What Your Boss Really Hears

A recent review got me thinking. The way I talk to my bosses has changed a lot over the last few years. A lot. I’ve learned the hard way that speaking instinctively doesn’t work. Knee-jerk responses are rarely good strategy.

 

For example, when you say: “I couldn’t help it! I tried my best!”

Your boss really hears: “I can’t help failing in this situation, so I’ll fail again next time.”

“We can’t really help our numbers. We’ve inherited a tough situation.”

Really means: “You’ll have to find another employee who is solution-oriented, not problem-oriented.”

“This change sucks! I liked it the old way!”

“I’m focusing on what I’m losing, not on what I could gain from this. I’m going to be no help from now on.”

“I’m done with all my stuff–there’s nothing else I can do.”

“Don’t trust me to innovate and be independent. I can’t come up with any ideas of my own, and I’m blind to the fact that there’s always more that can be done.”

“I have so much going on, I totally forgot about that.”

“I’m not organized enough, so I’ll forget more things.”

“I’m just having one of those days, you know?”

“I don’t have enough self-control. You’re going to have to light a fire under me or find someone with a better work ethic.”

“Here’s what happened: [This, that, and the other thing] happened to me, so [bad thing] ended up happening.”

“I see myself as a victim of situations, so you cannot trust me to take responsibility and make sure the right thing happens from now on.”

“I just can’t work well with that person. I really don’t like him. He’s really annoying.”

“I’m not a team player, and I’m not very friendly.”

“I’m sorry about today, I just have a bunch of personal stuff going on.”

“I can’t keep work and personal issues separate. You can expect poor performance whenever personal issues come up.”

“I’m sorry, I keep sleeping through my alarm!”

“I can’t be bothered to go to bed earlier or get a louder alarm. You’re going to have to deal with it.”

“That’s not my job.”

“I will always insist on doing the bare minimum in my job description. You’re the manager, it’s your problem.”

“That’s way outside my comfort zone, is there someone else who can do it?”

“I don’t look for ways to grow. Surely you have a more valuable employee you can ask.”

“That’s impossible. Nobody can do that!”

“I’m too small for this task. You need a bigger person.”

 

It’s not that your boss can’t sympathize when you’re having a tough time. And it’s not that mistakes aren’t okay. The point is, taking ownership of  situations, mistakes, problems, challenges, results, for you and your team–that, and only that, communicates a positive message about you to your boss.

In fact, sometimes all it takes is adding one sentence, and your boss couldn’t be happier: “I have so much going on, I totally forgot about that.” Plus: “I’m sorry. I’ll get more organized today and make sure I’m keeping tabs on everything I need to get done.”

 

What else do you say, or hear your co-workers say, that really doesn’t get the results intended? How could you approach things differently?

Moral of the story: Before you open your mouth, listen to yourself from your leader’s perspective.

Do You Make These 5 Mistakes When Faced with Change?

How do you deal with change? It’s important to think about, because change will inevitably happen. And it seems the most natural response of almost everybody is to cry doom and gloom.

So what do you do when your organization rolls out changes?

Most people I’ve seen face organizational changes in strategies, goals, or systems, immediately fall into these 5 behaviors–behaviors that bring down themselves and their teams, and can even destroy entire organizations. The behaviors are based on an emotional, knee-jerk reaction of fear. Not on an ambitious spirit of practicality and innovation.

So if you do these things, stop.

 

Waste time being sad about the change: Using your time and energy to regret the changes, sitting around comparing the old with the new–it doesn’t help. All it does is demotivate you and make it that much harder to finally accept the change and move forward.

Instead, get absolutely pumped: Whether you agree with the change or not, big changes provide all kinds of big opportunities to shine. You can decide to quickly become one of your team’s MVPs by taking the lead and running with the change instead of giving up hope.

Tell your boss it’s not going to work: Your boss is already stressed out by the fact that he has to run a new system his people hate. Your boss might not like the change either, but more than anything he needs people to decide to run with it. Complain to your boss, and all he hears is, “I can’t and I won’t get results for you anymore.”

Instead, be your boss’s right hand man: Responding to change with an enthusiastic, “Let’s do this!” immediately makes you a huge asset to your boss. Not only does he not have to worry about you, he will trust you and give you more responsibilities and opportunities. You’re the first one on his new team.

Talk negatively about the change with your team: This one has the potential to do a lot more damage than any of the others, because it’s not just you who will suffer from it. Grand initiatives have been destroyed by grumbling employees. They demotivate each other, encourage insubordination, create a war with the leadership, and even tell customers and clients that something’s going wrong.

Instead, lead the positive chatter: Your success is directly tied to your team’s, so it is in your best interests not only to run with the change yourself, but also to get your doubting team on board as quick as you can. Speak only positively. Your loyalty will get you paid, you’ll be seen as a leader, and hopefully you’ll help get your team back on the right track.

Keep using the old system: It’s just stupid. And it’s mind-boggling how much people do it. If you’re not supposed to do it that way any more, don’t do it. Nobody is going to be proud of you and give you a raise.

Instead, make yourself a leading expert in the new system: Take advantage of the opportunity to become one of the first people to excel and get results with the change. Your team and leaders will need and appreciate you more.

Focus on what you’re losing: No amount of regret will get back whatever you liked about your old system. It’s gone. Focusing on what you’re losing will only bring you down.

Instead, figure out what you can gain and go get it! Hiding in the change are probably a lot of pluses nobody has thought about because they’re all busy being depressed. Learn the new system, figure out how you’re going to end up even better for it, and take action!

 

Even if you know better than the leaders who made the changes, there is absolutely nothing about undermining or criticizing your organization that will benefit you as long as you’re there. If you have to leave, leave. But as long as you’re there, take advantage of the opportunity to stand out and figure out how to make more money, do more for your resume, and get a better reputation out of the change.

(P.S. What if you applied the same ideas to your personal life???)

Getting Paid: Smarts or Results?

One of the toughest lessons to learn during my first couple years in the business world was that nobody gave a damn about how great I did in school or how high my IQ was.

But when I finally came to terms with the fact that you’re paid for results, not smarts, the promotions, raises, and bonuses kicked into high gear.

I think the biggest weakness in our current education system is the set of expectations it gives students about their post-high-school or post-college life. Their GPA is their golden ticket. They’re given the impression that straight A’s will give them a free ride to a big paycheck for the rest of their lives.

But it’s just not true.

No company is looking for a genius to pat on the back. Companies look for profit.

Case in point: I went straight into the business world out of high school (a decision I am incredibly happy I made). At the end of high school my test scores put me in the very top percentile nationwide. So I knew that the working world would be a breeze.

I knew more than all my counterparts. I spoke and wrote better English, read graphs better, calculated budgets better–I was just smarter! I could sound impressive to any corporate leader and I could intimidate any team member. I understood how the business was supposed to work. Bottom line: I was sure I knew better. Better than my employees, better than my managers, better than the customers!

And where book smarts were concerned, I did. I could out-theorize any and everybody at my company. But guess what I couldn’t do: Get results. Real productivity was my downfall.

I wasn’t productive because all my brilliant theory made me such an idealist I refused to effectively use the system as long as it was broken (hint: it’s forever). I wasn’t productive because I was so distracted with the Why, What, and How, that I never balanced it out with the Do. I wasn’t productive because my education left me wanting to be recognized and rewarded by my company for being smart and good, not for growing their profit and getting results.

But a company’s bottom line is money. And if the high school drop-out with the tattoo gets more done for the company than I do, he gets paid more. If the company’s P&L looks better after his shift than after mine, he gets promoted. Not me.

At first this made me bitter. I felt like I was at a disadvantage because I had such deep care and understanding of business ideals. I was distracted with what wasn’t perfect while my less educated co-worker was happily using a flawed system to churn out numbers. Results.

After a couple years and a few good business books I accepted that the real world with a lot of money wasn’t made up of geniuses who insisted on doing everything their (brilliant) way. The money world is made up of people who figure out how to bring in more dollars.

In the real world, you’re paid for results. Period.

I started applying that to work. It meant I had to start doing a lot of uncomfortable things. Getting out of my comfort zone when I didn’t feel ready. Looking for sales in counterintuitive places. Collaborating with co-workers I used to think brought me down.

I learned to set exact, measurable goals and commit to figuring out whatever it took to get there. I learned to be a problem-solver, not a dreamer. I learned to innovate, not complain. I learned to be creative, not outsmart harsh reality.

What Your Teachers Don’t Tell You

Here’s the problem with the way we’re raising our kids and planning our education system: After school, your GPA just doesn’t matter.

Students are pushed incredibly hard to make good grades their top priority. They’re told the way to be confident about a happy and successful future is to study their way to the top.

But when they graduate and go in for their first interview, they suddenly have to deal with the fact that the recruiter is going to pick the mid-level student with more experience and workplace accomplishments. They finally get hired somewhere and find out that their manager doesn’t care how much theory they know, they just want to see numbers rising.

Of course there’s a balance. Having a good grasp of the theory and subjects like mathematics, economics, accounting, business, etc–that can certainly help if you approach things right.

But approaching things from the perspective that your 4.0 GPA translates to being an automatic top performer is a recipe for failure and frustration.

Thomas J. Stanley, Ph.D. spent years researching, surveying, and interviewing America’s first-generation self-made millionaires. He used the data to write a few books, my personal favorite of which is The Millionaire Mind. In it, he dedicates an entire 50-page chapter to examining statistical correlations between now-millionaires’ school experiences and their later success. It’s a fascinating read, and it explains that not only does quality of traditional schooling correlate very little with success in the business world, but in fact many of the millionaires he interviewed said that their weak performance and sense of inferiority in school drove them to create their own success. Most said that their focus on social skills, creative activities, and a hard work ethic (which not all geniuses feel the need to develop in school) as opposed to homework and academics later gave them an edge in the business world.

“Millionaires also report,” Stanley writes, “that they were not A students in college. In fact, only about three in ten reported receiving a greater percentage of As than either Bs, Cs, Ds, or Fs. About 90 percent graduated from college. Overall, their GPA was 2.9–good but not outstanding.”

So sure, school is important. But it’s important for a variety of reasons, and the number one reason is definitely not that your top tier grades will guarantee you a top tier paycheck in the business world.

What education do you really need to thrive in the real world? What skills really need to be learned? Creativity. Thinking outside the box. Problem-solving. Developing vision and goals. Social skills. Personal motivation and work ethic. Networking. Leadership. Determination.

It is qualities like those that will write you a big paycheck. Not a high IQ.

My first job was at a restaurant. I was a brilliant student with big ideas and a lot of knowledge and strategy. And I worked with a single mom who spoke almost no English and had just moved up Columbia. I complained, worried, excused, and dreamed. She put an apron on and worked her ass off. I was frustrated with customers and co-workers. She made her customers and co-workers happy. I tried to get paid for being smart and educated. She got paid for real results.

Guess who got paid more.

5 Reasons I’m Setting Goals Again in 2015

“If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favorable.” – Lucius Annaeus Seneca

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Happy new year!

For the first time, I really set goals in 2014. Real goals. Not just vague resolutions. Solid, specific goals. More like commitments. And it worked. Better than I thought possible.

Sure, everyone makes some vague, hopeful, desperate “New Year’s Resolutions.” But I’m talking about setting real goals. Writing them down. Getting really serious.

In 2006, USA Today did a study of people who had set New Year’s resolutions. They separated the people who had simply thought of their goals and the people who had actually written them down as a concrete commitment. At the end of the year, only 4% of those who simply stated their resolutions had kept them. But 44% of the ones who had written down their goals had accomplished them.

Why is it that getting serious about goals make such a big difference?

1. Goals Increase Clarity and Focus

In his book, Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World, Michael Hyatt writes: “Most people don’t bother to write down their goals. Instead, they drift through life aimlessly, wondering why their life lacks purpose and significance.”

One of the biggest benefits of creating and following specific goals is that it gives you clarity and focus, in the moment and over a long period of time.

It is virtually impossible to make progress when you do not know your target. Progress is slow when your target is vague and fuzzy. And there are endless distractions around you to steal your attention. But when you carefully define your goals your target is as clear as can be, distractions are obvious, and you can easily determine the next steps you should take.

2. Goals Increase Motivation and Urgency

When you daydream, the wish is there. There is even a little motivation. But daydreams are weak.

If instead you have written out exactly what you expect of yourself, in no uncertain terms, the motivation comes much easier. I committed to this, you say. This was my plan. I know exactly where I am going. All I have to do is keep walking.

A thoroughly planned goal is also scheduled. You determine when you want it accomplished. The excitement of the desired result and the the time limit you set together push you to work quickly, with focus and efficiency.

3. Goals Enable Accountability and Self-Management

I suspect this is the reason most people pretend they are not yet ready for goals or aware of their power: Goals mean being accountable, even if only to yourself.

By writing down goals, you set up for yourself a certain kind of accountability. You have a yardstick by which to measure your productivity and effectiveness. I told myself I would do this thing before that day.

Think of setting and reviewing goals as a personal manager’s meeting. And don’t be afraid to invite others–the more accountability, the better. And the more you can share your enthusiasm, the better, too.

4. Goals Keep You on Track When Things Get Hard

When you struggle with discouragement, lack of confidence, and life’s rough patches, daydreams carry no power. But if you have determined your goals, you have two boosters to keep you going: You promised yourself you would do the work. And you know the result of accomplishing the goal will be exactly what you need and want.

5. Goals Make Big Things Happen

By increasing your clarity and focus, your motivation and urgency, your self-management and accountability, and your inspiration to keep going even when you don’t feel like it, goals maximize your productivity–they make big things happen!

“The very act of taking the time to decide what you really want in each area of your life can change your life completely,” says Brian Tracy.

Do you want to accomplish big things? Then set goals, follow them, review them, adjust them if necessary, complete them, and then set some more.

Let Go

“For peace of mind, we need to resign as general manager of the universe.” – Larry Eisenberg

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Letting go–one of the hardest things in life… and possibly what you need the most…

Have you ever noticed that after a week or two off work (maybe between jobs or on vacation), your head gets clearer and you’re more in touch with yourself? You start to rediscover your dreams and desires…

But once you’re back to work, slowly but surely you slip back into mindlessness. You feel out of touch. Confused, distracted, a little panicked…

I think it’s because there’s this silly natural impulse (without which we’d probably be in big trouble) to keep tabs on everything in our lives… make sure we remember this friend, that bill, this idea, that project, this event, that deadline, this plan, that voicemail…

Sure it’s good to be responsible. But we let it get out of hand.

We let our need to be in control take over our life. Suddenly, our real selves are nowhere to be found, and our over-stressed, over-analytical, over-worked, overwhelmed selves are now making our decisions and dictating our moods.

It’s kind of like when your hard drive gets so full of clutter, your computer slows down and you have to delete (“let go of”) a bunch of files. Or, if you’re living in the 21st century and no longer store files on your hard drive–it’s like when your phone has too many apps running and updating and too many pix saved and you realize you need to clean it out and start fresh, before your phone works itself to death.

We all need that time off–that vacation–from all the worries, details, tasks, reminders, meetings, bills, appointments. We all need time off from the STUFF to clear our heads.

Problem is, for some of us, picking up and leaving town for 2 weeks every month just isn’t an option.

So here’s what I’ve been working on. Here’s been my fix.

Just. Let. Go.

Start by letting go of your current task. Why? Because finishing it won’t get you anywhere but to the next task on your infinite list.

Then let go of your worry about that task. Really! You can return that call or write that proposal after an hour or two, and you’ll probably survive.

Then let go of your worry about “all the other things” in the back of your mind.

Then let go of your worry about the things that you can’t remember but you know are there. If they’re vital, they’ll remind you of their existence eventually.

At this point, you should be realizing some of the extent to which you’ve literally gone insane.

Now it’s time to let go of your worry about the state of your own mind.

See, life is never going to be perfect. You’re never going to be done with all your work and your plans. You’re never going to be finished. There will always be more.

So either you MAKE a break for yourself now and then, or you let the hours upon hours, days upon days, and years upon years of non-stop full speed ahead break your spirit and leave you unproductive and unhappy.

The way to stay sane and happy (which we all know is a must for sustainable productivity and high performance) is to LET yourself LET GO of things now and then.

And it’s not just tasks. It’s your mind, too. Your heart.

Your emotions. Your fears and needs. Your stress. Your arguments, inside and out. Your impatience in life.

See, self-awareness is great, but only in moderation.

Every once in a while, we’ve got to LET GO of our worries and just TRUST…

Because if we don’t, we’re killing ourselves…

Like I said–letting go (“trust”) is one of the hardest things you’ll ever do.

But when you do, the peace you’ll feel and the refueling you’ll experience will prove to you that it’s exactly what you’ve needed.

And trust isn’t just for certain special people. I don’t care what you believe about life and the world, about destiny, luck, or calling. Because whether you believe in a god who holds you in his hands, a world in which the fittest survive without help, a unified reality where physical is only a reflection of a spiritual symphony–whether you’re Buddhist, Muslim, Christian, Atheist, Taoist…

Whatever your vision of the world is, there is something to trust. Whether you trust a god, destiny, a mechanism, or yourself, living a life of panic just doesn’t make sense.

In any version of reality, taking time to let go just makes sense. Driving yourself insane with worry and overwhelming responsibility doesn’t make any sense at all.

So whoever you are, if like everyone else on this earth, you struggle with worry, with stress, with the fact that there’s just TOO MUCH going on,

LET GO!

Rest.

Refuel.

Trust.

Let go…

Reality will be reality, and there’s nothing you can do about it. Trust it and live life to the fullest instead. :)

“For peace of mind, we need to resign as general manager of the universe.” – Larry Eisenberg