“R” is for Resilience

“Life is not about how fast you run, or how high you climb, but how well you bounce.”

The world is filled with obstacles and situations that cause us stress. How is it that some people are felled by criticism, failure, or change and others seem to take a deep breath, dust themselves off and keep right on going? One word: RESILIENCE

Resilience is the ability to rebound from a crisis or any situation that threatens to pull you off course. While fear and resistance to change may hold some back, resilience can help you rebound. Back in the day, it was believed that you either had it or your didn’t. The good news is that it is not innate. Resilience can be learned!

How? Here are four strategies research supports in terms of becoming more resilient:

  • Get connected. Resilient people use social support (not necessarily social media) to help them through the rough times. They open up to family or friends and allow others to help them get through the tough times life can serve up. Who can you tell your troubles to without fearing judgment? Do you have a “person”? And whose “person” are you?

 

  • Practice optimism. Numerous research studies show how negative thinking can become a habit. What spin do you put on your experiences? When your thoughts turn negative, challenge yourself to re-frame the situation in more positive terms.

Resilient people challenge themselves to re-frame situations. One  could say they look for the silver lining. But don’t think they’re “Pollyanna”. They don’t deny the gravity of a situation; they  acknowledge the reality of what’s happening and then seek another way to look at the situation.

 

  • Stay healthy. Often when things get tough we’re tempted to turn to “too much”. Too much food, too much alcohol, too much sleep, too much work. People with higher levels of resilience turn to exercise, healthy foods, plenty of water, and 7-8 hours of sleep. They know that every situation is more tolerable and you can think more clearly when you feel healthy and are rested.

  • Explore the spiritual. Spiritual doesn’t necessarily mean religion. It can mean a sense of “we are all in this together.” It can be opening yourself to the wonders of nature, the calm of meditation, or the peace of silence.

Resilience does not eliminate stress or erase life’s difficulties. At a certain age we realize that life isn’t fair, bad things happen to good people, and each of us will eventually have to dance with adversity. Resilience gives you a hand getting up when life knocks you down.

Don’t wait until the next time life deals you bad cards. Start beefing up your resilience now by answering the following questions.

  • How can you better connect with someone at work?
  • Who can you turn to for support when things get dark?
  • How can you re-frame a bad situation? Look back at an old crisis. From the safety of time, can you determine another way to see the situation?
  • What is one healthy habit you can commit to?

 

Jerilyn Willin is a career strategies coach, workshop facilitator, and professional speaker. She works with individuals in transition in their careers and from their careers to the next stage of life. http://www.jerilynwillin.com

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“P” is for Presence, part 2

“There are always three speeches for each one you actually gave; the one you practiced, the one you gave, and the one you wish you gave.”  –Dale Carnegie

In Part 1, I asked you to step back and take a look at how you present yourself as a professional. What do people see when they “google” you? What kind of messages do you send through your written word? How do you present yourself on a daily basis at work or in the community?

Identistf there ever was a time when presence matters, it’s when you are giving a presentation. Speaking before others is one of the biggest fears of adults. It tops the dentist, heights and for some, even death.

I recently had lunch with a colleague who has a position of great responsibility and has traveled the world for her job. She confided that she had an up-coming presentation to a gathering of the top management of her company. She described it as “two weeks of panic” as the date approached.  “If I could just get rid of the nerves!” she concluded.

Getting rid of the nerves is the last thing you want to do as a presenter.  Reframe your nerves as th-2energy and put that energy to work for you. You need energy to bring life to your presence on stage, to project your voice (even if you have a microphone) and to communicate your passion for the topic.

Audiences only know what they see and hear. They need to see your commitment and that requires energy. I tell my coaching clients that it doesn’t matter how you feel, it’s how you look that counts when before an audience. If you lthook nervous, your audience will feel nervous for you. Uncomfortable audiences will not hear your message, they will not feel good about approving your project, buying your product or making the change you are recommending.

How can you wrangle those pesky nerves and create positive energy? Here are six strategies you can practice to get your nerves working for you:

  • Practice aloud. Every presentation sounds great as we are going over it in our heads. Saying it aloud is a whole different ballgame. Your tongue can’t get tied if you are not moving it, so practice getting the words out. Don’t worry if the first couple times you go all th-3over the place. As they say in the theatre, “bad rehearsal, good performance”. Practice aloud as many times as you can. You will most likely hear some good content get added that you didn’t anticipate saying.
  • Get to the venue early…even if it’s just a floor above you or th-4down the hall. In those quiet moments, walk around the room. Stand where you plan to stand, look around as if you were looking at people in the audience. Make the space your own.
  • Make sure the technology is working. Nothing can tie you in knots like a PowerPoint with a mind of it’s own. Check your deck, practice with the remote. Decide where you are going to lay it when not using it. Do not clutch it in your hand the entire time.
  • Have water accessible. Victim of dry mouth? Have a glass of water where you can easily th-5reach for it. It’s OK to pause and take a sip during your presentation. This allows you to take a breath and gather your thoughts. Don’t say, “Sorry, I need water.” Just do it.
  • Greet people as they arrive. Even if you see your audience every day. Walk over and say hello. Why? The walking and talking help you expend nervous th-6energy. The same goes if your audience is new to you. Greeting them will break the ice. When you begin your presentation, you will have familiar faces to connect with.
  • Know your first 30 seconds dead on. Research indicates that audiences form their impression of a speaker in the first 30 seconds. Know how you are going to start and deliver those words to one person. Nothing says, th-9“I’m nervous” as your eyes flying all over the room. Project so the little old man in the last row can hear you.  Strong eyes and voice say confidence.

Remember, your audience is glad it is you up there and not them. They only know what they see and hear. They will not know if you deliver three of your intended four points unless you tell them (“oh, sorry, I forgot to tell you…”). They won’t know how you really feel unless you show them (wringing hands, dancing feet). Show them how you want to be seen: confident, competent and compelling.th-8

 

 

 

 

 

 

“P” is for Presence, Part 1

FullSizeRender[1]A few months ago a new business acquaintance told me that my business card gave a false impression of me. I was curious and frankly a little offended.  I’m rather attached to my business card.  It’s printed on high quality card stock, unique in that it’s a fold-over and on the inside it outlines the services I offer. What was this person saying? Was he saying I was not high quality and unique? Curiosity won over offense.

“Your card comes across as cool and professional,” he continued, gaining some points with me. “You are warm and approachable. Your card should reflect that.” Hmmm.

The presence we exude is critical to our success. Presence is a part of our brand.  To th-1paraphrase lyricist Shirley Bassey, our presence/brand should be obvious “the minute we walk in the joint…” and in this virtual world, oftentimes our presence is present even when we physically are not.

While how we physically present ourselves is huge, presence itself refers to so much more. Presence refers to how we:

  • communicate (verbally and non-verbally)
  • show up when we’re “googled”
  • interact with colleagues, clients and customers

th-2Many workplaces are far more casual than they were even five years ago. But what does that really mean? Look around at the folks who are respected in your organization. How do they act? They may be friendly and approachable, but chances are they are never inappropriate in their stories, dress, or behavior. Become aware of how they speak, the stories they tell and how they act. I was reminded of this while eavesdropping at my doctor’s office recently. From the exam room I could hear the banter and laughter of the clerks. I suddenly realized that never in all the years I’ve been a patient there have I heard the doctor or her nurse’s voice chime in. I’m sure they do not hold themselves aloof, but they stay professional when patients are present.

What presence do we reflect in our written word? It is not just about what we say but how we say it. What image of you does your written word send. One would think in this day of spell check, typos would be a relic of the past. Nope. While spell check is a blessing, it doesn’t know th-3the difference between there, they’re and their or to, two and too. Sadly, many of us do not either. Our written presence needs to communicate our best selves. Beware of the language and abbreviations used in texting. They send a wrong message when included in a business email or a written report.

Online? What impression do people get when they “google” you? And don’t think they don’t. The internet is pervasive and it never forgets.

So, did I do anything to change my business card? I did. I value the fact that I come across as approachable as well as professional. I would never want anyone to hesitate to contact me due to a “too formal” business card.

My strategy? I added my tag-line, Life is short…exceed expectations, to my business card in a warm hue of orange. It adds color in addition to sending a more approachable message. What do you think?

FullSizeRender[2]

“P” is for Presence, part 2 addresses enhancing your presence when presenting in front of a group. Looking at ease when presenting, be the audience two people or 200, is a critical skill.

 

 

“O” is for Options (part 2)

th-3It can be unsettling to believe you have no options…that where you currently are in your career is all there is. In my last post, I told the story of a former client who took steps to check out her “no options” belief. Once she realized she had some, she discovered renewed energy and a surprising desire to stay exactly where she was. Knowing you have options can be freeing. It can also be exciting (and mostly risk free) to explore your options once you discover them.th-5

Here are some thoughts to help you discover and expand your options:

Check out your fears. Think of my client. Her fear was that should something happen to her current position, she would not be able to get another similar or better position.  She put her money where her fear was. She hired a coach (me), got her resume in order and sent it out to a number of open positions that interested her. She had bites immediately and a couple of interviews. She learned a number of things about herself in this jth-8ourney and what skills and experience the current job market was looking for. She ended her investigation with an updated resume and a new sense of confidence in her skills. Her decision to stay in her current position actually came as a surprise to her. However, should something happen with her job, she now knows she’ll be OK. There was no downside to what she did but the loss of a few vacation days she used for interviews.

What are your fears? If you’re concerned you are not competitive in today’s job market, act as if you’re looking for a new position and compare your resume/accomplishments to job postings in your field on LinkedIn, Career Builder, and on the websites of companies where you’d like to work. If you see there are common skills listed you do not have, determine how to acquire those skills through workshops, community college, volunteering, etc.  You may discover an opening or two you’d like to go for. Send out your resume. It’s low risk. See how you fare.

What would you do if you could do anything? Many people feel a career is a path with no th-2offshoots. Not so. Having a steady income is the perfect time to begin exploring (remember that word from my last post?) what’s next or what’s in-addition-to. As with everything, having awareness is the first step. What is, as my students often say, your “dream job”? What does that job require? Is it possible to achieve those requirements? Reality is important here; becoming an NBA player is out of bounds for most of us. But…you may have more options than you think.

Changing your “yes, but” to “yes and.” Often when we look to expand outside our known experience/habits, we stop ourselves with the phrase “yes, but.” For example, you might say, “Yes, I’d love to go to grad school, but I work long hours/travel frequently/don’t have the th-11money/etc.” You block that option and all it could lead to. Instead, try saying “Yes, I’d love to go to grad school and I work long hours/travel frequently/don’t have the money/etc.” By replacing “but” with “and” your sentence begs for a solution rather than stopping at an excuse.

Prep for your options where you currently are. Let’s say an option you’d like to check out is starting your own business. What can you learn about this while keeping your current position? How might your current position allow you to learn more about budgeting, marketing, sales, business planning? This is where open ears and eyes come in. There may be projects you can volunteer for that will help you make contacts or learn skills you need to support one of your options. Your current job can be a great source of experience and learning once you begin to look at it with “new” eyes.

Options can exist places other than your workplace. Your workplace is not the only venue thwhere you have options. Fulfilling, exciting experiences can be had elsewhere which can help you bring new vigor and skills to your career. Involvements outside of work can help open up options for all sorts of experiences and learning.

A single thread runs through all these suggestions… you need to be engaged in order to see your options. Too many people use the excuse of being “crazy busy” to come to a career standstill and schlepp to work each day. According to an April 2015 Gallup Daily Tracking poll, 31.7% of American workers are engaged in their jobs. This is a sad commentary on how many (68.3%) are not looking for their options.

th-9http://www.gallup.com/poll/183041/employee-engagement-holds-steady.aspx?utm_source=Employee%20Engagement&utm_medium=newsfeed&utm_campaign=tiles

My former client had the courage to explore what her options were. One learning she took away was having options doesn’t mean you have to act on them. When she saw she had them, she felt better about her current position.th-1

Open eyes, open ears, and, perhaps most importantly, an open mind will help you begin to find the courage to explore the options available in your career.

 

 

 

“O” is for Options part 1

th-1Last year, I coached a woman who had been in her position for about ten years. She contacted me because she wanted to look for something new, and felt “out of the loop” when it came to looking for a new job and interviewing. As with many of my clients, she had lost touch with all she had done in her career. When we first began digging into her resume more than once she exclaimed, “Oh that’s right! I’d forgotten all about that project.”

Not long after sending her resume to a few open positions, she began getting calls for interviews. At our first meeting after she’d been to a couple interviews she revealed that she had decided to remain where she was. “I felt as though I had no options,” she said. “Now that th-2I’ve been interviewing, I see I have options and that makes me feel more confident about staying where I am.”

Options. For some they are a burden that can weigh heavy and lead to anxiety and confusion. For others, they bring a sense of freedom that allows us to make the choice that is right for us. In which camp do you fall?

Options often come into play for the first time when we finish high school. Do we go to college th-3and if so, which one? If college isn’t in the cards, there is the whole question of meaningful work in a company, a trade, or maybe the military beckons. As life goes on and responsibilities grow, many begin to believe their options narrow. Is that true? When people say they are keeping their “options open”, what exactly does that mean?

I choose to believe we always have options. Options are choices and when it comes to our careers we can find options by keeping our eyes, ears and mind open. It can be scary to explore th-5options if we believe we must act on them. But if we can reframe that belief, if we can convince ourselves that we are just exploring the options. Our career world can open up.

Let’s look again at my opening example. My client came to me saying she wanted to change jobs. Did she? Or was she really seeking to explore her options to reassure herself that she actually had options? Once she saw that her skills were viable in today’s job market, she felt better about where she was. Knowing you have options can be very freeing.

th-6Who limits our options? We do. By narrowing our vision of what might be possible and who we could become. The good news is if we can narrow our vision, we also have the power to open it up. How? Part 2 of O is for Options will be posted later this month. There we will look at how you can uncover some options that might be right where you currently are.

In the meantime, what is your view on options? A blessing or a curse?

Save It for the Holidays

A few weeks ago the CBS drama, “Madame Secretary”, served up a scene in which Secretary of State Elizabeth McCord was arguing with her brother. Words were flying and getting more heated when Elizabeth’s husband intervened, “C’mon you two, save it for the holidays.” My husband and I laughed out loud. TV fantasy meets holiday reality. It seems inevitable. At sometime during the holidays someone is going to “get into it” with someone else about something: politics, the media, Happy Holidays vs Merry Christmas, immigration, refugees, climate change…the list goes on.

The holidays bring joy, love anticipation, and stress. Despite our best efforts we tryth to create a Normal Rockwell/Martha Stewart holiday without letting any of our day-to-day responsibilities go. Seriously? No wonder we are exhausted at the end of the year.

Some years ago I read a wonderful book called Unplug the Christmas Machine by Jo Robinson and Jean Coppock Staeheli. This book provides terrific ideas/resources/perspectives for th-1rethinking the holidays. Now before a brouhaha begins about messing with Christmas (y’know Starbucks, I never even noticed the snowflakes on your red cups in years gone by), their premise is to simply take a look at your own traditions. Are there some that no longer apply? Are there some about which no one remembers why they’re done in the first place? Is there something that might be more meaningful than what you do now?

In a few days time the holidays will begin. Why not try something different this year? If you Christmas/Hanukkah with the same folks you celebrate Thanksgiving withth-2, ask a few simple questions as you gather around the table. The following questions are paraphrased from the Robinson Coppock Staeheli book:

  • If they had to start from scratch creating December holiday activities and traditions, how would they do it?
  • Which of our holiday traditions are most meaningful to you?
  • If you could change something, what would you like to see done differently?

This may start up some real conversations. Don’t judge. Don’t argue. Simply gather information. If possible, write down what people say. Develop a list of core activities thand traditions. Divide up the tasks to making this wish list come true. Remember, changing traditions is hard. Some things may have to wait. See if you can come to consensus on one change for this year. ASK EVERYONE that celebrates with you. You may be surprised what matters to 5-year-old Samantha and 101-year-old Nana.

When the last of my nieces and nephews got married, my family knew that getting everyone together for Christmas was going to be impossible. That was when Carol,20131221_182009_resized my niece-in-law suggested “Thankmas”. Now it is our family tradition and our family never has those “but-you-spent-last-Christmas-with…” hard conversations. What’s Thankmas? A weekend between Thanksgiving and Christmas on which we all gather, have gifts, the big dinner, go to church together, and have other activities as if it were Christmas. It’s a weekend because we are spread out all over the place. A day only not worth the airfare. A weekend? Oh yes!

Thanksgiving is a perfect time to survey the family. But do it at dinner (or during th-5pre-dinner snacking), before groups break up into the conversationalists and the football-watchers. Don’t “save it for the holidays” when stress can run high and everyone has had too much sugar.

 

“N” is for (saying) No

Where are you most likely to hear the following sentence, “No, I can’t, my plate is full.”

  1. a) Thanksgiving dinner
  2. b) In an office

Most will pick “a”, as the idea of actually saying “no” at work or in other situations in our lives is unfathomable. Say ‘no” at work? Say “no” at my child’s school? Say “no” to the family? C’mon!

Ponder this for a moment: “No” is sometimes the best answer.

Why do we have such an adverse reaction to saying no? Because team players, go-to individuals, employees with “can do” attitudes, and those who get ahead never say no…or do they?

th-18Before examining “no”, let’s first look at “yes”. What can happen when we say “yes” to everything that comes our way or is asked of us? We end up agreeing to do things we:

  • Don’t have time to do
  • Don’t have the resources to do
  • Don’t want to do / don’t know how to do
  • Are given because no one else wants to do them
  • Are given because we never say no

The bullet points above can lead to stress, resentment, feeling put upon…you get the picture. Negative outcomes. No one looks or performs their best when they feel these things.

Stress and resentment make tempers short, lowers your immune system and kicks morale into th-3the basement. Such feelings can also lead to the very outcomes we try to avoid: disappointing people, avoiding the guilt that can come with saying no, not being seen as the team player/can-do person, or suffering imagined consequences.

Remember, we are talking about saying no when it is appropriate to do so. Despite your good intentions, you will not be seen as “can do” if you truly can’t deliver what is being asked or deliver it late, or have to retreat from a commitment.

th-3How can “no” be said best?

  • Say no and yes at the same time. Say no to the original request and then offer something else that will help the requestor out. What can you do? Offer an alternative: “Wanda might be able to help you. She’s great with Excel.” or “I can’t go to lunch but let’s walk to the train together tonight and you can ask your questions then.”
  • Say it without equivocation or a flurry of excuses or long explanations. Your reasons for saying no are, in the mind of the person making the request, rarely as legitimate as their request. “No, I can’t. I have plans.” “No, I can’t, I’m under a deadline.” Then stop talking! A pause on your part will often urge the other person to move on.
  • Stop volunteering for low profile, no-one-else-will-do-it assignments. It’s not your responsibility to solve someone else’s need for volunteers. Keep your hand down!

How do you know when to say no? Previous posts on this blog have talked about gaining self-awareness, pursuing goals and making plans for development. Evaluating a request by the th-7benefits it can bring you is important and strategic. If you say yes to everything hoping it will bring you visibility and/or development, you may find yourself working on a dead-end project, or swamped with commitments just when the opportunity you’ve been waiting for comes along. Remember, it is easier to say no when you have a direction / goal / strategy.

Successful people don’t say yes to everything. They have a strategy. Do you? They know time and energy are limited resources. They want to use their time and energy to best advantage. Two articles, “When to Say No in Business.” (Claire Shipman and Kathy Kay) and How to Say “No” by Saying “Yes” (Patricia Fripp) offer good questions to ask yourself when presented with a request you are ambivalent about.th-2

  • How does this request benefit me?
  • Will saying yes make a difference in my career?
  • Will I have this opportunity again?
  • How do I feel when I think of saying yes?
  • How will this affect my work/life balance?
  • Do I really want to do this?

The fear of negative career consequences may cause us to say yes to requests where no is the better answer. If we say yes because we believe “no” will have a negative impact on our career, even though we don’t have the time / skills necessary to generate the best result, think again. thSaying no can strengthen your reputation as someone who delivers or says “no” when we can’t! What career consequence will result if we come up short or late or have to pull out halfway through? Be realistic, not reactive.

What if our plates are full but we really want to do what is being requested? Again, be realistic. Are you willing to make the sacrifices necessary? Do you want to do this thing because you should or because you really want to?

Warren Buffett is quoted as saying, “The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say ‘no’ to almost everything.” I’m not saying to go that far. I’m saying “no” can be a positive, powerful, and appropriate response.th-4

Just as you know to say no when someone tries to add another dollop of sweet potatoes to your plate at Thanksgiving, know when to say no at work. You and the work will be better for it.