We have a comfort crisis in our organizations.
We’re not having the kinds of conversations at work that bring out the best in our collective performance. We’re not having them with our employees, our bosses, or each other. Surprisingly, these are not the conversations highlighting positive reinforcement – those are very needed as well (keep having them) – but they don’t move the needle in the same way deep, disruptive, made-you-think conversations and feedback do. We are having fewer and fewer of these necessary conversations at work.
Why? Because it’s uncomfortable.
Social media fills our heads with the many achievable ways we can craft our lives to meet not just our needs, but overcome vulnerability; attending to our desired level of emotional and physical comfort. The perfect 15-minute work-out for your body type (because 30 minutes might take too long). The best way to organize your home based on your life style (so everything is in finger-tip reach). I can have meals delivered to my door that make me feel I’m living my best life without the distress of learning how to cook them (or at the very least, having to shop for the ingredients).
We now have ways to make our lives predictably comfortable in many dimensions. There is a “hack” for everything; there’s no need to suffer a moment of unnecessary discomfort. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating anyone deny themselves pleasure in life, we need it (now more than ever). But somewhere along the way we (as a society) decided that feeling vulnerable, uncomfortable or unsettled was “bad” and to be avoided. This is having an adverse effect on employee experience, AND organizational performance.
In our workplaces, there is now an unmistakable aversion to disrupting the thinking of others (or ourselves). We value comfort so much that we don’t initiate the constructive, disruptive conversations needed to ensure our teams and organizations are high-functioning. Yet, without this valuable skill, teams and organizations are at risk of group-think, mediocrity and stale judgement. And that deeply impacts individual performance as well as the performance of teams… all of which hit the bottom line of company performance in hidden, but intrusive ($$$), ways.
What exactly does this call on us to do more, and less, of at work (particularly as leaders)? Here’s a list to get you started (it’s not exhaustive – add to it based on your experience):
Contrary to belief, open conversations that invite debate don’t take that long (5-10 minutes is usually all it takes). But it does take courage, and this is perhaps where we lose heart in doing this more consistently in our organizations today. People doubt their own ability to debate well (and not make a career-limiting move or create personal conflict). When it’s not modeled for them by their leaders, or believed to have useful impact to the organization, then it’s just too risky to try.
Stepping purposefully into constructive discomfort is a skill. One that is needed at every level in our organizations today. How are your skills progressing in this area? What are the benefits to your career, and organization, in getting a little less comfortable?
Carleen helped me find the right ways to support healthy conflict on my team. Through her coaching I've re-ignited my passion in being a leader AND my team is growing because of their excellence."
“I’m languishing!” was the clear concern expressed by a frustrated professional. “I know I can do more at work, how do I make that happen?"
It’s a great question to explore.
Many professionals are feeling the pinch of pandemic workplaces; work is more isolated and you don’t get the exposure to meet new people or learn about new projects that may interest you. As another professional put it: “You can practically feel your brain cells shrivelling up”.
As much as your manager wants to help, they may be in the same boat, with neither the time nor the occasion to look beyond the work today.
Don’t leave your potential on the shelf. Your actions and expertise are what got you where you are today, and they can take you even further; you just need a plan to turn your amazing potential into your dream career. So, let’s do it:
If you can tell you’re languishing at work, you have all the info you need to take courageous action to get you on the path to work you deserve. Languishing has another hallmark: playing it safe.
If you’ve been keeping a low profile, working hard and hoping to get noticed, forget it. In today’s modern workplace it’s not enough. Nor it is enough to make skillful requests of your manager and wait for them to happen. You need to actively participate in your career relevance at work, and that means engaging all of that amazing potential you have, taking it off the shelf and putting it to work for you.
You’ve got the plan – it’s your move.
“Spooky accurate assessment.” – D.B.
“This would be a very bad time to lose my job.” was the opening statement from a previous client. Supply chain issues in their industry were making them very nervous. That and they saw friends and family impacted by temporary shut-downs, if not out-right business closures.
It’s every professional’s worst nightmare.
Maybe you’re feeling vulnerable in your job too. We’re all watching (with great curiosity and concern) what’s happening around us. While individually we may have zero control over pandemics, inflation, markets, etc. it’s important to understand what you do control – you.
Your impact at work helps to keep your organization healthy, and healthy organizations are much more resilient in the face of wide-spread challenges. The way you carry yourself at work when things get stressful also influences your relevance to your employer; being open to new things, working well with conflict, keeping a professional demeanor and being a productive part of the team, all point to how irreplaceable you are.
Being relevant is key to surviving cut-backs. Here are 7 things in your control that increase your relevance and job security:
Kindness, respect, generosity and strong communication skills ensure you stand out in all the right ways with your employer. There are of course no guarantees, but all of the things on this list also make you a star candidate if you do get laid off (or decide to make a move).
Don’t let fear erode your self-confidence. You’ve survived 100% of your worst days and you are a credit to your profession.
Ever felt like you were about to lose your cool at work because of a decision your boss was making?
That’s exactly what my client was experiencing, and she’d reached out just in case she ended up losing it (her cool and her job). I’d helped her with career transition in the past, but what she didn’t know when she called was that I would help her keep her job AND disagree with her boss too.
Every professional has a “line in the sand” that cannot be crossed. Many don’t know what to do when, inevitably, even the most well-intentioned boss crosses it. Whether it’s interrupting you when you have the floor in a meeting, constantly reversing positions on an urgent issue, or making a short-sighted decision that has inescapable future risks (only you can see) there will be times when you need to disagree with your boss.
Here’s why. In today’s modern organizations, professionals have more insight supporting business impact than at any other point in history. Flat, agile organizations rely on both hard data and experienced insight, because with the pace of today’s workplaces your boss no longer knows all the same things you do (like they would have in the 1960’s). Sure, your boss may have more years under their belt, but by mid-career most professionals are in roles where your organization relies on your professional acumen, bringing different perspectives and information to the table that are specific to your unique field of view in the organization. So, one of your unenviable tasks is to disagree with your boss as a way to strengthen organizational decision making on key issues.
Or, as my client put it, you need to “poke the bear”. Here’s how do that and live to see your career flourish.
My client was able to disagree with her boss and thrive. She invested in a tight and timely mini-coaching program (over just a few days) where she built the confidence and awareness she needed to get in front of her boss, and respectfully disagree with their position. She’ll tell you it was far from perfect, but because she maintained her conviction and open-ness to healthy debate, she communicated with respect, influencing a far better outcome then the original one her boss was heading towards.
And, she received a promotion out of it. Not immediately, but within the year she became the boss. Not an outcome she was expecting when she called me out of concern for her career’s future.
You don’t have to face all your career challenges alone; coaching can be strategic, timely and (best of all), pay for itself.
Carleen introduced me to options I didn't even know I had at work. This was key to me making strong choices that supported what I wanted in my career. It was easier than I thought once I started working with someone who had been there."
January 2022 is looking a lot like January 2021, and I honestly didn’t see that coming. I figured by this time we’d be emerging from the pandemic in small but clear ways, not back in lock-down supporting on-line learning at home for our kids.
It just goes to show that plans don’t always go to, well …plan.
So, the name of the game for 2022 is resilience. Resilience (our ability to recover from set-backs and challenges) is what will get things done.
At this time of year, I get the heebie jeebies from headlines like “Change your life in 10 days!” or “Make this the year you have it all!”. These click-bait articles usual herald a rigid plan (often starting with getting up at 5AM and drinking LOTS of water) to help meet your goals.
But you and I already know that if we plan for something and stick to it, we’ll get there (regardless of our H2o consumption or waking hours). Yet, I still sometimes get sucked down the rabbit hole of headline promises, hoping this is THE article that will change some annoying aspect of my life!
The reality is, I’m not going to stick to someone else’s plan for my life, no matter how good the advice is because advice is completely absent of context, circumstance and challenge. Advice is the “best case” scenario. Advice does not offer resilience. The only person who can bring that vital ingredient (resilience) into the mix is me.
So, here are four crucial tips to cancel uncertainty and build energy for whatever you have planned for your career in 2022:
I think if all of us knew exactly how long the effects of the pandemic would have on our lives we’d be much better able to handle the ups and downs, but that’s the thing, none of us have ever lived through a pandemic before. We don’t know what to expect. It’s the same when you set a new goal for yourself. Being resilient means you leave space for both the best- and worst-case scenarios, empowering you to make your goals happen, even in the middle of a pandemic.
You. Will. Get. There. I can feel it. Can you?
I invested in career coaching to help me climb to the next level. Carleen helped me see how I was supporting my career objective and the ways I wasn't, helping me to get to the role of VP. Money well spent."
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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.