- About Us
- Contact Us
For the last twenty years I’ve been buying my cars from the same sales professional, and for good reason. When it comes to communication, rapport and relationships he shines. However, a month ago my mom (who lives in Memphis, TN) asked my sister to help find her a car. It turns out my sister found a car near me and wanted me to check it out.
I made an appointment to see the car for my mom and met Mike, the owner of a small car lot. The thing is, I went in with preconceived notions against small car lots so Mike had his work cut out for him. Mike said hello and told me he had the car out front ready for me to drive. Then he gave me the keys, saying, “Take your time, no need to hurry back.” To my surprise, he didn’t ask for my driver’s license to make a copy of it.
When I returned, I asked Mike a few questions. Then I told him I was ready to do the paperwork, but my mom wanted to send him a check in the mail. He said that was fine and I could take the car that day. I didn’t know what to say. So I said, “You let me drive the car without you going with me and without making a copy of my driver’s license. Now you’re telling me I can take the car long before you get a check from my mom?” Mike simply replied, “I’ve been doing this a long time and I’m pretty good at knowing whom I can trust.”
Lesson One: If you want trust, give it first.
I told Mike my wife would have to bring me back another day to get the car, and that I was leaving the next day on business. He said he’d put the car in the back with a “Sold” sign on it. That intrigued me because I wondered if I changed my mind about the car (he hadn’t even asked for a deposit) he might lose the opportunity to sell the car to someone else while he kept it for me.
Mike is very successful in his business partly because he trusts the people he does business with. I’m sure he doesn’t extend the same level of trust to everyone and I’m not saying you should either. I’m saying that if you want to have great relationships, you need to be willing to lead the way and extend trust first—in whatever way and on whatever level you can with any given person. If you think your boss doesn’t care about your success at work or if you think a family member or friend doesn’t respect you, you need to have very solid evidence to back that up. Even then, you might be able to improve the relationship by looking for ways to build trust.
Lesson Two: When you treat people well, most people will respond in kind.
Mike used to be a Vice President over ten dealerships and I’m sure he learned a lot about people during that time. It’s likely he learned long before he met me that the people around us tend to live up to our expectations, good or bad. Mike didn’t say, “I’m going to leave this relationship up to Alan and see what he does with it.” No, he led the way. The question we can ask of ourselves is, “Do I lead the way in building and nurturing my relationships?”
Whether it’s a new relationship or an established one, you will never go wrong by taking responsibility for leading the way in how you communicate and interact with others. That’s true especially when someone lets you down or mistreats you in some way. Yes, you need to be assertive and have boundaries, absolutely. However, even when we need to assert ourselves and enforce boundaries, we can do that in a way that allows the other person to maintain their dignity and that makes it easier for them to make things right.
Lesson Three: When it comes to business, everything is personal.
The saying, “It’s not personal, it’s business” couldn’t be more wrong. Anytime people are involved (and that’s every time) it’s always personal. Maya Angelou taught us long ago, “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” If we kept that in mind at all times, how would that change how we communicate and build relationships with those around us?
The fact is that when it comes to business, family, friends or strangers, everyone wants to feel important. Just because your boss has a big title and is paid more than you doesn’t mean he or she feels as important or respected as he or she would like. Your co-worker that seems to be the star at work still needs to be recognized and valued by those around him or her—including you. The family members and friends we can easily take for granted want the same as we do—to feel important, respected and valued.
-Alan Allard, Executive Coach
We asked the womenworking.com community what makes their mom so special. Here are the beautiful responses!
Video Editor: Elizabeth Marino
In 2008, I was not in a good place at all. The details don’t matter but I will never forget the confusion, the despair and the darkness. One day I picked up an old hardcover book I had purchased in Wilmington, N.C. and began to read it. It had been in my bookshelf for over two years, but apparently I wasn’t ready for it, yet. However, when I was, within a couple of weeks everything inside me began to shift and life has never been the same since.
I’ve only shared this story two times in a public way. I’m not telling you what book I read because the point of my story isn’t about what worked for me. It’s about you doing what works for you by investing in yourself for your personal and professional development. A couple of months ago I read something that the billionaire investor Warren Buffet said when asked what was the best type of investment everyone should consider. Mr. Buffet answered, “The most important investment you can make is in yourself.”
When I read his advice it took me by surprise, but it makes perfect sense. You might expect me to say that, since my life’s work (first as a psychotherapist and now a coach) comes from companies and individuals who invest in their own growth and potential. Yet, long before I began my career, I invested in both my personal and professional development.
In college I borrowed enough money from a bank to take the Evelyn Wood’s Speed Reading Course one night a week for three months. Long before that, I bought books and audio programs and went to seminars. In 1990, I invested a little over $1,000 for a personal development program on VHS tapes. I’ve always believed that if I didn’t invest in myself and believe in myself why should anyone else?
In my mid-twenties I discovered Jim Rohn and read his books and listened to his audio programs. He taught me, “Work harder on you than you do on your job.”
Few people choose to do that, but if you do, it will change your life over a short period of time, relatively speaking. Because I believed, during the most challenging time in my life, in investing my time and energy in my own development and growth, I came out of a very dark period forever changed.
I’m not saying that a single book can change your life, although for some people, that has been the case. We live in an incredible time with resources all around us. A great coach can help you do more in one year than you’re likely to do in five years.
Yet unless you’re an “important” person in your company, you’re not likely to be assigned a coach. And few will pay out of their own pocket, like a few of my clients do. The good news is, there is so much you can do if you’re not ready to work with a coach.
First, you have to make a commitment to yourself. You have to get serious about learning, growing and changing. How do you do that? Here are three suggestions:
Start simple and easy:
Set aside ten minutes a day for your growth and development. Read three pages from a book, listen to a recording or watch a TED Talk. Don’t let your enthusiasm tell you to commit to an hour a day. Make ten minutes a day a habit and build from there.
Use resources at hand:
Start with books or audiobooks from your library or buy one from your favorite bookstore. Read relevant magazine or journal articles. Tap into the wealth of knowledge on the internet. Go to learning events at your local community college, university, chamber of commerce or to professional association meetings in your industry.
Get the support you need:
I’ve participated in what’s called a Master-Mind Group for about twenty-five years. It’s simply a group of two or more people who meet on a regular basis (weekly or bi-weekly) to support, challenge and inspire each other. The best way to do this is in person but you can also meet via a tele-conference, Skype or a Google hangout.
Think about it this way. To learn, grow and transform we need to be exposed to different thoughts, beliefs and experiences. If you don’t entertain new perspectives, beliefs and knowledge, you’re left with the same thoughts and beliefs you’ve always had. You can be different. Start small and see what happens. Make a commitment to yourself to discover who you can become and see what kind of outrageously wonderful life you can create for yourself.
-Alan Allard, Executive Coach
Do you have an “outrageous” goal that you’re not taking action on? If so, you’re not alone. Most people have dreams as a child but by the time they’re twenty-five or younger they decide they need to “grow up and be a responsible adult.” That’s likely why Picasso said, "Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up."
Early on when I’m working with a client, I ask them, “Do you have a dream or an outrageous goal you’ve buried or put on the back burner?” When they say “Yes” (and that’s often) I ask, “What has stopped you from at least moving towards your dream?” The answer is always the same, even if the details are different. Clients tell me they had either forgotten about their dream or put it on the back burner because of lack of money, time, support from others, or “It’s just not realistic.”
That’s more than sad; it’s tragic. It’s tragic because we live our lives as if it’s not tragic. We live our lives as if it’s normal and just the way it is. It might be normal but it’s not just the way it is. It’s simply the way we’ve been taught, conditioned to think and live, and it’s the way we’ve accepted.
It’s not a lack of money, time or a lack of support from others that keeps us from moving towards our deepest desires. I’m going to share with you one of the biggest reasons why we settle for far less than what we’re capable of becoming and achieving: You unknowingly turn something that's possible into something that's impossible. The most common way we do that is to overwhelm ourselves with the size of the goal or dream instead of taking it one step at a time.
If you've been doing that here's what you can do instead:
Identify a “first step” that is ridiculously easy to take.
Recently I had a client who had a life-long dream of taking her family to Greece for three months. That’s where her grand-parents lived and where her parent grew up. The problem was she’d been thinking about this for twenty years without doing anything about it. Why is that? She told me she couldn’t even think of taking three months off until she retired. It was just impossible. Here's what I suggested to her:
Don’t let the hard steps stop you from taking the easy steps:
I told her she could do what she dreamed of doing much sooner than she thought. Of course, she asked me how. I replied, “I don’t have a clue how. I just know from experience that it’s possible.” Then I asked her what would be a small action step she could take to make her outrageous goal come to life. In four minutes (I timed it) she came up with solutions to move her towards her “impossible” goal.
The easy steps she came up with were: Begin a special savings account. Talk to a travel agent and get an estimate of what her goal is going to require financially. Put pictures of Greece up on her refrigerator, bathroom mirror, in her purse. Tell a few trusted friends of her goal and the small steps she’s taking and ask if they have any ideas to accelerate her progress. Build relationships with distant family members in Greece.
My client can begin these things without much effort at all. They are all ridiculously easy things to do—at least she said they were for her. You might be thinking, “If I do what you suggest and start taking small steps, it won’t make a difference. Even if they did, it will take me ten years to make it happen.”
How do you know it won’t make a difference?
Stop talking yourself out of your dream. Start talking and acting your way towards it. Each tiny step will bring you new ideas, inspiration and the resources you need on some level. You might not know how to reach your outrageous goal in terms of knowing everything that will be required of you, but I know you can identify the first small steps you can take action on this week.
Remember what Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe said: “Whatever you do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius and power and magic in it.”
-Alan Allard, Executive Coach
Taryn Davis faced her worst fear at the age of 21—her husband died in combat during the war in Iraq. Grieving, she Googled the word “widow” and was asked by the search engine, “Did you mean: window?” Taryn realized she could experience grief in a way that would empower others. She took the money that her husband left her and invested it in her nonprofit, the American Widow Project.
How were you able to move through the tragedy and create something meaningful, not only for yourself, but for other women?
I decided to start the American Widow Project when I had really hit rock bottom. I wanted to create what I felt I needed—a peer environment, an experiential process, and a holistic way of moving through grief and its complexities.
How have you reshaped what it means to be a widow?
I can't say we've changed what it means worldwide, because widows are treated differently in other countries. I would say in the US we've redefined it from being a word of sadness, an image of a miserable woman in black, to an image of inspiration and an example of courage.
What does your organization do?
We started by doing very physical things, such as skydiving and white water rafting. The widows were able to connect with others who had experienced the same loss and saw that they weren't alone. Recently we've expanded our process by allowing women to heal with their children by their side, so that it's not a separate grieving process. We've had over 70 events throughout the United States, all led by other military widows. We serve Vietnam, Gulf War, and Desert Storm widows that are in their 50s, 60s, and 70s as well.
How do you see your organization expanding in the next few years?
Do I want it to expand in the sense that I want more widows? No. But I do want those who have been widowed to know we exist. I want our organization to be an option for those grieving the loss of a spouse, and I want to expand our programs to the needs of the widows.
What can people who haven't lost a loved one learn from the wisdom of your group?
It's going to happen to everyone. These women and men are not something to be pitied—they are living examples of how finite life is. Take that knowledge and build an amazing life.
You’re also a professional firewalk instructor. Tell us more about that.
Firewalking is amazing because when you see the path of hot coals, your mind tells you that you can't do it, that horrible things will happen. But when you find the courage to stop focusing on the fire and instead focus on where you want to go, you don't feel anything. I feel like that's such an example of what these women are going through.
Interview conducted by Allison Perrine (WomenWorking.com Intern)
There’s giving that feels good and giving that feels bad. My oldest daughter is a Nurse Practitioner and she and her colleagues have made many trips to third world countries (at their own expense) to give of their time, energy, and medical expertise to those in need. Every time, they come back saying they got back far more from the experience than they gave. They felt needed and appreciated. That’s the kind of giving that feels good.
However, I’ve had clients, family members, or friends who were doing their best at work, working far more than forty hours a week, and doing solid work—but they received no recognition or appreciation for doing so. They gave a lot to their company and felt they got nothing in return other than their paycheck. That’s the kind of giving that feels bad.
You might have a relationship at work, in your extended family, or in your friendships where you are giving but the other person doesn’t seem to appreciate it and who gives little to nothing back. That’s the type of giving that feels bad. But there are many other situations where someone gives a lot and ends up feeling bad.
I'm talking about the spouse who supports their partner’s career to their own career detriment and the relationship ends up in a divorce. Then there’s the employee who turns down an offer for a great opportunity at another company (out of "loyalty")—only to be “let go” when the company goes through a financial struggle. They gave what they thought the company wanted, but their company wasn’t concerned about what the employee wanted—loyalty in return.
The bottom line is, if you have a relationship where your giving is one sided, something needs to change. In fact, what needs to change is you. Get clear on what you require so you can feel good about what you’re contributing.
Do you need to feel appreciated? Does the other person need to take more responsibility so you can feel like you’re helping them rather than enabling them? Do they need to ask you how they can help you out in some way? At work, do you need to have your efforts recognized more often or do you need a raise to feel your work is valued?
For giving to feel good, there has to be some kind of reciprocity. My daughter and her medical colleagues felt they received more than they gave. For your giving to feel good, you have to get something back, even if it’s the good feeling of being able to help someone who needs help, but who isn’t in a position to help you.
The bottom line is, life is about giving but it’s also about receiving. If you’re not receiving enough from those you give to, whether work or personal, you’re going to feel bad instead of good. The solution is to feel okay about getting your needs met and to take responsibility for making sure they are met. That way you can continue to give and to feel good at the same time.
-Alan Allard, Executive Coach
Father's Day is just around the corner! We asked our womenworking.com community what makes their dads so special, and here are some of their brilliant responses.
Video Editor: Elizabeth Marino
Helene's guest is Michele Green, Vice President and Chief of Diversity Officer at Prudential. In high school, Michele wasn’t thinking about going to college, but her mother knew she could and encouraged her to do so. Starting out as a lawyer, she has had a variety of jobs and has learned to speak up and ask for what she needs.
Check out some of the highlights of the program here:
On the challenge of asking for more...
Michele: It's not like getting up and brushing your teeth, it doesn't come that naturally. I have to really be thoughtful and say, “Michele, you need to make this ask.” And it is not comfortable.
On a practical way to become more assertive...
Helene: Pick someone to role play your “ask” with. It could be a colleague, friend, someone who you trust. Get feedback from them on how you come across.
On the difference between being assertive and aggressive...
Michele: I think the difference is in the way you show up with the message. It’s how you physically present yourself in a room—your posture, your mannerism, your tone—the way you make the ask or deliver the message.
I often facilitate workshops on coaching for supervisors and managers. In that workshop, I often ask, “Do you believe you have potential you haven’t tapped into yet?” Of course, all hands go up, including mine.
The truth is, we don’t really know what we are capable of becoming or achieving. However, if we have so much potential, why aren’t we tapping into it more of it? Why do so many of us struggle to make the changes we want, to being happier, to be more fulfilled, and why do so many of us struggle to create more of the success we want?
Here are two reasons and two ways you might be sabotaging yourself:
You over-rate yourself:
You’d think that only narcissistic people do this, but you’d be surprised. Studies show that when individuals on teams at work are asked how much their contributions were involved in a projects success, the responses almost always add up to more than one hundred percent—and that’s just not possible! Whether it’s evaluating our listening skills or our driving skills, people have a tendency to over-rate how good they are.
I’m not talking about over-rating your potential. I’m talking about over-rating your current “performance” at work or your relationships with family and friends. Are you as valuable at work as you’d like to think you are? Do you rate yourself a four or five (out of five) in your primary responsibilities at work—and do you have evidence to back that up? (What do your boss and peers say?) Do you listen and empathize with your significant other and close friends as well as you think you do? (What would they say?)
Here’s how to know if you over-rate yourself: The results we create in our life don’t lie. I can hear someone saying now, “You don’t get it. I really care about my work and my co-workers. I stay late, help others who are running behind and I ask my boss for feedback.” That’s all good, but if you’re not being recognized and rewarded like you think you should be, you’re not as good as you think you are in some key areas.
Caring about your work and your co-workers is important. However, it’s equally important you have the emotional intelligence to connect with others and are able to influence them on levels that they recognize and reward you. Perhaps you’re not nearly as good as that as you’d like to think. One way or the other, if you’re not happy with what you’re getting at work or in life, you have a blind spot and need to see how you need to change, improve or grow in some area.
You under-rate yourself:
Believe it or not, people who under-rate themselves can also over-rate themselves. That’s because they lack the self-esteem, self-confidence, and sense of self-worth to evaluate self realistically and to look at the results they create. That’s too difficult for them, so they think, “It’s not me, people just don’t appreciate how great I am.”
However, they don’t really believe they’re all that great either—not deep down. This is revealed in their self-talk where they’re both subtly and overtly critical of themselves. They have unrealistic expectations and push themselves too hard. Then they fail to achieve on the level they demanded of themselves and that reinforces their conclusion that they aren’t smart enough, good enough or strong enough to really shine in life.
Here’s how to know if you under-rate yourself: Do you speak up, but not with confidence? Do you offer your opinion prefaced with “I could be wrong about this…” when you need to assert your knowledge and experience? Do you feel like you’re being aggressive or pushy when you’re just being assertive? Do you take steps towards your goals but then become discouraged when you don’t succeed fast enough or big enough? Do you give up when you have setbacks? These are all signs you are selling yourself short.
-Alan Allard, Executive Coach
I’m sure you can think of someone right now who constantly complains about their problems and challenges. I do my best to not judge someone like that, because I’ve been there before. I’ve found that people complain about their problems, their stress, and their circumstances for many reasons. One reason we complain about our problems is because it distracts us from the sometimes difficult task of looking at ourselves.
The problem is it increases our stress because it diminishes our self-respect and self-esteem. To deal what what’s stressing us we have to feel we have a measure of control over what we’re experiencing. We have to believe we can effect change and improve our situation in some way.
One of the best ways to exert your power in the midst of a challenge is to reframe how you see what’s stressing you. Most people view what’s stressing them as a problem. It’s a problem they desperately want to go away. I suggest you take a look at something you’ve been calling a problem and reframe it as something you can use to learn, grow, and transform your life.
If you’re experiencing too much stress, it’s likely because you don’t believe you have the ability to deal with it. That’s not the only reason but it’s one of the top reasons we get overwhelmed or over-stressed. In short, we don’t feel smart enough, capable enough, or strong enough to rise to the challenge. We feel our circumstance is bigger and more powerful than we are. And then, we feel helpless—at least to some extent.
The way to respond to not feeling smart enough, capable enough, or strong enough to deal with a challenge or crisis is to use it for our own learning, growth,and transformation. If we viewed a problem as fuel for our growth and transformation, everything shifts internally.
When I was in my early twenties, I read books and listened to audios by Jim Rohn. Here are two things he taught that we all need to remember when we’re thinking about and feeling stress over a problem or challenge:
Don’t wish it were easier, wish you were better.
Work harder on you than you do on your job.
When we are stressed more than is useful, we’re almost always wishing the problem would go away instead of using it as an opportunity to develop our self-awareness and our capabilities. The first mindset is a formula for more stress because wishing your problem would go away is a subtle message that you can’t have an extraordinary life if it doesn’t.
That’s not how resourceful people think. Can you imagine Arnold Schwarzenegger (in his prime) looking at a set of weights heavier than he could handle and wishing they would just go away? No, he looked at himself and asked, “How can I develop myself so I can master that weight?”
Like Schwarzenegger, we can rapidly reduce our stress by using that very stress to learn, grow, and master what has previously been too heavy for us to handle.
-Alan Allard, Executive Coach
Work is the one place where we can’t choose who we spend time with. Inevitably, we end up with co-workers who push our buttons and make life at the office difficult. It’s in your best interest to learn how to keep your cool in frustrating situations. Here are five good ways to deal with difficult people in your professional life.
Take a Deep Breath
Counting to 10 before speaking is a proven way to keep your cool when faced with annoying behavior. When you feel hurt, angry or otherwise threatened, your nervous system gears up for a fight or flight reaction. This hardwired physiological response kept your ancestors alive in hunter-gatherer times, but today it’s more likely to get you in trouble if you act on it.
Take a few slow, deep breaths to soothe your nerves, and pause before you speak. In those 10 seconds, steer yourself away from defensiveness or counter-attack. Often the best way to respond to a difficult person is just to smile, nod, say thank you and go back to what you were doing.
Focus on Problem Solving
Negativity is a common difficult behavior in the workplace. All of us have at least one co-worker whose pessimism can be infectious. Pessimists also like to find scapegoats, thereby shielding themselves from blame or accountability.
The next time an officemate complains that finishing a big project before the deadline is impossible, say, “what do we need to do to make it happen?” When a difficult co-worker once again blames his unfinished work on IT’s system upgrades, ask how your team can plan around the upgrade schedule to ensure timely completion of work. Even the most diehard pessimist won’t be able to argue with your team-effort approach, and your penchant for problem solving will cast you in a positive light.
Diffuse Tension With Humor
Everyone loves to laugh. Just one smile can fill your brain with good feelings. Humor in the workplace can be tricky – you don’t want to make jokes at someone else’s expense – but a light touch can eliminate tension with difficult co-workers. Having one of those days when everything seems to go wrong? Say with a smile, “it must be a case of the Mondays.” Being able to laugh off difficulties is a good way to show your resilience and calm manner.
Take Your Mind Off Things You Can’t Change
Even when you’re able to keep your cool, it’s still frustrating to interact with difficult people on a regular basis. Since most people won’t change very much, you need some coping strategies to deal with their frustrating behavior. Just as you would when trying to quit a bad habit like smoking, use distraction to keep from dwelling on your co-workers’ flaws. Try listening to music at your computer or stepping outside to walk one lap around the building.
Talk to the Difficult Person Privately
Many people who are aggressive or otherwise frustrating to talk to in front of others seem harmless when you sit down with them one-on-one. If you’ve tried all other approaches and they haven’t worked, invite your problem co-worker to lunch. You might even learn that an issue in his or her personal life is the reason for acting out at work. One conversation might not solve all the issues, but you will have a better understanding of the situation, which can make you feel better and more in control.
Sarah Landrum is a marketing specialist and freelance writer trying to balance her career and writing with a social life and staying healthy. She is also the founder of Punched Clocks, a site dedicated to sharing advice on all things career. Subscribe to her blog or follow her on Twitter @SarahLandrum for more great tips.
My client Drew had been a star in his company for five years. That all changed when he got a new boss who seemed determined to undermine him anyway he could. If you were in that situation, how stressful would it be for you? You might think that’s a ridiculous question, thinking, “Of course, that would be incredibly stressful for anyone.” Most people would agree, but it doesn’t mean it’s true.
The truth is what we call “stress” is subjective. What overwhelms one person energizes another. We forget when we’re under a lot of stress and instead assume the amount of stress we’re experiencing is due to an outer circumstance and that it has nothing to do with us. As a former psychotherapist and now as an executive coach and life coach, I’ve seen over and over again that’s not true. We create more stress for ourselves than we realize.
Most people don’t believe that. We’ve been taught and conditioned to believe that if something “bad” happens, it’s normal to feel “bad” as a result. And while it might be “normal,” that doesn’t mean it’s the way it has to be. For instance, everyone has heard about Post Traumatic Stress but few know anything about Post Traumatic Growth. The fact is, some people are resilient in the face of challenge and tragedy while others seemingly collapse under the same situations.
On my first coaching call with Drew, he was in a downward spiral, not thinking clearly and he believed the amount of stress he was experiencing was all because of his boss. Drew wasn’t sleeping well and he found himself becoming more impatient with his team at work and his family at home.
Drew needed to turn things around as soon as possible, so in our second coaching conversation, I asked him an uncomfortable question: “Is it possible you’re creating unnecessary stress for yourself—or do you think your boss is creating all your stress?” Drew thought I was crazy and was offended. Then there was silence for a full two minutes. That’s when Drew hung up on me. To his credit, Drew called me the next day and we began working on eliminating most of his stress.
If you want to do the same, here’s three ways to do that:
Shift your self-talk:
The truth is most people don’t pay attention to their thoughts and beliefs when things are going well and they’re even less likely to do so when things aren’t going well. However, we “talk to ourselves” about everything going on around us. For instance, here’s what Drew was saying to himself about his situation: “This isn’t right.” “I can’t win here—my boss has all the power.” “My boss is a jerk.”
Of course, Drew was in a tough situation and it wasn’t right or fair. The problem is that’s what Drew thought about constantly. That is, until he learned to shift his thinking from “This isn’t fair” to “This isn’t fair and now I’m going to focus on what I can control.” That thinking empowered Drew and eliminated half of his stress.
Take your power back:
For Drew taking his power back began with seeing he was making himself miserable because he believed his boss had all the power. It’s true his boss had a lot of power but he didn’t have the power to choose Drew’s thinking and beliefs for him. Drew was telling himself he had done all he could do and nothing worked—so he felt powerless. I coached Drew how to question his beliefs and that enabled him to be more flexible in his thinking. With his newfound mental flexibility, Drew discovered solutions.
If you believe that someone else or your situation is the real problem, that thinking is really your problem. James Allen said long ago, “Men are anxious to improve their circumstances, but are unwilling to improve themselves; they therefore remain bound.” The day we quit wishing for our circumstances to change and commit ourselves to learning, growing and transforming is the day we take our power back. Isn’t that exactly what Nelson Mandela taught us?
When we’re “under a lot of stress” the fight or flight response kicks in if we’re not paying attention. Drew had been so angry at his boss he alternated between “fighting” with his boss and doing his best to avoid him. The problem was both of these behaviors only made things worse. I asked Drew, “You can’t control your boss, so what is within your control that might make things even a little better?”
Drew realized he had quit exercising six months ago—about the time his boss entered the picture. He knew that now was the time to take better care of himself, so he began to exercise again. That one change made him feel more in control of his life and that in turn enabled him to be more flexible and creative in dealing with his situation.
Taking positive action always improves our situation, even if it doesn’t directly change it. It changes us and unleashes the power we’ve had all along. Now, instead of creating stressful energy, we’re creating empowering energy and we can use that to continue improving the situation we want to change.
The next time you tell yourself “I can’t change this” (whatever “this” is) or “I’ve done everything I can” realize while that might feel true, it’s not true. What can you do today that may seem small and insignificant but will eliminate more of your stress?
-Alan Allard, Executive Coach
We all want to look fashionable 24 hours a day, but adding an element of style between 9 and 5 can be a challenge. Being the consummate multi-tasker that I am, have tackled this challenge many times between very corporate clients to much more laid back casual clientele where jeans and a T-shirt was the standard. I am happy to share some work-appropriate tips to help incorporate some really cool summer trends into your office looks without getting a call from HR and most of them are multi-functional, meaning great day to night conversion looks.
As I followed the runway shows and studied the similarities in color and cuts, it became apparent that this year’s spring/summer trends were going to have loads of party-ready crop tops, sheer skirts, and peekaboo mesh as trend front runners. Now unless you have a really cool boss or work at a fashion magazine you likely will not be able to adorn these styles at the office. But fret not! There are quite a few work-appropriate trends to opt for to go to the office in. Here is a quick cheat sheet of chic spring trends you can totally wear at work without worry.
Add Pastels, Florals or Fruit
Yes, I said fruit! The patterns of cherries, bananas, lemons and such are a deliciously fresh option to pair with your traditional separates for a POP of whimsy summer fun! Also, wearing a full on pastel dress worn with neutral shoes/accessories is sophisticated and summer chic; great for the office too. Florals give personality to simple separates so try adding a pattern in one of your major clothing items like your pants, blazers or button-up shirts for some variety. It's a fashion-forward way to bring spring to an otherwise boring navy or dark suit. Little changes like this will breathe new life/freshness to that classic year round skirt or pant suit.
Aka soft pants, pajama pants, and sometimes called culottes…These billowy bottoms have always been a favorite of mine for years and now after so many seasons of skinny pants, they are back on the scene…hooray! They will come in a wide variety of patterns and solids so pick your poison. Just know the larger the pattern or print the larger your backside will appear, so tread lightly if you’re a pear shape or heavily endowed south of your navel. These easy pants are great compliments to almost every style top but to keep it office chic I would suggest wearing a well-tailored shirt (take a trip to your local tailor or cleaners and make them your friend) and blazer with it to balance the fluidity of your lower half. This trick keeps your middle area looking tight and smaller looking waists are always welcome.
The Oxford Shirtdress
It’s another awesome option for the office with little effort and big results! It’s more popularly known for weekend wear to the Hamptons or the beach, but the oxford has reinvented itself. Its definitely office friendly in softer more elegant fabrications with a more fitted and tailored appearance. Pairing the dress with a blazer, a statement or soft lariat-type necklace, and pointy flats and top handle bag is a fantastic choice. This casual classic has now turned into a corporate contender with comfort and style both present. Make sure to keep the dress AT or BELOW knee length to stay office appropriate.
Pamela Watson is an experienced stylist who currently works as the trend expert for Builders of Style, where she prepares A-list clients for red carpet events, music videos, concerts and award shows. Check our her fashion blog here. Have a question for Pamela? Ask below!
A CEO of a start-up sat in my office to talk about the relationship with a key team member that had “turned bad." He told me this person “was creating unbelievable stress for everyone.” Yet another client was on the phone with me several months ago telling me his job was “stressing him out.”
The interesting thing is that both of these people are very smart—but that doesn’t mean they understand stress or their part in creating it. They’re not alone. We talk about “stress” as if it’s something that happens to us. We talk about “having” stress, “experiencing” stress or we talk in terms of “being stressed.” We also say things like, “I’m under too much stress now” and “I’m stressed out.”
They’re all passive statements. They infer that something is happening to us—something outside our control. There is no ownership of anything or a hint that we’re involved in what's happening. We've been taught that stress is something that happens to us. The best we can hope for is to learn how to manage what has happened to us. That's why we have so many "Stress Management" books and workshops.
Think about it. No one says, “I’m creating stress now.” And no one says, “I’m doing stress to myself right now.” Have you ever heard someone say, “I didn’t get my promotion and I’m stressing myself out over it?” I have and you probably have as well. But they don’t mean what they’re saying. If you want to find out if they mean it, ask them, “Why don’t you stop doing that?” and see how they respond. It's likely they will take offense and want to hit you. That's because they don’t really think they’re doing anything at all related to the stress they’re feeling.
Have you ever heard anyone say, “My boss gave me too much work but that’s not the problem. The problem is that I’m making myself miserable over it because I’m afraid to assert myself and to ask for what I need—that’s how I’m creating all this stress for myself.” It would be a rare person to take that level of responsibility—or maybe it’s fair to say it would be a rare person to be aware of what they’re doing.
We’re not aware that we create our stress. That’s because we’ve been taught to view stress as coming from something “out there.” The problem with that is it puts us in the victim role in life and we have little to no power. I'm not saying we want to have victim thinking; we don't. I'm saying that when it comes to how we think about stress we unintentionally turn ourselves into victims.
The truth is we can put a stop to what’s “stressing us out.” For the most part. We can do that by realizing stress is an inside job. Just like happiness or peace of mind is. However, most people don’t really believe stress is an inside job. We believe stress comes from the outside and we have no real say in the matter. But what if we really could end our stress—if we knew how?
We can’t stop difficulties, challenges,and setbacks from coming into our lives. So what do I mean that we can end our stress? I’m saying that eighty percent of what we call stress isn’t coming from what happens to us. What if you could eliminate eighty percent of your stress?
You can, and I will address that in the next blog post. For now, if you have any questions or comments, please let me know and I will respond to them.
-Alan Allard, Executive Coach
It’s no secret a lot of companies are struggling when it comes to keeping their employees happy and engaged. A disturbing number of employees (at all levels in the company) are thinking about looking for a new job or they’re already looking and interviewing. If you’re even thinking about leaving your job, here are three things to keep in mind:
Leave before you have to:
If you don’t love where you’re at, leave sooner rather than later. Don’t wait until your boss “lets you go” or before you get to the point you can’t stay one more month. You want to begin a job search from a position of strength, not frustration or fear.
If you put off leaving too long you’ll lose the edge you have by being able to network, interview, and negotiate from a position of strength.
Leave on good terms:
Be sure to do your best work for as long as you’re with your current company. Why? Because that’s what professionals do. Resist any temptation to let your guard down and voice your complaints or to broadcast you’re not happy where you are.
You want to leave without burning any bridges and you want to leave with your reputation intact. You never know when a misspoken word or a bad attitude will come back to haunt you.
Take action now:
The longer you think it will take you to secure another job, the sooner you need to get a plan and act on it. Set small goals first and then you can take bigger steps. For instance, do you need to update your resume? Start there. Do you need to reconnect with people in your network? Do it today.
The longer you stay where you don’t want to be the harder it will be for you to leave. Don’t say, “It will take me two years to find the opportunity I want.” Tell yourself, “If it will take me two years, I need to get started today.”
-Alan Allard, Executive Coach
Why do we say yes when we mean no? Is it because we are people-pleasers? Many of us are taught as children to play nice and avoid making waves. I certainly was. For this reason, we may feel like we don’t have permission to say no.
Some of us find it hard to say no because we are afraid that friends or colleagues will think poorly of us if we turn them down.
Say no when
• You are overworked and one more commitment will totally overwhelm you.
• You’ve moved on to another job and a coworker from your former assignment is constantly asking for advice in the form of evening e-mails.
• You’re not that fond of the person asking for help, and you don’t want to go out of your way for him.
• You’ve been working late every night for a week and a half, and your family needs some quality time with you.
Say yes when
• It is an emergency and no one else is left at work to help out.
• Taking the assignment will give you heightened visibility with top management.
• You’ve said no several times recently, and you don’t want to lose an office ally.
• What’s being asked doesn’t require much of your time.
Adapted from The Confidence Myth: Why Women Undervalue Their Skills and how to Get Over It, by Helene Lerner, Berrett-Koehler 2015.
If you want to be a leader, you have to ask yourself, “Why should anyone listen to me and follow my lead?” If that question sounds harsh, you’re not thinking like a leader. Leaders know intuitively (or they’ve learned the hard way) that people follow them because they feel it’s in their best interest to do so. If you want to become a leader, start with the question, “How will it benefit others to listen to me and help me to turn my vision into a reality?”
Why would your boss or senior leaders promote you from being a manager into being a leader in your company? What do you have to offer them—from their point of view—that will help them to fulfill their vision as a leader?
Here’s how you become a leader:
Leaders see what is and then imagine how it can be better. Then they find a way to make it happen. If you want to be a leader, ask yourself, “How can I challenge the status quo and make things better than they are now?” Until you do that, you won’t be considered for a leadership position—because you’re not demonstrating leadership. You can’t wait for your boss to tell you what to do next. Managers wait to be told what to do while leaders come up with a vision and get others excited about it.
To be a leader, you have to bring about positive change. If you say, “But my boss or senior leadership doesn’t listen to me,” then you have a ways to go before being a leader. A leader inspires others to listen to them by presenting their ideas as solutions to problems others want solved or as ways to capitalize on opportunities others see as promising.
To be a leader, you must establish a track record and a reputation for being a change agent. Managers make sure that the current reality is running smoothly. Leaders change the current reality into a better reality. What needs to change and improve in your company or on your team?
Is the change and improvement in the direction your leadership is willing to go? If they don't at first, can you help them to see what you see? That's what leaders do--they help others imagine possibilities and help them see how it can be a reality. Managers offer ideas for improvement but leaders communicate the value and the plan so clearly that others say, "You're just the person to make that happen."
That’s how you go from being a manager to being a leader.
-Alan Allard, Executive Coach
In today's video we asked the WomenWorking.com community what their wish for girls around the world was. Tell us yours in the comments!
Video Editor: Elizabeth Marino
In this episode Helene's guest is Sue Sears, Global Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion for Kimberly-Clark. She started her career as an executive assistant, and by taking smart risks and using self-promotion, she moved up the ranks.
Check out some of the highlights of the program here:
On why women have a hard time with self promotion...
Sue: I think it’s because we are taught at a young age to be nice and to be the reconciler for all arguments. [Self-promotion] is something we all need to work on because it helps you advance in a company.
On what real confidence is…
Helene: The whole point of my new book, The Confidence Myth, is that when we move forward out of our comfort zones it’s not going to feel comfortable. We can make a difference even with shaky knees. This is true in terms of self-promotion. Kathy Waller, CFO of Coca-Cola, talks about using “I and We” language. You can give credit to your team, but also let them know it’s your team.
The Gallup Poll continues to tell us that seventy percent of employees are not engaged at work. In the last twelve months I’ve had five clients leave their companies for better opportunities. That's good for them, but what about you? What should you be thinking about if you’re not sure if you should stay in your current job or find something better?
Here are five signs it might be time for a new job:
Your boss is abusive:
If you’re wondering if your boss is abusive, that’s likely a sign he or she is. If your boss is abusive (verbally, mentally, physically or sexually) I wouldn’t count on it changing. By all means, address the issue with your boss and HR. However, the truth is companies aren’t very good at dealing with abusive bosses (or even abusive employees).
Research tells us 75% of employees state their biggest work stress is tied to their supervisor or boss. If that’s true for you because your boss is abusive, you need to resist the temptation of trying to “tough it out.” Even if you could, why would you subject yourself to that? Having an abusive boss is a clear sign you either need to find a way to end the abuse or leave.
Your boss doesn’t care about your success:
If you’re doing great work but your boss doesn’t appreciate it, that’s a red flag you shouldn’t ignore. Your work ethic and performance might be stellar—but that doesn’t matter if your boss doesn’t value it. A boss that doesn’t care about helping your career advance sure isn’t going to be singing your praises to those who determine your raises and promotions.
Before you decide to leave, set a time period (say three months) to improve your relationship with your boss and give it all you have. This isn’t fair, but if you don’t do your best to improve your relationship with your boss, you’re not being fair to yourself. With that said, if your boss doesn’t demonstrate a new-found concern for your success and well-being, it’s time to leave.
Your company is driving you down the road to burnout:
It’s one thing to work sixty-five plus hours month after month if you love what you do and you're paid accordingly. One of my clients was working seventy hours a week and there was no clear end to that dark tunnel. He loved what he did, but it was burning him out after seven months and he left for an equally great opportunity that didn't consume his life. More and more employees report working far too much to the detriment of their health and family. If that’s you, perhaps it's a sign it's time to get your life back.
That’s a blunt way of saying you lack passion for your work. I’m not suggesting it’s time to find another job just because you’re bored. Identify the cause of your boredom and fix it if you can. Are you learning and growing? (If not, it’s no surprise you’re bored.) Are you in the right role? Do you need more responsibility and challenge? Do you need to better appreciate how important your work is (no matter what it is) and be proud of it?
If you’re still bored after addressing these issues, that might be a sign you need a radical change in what you’re doing or the company you’re doing it with. Don't fool yourself into thinking you can excel if you're not passionate about what you're doing. You might be thinking your boss is happy with you, but I've never met a boss that respects a team member who is just "getting by." It's far better you find a job you're excited to wake up for than to wait for your boss to come to his or her senses and tell you it's time to go.
You’re not fitting in:
If not fitting in is a pattern with you, you don’t need to leave your job, you need to change yourself. You can only blame your boss or co-workers so many times. However, if you’ve been in your company six months or so and you just don’t like the people you work with or you don’t believe in the company’s vision and values—it’s just not working.
You can try to force it, but sooner or later you have to be honest with yourself and admit you’re only human.
You can’t force yourself to like people you just don’t like. Accept that you're not going to change others and you're not going to change your company culture. If you’re more the spontaneous and wildly creative type person and your company is a “by the books” and “buttoned down" type of company, you and your company need to part ways.
-Alan Allard, Executive Coach