4 Lessons Learned Surviving My First Leadership Role – Barely

Colosseum

My first foray into leadership was a way to keep a job. It was either advance into the unknown or advance to the unemployment line.

Considering I had a young son at home, it was not a hard decision.

One day I was part of a group, the next I was the leader. It did not equate in my head and it certainly did not translate well in the minds of some of my former peers.

There were benefits to being promoted to a leadership position and they were tempered with drawbacks:

  • More pay, countered by a salary which meant 40 hours was now considered part time.
  • A title that would look good on a resume, countered by resentment by my former peers and the added bonus of not being respected by colleagues who still saw me as “just one of the girls”
  • The chance to learn new things, countered with anxiety from realizing I knew nothing at all beyond my previous scope.
  • The chance to be seen and recognized by executive leadership and possibly move up in the organization, countered with the spotlight always on and feeling like I was constantly under a microscope from, and failing, both sides of the field.

It was a field, literally feeling like a battlefield some days.

My supervisor was kind in teaching me my new responsibilities. She was patient, extremely knowledgeable and kind. She also told me the worst thing I had heard to that point in my career:

“You realize, no one is going to like you now. You get used to being alone at work.”

Yikes.

I thought that couldn’t possibly be true, I was a likeable person. My former peers liked me, we had lunch together and laughed. Just because I am now doing something a little different, they can’t not like me for that.

Oh yes, they can.

I was no longer invited to lunches and conversations stopped when I approached. I was an outsider not by anything that I had done, but by a title I accepted.

Mean things were said and I heard my mom’s voice in my head, “Be the bigger person; two wrongs do not make a right.” Plus, I didn’t’ think my supervisor would accept the reason for unprofessional behavior of, “She started it.”

Lesson One: Do Not Take It Personally

There were several departments that I now had to interact with and have decision making in; I knew nothing about them really.

The first couple of weeks I was in full panic mode thinking the only way I was going to earn any respect was to, within two weeks, learn everyone’s job and how they did it.

That faded fast.

Lesson Two: You Do Not Have To Know Everything

I was now partnering with co-workers who I used to report to and support. They treated me like I was their secretary and blew me off.

Most of them were men and would “tease” me, which is a nice way of saying a form of schoolhouse, playground bullying on the gentler side of the scale. I heard a lot of “girl” and “gal” as a constant reminder I was not one of the boys.

Lesson Three: They Will See You For What You Present Yourself To Be

I started to see processes that were duplicating efforts or just made no sense in the way they were being done. When I brought this up to my supervisor, I was told it was the way it had always been done, or I was still too new to really know better. Shot down at every turn.

Lesson Four: If They Are Not Going To Hold The Door Open For You, Open It Yourself

In the beginning, it was a constant battle ending each night like I had just stepped out of the ring and got the crap knocked out of me by a prize fighter. I would put on a happy face at work then lick my wounds on the way home then put on the happy face for my son.

I lived a lie all the time and I got tired of it.

I had no leadership training, no tips on how to be a good manager, time management, communication or relationship building – no mentoring.

I was thrown into the wolves like entertainment akin to the Roman Coliseum Fights.

Lesson Five: Opportunities Are What You Make Of Them

I had enough. I realized that I was ruining an opportunity I was given. I had a chance to learn and grow as a person in this position and it was about time that I appreciate the gift I was given.

I drew upon something my dad had taught me: if you do not stand up for yourself, no one else is going to.

I decided I was either going to kick this opportunity’s butt or I was going to go down in flames, either way, it would be one heck of a ride. This is not a management style that I would recommend.

——————–

Not everyone hated me, maybe just a few. They only made my life hell if I let them.

I stopped responding. I learned to control my body language to not give away that I was either hurt or ticked off.

I was polite, patient and skipped over the nasty comments.

I was consistent in my actions and words. I treated everyone with respect even when they did not deserve it, even if I did not personally like them. I focused on the value they brought to the table instead of the personality and I made sure to recognize them for that value.

I approached my team members and asked for their help. I explained what we were trying to do, recognized them for their expertise and told them I needed their help.

I asked questions as to why they did things the way they did and made it clear that I was not judging or confronting, I wanted to learn and understand.

I had no hesitation in admitting when I did not know something. If someone gave me kudos for something, I recognized the team and the team members that made it happen. I shined the light on them for their value they gave every day to the organization.

Growing up with boys helped, I knew how to talk boy. I also had a son at home so I knew how to use the mom voice when I needed to and to quiet the schoolyard blowhards.

They wanted to make sure I knew I was not one of the boys – damn straight – I’m a girl!

I moved across the office from one of the leaders and the blowhards were having a grand time. One told me, “You better watch out, when he gets mad he throws things out of his office!”

I calmly looked at him and then the gentleman in question and replied, “That’s okay, I’ll just throw it back – and I don’t throw like a girl.” I smiled sweetly (as my mother would tell me to do) and walked away.

No, I am not one of the boys, but you are not going to pull my pigtails, either.

Tired of trying to change things and being told “it has always been done that way” or not being there long enough, I stopped asking for permission.

I started small, just little tasks or projects that I recreated, applied and then showed to my supervisor. At first there was pushback, but since I had started earning the trust of my team, they would let her know how these changes had helped them do their job.

In time, she began to trust me when I had an idea, although not completely and sometimes it was a tug of war, but I persisted. I also told her that I valued her opinion and I would really like her thoughts on a new way when presenting bigger ideas. We began to partner.

I started keeping a mental list of accomplishments and things I learned each day and reviewed them on my way home. I stopped beating myself up for mistakes, and I made many, and focused on the positives.

The lions and I made peace.

——————–

Nearly 20 years later I am now coaching on leadership, communication, moving careers and businesses forward. Although the journey has not always been a pleasant or smooth one, I cherish every twist and turn because it allows me to connect.

For those venturing into leadership for the first time know this: no CEO started as a CEO.

After many years of leadership, development and coaching, may I humbly offer the following bits of advice:

  • Take head from the lessons and paths of others.
  • Find a mentor.
  • Believe in yourself.
  • Accept your flaws, amplify your strengths.
  • Learn to laugh at yourself.
  • Learn to ask and more importantly, learn to listen.
  • Do not try to please everyone – it will never happen.
  • Love and appreciate yourself.
  • Take care of yourself.
  • Get a hobby outside of work, get a life outside of work.

And lastly:

  • To heck with not being afraid to fail – embrace failing miserably! That is where your greatest lessons come that lead to your greatest successes. Plus it is a lot more fun when you free yourself!

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I help identify and set a path to achieve individual career and company goals by using the V Formula:

Your Value + Your Voice = Visibility

Visibility is the leverage to move up or move on in your career; expand your book of business, grow your company and strengthen your team.
–Lisa

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Lisa K. McDonald, Owner and Principal of Career Polish, Inc. is a speaker and seminar facilitator at companies and professional organizations speaking to leadership, sales, teams, transitioning/downsized employees and networking groups about career mobility, personal branding, networking, creating executive presence and achieving career movement success. To find out more, visit Career Polish, Inc.

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Why Does The #1 Business Success Principle Die During Job Searching?

measuring success “What gets measured gets improved.” – Peter Drucker

My first love was compliance, specifically in the financial industry. I began my professional career as a compliance officer and branch operations manager with ownership of all compliance functions.

I loved it. To me, it was a puzzle. Everyone had a piece, from the brokers, agents, clients, FINRA, MSRB, trading desks, margins, options – you name it everyone had a piece of that puzzle. It was my job to know what the picture was we were putting together and get all the pieces in place.

When dealing with local, state or federal rules or regulations I had to not only put the puzzle together, I had to monitor it, create or keep reports on it and prove I was keeping the puzzle together.

I had to know what I was measuring, prove I was measuring it and prove that the measuring was creating a positive effect.

That is a pretty standard process in measuring success: define the goal, create metrics, measure, compare results to goals and make modifications when needed.

This formula is utilized in measuring the success in all forms of business from a sales campaign to an employee’s performance.

There are interdependent keys to this: know what you are measuring, measure and make adjustments. Each element is important. I have yet to talk to anyone working on a project or business that does not incorporate this into practice.

However, I rarely talk to job seekers who incorporate this into their business of finding the next right job.

When searching for a job, it is a job in itself. Treat it as you would in working for someone else because you are – you are working for yourself to build your own business and sell your product – you.

Define

What do you want to do? If you know exactly what you want, this is an easy part. Not sure what you want to do next, great! Really, in making a no list of things you do not want in the next position instead of a yes list of only the things you want, you allow yourself more flexibility and openness to different opportunities.

Your definition can range from “Project Manager Position” to a list of things you want to do, for example:
Work on a collaborative team
Opportunity to learn new things
Be the behind the scenes support
Talk to and support clients
Utilize systems I know and learn new ones
Flexibility to work on different projects
Something in marketing or sales

Or a no list might include:
Being stuck in a cubicle doing the same thing for 8 hours never leaving my desk
Pushing paper that never goes anywhere
Working in a vacuum
Creating excel spreadsheets all day long
Customer service – taking calls from customers all day long
Doing certain tasks that you are good at but hate
Leading a team

These are simplistic lists, yet they are a start.

Whether you have a yes list or a no list, create a list. You need something to compare the job opportunities to in order to effectively evaluate them. There might be a time during your job search that you have a moment of frustration and get excited about a job that you know you can do; however, it is nowhere near what you want but the length of time it has been since you had a decent prospect has been so long you just do not care. Having that list nearby keeps you grounded.

Metrics

How do you know if you are being successful? How can you keep yourself on task during the difficult slow or silent periods? Metrics. Set goals. Your goal can be to meet five new people a week. It can be through LinkedIn, networking, a volunteer activity – whatever you chose, just make a goal. Think about how this goal will help you achieve your success.

Meeting new people is awesome, unless you just do a “hello” and then there is dead air. Metrics are not one line items. Meet new people, create conversations, follow up, offer assistance, get involved – these are all sub-metrics in support of your goal.

Measure

Once you have your goal, action steps (metrics) now you need to keep yourself to task in completing them and measuring their effectiveness. The measuring aspect will also help you refine your metrics.

For example, if one of your goals is to get more visibility on LinkedIn, you may set a goal to join groups that support your business. If you join a group and begin activity with no result, that gives you vital information. The first is that this is not giving you ROI. It is also telling you that you might want to set metrics for your metrics.

Modify

The next group that you look at joining, perhaps there should be some parameters before you join. Evaluate the group size, members and current activity. If it is a very small group that has not had any interaction within the last six months and there are no members that have any correlation with you in any way – this is probably not the group to join.

This holds true to sending out inquires or resumes. If you find that you sent out 50 resumes last week with no response, it is time to evaluate your metrics. By the way, if you sent the same resume to 50 jobs you do not qualify for any of them.

What types of jobs are you applying for? Do you really meet the criteria? Did you demonstrate this? Did you speak directly to their needs and goals? Did you align with the job requirements and responsibilities? Did you follow their directions exactly? Have you defined your value? Can they understand it and find it easily on your resume?

If you find that you are sending out to just anything, odds are you will not get a response. Be strategic, get in alignment, follow up when possible and keep moving.

If you come to a point of frustration, modify your plans. Take a short break and come up with a plan that is not about you. Make a goal of connecting five people next week. Figure out who might be good connections and how you can make that happen. Sometimes the best leads come when you are helping others.

Not only will implementing the act of defining, setting metrics, measuring and modifying help generate more activity, it can serve as a boost during down times. There might be a period where you feel that nothing is happening and you start to question yourself. This is when you take out your business plan, metrics and measurements and you can see – visually, in hand see – that you have come a long way. You are taking action, you are being proactive and the right opportunity will come about because you have a plan and you are working it the right way!

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I hope you enjoyed this article and it provided value for you. If so, please click on the follow button so I may continue to share valuable content with you or the share buttons to share with your network.

I help people identify and set a path to achieve their career goals by using the V Formula:

Your Value + Your Voice = Visibility

Visibility is the leverage to move in, move up or move on in your career; expand your book of business or territory, grow your company and strengthen your team.

–Lisa

Lisa K. McDonald, Owner and Principal of Career Polish, Inc. is a favorite speaker and seminar facilitator at companies, professional organizations and colleges speaking to leadership, sales, teams, transitioning/downsized employees and networking groups about career mobility, personal branding, networking, creating executive presence and achieving career movement success. To find out more, visit Career Polish, Inc.

Saying the F-bomb in Front of Your Mother

saying the f-bombMy mother is one of those women who does not curse. Ever. In, clearing throat, forty-something years I can only remember my mom saying one word she would consider a curse word.

We were at a little league baseball tournament and there was a coach berating his team during warm ups. Now, I know sometimes motivation comes with a rough edge, but his words were sharp and cut deep; things that should not be said to young children. Things that should not be said to anyone of any age.

After hearing one of his rants I looked at my mom and she said, “Yes, he is a real prick.”

My mouth dropped open because that was the first – and last – time I ever heard her say a word that she would consider a curse word.

Me, on the other hand, well…. I will admit, I dropped a bomb or two but not, that I recall, in front of my mother.

But I am not talking about that f-bomb. I am talking about the glorious, wonderful, often-dreaded-but should-be-embraced f-bomb of FAILURE!

Yes, failure. It seems people find it more repulsive than the other f-bomb.

Failure, although difficult during the journey is the most wonderful teacher. It is from my worst failures that I have learned the most and been able to succeed with strength.

You can perform a skill 100 times to learn perfection; or you can screw it up really bad one time and get there sooner. Failure is a wonderful teacher. It reduces us to our core. It eliminates fear because there is nowhere to go but up from there.

I do not like failing at things and I am my own worst critic. I have made some doozies in my time, so there are no stones being thrown. Some of my “finer” moments were followed immediately by the “Holy crap, I’m going to get canned for this, better pack that box now to make the walk of shame less painful.” And yet, they did not.

When I fail I beat myself up for failing more than what I failed at in the first place. If you understand that, welcome to my world! However; I have learned that once I let go of the beating myself up, there are wonderful lessons in failing.

Freedom – to let go of preconceived ideas and learn from a broader perspective.
Adaptability – learning to try something a different way.
Humility – nothing will put things into perspective like a great big screw up.
Humanity – we are all human, we all screw up and we can all move on.

I was talking to an executive the other day about interviewing. He said that he immediately discounts a candidate that only talks about their successes. The ones he is really interested in is the ones that talk about their failures.

He wants to know what happened, how it affected what was going on, how they responded, how they lead others and what they learned from it. Good interviewing tip right there!

It is not always about the failure, but what you do after that counts the most. Embrace your failures, share them with your mother!

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I hope you enjoyed this article and it provided value for you. If so, please click on the follow button so I may continue to share valuable content with you or the share buttons to share with your network.

I help people identify and set a path to achieve their career goals by using the V Formula:

Your Value + Your Voice = Visibility

Visibility is the leverage to move in, move up or move on in your career; expand your book of business or territory, grow your company and strengthen your team.

–Lisa

Lisa K. McDonald, Owner and Principal of Career Polish, Inc. is a favorite speaker and seminar facilitator at companies, professional organizations and colleges speaking to leadership, sales and teams; transitioning or downsized employees and networking groups about career mobility, personal branding, networking, creating executive presence and achieving career movement success. To find out more, visit Career Polish, Inc.

Eliminate the Big But for Career, Team Building and Business Success

One word can negate every single word spoken before it. 

One word can turn a productive coaching session into a demoralizing one way conversation. 

One word can turn a hot prospect ready to sign on the dotted line into a cold shoulder that will not return your calls.

That one little word with such a big impact is ‘but’.

Somewhere along the lines we were conditioned to register “but” as a negative.  When hearing that word, an instinctual response is to cringe and brace ourselves for the other shoe to drop. 

It represents negativity in various forms of no.  No, I do not want to help.  No, you did not do a good job.  No, we will not provide service.

Think about dating, “but” was an ego killer. “You are such a great person, but I just want to be friends.” 

Did you believe that they really thought you were that great?  No, all you heard was “you are now stuck in friend zone, never to exit.” 

Poor little but has a lot of negative connotations, it is a dreaded or even hated word.

This is why it can be so dangerous even when used innocently.

Instead, use but’s twin – however.

It has the same meaning, but a softer effect without all the negative emotional baggage.  It will allow you to persuade and engage your team members, staff and leadership by allowing them to hear your ideas and suggestions.

When the but is directed to you, take a breathe and realize that the bristling that you are feeling is a conditioned effect, not the intent of the speaker.  Replace it in your mind with however to be able to listen to the message.  It puts you at an advantage in being able to interpret the meaning, not message, and respond quickly in a positive way.

 

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

Brand Strategist & Career Coach

Certified Professional Resume Writer

www.CareerPolish.com

 

It is Not Where You Start; It’s Not Even Where You Finish

My friend and I had a monumental personal accomplishment this weekend:  we completed the first annual Indiana Women’s Trail Run.  A quarter marathon (or 10k or almost 7 miles) hiking through Eagle Creek Park.

 

Most women there ran it; we walked it.  I am absolutely fine with this.  It was not about a time or place – it was about doing it.  And we did.

 

What makes this so monumental is that three months ago, she had a hip replaced and I could not walk up a flight of stairs without being winded.

 

And we did it!  We have the medal and Facebook pictures to prove it.

 

Looking at me most people would never have guessed what state I was in three months ago.  I am a very petite person; all of 5 foot tall and maybe a hundred pounds soaking wet.  I look like I am in great shape.  I eat fairly healthy and do a lot of labor activity around my house.

 

But my cardio – it was in the crapper.  I was embarrassed at my poor state of health.  I will never run marathons, I know this.  I do not have the desire to do so and if I ever got a crazy notion to do so my knees would immediately remind me that they protest by swelling up like cantaloupes.

 

I knew I would need to start working on my cardio so I joined my friend walking on the Monon.  We started on Saturdays and then started walking throughout the week.  Each week I felt stronger.  I knew I was improving and treating my body the way I should – getting it healthy.

 

I realized when we were walking Saturday morning on the trail that it was completely irrelevant where I started.  I could be in the worst shape or decent shape; it just didn’t matter.  Crossing that finish line wasn’t really the biggest achievement. 

 

It was the journey that I took.  Making a commitment, following through, giving myself positive motivation and praise for every mile that I walked and every mile I added on.  It was on the weekends and weeknights that the real change happened.

 

While we set a goal to finish the run, we did so much more.  We felt fantastic after and on the ride back started talking about our next event.  This run might have been the end point, but once we got there, it no longer was; it was just a stepping stone.

 

You might be struggling with your job or career right now.  You might be thinking you are too old, do not have the right qualifications, it may take too long to get certified or have not finalized a plan on how to get to where you dream of going.

 

My advice to you today: stop looking at where you are and focusing solely on the end point.  What you have done in the past, good or bad, is in the past.  Today is a brand new day; an opportunity to start fresh; the day to lace up your sneakers and just take a walk.

 

Start setting small goals, make them a bit of a stretch but achievable.  This gives you drive and the opportunity to give yourself praise for each step you take.

 

You do not have to know the whole road.  Here’s a little secret – the road is going to change anyway.  Have an end game in mind but be flexible as to how it will come about.  During the trail run we came across a huge mud pit with a small lake in the middle (ok, just a little exaggeration).  We were nearing the end and there was no way I was going to have my friend try to navigate that mess; and honestly I wasn’t really thrilled with the idea of trampling through that either. 

 

I found an alternative.  There was a little hidden path right next to the mess.  We averted 90% of the mud and muck while staying on course and track.  If you only focus on the “I have to do these things in this order” then you will miss the little hidden paths that keep the mud out of your toes.

 

If it is your dream or your goal than take full ownership and responsibility; this means do not let anyone else dictate your steps time table or accomplishments.  You may have to tune others out and perhaps not share this vision with others so they do not poo—poo it; do what you have to do.  It is not about them anyway, this is about you.

 

Throughout your journey there will be days you are frustrated, want to give up or just take a little break.  Don’t.  Keep going.  Remember, yesterday doesn’t matter.  One weekend we walked over 20 miles.  I was so proud of myself that weekend.  Monday, I told myself that was great, but it was in the past; what was I going to do this week?

 

Lastly, do enlist your support system.  Those friends that love you unconditionally, support any crazy notion you have and offer support, not judgment.  Those are the ones you will draw strength from and the ones that will help you celebrate.  You need your support system, no matter who they are.  My dogs are part of mine.  They get laps at home to help keep me focused, motivated and routine.  Oh, and they cheer me on.

 

Of course, they may be doing it for the puppy treats.

 

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

Brand Strategist & Career Coach

Certified Professional Resume Writer

www.CareerPolish.com

 

 

 

 

 

The Only Time It Is Important To Look Back

I had dinner with a very good friend last night who always inspires me and never fails to make me laugh at myself and the world in general.  She is my very wise friend whom I admire and respect greatly.

 

At one point in the conversation, I was telling her about a little fit of doubt I was having in myself based off a situation with a past client.  I asked if she had every gone through that and how did she get through it.

 

She told me to look back.

 

I am not a fan of looking back.  Normally.  Too often we look back and instead of seeing what we have accomplished, we tend to look at the woulda, coulda and shouldas.  Then we fall into the trap of “if only”s and “why didn’t I do it this way”s. 

 

I am a fan of looking at situations from the perspective of what can it teach me for next time then letting go.  Learn and grow, do not dwell and get stuck.

 

But her advice was perfect because it was specific.  You have to look back at your successes.  So one client or boss or interviewer thought you stunk.  It happens.  To all of us.  But that is when you need to look back to the ones that thought you were the cat’s meow.  That helps you remember why you do what you do and that you bring great value to what you do.

 

After saying goodbye a couple of things hit me: an email I received from a client saying they have been offered a job from a prestigious company and asking to set up a time to tell me all about it.  Another very excited email from another client telling me that she got promoted and gave such gratitude for helping her through the transition and to be able to see that she could do really well in this field.  An email from a client who was writing after an interview to let me know the interviewer told me they felt compelled to interview him after reading his cover letter and resume.

 

At first blush you may think it was the compliments on my work that helped me re-center and refocus; but that wasn’t it.  It was the excitement from all of them.  That they came to me from a much different place and together we were able to identify and communicate the value that already existed.  From there, they were able to fully own it and make happen what they wanted to make happen. 

 

It was their joy that made me beam.

 

That’s how I chose to look back, remembering the process and their journey.

 

If you are feeling stuck in your position, frustrated with the job search process or a little self-beating up over lagging sales; look back at the joy.  Why do you do what you do?  How have people benefited from what you do?  How do you define your wins?  What have been your wins – and what did you do then to make them happen?

 

Rediscover the feeling of the wins, remember how you approached it, remember why you do what you do and remember the value you bring.

 

Not everyone is going to think you are amazing, that’s a fact of life.  You know the old saying: you can’t please everyone.  We all hit the blocks of a bad interview, a down period, unhappy client; those come and go.  When they happen look back at the joy and you will find that the lows are not quite as low as you first thought and you have a lot more wins that you thought.

 

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

Brand Strategist & Career Coach

Certified Professional Resume Writer

www.CareerPolish.com

 

Stop Cheating Yourself by Expecting Others to Do it All for You

One of the hardest lessons I had to learn, and I still struggle with today, is not doing everything for my family.  When my son was younger, I might have done things to save time.  Some of my family is not very technically savvy so, as I am on my computer for the better part of every day, I was asked to perform certain tasks.

 

It was a matter of convenience.  It was easier if I just did the tasks.

 

It would not take me as long, I was more versed in the arena or I had more time to complete it since it would take them much longer to complete it.

 

Guess what – that is a big load of cow manure.

 

It is a huge disservice for everyone involved.

 

I received several “binkies” from my baby showers.  I don’t know what you call those little mouth plugs we give to infants but around here we call them binkies. 

 

I remember him sitting in his swing one day and being a little fussy so I thought we would give the binkie a try.  I popped it in his mouth and as soon as I sat back down he looked at me and spit it out.  So I got up and gave it to him again.  Again, he waited until I sat down and looked at me and spit it out.  We were done with the binkie.  The way I looked at it is one less bad habit I would have to break later.

 

I wish I had the same wisdom when it came to doing for others.

 

When he was younger I might have done tasks for him or completed them for him as a matter of convenience.  Let me also admit here that I am not the most patient person in the world.  But what happened was as he grew up it became an expectation.

 

I was expected to complete not just past tasks, but any tasks for him if he didn’t want to do them.  Becaue I was Mom, that is what I did.  Same for family members.  I would help out and then it became an expectation.

 

The problem with this is once you realize the expectation and the true disservice that you are doing, it is damn near impossible to break the habit. 

 

When you first deny the person you immediately get resistance.  They may think you are joking, or mad at them.  I mean, why else would you not do it?  When you put your foot down and say no, hostility can very easily crop up from them.

 

You have always done it before.  It isn’t like it is a big deal for you.  You are being selfish.  You aren’t being supportive of your family.  Nowhere in their reality do they ever see it as an imposition or using of you.  This is partially your fault – you set the stage.  I am fully responsible for the bad habits I instilled in my family.

 

I didn’t always handle this change in dynamics well.  I have very hard-headed, stubborn and sometimes short-sighted family members.  Hey, I am not judging, I can be one of them.  So when I started saying no there was a lot of resistance.  The calm talks, explanations and flat out no’s were not received well nor did they sink in.

 

I had to take quite a loud and drastic stance.  A couple yelling sessions and a couple breakdowns were involved.  It wasn’t pretty nor was it fun.  I just kept telling myself that I had accountability in this so I had to just suck it up and stick to my guns.

 

Yes, I was being selfish because here are a couple of cold hard truths:

 

– If I don’t take care of myself how can I possibly be at my best to take care of anyone else?

– What makes me think I can solve everyone else’s problems by taking them on?

 

You see, when I kept trying to do all for everyone else it was sucking the life out of me.  I was becoming distracted, short tempered, exhausted and just a lot of things I did not like.  My family noticed I was not myself, but could not connect the dots as to why.

 

I have come a long way with this, but I still have a ways to go – personally that is. 

 

Professionally, I have a hard fast rule: You have to have skin in the game or we will not be working together.  Prospects will ask me how successful I am, they want to know how many people have gotten jobs based on working with me.  My reply is simple:

 

I am 100% successful.  I provide my clients with what they need; however it is up to my clients to use this information and put it into practice to reach their goals.

 

I cannot take all credit for my clients’ successes, nor do I take all responsibility for their failures.  There are some that will have all the best tools but never take them out of the box.

 

That is the best thing I can do for my clients.  I can provide them with the most fantastic resume, LinkedIn profile, interview or network coaching but I cannot perform the actions necessary for them to succeed.  They must be involved in the process of these things in order that they can fully engage in them and take full ownership.

 

In my process I incorporate a method of teaching.  I will finalize their resume for the first position that they want to target.  For the second target I have them make the revisions and then we go through them.  I transition the process to them, giving them coaching and guidance, in order for them to take full ownership and move on without me.

 

I cut the cord, I kick them out of the nest. 

 

That is an important part of my job – not just give them the tools they need, but teach them how to use them. 

 

When you are evaluating hiring a professional to hire you in any activity for improvement do not sell yourself short and expect them to do it all for you.

 

Would you hire a personal trainer and expect that by watching them work out you will get in better shape?

Would you hire a dietitian that tells you what foods to eat and outline a change in your eating behaviors but not incorporate the changes yourself?

 

No.

 

When you take ownership of or within a project you take accountability and are more engaged in the process to ensure you reach a successful outcome.  The outcome you want.  The outcome you help create.

 

When you expect others to do the work for you then you are giving up your control and creating an opportunity for blame.  You get an outcome that is decided for and given to you.

 

I saw a quote the other day that I think applies perfectly: you can have results or excuses but not both.

 

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

Career Coach & Brand Strategies

Certified Professional Resume Writer

www.CareerPolish.com

 

An Important Key To Professional Success – Appreciate the Spiders

spider and webI’m not a big fan of spiders.  I’m not afraid of them, I couldn’t be because even with a house full of boys I was still the one called to kill the spider.  They just creep me out a little.

 

The way they move, they way they watch you (you know they do) and how they are like little ninjas – they show up unexpectedly and disappear before you come back with a shoe to squash them.

 

I’m just not a fan.  If one of those really big ones get in the house I squash it and leave it there as a reminder to his little spider friends as to what will happen if you come in my house.  I’m not kidding – you can ask my boys.

 

But I have made peace with one spider.

 

Outside my office window I have a night spider.  He works diligently in the evening repairing his web and I never see him during the day.  When I first saw him I wanted him gone, I didn’t really like him hanging out outside my window.  Then I realized, I was being a weenie.

 

He wasn’t hurting anything, he doesn’t come out during the day and try to creep in the house, he keeps the bugs from coming in my window and honestly his web is kind of fascinating.  The other day I had a wasp buzzing around the window and I was rooting for the spider to have built a solid enough net to catch him.  He almost got stuck a couple times and hasn’t been back since.

 

That spider is my wasp defense.  Way to go spider!  I may not be a fan of spiders but I don’t like wasps at all.

 

Sometimes in your career you have to work with people you just don’t like.  Period.  And yes, I did say “have to work” with them.  You have no choice, you can’t get them fired and it would be ridiculous to leave a great job just because you work with a spider.

 

The best way to deal with it to be successful in your job and continue to grow – play nice in the sandbox.

 

Instead of looking at this person for the reasons you don’t like about them, figure out your spider/wasp treaty.  There is a benefit for them being there – what is it?  How does it affect you and how can you benefit?  Is there something they can teach you?  Is there something that they are really good at that you can collaborate so you both benefit?

 

Where is the happy medium?

 

Sometimes it is a matter of being a grown up and looking at the professional side.  I have worked with people I don’t care for but mature enough to realize I could learn from them.  So I asked, I listened and I learned.

 

We didn’t become friends but we did develop respect because I was honest enough to admit they had strengths where I had weaknesses.  I also showed appreciation for their time.  Guess what – maybe they don’t like you either so it may have been quite the task to sit down with you and teach you something.

 

Once you build a level of respect that sandbox gets much easier.

 

 

Let’s face it – you are there to do a job, not to be the office homecoming queen or king.  Grow up and focus on the importance of what you do: for yourself, your company, your clients and your community.

 

If you do find yourself looking for another position do not be surprised if working with difficult people is a question during an interview.  Putting this thought into practice now gives you a solid response to that question.

 

The interviewer wants to know if you are a team player, if your priorities are in alignment with the organization and if you can get the job done.  If you throw a fit in the sandbox or just try to ignore them it is not helping your cause.

 

As I finish up this blog I looked out the window and noticed that it is raining –again.  Now that I have a little appreciation for it I feel a little bad for the spider.  Poor spider, he worked so hard on his web last night and now the rain has done some damage.

 

A little appreciation can go a long way….

 

 

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

www.CareerPolish.com

 

Why Does It Take a Disaster?

open armsI woke this morning to a news report about the devastating loss of lives in Oklahoma, they began with the children. Immediately a quote from one of my favorite shows flashed in my mind: “the streets of heaven are crowded with angels…”

This morning I observed an enormous outpouring of sympathy, prayers and condolences on Facebook for the victims and survivors.

I imagine by this evening there will be an abundance of postings and pictures about appreciating what you have right now, live for the moment, tell those that you love you love them because tomorrow is not promised. All very valid.

But why wait until a disaster to remind ourselves of these things?

Because we get stuck in our own little, self-enclosed, safe world.

It is easy to tell the people we love that we love them and often say in as a casual, non-emotional, expected ending to a sentence. “…ok, I’ll talk to you later, love you.” Click.

When a disaster strikes it is easy for us to say, gee, I am so thankful for all that I have and I am going to make sure everyone I love knows how much they mean to me. But then life happens and the best of intentions are spread by positive quotes and happy pictures on Facebook.

The positive in this is, they know. Those you love, most of them, they know. You do show them, the way you talk to them, tease them, give them a hard time, check in on them now and then and can pick up just where you left off when it has been some time. They know.

It would be nice to give them a reminder, but they know.

It is the things left unsaid that are really the heart of this matter. The opportunities we let slide or didn’t fully pursue. The jobs we wanted to go after, the ones we wanted to love but were afraid of rejection, the new skills we wanted to master but didn’t want to look foolish in trying, the silliness we long to have but are too afraid of what others might think.

Why wait for a disaster to sit back and think, “I really want to do this, I should really get on it because life is too short.”

You think?

Go do it. Take the class, make the call, apply for the job and for goodness sakes go look foolish!

You may fail, you may be rejected, you may even get hurt a little – but guess what, you may not. You can succeed or you can fail, and if you fail then fail fabulously! Either way it is called living – and we need to do more of that.

“Too many people are thinking of security instead of opportunity. They seem more afraid of life than death.” James F. Byrnes

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW
http://www.CareerPolish.com

Triggers, Struggles and Real Strength – For My Sister Tracey

lisa tracy ball gameI struggled with something a couple of years ago that was, for me, extremely difficult.  It was kind of like a broken bone.  Something broke and I didn’t have time to fix it, I just had to come up with a makeshift sling and keep going.  Life wasn’t going to wait for me to heal properly, it kept going.

Triggers are a funny thing – you never know what they could be or when they might be pulled.  Recently I had a trigger and *BOOM* I heard that bone break again.  But this time I realized that I never properly set it and it was time to face it, accept it and let it go.

Needless to say this put me in a bit of a foul mood, and a bit of a woe-is-me funk.  But with one Facebook post comprised of six little words one of my dearest friends, Tracey, kicked me in the head:

“9 years cancer free and counting!!”

And in response the little voice in my head told me “Suck it up cupcake – that my friend is real strength.  This should have been your only post on your blog today – get to writing!”

Let me tell you about my friend Tracey.  First – I consider her to be like a sister and the sarcasm is hereditary.  She’s the quiet one, we both think it, we both say it – but I say it a bit louder.

She is intelligent, beautiful, funny, quirky, sassy, a lead foot, kind, compassionate, empathetic, mouthy, a hidden pool shark and a cancer survivor.

But what makes her story remarkable is not just the surviving, the absolute kick-ass fighting that she did to beat it.  If you think your life is hard or things are tough think of her circumstances and let it be an inspiration to you, as it is to me, that the human spirit is always stronger.

She didn’t just battle cancer.  She didn’t have the support system, she didn’t have the time to rest and recuperate and she didn’t have time to feel sorry for herself.

She was going through diagnostics and treatment while going through a divorce, working full time and raising three young kids on her own; emotionally, financially and physically a single mother.

She would take a half day Thursdays to prepare for treatment and have her chemo on Fridays then back to work on Monday she went.  Not before making sure her kids were taken care of and taking them to schools and sitters Monday morning.

She didn’t stop, she didn’t whine, she didn’t ask “why me.” She just did.  She didn’t settle, she didn’t back down and she didn’t compromise anything in taking care of herself and her family.

That was nine years ago.

Today she is still a single mom with three great kids who adore and respect her as a woman and a mother.  She is loved and cherished by her friends for her gift of friendship, positive outlook and terrific humor.

She is very modest and it we have to take about 15 pictures together to get one that she is just okay with for me to post to Facebook.  I was looking for a picture to use and I could hear her in my head saying, “I don’t like that one, eww I look horrible in that one, no you can’t use that one…”

She’s kind of a pain in the butt that way.  That is why I tell her often that she is beautiful.  Her beauty is on the inside and outside and reaches out to those around her to make them feel brighter when they are around her.

This is also my sister that you do not want to tick off.  She learned through the entire process her value, her worth, her strength and an appreciation for life.  Treat her disrespectfully and she is done.  She knows what she is worth and what she deserves and she is not going to settle for anything less.

That to me is one of her most admirable qualities.  Too often we make excuses for others and allow for things that we really don’t want to because we are actually being disrespectful of ourselves.  We are afraid of standing up for ourselves, afraid of saying out loud, “I deserve better.”

Here’s the catch with that – if you want better and deserve better than you darn well better act like you deserve it.  Don’t go into work and give it a half-effort then expect full credibility.  Don’t allow someone to treat you as a second thought and expect to be an important part of their life.

It doesn’t work that way.

Work hard, go after what you want, cut loose those that don’t make the time for you, value those that are an active, supporting part of your life and for goodness sakes be grateful for what you have right now.

In one doctor visit you could hear those words that change your world forever.  Would you be strong enough to go through that battle alone, as the sole emotional, financial and physical support for three small children, going to work every day and giving it 100% and still be thankful at the end of the day?

I hope you never have to answer that question.

So I was being a whiney this morning but my friend in six words helped get my head out of my butt, stop and give thanks right there and then for not only my life but more importantly the gift of those that chose to be a part of my life.

I often write blogs and get responses from people about how they feel I spoke directly to them and thanking me for giving them a reality check.  Today my dear friend and sister gave me the reality check.

Thank you, Tracey, for being my friend.  Thank you for your inspiration, love, support, kindness, humor, schooling in pool, a shoulder to cry on, letting me be an ear to listen and most importantly reminding me that how you live your life is your choice.  You are an angle on this earth – until you get behind the wheel, then you are a little speed devil.

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

Career Coach-Strategist

Certified Professional Resume Writer

Career Polish, Inc.

www.CareerPolish.com

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