I love listening to podcasts, especially when I am doing mundane household chores – it makes the time fly by.
The last podcast I listened to really blew my mind. It was author Terri Cole speaking about boundaries (she has a new book out called Boundary Boss, which I am going to buy).
You’re aware of boundaries and that you need to have them for a healthy and successful life brimming with well-being (of course you are, you are brilliant); this is not news.
However, the part that blew my mind, the part that is “news”, is the importance of exercising your boundaries, even when the answer is likely “no” (I'm not talking about non-negotiable boundaries here, those that support your safety, but about the ones that showcase your negotiable needs).
Let me explain.
I have needs and wants that aren’t necessarily compatible with those of others, we all do. In life and work there is a lot of compromise you need to navigate. This is where boundaries get really tricky, and by tricky, I mean they can easily become eroded.
Eroded boundaries mean you do not use your voice. Eroded boundaries mean you do not make your needs/wants clearly known to others.
According to Cole, knowing your needs is important, but that isn’t sufficient to have good boundaries. You need to make the request, have the difficult conversation, to put your healthy boundaries into play. Only then do they support you in a meaningful way.
This is the boundary issue that is costing your career real dollars. I’ll give you an example.
You feel you should be considered for a salary increase at work. However, your organization has indicated there would be no increases this year for economic reasons.
In light of this, it would be very easy to abandon your plans to ask for a salary review, BUT that would be an eroded boundary.
Boundaries you hold need to be referenced even when you know you may not get the result you desire.
It works like this, if you feel you are worthy of a salary review, asking for one (regardless of the outcome) is the way to hold your boundary, as long as you are also able to accept the other party may not be able to action this request.
The critical step here is to have the conversation, even knowing you may not get the raise. Why is this important? In asking, you are signalling that you have a sense of self-worth and whether you get that raise or not, your manager is now in a much better position to know, and in time support, your career and work needs.
When done thoughtfully, rather than annoying your boss, this critical act helps them to better support you. This is true if you are asking for a salary review, a professional development activity, help with workload or wanting more challenging assignments.
It’s the same “boundary muscle” you need to exercise in all those examples.
I can also tell you (as a former HR professional), even when organizations say they have a salary freeze on, unless your organization is truly going bankrupt, there are always a few key players who get a salary review (and it’s most often the people who ask for it).
Of course, you would not go marching into your bosses’ space and demand a raise. A health boundary means you ask your boss for the opportunity to discuss your work performance and share all the great examples of how your work contributes to your teams’, or organizations’, success. In light of that, and even though there is a salary freeze on, you’d like to be considered for a salary review now, so in the future (when the salary freeze comes off) you can be considered for an increase.
Even if you and your boss disagree on a change to your salary today, you’ll get much needed insight and feedback putting you in a better position to be considered for review next time (if you go in with an open mind and you trust your boss).
This is how a boundary supports your career and ensures you don’t leave money on the table at work.
These boundary conversations at work are absolutely necessary to support your long-term career happiness and overall well-being (i.e. your dream career). It’s not about getting the raise; it’s about advocating for one. If you do that consistently for all your reasonable needs at work, you may not always get what you want, but you just might find you get what you need.
Spring ushers in some wonderful changes. More hours of daylight, flowers …professional development planning.
Most organizations collect this information early on in the calendar year, to match their budgeting cycle. You may have recently been asked what kind of professional development you’d like over the next year, staring at a blinking cursor trying to think about what you wanted to put into your development plan. This is a critical career step.
If you’re having difficulty figuring out what you want to do for development you are in good company, most professionals aren’t intentional about planning for their career wellbeing and success. Aside from planning often being attached to performance management (a mildly to wildly stressful event), there is a deadline to submit development planning which assumes you immediately know what you need. At some points in your career you do, and at other points its more difficult.
There is good and bad news here. Learning and development as a field has come a long way since you first came into the workforce (good), but most organizations haven’t kept pace (bad) - organizations invest in a variety of development offerings and hope for the best; this is so widespread it has a nickname, it’s called “spray and pray”. So, there is often little thought or intentional business planning behind professional development investments at most organizations, which translates into a lack of meaningful guidance for you …so if you want to complete that development plan form you need know what you want to develop, with or without your employers’ help.
Adding to this, a modern approach to development for mid-career professionals requires more specialization to expressly meet both your development needs and your employer’s business needs (value-add).
Value-add development looks like this:
Where can you find a development program that can do all that?
I’ll tell you in a minute, but first if you’re struggling to identify career development activities it is likely because you care a lot about your organization and you want development to be a good investment for both of you; while going off for a three-day learning event is exciting, rarely do you come back to the office and leverage what you learned (zero to minimal value-add), which can feel unethical and doesn’t align with your values (it’s not your ability to learn, this is the impact of “spray and pray” development). So, you may have reduced what you ask for in your development plan because you know it’s not a great investment for your organization. But what about your career?
Did you know that professional development budgets are often the most underutilized budgets in organizations (even though training investment has increased significantly in organizations year-over-year since the early 2000’s in North America)? The unspent dollars get used as a slush fund for unexpected budget over-runs, or works on a “use it or lose it” approach where it’s budgeted by quarter and any unused funds at the end of the quarter go back into the pot to be consumed elsewhere.
Critical skills and mandatory training aside, the longer in the year you wait to ask for professional development, the less chance there will be money (or the will) to approve it, particularly in for-profit organizations.
I promised to tell you what type of development program can meet both your career needs AND provide instant benefit to your employers (value-add). Here it is: it’s coaching. For the same price as that 3-day off-site learning event, coaching gives you everything you need without the ethical hangover. And, since coaching is exclusively focused on your developmental objectives, it builds your skill while also providing claer value-add for your employers – that’s right, employers, plural. What you develop doesn’t just benefit your employer today, but every employer you have in the future as well.
So, here is the strategic step you take: ask for coaching on that development planning form.
What is the worst that could happen? They politely say “no”?
Don’t leave it up to your employer to be the deciding factor in investing …in yourself. It’s your career, and if your employer won’t (or can’t) invest in you at the level your career needs today, don’t wait.
Professionals who invest in themselves through developmental coaching are more likely to be considered for:
To give you an example, coaching is what moved many of my clients from five figures to six in their careers (while doing work they love). Professionals who invest in career coaching also have more employment options over their career-span, meaning their income has more “future-proofing”.
You are the best investment you will ever make, take this critical step.
Would you like to know the single biggest mistake I made in my career?
Waited for the right opportunity to speak-up in meetings. Waited for my boss to notice my work. Waited for my organization to invest in developing me.
Can you relate to the wait? We all do it, but do you need to?
Here are 3 things that may keep you stuck waiting:
So, what's the opposite of waiting?
It’s the brave career.
The reality is, opportunities go to those who don’t have “wait” as a default setting; professionals who are brave, who use waiting strategically and make the right moves, for the right reasons at the right time in the right ways.
These professionals enjoy their dream careers because they know three vital things:
I have my dream career today, I make a meaningful and positive difference in other people’s lives every single day, but what if I hadn’t waited? What if I had invested in myself sooner? How many more people could I have helped then?
Honestly, sometimes that keeps me up at night.
Learn from my biggest career mistake, don’t wait; the time is now to be brave with your career and make the investments you need to bring all your amazing gifts into the world.
That’s the dream, right?
You deserve your dream career.
I’m not going to lie; I LOVE not having to commute to an office.
Since the beginning of the pandemic my productivity has gone up a lot, and that isn’t just busy-ness, that is solid value-add; I can support even more client’s and their career aspirations when I’m not on the road (and searching for parking) 2+ hours a day.
This was a big AH-HA for many professionals during this unprecedented circumstance.
However, there is an ugly back-spin to this virtual world, and it comes at the expense of your well-being.
You are given less opportunity to be playful at work.
No joking around in the coffee room, no being pleasantly surprised when your boss decides to participate in “ugly sweater day” (and then really commits to wearing the most tragic of sweaters for the whole day, even in client meetings).
Even when your organization offers these opportunities for play while working remotely, you may not be interacting with your boss that day via video conference, and hearing about their ugly sweater on a Teams chat is not the same as seeing your boss walking around the office in outrageously clashing colors.
You just don’t have the same access to play at work that you did while in the office AND, play is really important for your career:
Feeling isolated at work? When was the last time you played?
You can create play for yourself by taking breaks and looking for light-heartedness in other ways; I've never watched more quick video clips of stand-up comedy throughout the day then I have during the pandemic as a way to get a genuine laugh during my work day.
But what is really needed to blast feeling isolated or depleted is shared fun with your team-mates.
Here are some options to consider bringing to your virtual workplace:
Having more fun at work is an important (though often over-looked) way to more deeply connect to what you do and who you do it with …and now that we have seen more of each other’s pets, families, interior décor and lounge-wear then we ever thought we would, maybe it’s OK to spend more time being a little silly on-line together too.
I took a dream job at a big global company. Up to that point I had worked in increasingly larger organizations, but their smaller size (less than 1,000 employees) meant they all shared two things: They had a lot of heart, and they were under-resourced. I was not getting the opportunities I was looking for to develop my career. I had great experiences at all of them, but I wasn’t growing.
I LOVED my time at the big global company, they were a fantastic organization, but there was one flaw in the dream: I had an invisible boss.
Not only was my boss located in another country (same time zone, thankfully), but they were an incredibly busy person, completely consumed by meetings and travel, almost never in the office and juggling many competing demands. I learned two things really quickly:
It was a big disappointment to me, because I’d purposefully targeted what I thought was a resource-rich environment for development. Looking back on it, having to find ways to thrive in that circumstance was an opportunity for career development in itself. I learned a lot of things, but here are the 2 key take-aways that helped me to thrive with an “invisible” manager:
I credit my time in that organization with helping me build skills and awareness that still support me in what I do today (even though what I do now is very different). Which points to the importance of finding, and using, ongoing coaching (formal and informal) as a way to keep your stress levels down, and your professional effectiveness at peak performance.
Of course, back then, career coaching wasn’t a thing. Looking back, I would have invested in a coaching program (if one had been available) as another way to thrive in an unwelcome circumstance because the big investment I was making in moving to that multi-national was in myself, and I knew I was a great investment.
And so are you.
What’s the one thing in your job you could lose that would make you a very happy professional? And how would it feel to never have to do that task again? Go on, dream a little bit.
Hold on to that vision, because there are clear ways to step out of work you are bored with today. But, before we go there, let’s look at some the excellent reasons you should move away from tasks you’ve “out-grown” at work:
Full disclosure, there will always be routine work in every job that isn’t exciting to do; the goal is not to get to 100% juicy work (80/20 is a more realistic split). The goal is to ensure you highlight your skills and readiness to support increased value-add work so both you and your organization can benefit.
So, have you identified one or two things you’d be happy to lose from your job description? Here’s how to do just that:
All of these options can help you move boring things off your plate at work, but the most important part to getting this done is making sure you have a strategic upside to offer. Demonstrating to your manager what value-add you can bring to other critical work (or how you can take on more of the challenging work you have today) is key. Here again, you’ll want to highlight the opportunities for the business in considering this change, keeping it de-personalized and ego-less.
It’s important to shine a light on the work you do from time to time and evaluate if it is the best use of your evolving talents and skills. If you think your boss is doing this, keep in mind how busy they are…do they really get the “thinking” time needed to assess if everyone is optimized in their roles? Not likely. You need to advocate for yourself, or risk letting this happen by chance. Of course, if you have really bright co-workers with lots of potential who advocate for themselves than even chance won’t help you.
Think about it; what is the worst that could happen in advocating for what you know you are ready to do?
Innovation is the key to staying relevant. That is true in technology, services and products and it is also true in your career.
However, innovation also requires you to do old things in new ways or try new things you’ve never done before. This can be hard to do.
From a career perspective it means being flexible and open to new ideas and ways of working. We were all tested on this with the pandemic when (overnight) we switched to working virtually, or saw workspaces change with new protocols and an altered look (plexiglass and masks being the “new black” in 2020).
It required something new of each of us to find our way in this altered reality.
Doing things differently doesn’t always feel very comfortable, even when you’re doing it for all the right reasons. It can be hard to feel good about making changes that are uncomfortable, draining you of energy and good will. But (the pandemic aside) it is not good to get overly comfortable in your work and career.
Because you get bored. Your skills go stale. You don’t grow. You may even become less relevant (or irrelevant) to your employer. Did you know you can still be run off your feet with work and be bored at the same time?
Yup. And when that happens, it usually shows in your work. It’s hard to fake caring about something you just don’t care about anymore (procrastination, lack of attention to detail, rushing to get it over with…).
So, consider doing something new for your work and career. Start small, learn a new feature in the software you use every day (like knowing how to reverse ALL CAPS without retyping – highlight the text and hit SHIFT + F3 - you’re welcome).
Learning new things, innovating, being creative asks you to do something very important. It asks you to believe in yourself, to take a small risk, to stretch your thinking and for that small price it gives a lot back.
It gives you something to feel really good about (yeah, I’m the boss of my typing, even when I accidently hit the caps lock key four sentences ago… again). It shows you what you are more than capable of doing. It helps remind you that you are a dynamic human being who isn’t standing still but is moving toward a future that you are getting ready to meet head on.
Doing something new isn’t about big, monumental things like getting an MBA, it’s about staying flexible in your thinking, so you keep being curious and don’t put up with the little things that hold you back (especially the ones in your control).
What new thing can you do today?
I bet doing it will make you feel good and is an important step in investing in your relevancy at work.
High potential is a phrase that is often used in professional environments and workplaces as a way to differentiate those whose approach to work stands out, versus those who simply work hard.
Yup, you read that right, high potential and working hard are not the same thing. You can work very hard, put in all the hours, almost kill yourself, and not be considered high potential.
That’s because high potential is a mindset, and while a lot of hard work happens when you have high potential, it is not the only tool you should use to make your work standout.
Here are three important mindsets that support your high potential.
These are but three hallmarks of the high potential mindset (there are many more).
High potential professionals are well-spoken, generous, smart and genuinely care about their organization and the people who count on it, while balancing all that with getting the right things done in the right ways.
Sound like anyone you know?
Yes, that sounds like you.
Leverage your full potential.
It’s spring. It has arrived where I live, which is a minor miracle given I live in Canada and the seasons don’t strictly follow the calendar. The windows are open to air out the house, and soon we’ll be looking at things from new perspectives…our decks and patios.
I love new perspectives.
I want to share something that always brings me new perspectives, an amazing journal called Brain Pickings by Maria Popova. I enjoy it because it makes me think in new and different ways about so many things, all connected to being a beautiful human.
In her last journal, Popova wrote about the relationship between freedom and fear, “… [we are] so habitually inclined toward the next moment … the parallel universe where anxiety dwells, where hope and fear for what might be eclipse what is, and where we cease to be free because we are no longer in the direct light of reality.”
In truth, we humans work very hard to control our future as a way of giving ourselves more freedom. With respect to work, who hasn’t been guilty of checking their e-mail on the weekend so they can get ahead (or at least know what to expect) on Monday?
Afterall, we’ve been taught that to be free we need to create options and choice for ourselves.
So, the weekend e-mail checking (and other coping mechanisms we use to create more “freedom”) is understandable, but at what cost?
Alan Watts wrote in his book The Wisdom of Insecurity: A Message for an Age of Anxiety “…I fall straight into contradiction when I try to act and decide in order to be happy, when I make “being pleased” my future goal. For the more my actions are directed towards future pleasures, the more I am incapable of enjoying any pleasures at all.”
Which shows that, unexpectedly, the moment we make a decision out of fear, we have lost our freedom.
Let that sink in for a moment.
What is the alternative? To give ourselves permission to enjoy the here and now, and not worry so much about the future.
Put your work phone in a drawer.
Close your laptop.
Turn off your notifications.
Go outside in the fresh spring air and just be.
Monday will arrive, that is a certainty: there is enough time, and you have enough talent, to deal with what comes then. You have survived 100% of your toughest days (how's that for a fresh perspective).
Frederich Nietzsche once said “No price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.” Take the arrival of spring to fully own what working gives you: leisure time.
Enjoy today, it’s really all you control, and it’s everything you have right now.
Name something you know you are good at, AND you feel your employer sees too. If nothing comes to mind, you may be experiencing imposter syndrome.
Imposter syndrome includes feeling inadequate based on the belief you got where you are in your work and career by luck and don’t really deserve to be there.
In short, you have no meaningful connection to your talent or qualifications.
And you are not alone. A whopping 70% of people feel this way at some point in their career.
Which explains why there is enough of a “sample size” to see 5 distinct types of “imposters”. Dr. Valerie Young, author of The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women: Why Capable People Suffer from the Impostor Syndrome and How to Thrive in Spite of It, has defined them as:
See anyone you know?
There are many reasons for feeling like you don’t belong in your job, not all of them have to do with your workplace. It can start in childhood with parental expectations, or because you are facing new challenges (like pursuing higher education), people from marginalized groups are also at a higher risk for imposter syndrome.
What is clear is how it impacts your well-being. Feeling like a fraud leads to frustration, anxiety, depleted self-confidence, which can turn into depression and other long-term impacts to your health and welfare. Nonexistent coping strategies perpetuate imposter syndrome, and over time the effects to your self-esteem snowball until you don’t pursue promotion and opportunities to grow your expertise, or you expect perfection from yourself (constantly chasing it). The end result is you don’t feel you measure up because you set yourself up to never measure up.
There’s some good news, imposter syndrome isn’t a medical diagnosis, it is a mindset, which means there are things you can do right now to work with feelings of inadequacy so they don’t run the show.
Here are four strategies to recognize, and work with, imposter syndrome:
There will always be times when you think negatively of yourself or your performance at work. See what you can do to observe this thought, rather than believe it is accurate. Take a pause to see how that thought is sabotaging your self-esteem to recognize, and step away from, feelings of imposter syndrome.
Would you like to see an example? This is how I ditched imposter syndrome.
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ABOUT MY BLOG
I believe in empowering others in many tangible ways. When I learn new career strategies or see something that might help others, I share it using my blog and website.