness to carve out your own work experience by setting and achieving goals.

Remember: managing up isn’t always about leadership. Part of your responsibility as a valuable employee is to be an excellent follower when the situation arises. Carefully follow directions and ask clarifying questions, if need-be. Make sure you fully understand a project’s goal and the timeline. If you happen to disagree, for whatever reason, with your manager’s decision, make sure to voice your concerns tactfully. Ask questions to understand her reasoning before expressing disagreement.

Take initiative and aim to add value to your current position. Demonstrate your leadership and self-starting tendencies by effectively managing up. Remember to keep your heart in the right place and strive to enhance the workplace and support your boss, rather than manipulate.

 

Need help with your managing up strategy? Feel free to contact me and let’s figure out how to take your leadership to the next level.

How to Practice Self-Care to Enhance Leadership

Happy, healthy leader

Being a leader means you have to wear many hats, often catering to other people’s needs or juggling multiple projects at the same time. Leaders regularly feel pressured to put their team’s needs in front of their own, which can result in sacrificing their own wellbeing for the good of others.

While this kind of self-sacrifice may be fine on occasion, it has the potential to cause a lot of long-term damage.

As a leader, it is crucial to put time into your own care so you will be better equipped to help others and handle the pressures of your job. Actress Lucille Ball put it this way: “Love yourself first, and everything else falls in line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world.” I wholeheartedly agree. If you don’t take the time each and every day to care for yourself, how can you care for others?

Leaders who take the time to check in with themselves tend to be stronger, more resilient leaders. They manage stress better, are more productive, and more creative. A recent study co-directed by a management scientist at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio demonstrates that leadership governed by self-care is both effective and sustainable.

Here are several ideas to get you started down a path to better leadership:

1. Find a healthy routine:

Many successful leaders have regular routines, especially in the morning. Kick off the day with a refreshing walk, a meditation session, or even checking some minor to-dos off that never-ending list.

2. Get out into nature:

Even if you don’t have time for a hike each day, try moving your work outdoors when possible, or take your lunch outside. Many of us find ourselves stuck in a concrete jungle, but there are ways to bring a little nature into your day-to-day work. If the weather is nice, consider scheduling lunch meetings on an outdoor patio or move a one-on-one meeting outside.

And if you can’t often escape the office? Try putting some plants at your desk. Many plants are natural air purifiers; here’s a list of the top seven.

3. Nourish the body:

Not only should we eat the rainbow and avoid junk food, we should also keep moving our bodies as much as possible. Just like our bodies are not meant to eat processed foods, they aren’t meant to sit at a desk all day either. Set a timer to make sure you adjust positions or go for a quick jaunt every fifteen minutes. This can help you clear your head and think through a problem you may be stuck on. Our bodies and our minds are constantly screaming for our attention with each ache. Give them some love with movement and foods that nourish.

4. Create a culture of wellness:

Demonstrate the importance of self-care by being a wellness proponent. Hold lunch meetings with healthy food options, invest in standing desks for your staff, or host fitness challenges. When wellness is encouraged and embraced by your co-workers, it is easier to practice your own self-care.

5. Breathe:

When we are stressed, we tend to take very shallow breaths from our upper diaphragm instead of deep belly breaths. In our busy culture, we often deny ourselves full breaths. Try this breathing exercise from Dr. Andrew Weil. It is a great tool to use right away in the morning, before going to bed, or during any high-stress situations, like before a big presentation.

6. Create space:

Oftentimes, leaders feel like they must take on every project or task that comes across their desk. Overloading yourself with work isn’t good for the company (you likely won’t produce your best work when you’re juggling a million things at once) and it isn’t good for you. Have faith in your team and delegate tasks. Not only will this create more space for you, it will demonstrate that you trust your team to perform without your constant guidance.

7. Sleep:

Make your bedroom a sanctuary and use it to get a good night’s sleep every night. It is easy to prop up your laptop and answer emails until your eyelids are heavy, but that may disrupt your natural sleep-wake cycle. Try avoiding screen time and bright artificial lighting at least an hour before bed and keep devices out of the bedroom. Wind down with a relaxing bath and a good read (in the form of an actual book, not a device).

 

Become a better leader and a better YOU through self-care. What methods work for you? How will you improve your everyday wellness? If you would like help on starting a self-care routine and other tips on being a better leader, please contact me today.

 

What is Conscious Complaining?

conscious-complaining-bear

No one likes to be around a complainer. People who chronically complain can help create a toxic work or home environment with their constant negativity and glass-half-empty attitude. The problem is, it’s easy to do! Complaining gives us something to talk about (“Boy, traffic was terrible today” or “Can it get any colder out there?”) and allows us to vent our feelings.

But, at what cost?

As I discussed in last month’s newsletter on the science of gratitude, a constant negative attitude can lead to myriad health issues, including obesity, heart and circulatory complications, and mental health problems.

Complaining can also lead to confirmation bias, which Science Daily defines as “a tendency to search for or interpret information in a way that confirms one’s preconceptions.” In other words, if you view the world as a terrible place, you will likely ignore the good parts of it and focus on the bad.

A constant barrage of complaining in the workplace can promote a lack of productivity and innovation, downtrodden attitudes, and unhealthy relationships.[1] But, what is the alternative? Are we supposed to bottle our emotions and pretend that everything is fine?

Not at all. Letting out our feelings can be healthy, if it is done in a mindful way that is considerate of others. In her book, The Language of Emotion, author Karla McLaren encourages us to practice conscious complaining. She advises that we occasionally take time for ourselves to find a private space and speak our frustrations out loud. She even encourages setting up a “complaining shrine,” which can be as simple as some photos on a bulletin board that we can talk to about the things that are bothering us.

But not every negative thought has to come out as a complaint. Some frustrations can be turned around and viewed in a different light. When we do our best to see the good in every situation, complaining becomes less necessary. Author and professional speaker, Kevin Clayson, advises us to search for and think about the positive parts of bad situations. He says, “find the good within the bad. Find the blessing embedded in the hardship, the joy embedded in the despair, the success embedded in the failure. After a while, this search will become increasingly fruitful, as you begin to notice more and more things that you can consider amazing.”

Start building a positive mindset that you can carry into your office, your home, the bank, the grocery store. You have the power to search for the good buried within the bad. And if you must complain, do it consciously.

 

[1] Kjerulf, A. Top 10 Reasons Why Constant Complaining is so Toxic in the Workplace. The Chief Happiness Officer Blog. http://positivesharing.com/2007/08/top-10-reasons-why-constant-complaining-is-so-toxic-in-the-workplace/ (accessed 11.10.2016).

How to Communicate Bad News

how to deliver bad news

Whether in your personal or professional life, you’ve likely had to deliver bad news to another person. How did the task make you feel? Did you try to avoid the conversation at all costs? Did the thought of the person’s reaction (or even retaliation) fill you with dread?

Communicating negative news to someone else is never fun, but it doesn’t have to be anxiety-inducing! It is possible to approach a delicate topic with sensitivity, poise, and an action plan.

As a business consult, I often go into companies and help them organize and improve their operations. Although that sounds impersonal, sometimes it involves pinpointing inefficiencies in certain departments or even certain people. And that’s very personal! A negative report can lead to the restructuring of a department or shuffling of personnel. In the process, some people might be let go or put on ultimatum.

As someone who has had many first-hand experiences with tough conversations, here are my five crucial steps to effectively communicating bad news:

1. Employ an appropriate delivery method

You’ll want to properly set the stage for communicating your bad news. Oftentimes, that means meeting face-to-face in a quiet location, preferably in a private office or conference room. It’s rarely appropriate to send bad news via email or even over the phone—the only exception is if you’re working with a long-distance client or staff member who cannot easily come into the office. Even in those circumstances you can still create a positive atmosphere by purposely setting aside time for the phone call and placing the call in a quiet space which won’t be disturbed.

2. Review the approach

Don’t go into your meeting without thinking over your approach. Consider how best to frame the news. I have found that candidly laying out a roadmap for the meeting can be effective for setting the tone. It’s also a good idea to encourage the other person to enter into a dialogue, so that they don’t close themselves off or disengage from what you’re trying to tell them. For instance:

“Thank you for meeting me today, Jane. I would like to go over some of the struggles your team is having with XYZ project and some of the ways we might be able to solve these issues. But first, I’d like to hear your take on this. Have you noticed any areas of difficulty with your team lately?”

Of course, not every conversation will warrant feedback from the other person. In those cases, your approach will be adjusted to be more of a delivery than a dialogue.

3. Cite external sources, when possible

If you have statistics or studies to back up your bad news, use them! Evidence will help the other person understand the reasoning behind the negative news. Citing external sources also helps to take the focus off of you and redirect it to the bigger picture. It makes a decision seem less personal and more evidence-driven (which it should be!).

4. Craft your message with sensitivity

Before you have your meeting, take a few minutes to step inside the other person’s shoes and think about how they might receive the news. What can you say to soften the blow? What positive messages can you work into an unfortunate situation? Consider how you can show the recipient that you truly care about them and their success, no matter how difficult the situation may be. Make sure that whatever you say is heartfelt and sincere.

Be sure to explain the reasons behind an action. If you do not, you’ll be doing the other person a disservice and they will likely leave the meeting confused and angry.

5. Prepare recommended courses of action

If you have to fire someone or downsize their department or cut the yearly budget, be sure to have an action plan that can help that individual (or team) move forward in a positive, productive way. Recommend specific resources and next-steps that will help ease the blow.

This step is the true focus of the meeting. Deliver the news as sensitively as possibly, then discuss how to move forward. If you don’t, the recipient of the news will likely be left reeling and wondering where to go next. Show that you genuinely care about their wellbeing by providing thoughtful, detailed courses of action.

 

Delivering bad news is an unfortunate part of leadership, but it doesn’t have to debilitate or overwhelm you. Tough decisions have to be made for the good of the company and occasionally that means certain individuals or departments will take a blow. Put your empathetic skills to work and ease the sting of a difficult conversation.

Need further guidance? Contact me today.

Winter is Coming…So What?

 

winter

The leaves are on the trees, the sun is shining and the kids are barely back to school. Yet, the agony of winter looms large. Anyone who lives in a four season climate knows all too well the constant chatter surrounding the weather, especially winter. But I have an idea: How about we enjoy the rest of summer and fall first?

There is something to be said about being in the present instead of constantly worrying about the future. A present mindset can help ease anxiety and keep us more focused. “Ordinary thoughts course through our mind like a deafening waterfall,” writes Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD, a biomedical scientist who introduced meditation into mainstream medicine. He says we need to “rest in stillness—to stop doing and focus on just being.”

Of course this can be difficult to manage when we are surrounded by the future. The stores are already stocking the shelves with Christmas décor and your family can’t stop talking about how much snow to expect this year. But you can cut through the noise with some of these helpful tips on mindfulness and being present.

1. Start each day with a relaxing ritual that you enjoy.

A cup of tea, a bike ride, yoga, or even 15 minutes of meditation can help focus your mind so you are ready to face the day. A great app to get started on simple meditation techniques is Headspace.

2. Breathe.

Just the simple of act of taking a few breaths can help ease fears and scattering thoughts by bringing you back to the present moment. Dr. Andrew Weil offers an easy breathing exercise that is helpful for calming both the mind and body.

3. Take a digital break.

We get so wrapped up in distracting ourselves with smartphones and television that we forget to listen to our bodies. This causes us to think of anything but the present state of things. When you have a little break in between tasks, instead of filling it with Facebook, try just sitting and observing your thoughts and how your body feels in the moment.

4. End your day in a peaceful way.

Playing on your phone or working until bedtime can make good sleep hard to come by. This can throw you off balance for the day ahead and make it difficult to keep stressful thoughts at bay. Take an Epsom salt bath with a few drops of lavender essential oil. Read a good book. Journal about your day. Anything to keep your mind calm and ready for a good night’s sleep.

While it is good practice to dream and look down the road of the future, it is also important to enjoy the present. Bring on the snow, I say. Until then, I’ll be busy taking breaks to sip my tea and watch the leaves change color.

 

If you would like to talk more about how to be present in both your career and your life, contact me.

Stop the Micromanaging Madness

Micromanage

Have you ever worked with a manager whose main approach to leadership was “my way or the highway?” Every decision you made, every project you worked on was carefully scrutinized. And there was the constant feeling of someone looking over your shoulder, waiting for you to make a mistake.

I know I’ve experienced leadership like that! When I was leading a fundraising team for a major organization, one of my managers constantly held me under his thumb, sometimes forcing me to make decisions regarding my team that I didn’t want to make. He didn’t trust me—or anyone, for that matter—to take action without his input. This atmosphere of distrust and restriction made it difficult to go to work every day. How can anyone do their job when they are immersed in such a toxic and demeaning environment?

I realize, of course, that not every micro-manager is a power-hungry bully that likes to exert dominance over his staff. Many micro-managers are well-intentioned and take great pride in every detail of their work. After all, it’s their name on the line, right?

No matter the intention, the outcome is the same. Micro-managing causes more harm than good. According to an article by Christina Bielaszka-DuVernay of the Harvard Business Review, “A consistent pattern of micromanagement tells an employee you don’t trust his work or his judgment; it is a major factor in triggering disengagement.” The article goes on to cite evidence from Gallup Press that “absenteeism caused by disengagement costs a typical 10,000-person company $600,000 a year in salary for days where no work was performed, and that ‘disengagement-driven turnover costs most sizable businesses millions every year.’”

Do you want to avoid alienating your team and causing so much dread that they scatter like flies every time you come around the corner? Stop micromanaging with these tips:

 

Put down the hover board.

No one wants to be checked up on every hour of the day. Think about what a time waster you are being—and time does equal money. Learn to trust your employees with the tasks you give them and set clear expectations. Encourage them to communicate with you on their progress—at their own discretion.

Listen.

Get to know what makes your employees tick. Set up individual meetings to understand their working preferences and match them to projects well suited to their interests and strengths. It will keep them engaged while also helping to ease your mind.

Learn to delegate.

It’s impossible to control every little detail of your department; trust your team to help you get the work done. Your job is to see the big picture and set the vision for success. If your staff has been appropriately trained, chances are they will be able to handle the work independently and will appreciate you giving them opportunities to shine. If something goes wrong, that will be a far better learning ground than if you micro-manage and constantly tell staff what may go wrong with any of their planned approaches. By delegating, you have more time to accomplish your own tasks and your staff will become more proficient—a win/win situation!

Appreciate diversity of thought.

Be aware that your team might approach a project differently than you would or produce different results. That’s okay! There is often more than one correct way to complete a project or task and it’s helpful—not harmful—to have a diverse set of perspectives.

Provide feedback and praise.

If you are always on the lookout for mistakes, your team will quickly feel stifled and defeated, and productivity will likely cease. See the positives in each of your employees and let them know when they are doing a solid job. If there is a situation where an employee is not meeting expectations, sit down with them and take the time to figure out what is going on.

 

Micromanaging is no way to build a great team and work environment. Refocus your management style by utilizing these tips and start building trust and confidence in your leadership.

 

Have you manifested into a micromanager? Contact me for help on turning you into a manager that leads!