A New Way to Work

Success and change without burnout by Dr. Geri Puleo

Archive for the tag “Prioritizing”

Paradigm Shifter #48 – Identify your life’s purpose

Paradigm Shift

You will always leave a legacy – whether you intend to or not. To intentionally leave a legacy, you must identify and act boldly based on your life’s PURPOSE.

This advice is perennial: success requires that you understand why you are here…at this time…in this place…with these specific talents.  Your legacy is, therefore, the result of the interplay between your internal talents and the external circumstances that create the fabric of your life.

It doesn’t matter whether you believe that this unique amalgamation is random or dictated by a higher power. What matters is that you identify for yourself the “why’s” of your life.

But it is often much easier said than done.

Boldly asserting your life’s “purpose” can be frightening:

  • Will I become so focused on a single goal that I miss out on all the other things that life has to offer?
  • Is it egotistical to believe that I am here for an important reason that can impact society – or even a small portion of it?
  • What if I want to achieve this purpose so badly and commit so many resources to it…then don’t achieve it?

Whether expressed out loud or just simmering in our subconscious, these fears powerfully sabotage our ability to really achieve success on our own terms.

The fear of “missing out”

I am adamantly against the idea that anyone can “have it all” – but I just as adamantly support that you can have what you want.

Several years ago, I was the keynote speaker at a university’s conference on women. My topic focused on transcending the guilt-inducing societal edict that we can – and should! – “have it all.”  Instead, I recommended that we focus on our personal priorities in order to achieve what’s most important to us.

While many of the women agreed with me, I was astounded at the anger and vehemence of a few of the women. In fact, one attendee said that the topic should have been that “Geri Puleo has it all.”

Why did this well-meant advice create such astonishingly diverse reactions?

Having the courage – and, yes, it takes courage – to proclaim what we want and then act accordingly holds a mirror up to our lives. Our actions reflect our priorities even if we profess something entirely different.

Realizing that we can’t “have it all” but that we can “have what we want” is profoundly life-changing.  It takes away the guilt if we don’t try to do everything…for everybody…but often not for ourselves.

This insight also might lead us to take actions that will upset or hurt other people because we may need to say “no” to their requests in order to say “yes” to what we need to do in order to achieve our life’s purpose.

But when we live our lives based on what we believe is our guiding PURPOSE to be here at this time, in this place, and with our unique talents, then saying “no” becomes much easier.

And the people who truly support us – our “tribe” – will embrace us along our journey.

The so-called “egotism” of a higher calling

When we finally muster the courage to define what we want (our life’s purpose) and decide to go for it, we must also let go of that which does not support that purpose.

And when that involves letting go of (or at least distancing ourselves from) certain people, it is far too common for them to demean us in order to assuage their feelings of rejection.

So they call us egotistical. A dreamer.  Unrealistic.  Even a braggart.

Striving for a higher goal, a noble purpose, is life-affirming – even if those who are currently around us try to belittle our ambitions.

Again, it takes courage to live based on a rock solid belief in the PURPOSE of our lives.  This has the effect of propelling us toward people who also live their lives based on a higher calling.

We generally are not “discarding” the people who are currently in our lives (but don’t necessarily support us). Instead we are shifting our relationships with them on a continuum traversing friends who have moved to the periphery of our relationships to those who are toxic and thus no longer a part of our lives.

But, even more importantly, living our lives based on PURPOSE makes us much more compassionate and empathetic toward others. In fact, we tend to be more open and give more of ourselves to those who also want to make a difference – and the probability of supportive reciprocation is vastly increased.

Defining the difference that we want to make – whether it is on a small familial level or on the greater world stage of society – is the essence of identifying the unique purpose of our individual lives.

And there is no egotism in wanting to achieve something that ultimately helps others.

The fear of failure

I really don’t believe that there is an objective difference between a “winner” and a “loser.” The truth as to who “wins” and who “loses” rests solely in the eye of the beholder.

Life is a journey. Anyone who has achieved greatness has also had the gnawing fear of “what’s next” and “how do I top this?”  You still have a life to live after you achieve the goal that you defined as identifying you as a “winner.”

Because life is a journey, living with PURPOSE creates a better sense of balance. Goals become benchmarks on the path to creating an intentional legacy.  If a particular tactic doesn’t achieve a goal related to the overall purpose of your life, then it is much easier to adapt and shift.

The biggest fear comes from not achieving the scope of your life’s purpose.  Maybe you won’t save the world, but your daily actions aligned with your purpose will undoubtedly create small successes and even joy.

There will be challenges, but your journey toward actualizing your PURPOSE will also be energizing and enjoyable – something that you don’t want to “miss out” on. When your purpose is based on a higher noble goal, it is the antithesis of egotism.  And, finally, recognizing that “failure” is really an opportunity to learn creates curiosity and commitment.

Living in alignment with the PURPOSE of your life transcends the siren call of society’s more mundane definition of “success.” Rather than living with fear and second-guessing, a life lived with purpose is a life well lived and produces a sustainable, intentional legacy.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is a change management/HR expert whose goal is to eradicate burnout from the workplace. She is the President of Change Management Solutions, Inc. as well as a popular keynote speaker and trainer. To see her “in action,” watch her TEDx Talk on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFkI69zJzLI. She can be reached at gpuleo@ChangeWithoutBurnout.com.

How to Overcome Job Burnout – NEW Online Course!

BANNER - Final

Is your job burning you out – but you can’t decide whether to “tough it out” in your current job OR take the step to find a new job?

  • Does your current job offer security – but you feel like your burnout is literally killing you?
  • Do you want to explore other employment opportunities – but you’re too burned out to harness the energy to take action?
  • Are you afraid of what might happen if you don’t take action to overcome burnout NOW.

What should you do?

To help you decide, I am proud to announce the first course in my new Online Training Academy:  Job Burnout: When to Stay, When to Go, What to Do.

This totally online course is available ON DEMAND, and will help you finally decide:

  • When you should STAY in your current position
  • When you should LEAVE your current position
  • What you can do NOW to overcome burnout

You’ll have full access to each of the 6 modules PLUS downloadable e-workbooks, audiopodcasts, webinars, short readings, Quick Checks, and a private interactive online discussion board – and, yes, I’ll be on the discussions to answer questions and give you even more tips on how to overcome job burnout.

Job Burnout: When to Stay, When to Go, What to Do is on-demand, so it is accessible 24/7 anywhere around the world.  Complete the lessons at your convenience on your computer, tablet, or smart phone.

BONUS:  You’ll have full access to the course for 1 year – absolutely free!

The price for this course is $149 — but I am offering a special limited time discount through April 30, 2016.  Use discount code 70APR2016 and save $70 off the normal $149 price (only $79).

For More Information:  https://app.ruzuku.com/courses/12975/about.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is a passionate advocate for eradicating burnout in the workplace.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, she is the President of Change Management Solutions, Inc. as well as an author, researcher, and popular keynote speaker and trainer.  To see her “in action,” watch her TEDx Talk on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFkI69zJzLI.  She can be reached at geri@gapuleo.com

Paradigm Shifter #8 – Every day can be a new beginning IF you want it

Paradigm ShiftMany people view the New Year as a time for new (or renewed) commitments. I have also found that just as many view the changing of the calendar as just another day.  Is one view better than the other?

What if there was a third way to view the start of a new year? What if we could look at every day as a new beginning – regardless of the date on the calendar?

As anyone who has ever been a member of a health club will tell you, the first few weeks of January are filled with people who have “finally” decided to get in shape. Unfortunately, this causes only a temporary problem with delays and waiting for machines because all of these new year’s athletes’ staunch resolutions to “finally” do it have…well, vanished by February.

I also know clients, colleagues, and friends who believe that the New Year is really just another day. “Nothing new to look forward to – just the same old, same old.”  Unlike the New Year’s athletes, their resolve to do something new often vanished long before January 1st.

Very different perspectives yet, in both of these cases, there is a common theme: a nagging unhappiness.  Maybe it is the belief that something in our lives is wrong.  Maybe it is a fear that we have no control over our lives.  Maybe it is an anger that our current lives are not what we had anticipated or hoped for.

Henry David Thoreau’s observation that most of us “live lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in [us]” is uncomfortably familiar.

But what if we instead recognized that every day (and every individual moment within each day) is brand new? That every day has never happened before…and will never happen again?  How would this paradigm shift change life as we know it?

While I agree that the New Year can be a “good” time to “finally” take action on that which we want to achieve, why limit ourselves to only one day in the year? For both the New Year’s athlete whose resolution starts out strong then fades away and the person whose life is one of monotony without change, it may mean the beginning of the end to the unhappiness and dissatisfaction that we feel.

We can (and, I believe, should) embrace the challenge to view each day as a new beginning:

  • Let go of the past. Easier said than done, but all of those “wouldas,” “couldas,” and “shouldas” are powerful “guilty glues” that feed our fears of wanting and doing something more.
  • To let go of the past, we need to remind ourselves that we are NOT our pasts. The amazing thing about humans is that we have an innate capacity to change and adapt. The paradox is that we are often afraid of those changes due to an unending litany of “what ifs” that prevents us from moving forward.
  • Learn from the past – but remember that this is valuable hindsight and not necessarily inescapable foresight. Just because it happened before doesn’t necessarily mean that it is inevitable now. This is true for both victories and failures. The consistent practice of self-reflection helps us to recognize patterns so that we can avoid repeating past mistakes or proactively replicate the factors that contributed to past successes.
  • Don’t be afraid to open up to the road ahead. To do that, we need to stop looking backward in the rearview mirrors of our lives. What lies ahead? Where do you want to go? What do you want to be? How can you use your God-given talents to get there? (Surprisingly, many people with whom I’ve spoken to have absolutely no idea what their ideal life would look like – without a destination, it’s nearly impossible to map out the best route to get there.)
  • Take three deep breaths and just do it! Nike was on to something when they branded themselves with those three little words. Yes, we’re all afraid of what might happen! Yes, it is inevitable that there will be surprises along the road! And, yes, we might even decide to change our destination! But not doing something empowers our minds to weave powerful, self-righteous “what if” fictions that rationalize and reinforce the “guilty glues” that are keeping us stuck and unhappy.
  • So what if we fail? Most failures are NOT – I repeat, NOT! – the end of the world. Failures lie on a continuum from minor upsets to life-threatening catastrophes. What’s fascinating is that the same “failure” can be viewed as earth-shattering by one person, but only a minor pain to another. Our perceptions create our realities.

Success has never been and will never be a linear path. Many people who ultimately succeed often admit that they have “failed” their way to success.  They learn from the past.  They don’t let their pasts define their futures.  And they don’t wait to make the necessary changes in their lives based on a date on the calendar.

I hope that every day in this New Year can be a new start and an awakening for you. Happy New Year!

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is a change management/HR expert whose goal is to eradicate burnout from the workplace. She is the President of Change Management Solutions, Inc. as well as a popular keynote speaker and trainer. To see her “in action,” watch her TEDx Talk on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFkI69zJzLI. She can be reached at gpuleo@ChangeWithoutBurnout.com

Paradigm Shifter #40: You can’t do it all (so don’t apologize)

Paradigm ShiftDoes “having it all” necessary mean “doing it all?”

In today’s fast-paced, chaotic world, we’ve developed a strong tendency to “go for the gold” in everything that we do.  While excellence is a worthwhile goal, I’ve come to believe that we can’t necessarily be “the best” at everything that we do.

The problem is that we apologize for our perceived lack of “perfection” and forget to relish those things that we actually do well.

Another problem is that there are only 24 hours in a day – and we have to sleep at least some of those hours.  But few of us get the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep per night, so our energy falters even though we insist on continuing to do “everything.” The result is higher stress and an even more insurmountable “to do” list.

Why do many high achievers believe that it is imperative that we “do it all?”

Even more important:  why do so many high achievers apologize when we CAN’T “do it all?”

Delving into a sociological and psychological study into this problem is far beyond the scope of this article.  However, creating a new way to work requires that we prioritize what’s important to us.  When everything is important, then nothing is really important.

The simple truth (albeit a hard one for many of us to accept) is that we can’t “do it all.”  But we can do the important things well.   These important things represent our true priorities.  “Doing it all” inherently draws us off course as we attempt to also do the unimportant things in our lives.

“Unimportant,” however, doesn’t mean “unnecessary.”  Unimportant tasks are those activities that might need to be done – but don’t necessarily have to be done by us.

Therein lies the challenge:  when we admit that a task that we have traditionally accomplished can be done by someone else, it often causes our ego to question our “value.”  Nowhere is this more evident than in the workplace.

  • Managers who believe that they have to “do it all” are micromanagers that are rarely appreciated (or respected) by their subordinates.
  • Employees who try to “do it all” generally tend to miss deadlines because their focus is shifted to the unimportant, lower priority tasks.
  • Trying to “do it all” simultaneously at work and at home is a recipe for job dissatisfaction, relationship problems, and burnout.

One of the most valuable lessons that I have learned is to accept the fact that I am a human – not a superhero who doesn’t need sleep, rest, and relaxation.  It also means that I can’t do everything “perfectly.”

But admitting that I can’t do it all was and, to a certain extent, continues to be a challenge.

The problem is that trying to do it all leads to feelings of being overwhelmed.  Failing in our attempts to do it all leads to frustration and a diminished sense of self-worth.  Yet we continue in our misguided efforts to go beyond our very human limitations.

The cure for trying to “do it all” is to prioritize what’s important to us – and then have the courage to focus our efforts on these important activities.  It means being able to say “no.”  It also means being sufficiently confident of our own unique value so that we can feel comfortable delegating the unimportant but necessary tasks to others.

Finally, it means that we need to stop apologizing when we can’t “do it all.”

Accepting that not only we personally but also everyone else CAN’T “do it all” changes our perspectives of what is important, what is feasible, and what is just additional “stuff” that has little if any true importance.

As corporate leaders, managers, and employees, this new perspective can radically change the work environment and reduce burnout.  Understanding that we can’t “do it all” might be the first step in creating a new, more productive, and more enjoyable way to work.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is a change management/HR expert and the President of Change Management Solutions, Inc.  A popular speaker at regional and national conferences, she can be reached at gpuleo@ChangeWithoutBurnout.com.  You can watch her TEDx Talk on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFkI69zJzLI

Paradigm Shifter #35: Single-tasking is better than multi-tasking

Paradigm Shift“There’s too much to do!!!  Do more with less!!!  Don’t waste time!!!”  These are caveats by which many of us live our lives.

For greater efficiency and financial profitability, many companies now expect their human resources to be able to multi-task in ways that are comparable to the feats made possible by artificial intelligence.

Instead of harnessing technology, it has instead become our 24/7/365 master.  We tend to expect that we can accomplish multiple tasks not just simultaneously, but also at the speed of our computers and mobile devices.  If not, we think that there must be a problem with us.

But the real problem is that many of us ignore the needs and limitations of being human.  We are not wired like computers.  We are not programmable robots.  And that is ultimately a very good thing.

The drive to not only do more with less but also to do it faster is fertile ground for our misguided attempts at multi-tasking.  The primary issue is that there is often very little consideration of the nature of the tasks themselves when we multi-task:  each task is simply a line item on our ever-increasing “To Do” lists.

Recent studies have shown that interruptions (either by others or self-imposed through the process of multi-tasking) actually interfere with our ability to concentrate and ultimately slow down our progress.  In other words, we actually waste time when we try to do too much because our brains need time to re-group in order to “pick up where we left off.”

Any “time savings” or efficiencies achieved from simultaneously working on tasks that involve critical thinking or creativity are thus undermined by the reduced quality or effectiveness of our completion of each task.

So, if the tasks require critical thinking, creativity, decision making, and/or learning, then we shouldn’t multi-task!

There a few other things that I’ve noticed about multi-tasking:

  • Multi-tasking destroys mindfulness.  We’re not totally “present” in anything that we’re doing because we are trying to simultaneously compartmentalize and control competing thoughts and goals.  The likelihood of breakthrough, “a ha!” moments is severely limited.
  • We overlook some of the most important concepts or aspects of our tasks.  Because we’re not present in the moment (i.e., fully concentrating), we tend to skim over documents or conversations.  Then we berate ourselves for missing the “obvious.”
  • We also miss the important nuances.  Since both the devil and the serendipitous discoveries are found in the details, we lose the opportunity to notice either.
  • Finally, multi-tasking tends to draw out projects beyond the time that they should reasonably take to complete.  We have a false sense of accomplishment because we completed 25% of five different projects even though we haven’t 100% completed any of them!

However, there is one type of multi-tasking that I believe can be very effective.  Multi-tasking via technology works precisely because it isn’t really multi-tasking.  Instead, it is actually a form of technological delegation.  The “grunt work” is done by technology, leaving us free to concentrate, analyze, ponder, and use our creativity to solve higher level, more complex problems.

In my own life, single-tasking actually increases my productivity in terms of both efficiency and effectiveness.  Maybe that’s because I’m fully focused and using all of my resources to get something 100% done.  By saying “yes” to this particular project or task, I can more readily say “no” to other competing interests.

What about you:  is your multi-tasking propelling you toward the goals that you want to achieve OR is it undermining your path to success?

  • Look at your past history.  How effective have you really been when you tried to do too many things at the same time?
  • Which of your key projects have you actually completed?  Did the completed projects meet your expected standards?
  • How many other projects have “fallen through the cracks” because your attention was focused elsewhere?
  • Have any 6-month projects turned into 5-year odysseys?
  • Of the projects that are still partially completed, how much time would it actually take to finally check this project off your “To Do” list?
  • Are you willing to at least try single-tasking and see what happens?

While everybody works differently, it is critical that we understand and appreciate the most conducive environment and tools needed for us to do our best work.  Single-tasking requires prioritizing what is important – then taking the time to focus on completing the task at hand.

Although it’s against the “norm” of our multi-tasking society, maybe it’s time to be a maverick and try single-tasking in order to achieve the goals and success that we really want.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is a change management/HR expert and the President of Change Management Solutions, Inc.  A popular speaker at regional and national conferences, she can be reached at gpuleo@ChangeWithoutBurnout.com.  You can watch her TEDx Talk on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFkI69zJzLI

Why Do YOU “Go to Work?”

Why Work - Stress Enjoy Boredom

Jobs and work:  mostly everyone wants one.  Mostly everyone needs one.  But not everyone is happy or productive in one.  In fact, job stress can be a leading cause of burnout.

In the graphic accompanying this article, a highly skilled individual who is in an unchallenging environment will be bored.

An employee who is challenged beyond his or her skill set (and, I might add, did not receive appropriate or adequate training) will be stressed.

But the worker who has found the perfect balance between his or her skills and the right degree of challenge on the job will most likely be happy and excel.

While I mostly agree with this somewhat simplistic approach to job satisfaction, there is a key consideration that is overlooked:  why exactly are you working in the first place?

The reasons why we go to work are as diverse as the individuals in the workplace.  While the relationship between our skills and the challenges of the job are important, our own personal reasons to “go to work” can have a powerful impact on not only our commitment and performance on the job, but also on our propensity to burnout.

Consider these reasons to “go to work”:

  • Simply to get a paycheck:  There is a strong likelihood that we will do the bare minimum that is required on the job – and we’ll probably be the first ones out the door at quitting time.
  • We “have to” (even though it bores us):  Boredom can arise because our skills are higher than what is needed on the job OR we view the work as comprised of routine, mind-numbing tasks.  It is almost inevitable that we will display “presenteeism” on the job – we’re at work, but we’re not really “there.”
  • We like our coworkers:  Because we are human beings, it is impossible to separate the relationships that we have with the people in our work environments from our satisfaction or dissatisfaction in the job.  But even though our relationships might be super, if the job itself doesn’t align with our career goals and aspirations, then we will ultimately have a nagging sense that “something is missing.”
  • Our job aligns with our professional goals BUT it is an unethical or poorly led company:  In this situation, we may simply be going to work in order to get the paycheck – but the building stress generally causes us to eventually believe that no amount of money is sufficient to keep us.  But until we find another employer, our stress levels build from the cognitive dissonance between what we believe is right and the environment that thwarts our good intentions.
  • We believe in the purpose and mission of the organization:  There is a greater tendency to commit more of ourselves to the job – in other words, the organizational vision is aligned with our personal values so we believe that our work has a meaning beyond a paycheck.

These are just a few examples of reasons why some of my clients have “gone to work” – as well as some reasons why they left their employers.

Understanding why you, your colleagues, or subordinates come to work each day provides a profound insight into the best ways to motivate and lead them to their fullest potential.  And when employees excel in their jobs, then the company overall reaps the rewards of higher productivity, better customer service, and greater employee commitment and loyalty.

Puleo’s Pointers:  Understanding the Reasons Why We Work 

As a career consultant for many years, I have often been surprised when I’ve asked clients about their career histories:  why they are in their current field, what they want to accomplish, and what they are willing to sacrifice in order to achieve their goals.

Their responses have often surprised me – primarily because many individuals (whether in entry-level or senior positions) often don’t have clear-cut answers to these questions.  They were quite capable of explaining their career history in terms of projects or events.  They could easily express aspirations about their futures in their fields.  But they were often stopped short when trying to identify what they were willing to sacrifice in order to reach those goals.

Once we understand the sacrifices necessary to achieve future goals, we get a better understanding of why we are working in the first place.

For example, let’s say that you aspire to a senior level position entailing extensive travel and long work hours BUT your reason for working is to provide a better life for your family.  The key is to understand specifically what “a better life” means to you:

  • If “a better life” solely means providing material comfort for your family, then you’ll probably do well in this type of position.
  • However, if “a better life” means spending quality time (i.e., fully present and engaged) with your family, then the demands of this job contradict your real reasons for working.
  • When the demands of your job contradict your real reasons for working, then stress and burnout are the likely results.

Finding a job and career that reflect your personal goals and values is critical in creating the life that you want – your job then becomes a powerful reflection of who you really are.  Unfortunately, far too many people are in jobs that frustrate, anger, or even demoralize them.  The only reason that they “go to work” is because they “have to” (usually for financial reasons).

A recent study revealed that 80% of people are dissatisfied with their jobs even though we spend an average of 90,000 hours “at work” during our lifetimes – that’s a lot of hours that cannot be replaced.  To avoid being part of this unhappy 80%, take the time to fully understand what you expect from a job and what you are willing to sacrifice in return:

  • Do the hours you spend at work reflect your own personal goals and ambitions – or is it time spent doing something that you hate in an uncomfortable environment?
  • Is work a “means to an end” – and is it really contributing to your desired end goal?
  • Finally, does your work make you feel good and proud at the end of the day?  If not, maybe it’s time to reflect on why you’re working in this particular job, in this particular company, and in this particular way – know when it’s time to move on.

Understanding and acting upon our answer as to why we go to work is fundamental to avoiding burnout.  Not only are we better able to create a new, more productive, and satisfying way to work, but also a richer, more enjoyable, and more fulfilling life as a whole.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is a change management/HR expert and the President of Change Management Solutions, Inc.  A popular speaker at regional and national conferences, she can be reached at gpuleo@ChangeWithoutBurnout.com.  You can watch her TEDx Talk on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFkI69zJzLI

Paradigm Shifter #16: Know when to walk away

Paradigm ShiftIn the song The Gambler, Kenny Rogers advised, “You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, know when to walk away, and know when to run.”

If you are a Type A personality, a perfectionist, or a high achiever, heeding this advice can be very difficult.  Instead, we try to “make it happen” – trying to force a “win” out of a losing hand.

I admit that I’ve succumbed to this entirely too often, usually for one of the following reasons:

  • Trying to change people’s minds that our point of view is the “right way”
  • Rationalizing other people’s behaviors as the result of a lack of knowledge, rather than a difference in motivation or ethics
  • Staying in a situation that simply isn’t achieving the necessary results because we’ve already invested so much time and resources

Often we perceive this inability to walk away as tenacity and stick-to-itiveness.  To walk away is the equivalent of being a quitter – something that contradicts the values of Type A’s, perfectionists, and high achievers.

But knowing when to walk away should be equated with the ability to fearlessly assess the ROI (return on investment) of the situation.  This ROI is not necessarily just related to financial considerations, but also to the emotional, physical, and stressful fallout of continuing to stay in a losing situation.

How to Know When to Walk Away:  I am not advocating that we “jump ship” at the first obstacle relating to the situation.  However, I am suggesting that the only way to know when to walk away is to first identify the desired outcomes of the situation.

By understanding what we want to achieve in a given situation, it becomes much easier to determine whether the current strategy or actions are contributing to the desired outcome.  If the intended results are not being achieved, ask yourself two questions:

  1. What am I currently doing that is affecting this outcome?  (Be honest:  it is very easy to feel like a victim.)
  2. What is currently occurring in the environment that is affecting this outcome?  (These factors might be easily seen or might require some “digging” to disclose.)

Once these questions have been answered, then it is time to decide between three options:

  • Option #1:  Should I “tough it out” by continuing on the current course?  This is a viable alternative when an evaluation of external factors reveals a more desirable trend that will affect our desired results.  Some things just take time to achieve.
  • Option #2:  Should I change what I am currently doing so that it is more conducive to achieving the desired results?  While we cannot control external factors, we always have the power to choose the actions that we take.  The key is to critically, objectively, and fearlessly assess whether our current actions are taking advantage of what is going on around us:  if the alignment between our actions and environmental factors is good, then “tough it out” – but if our actions are undermining our results, then it is time to change what we are doing.
  • Option #3:  Should I walk away from the current situation AND move forward to something more positive?  A very good friend of mine once sagely advised that, “Sometimes you just gotta punt.”  Maybe the timing isn’t right for the results that we want.  Maybe the environment just isn’t receptive to what we are trying to achieve.  Or maybe we no longer really want what we previously wanted.  If any of these situations applies, then it’s time to walk away.  Walking away in these situations does not characterize us as quitters, but rather as people who courageously know when to say “no” and move on to a more positive situation.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is a change management/HR expert and the President of Change Management Solutions, Inc.  A popular speaker at regional and national conferences, she can be reached at gpuleo@ChangeWithoutBurnout.com.  You can watch her TEDx Talk on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFkI69zJzLI

Paradigm Shifter #23: Seek proof before delegating

Paradigm Shift

People are generally very good about telling others about their KSA’s (knowledge, skills, and abilities).  Whether it’s strategic planning, employee motivation, balancing work and life, or even making the perfect spaghetti sauce, I’ve observed that people tend to profess to be quite good at a number of things.

As a result, we tend to take others at their word and accept their help in completing projects or tasks.

The problem occurs when the results don’t live up to their professed talents and KSA’s. Why?

Are people intentionally lying about their skills – or are they confusing talent or potential with mastery and results?  Are they exaggerating their scope of knowledge – or are they really talking about areas of interest rather than actual experience?

While the disconnect between professed competencies and corresponding outcomes can have a variety of causes, the real challenge is what to do when the person to whom you’ve delegated responsibility for a project or task is really not adequately prepared for it.

A second challenge is the frustration and anger that you often feel when others don’t do what they said that they could do.

How to Enhance the Probability for Success When Delegating:  In my own experience resulting from many episodes of colleagues not being able to do what they said that they could do, I’ve learned that proof is critical prior to delegating a task to someone.  The challenge, of course, is how do you obtain that proof prior to delegating responsibility?  Here are some tips to consider before delegating:

Proof #1:  Discover what the KSA means to them.  Don’t simply rely on the word that someone uses to describe his or her KSA.  In addition to the denotative (or “dictionary”) meaning of a word, all words have different connotative meanings that are unique to each person.  For example, “strategic planning” to a CEO or entrepreneur requires creative visioning, hard core business analysis, and internal negotiations with stakeholders; in contrast, “strategic planning” to a middle manager often focuses on operationalizing tasks to achieve a pre-assigned goal.  As a result, the competencies necessary to strategically plan are quite different.  By understanding the competencies associated with someone’s KSA’s, you can better determine if they are the same ones that are needed to successfully perform the task to be delegated.

Proof #2:  Ask for examples of their KSA in action.  Once you understand what they mean by the term used to describe their KSA, use behavioral-based questions to find out more about the context in which this KSA was used.  These questions do not focus on how they might manage the delegated responsibility in the future, but rather focus on how they previously managed a similar project in the past.  This is a critical step in determining whether or not someone actually has the necessary skills to complete the delegated responsibility.  For example, subject matter experts (SME’s) are often delegated with the task of training others on the SME’s area of expertise; however, subject matter expertise may or may not include the ability to effectively train others.  Training requires not only understanding the subject, but also being attentive to the needs and experiences of students, then creatively presenting the concepts in a way that resonates with those experiences.

Proof #3:  Investigate how they used their KSA.  This is an extension of Proof #2.  Probe for specific behaviors, attitudes, etc. used in implementing the KSA in the past.  For example, “leadership” comes in many forms.  Will the way in which this person previously led others be effective in leading others in this particular situation?  Also focus on the context or environment in which the KSA was used.  Is it aligned with the values and goals of the current culture?

Proof #4:  Seek specific results of their previous use of the KSA.  This is often overlooked prior to delegating.  Just because someone has done something in the past does not necessarily mean that they achieved the level of success that you need for a potential delegated task.  This is also when many people will offer too many rationalizations or excuses if the results did not meet certain standards.

Proof #5:  Don’t be afraid to pull someone from the task if he or she is not performing.  Although it’s important to give the individual some time to ramp up, it’s equally important to monitor how he or she is progressing on the delegated task.  Offer coaching and restate the desired outcomes, but also be courageous in assigning someone else if it isn’t working out.  While this may seem to be cruel, it is just as cruel to keep someone on a task if he or she is insufficiently prepared to take responsibility for it.

Proof #6:  Above all, never assume that someone possesses a KSA or competency based on his or her job title.  Job titles change at breakneck speeds and require different skills in different environments.  For example, the title of “Vice President” is quite different in a Fortune 100 company than it is in a 5-person start-up.  By seeking proof and conducting due diligence prior to delegating, you are much less likely to pay the consequences of inaccurate assumptions of others’ professed KSA’s.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is a change management/HR expert and the President of Change Management Solutions, Inc.  A popular speaker at regional and national conferences, she can be reached at gpuleo@ChangeWithoutBurnout.com.  You can watch her TEDx Talk on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFkI69zJzLI

Why People Leave Their Careers: The Connection Between Career Change, Organizational Change, and Burnout

Figure decidingHave you ever known anyone who “suddenly” quit their jobs and the careers that they spent years developing?  Did they leap into the unknown even though they didn’t really know what they wanted to do next?

Has this ever happened to you?

Many people change jobs due to downsizing, the completion of advanced degrees, or changes in one’s personal life.  It is a natural next step and is cause for celebration.  However, this does not address the millions of workers who “suddenly” quit even if they haven’t planned a logical next step.

Based on my career consulting practice as well as the experiences of my friends and peers, many workers are taking this dramatic step in their careers.  The question is “why?”

  • Are American workers expecting “too much” from their work experiences?
  • Are companies providing insufficient resources and recognition to help employees meet an ever-increasing list of job demands?
  • Is the stress of working in the modern workplace reaching such a critical level that workers must choose between a job’s financial security and their own emotional and physical health?

These “sudden” career changes are often met with shock, fear, and even anger – by both the individual as well as his or her colleagues, peers, family, and friends.  But the “suddenness” of the change is actually the result of a series of events that built up to the proverbial breaking point.

According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, the average U.S. worker will have 7 careers in his or her lifetime.  Not jobs – but careers.  This means that most workers will only be with an employer for approximately 4 to 5 years.  Interestingly, Kotter & Schlessinger (1979) found that companies undergo change initiatives at the same rate.

Is there a connection?

In my research on burnout during organizational change, over 92% of my participants changed jobs as a result of the burnout that they experienced during their employer’s change initiative.  50% changed industries or careers in an attempt to avoid additional burnout.

Even as employers attempt to better “engage” their workers, they continue to downsize, rightsize, outsource, and offshore.  Considering that 70% of change initiatives fail, is it any wonder that employees choose to “jump ship” rather than continue to experience the emotional, psychological, and physical effects of stress and burnout?

Puleo’s Pointers:  Shifts to Help You Better Navigate Constant Change

The lack of corporate stability and employee loyalty is a critical component of the modern workplace – but this reality is often ignored by employers and their workers.  To better navigate this era of constant, unrelenting change requires a shift in our assumptions, perceptions, and expectations.  Here are 3 ideas to help get you started:

  1. Recognize that change is the new status quo.  Don’t expect that either your business or job will remain the same.  Rather than viewing change as something to avoid, re-frame change as something that is an invigorating opportunity to learn something new.  This simple shift will help increase your confidence and feelings of control in response to both small and large changes.
  2. Specifically identify your priorities in terms of work-life commitments.  If you are an individual, understand what you can comfortably give to a job so that you also have time and energy for a personal life.  If you are responsible for business strategy, recognize the effects on the bottom line that are the direct results of employee creativity, enthusiasm, and commitment – are your expectations and performance standards creating an environment that is “employee-friendly?”
  3. Plan for change.  One of the biggest challenges to burned out workers who desperately want to leave their jobs is that they simply don’t have time to launch a job search.  Try spending 10 minutes a day thinking about what you want in terms of job responsibilities and work environment.  Not only will you feel that you have greater control over your professional life, but your energy will increase as you make you a priority in your daily activities.  If you are planning an organizational change, don’t forget to include the “soft metrics” or the human side of your change initiative when calculating the costs, benefits, and probability of success.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is a change management/HR expert and the President of Change Management Solutions, Inc.  A popular speaker at regional and national conferences, she can be reached at gpuleo@ChangeWithoutBurnout.com.  You can watch her TEDx Talk on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFkI69zJzLI

Paradigm Shifter #4: Don’t let your fears control your actions

Paradigm Shift

What are we afraid of?  Although we live in a time where economic uncertainty and mindless violence threaten our security, the fear that I’ve observed (and even experienced) is something much more intangible – something that often arises from our internal (rather than external) environment.

While we live in times that are challenging, threatening, and often just plain scary, I’m sure that earlier generations felt the same way.  Nothing remains the same.  Everything is constantly changing.  Despite our best attempts, we can’t predict the future.  To sail forward, we must leave the shore.  But fear is an anchor that refuses to budge.

Sadly, many of our fears remain nameless, yet they influence not only what we will and will not do but also how we do or do not do it.  The sources of fear often exist on a subconscious level, but direct our conscious actions.

The good news is that because fears are thoughts, we can learn to control them.

How to Control Your Fears:  The key is to identify your root fear.  Surprisingly, many fears share some common sources:

  • Fear of failure
  • Fear of success
  • Fear of both failure and success

The fear of failure is often intuitively understood by most people.  Failure undermines our self-esteem, can lead to negative effects in our environment (e.g., job loss, financial insecurity, etc.), and degrades our image in the eyes of others.

Fear of success is just as pervasive.  Succeeding requires time and effort.  It requires us to lose sight of the shore and take advantage of opportunities whose outcomes might not be immediately evident.  Success requires changing that which we currently know into that which is currently unknown.

Finally, the double whammy of the fear of both failure and success is perhaps the most challenging.  Despite the strong desire to succeed, we’re too afraid of not only what will happen after we succeed, but also along the path to take as we move toward that success – so we sabotage, procrastinate, and “almost” succeed.

These are powerful fears – but they can be changed to support (rather than hinder) you.

Step #1:  Admit that you are afraid.  Recognizing your fears, understanding them, and consciously accepting that they are affecting your actions are extremely effective in getting to the root cause of your fears.

Step #2:  Define success on your terms.  Why do you want this particular type of success?  (See Paradigm Shifter #6:  Define what success means to you, not for somebody else.)

Step #3:  Be specific as to how your fears have undermined your success.  Think about the connections between your fearful thoughts, your actions, and the outcomes.

Step #4:  Change your self-talk and the associated images.  Addressing the emotions associated with your fears is just as important as intellectually understanding them.  Your self-talk is not only words, but also images that determine your behaviors.  So, rather than just focusing on the messages in the endless “self-talk” loop, also try focusing on the images associated with these messages.  Then change not only the message, but also the image for something that is desirable and speaks to your emotions and internal motivation.  Messages that are accompanied with positive, desirable images can be more powerful than simply reciting new, half-hearted messages.

Step #5:  Celebrate each time saying “no” to your fears leads to a positive outcome!  This not only feels good, but also reinforces that you are committed to no longer allowing your fears to control your destiny.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is a change management/HR expert and the President of Change Management Solutions, Inc.  A popular speaker at regional and national conferences, she can be reached at gpuleo@ChangeWithoutBurnout.com.  You can watch her TEDx Talk on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFkI69zJzLI

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