Imagine a difficult conversation having a fantastic outcome. Most of us hate difficult conversations. Either we’ve seen confrontation make things worse, or we don’t trust the person we have an issue with, or we are relationship people who just can’t rock the boat. Whatever it is, it’s not fun. Good news — there is a tried and true process for turning what could be a terrible confrontation into an opportunity for deeper trust and transparency. It goes like this:
When You…: This needs to be super neutral and only reference the behavior, not any intention. So instead of something like, “When you railroad the team”, try “When you make a decision before each of us has shared our perspective.”
I Feel… (or I am, I get, I see it as): People can argue facts and intention, but not how you feel. Really ask what about the situation bothers you, even if you feel vulnerable doing so. In the above instance, it may be, “I get frustrated.”
Because…: Here you get into the why. Maybe it’s that the above referenced’s decisions mean you have to fix mistakes later. Maybe it’s because you see team members checked out because they are not being heard. The more specific, the better.
Manage the response. Part two is just as hard! When we confront, the tension shoots up. Typically people either: Deny: “I don’t know what you are talking about. No one in the meeting said they had an issue.” or Defend: “What do you mean? We’ve kept the project moving forward thanks to my quick decisions, and no one acknowledges that.” or Deflect: “The real problem is that we don’t have enough people on the team.”
First, stay calm – the increase in tension doesn’t mean you’ve done it wrong. Then listen and paraphrase without buying into the argument. In the deny response above, it might sound like, “You don’t know what I am talking about. No one spoke up. Yes, I can see how you might see it that way.”
The acknowledgement of their perspective will ideally reduce the tension somewhat. Now you repeat your feedback: “I get it. The thing is, when you decide things and close the meeting, I just have the sense that others don’t get behind the decision.”
Tension will increase again. And the person may shift tactics. If they first denied, now they might deflect: “I’m sorry you have that perception. Maybe you should rethink that and really ask them how they feel.” You then shift back to gentle listening and paraphrasing: “It looks like maybe it’s me.”
Then repeat again. “Maybe so. However I see it, I have to share how it affects me. When you make a decision before we’ve all weighed in, I feel frustrated and I don’t think we are working at our best.”
Eventually the tension should release so that you can shift to talking about solutions. This stuff isn’t easy. What I can share is that I use it more and more in my work and life, and it works. Difficult conversations always carry a level of tension. Do prepare in advance. Do find a private, quiet time for it. And do try it. Even if it only goes so-so, your confidence will build. What’s more, you will then both have each other as a resource. Cool beans.
- Write a long laundry list of every job you’ve had and its responsibilities. Include things like: dress on trend (for a retail job) or attend industry conferences (for a job where innovation is important). This scratch list can take several pages.
- Find a job description for your target job.
- Edit down the laundry list so that it uses the verbs and key words from the target job description and prioritizes accomplishments that connect to the contribution you believe you can make in the target job.
As a certified Myers-Briggs practitioner, I was recently asked to check a series of articles for Teen Vogue. While the magazine speaks to an audience younger than my regular clientele, I love what they are doing. It’s never too early to start gaining awareness on what kind of work will make you happy. My approach is to identify two key elements: role and culture. By “role”, I mean what kind of tasks and job function will make you happy? Are you a sales person, a strategist, a meticulous fact checker, a relationship person? Myers-Briggs is excellent for identifying role and function. After that, Culture is about where you want to work in role you’ve identified. Industry, location, size, gender, international vs. local, academia vs. business. The more specific you can be, the better. Once you know where you’d be happiest, you can create a pitch, brand, resume and cover letter to support it. Even if the change you want is internal to your organization, doing this work will help immeasurably.
Many of the people I work with would love a tweak in their job function, which is normal. To me career is like an onion, our best direction reveals itself with time and experience. To learn more about the Myers-Briggs assessment for yourself or for groups at your work, please email me. In the mean time, there is a lot to learn on line, especially using Kiersey’s “Please Understand Me II” and using their on-line resources.
If you are looking to gain clarity on how to make a shift, please download my Job Search Map by clicking here (link is at bottom of page).
When clients share their frustrations about corporate life, I often see benefits they don’t. One of these is that milestones and progress are easier to measure, which is why when my clients are working on longer term projects like job search, promotion, or shifting their team’s dynamics, progress can be hard to measure. Here are a few lessons from years of working (mostly) alone:
- Create interim milestones. Early on, I had a monthly income goal in my head. It seemed that if I could generate that, I was viable and I was also touching on something that resonated with my clients. I reached the number in year two and can still remember the major shift in my confidence that came from this small win.
- Evaluate your progress regularly. It’s easy to focus only on what’s not yet done, and that subconsciously hurts confidence. Make sure, every week, that you look at what you did and how it impacts the long term effort. My colleague Nadine Nicholson gave me a game changing tool early on. Each Friday, look at the week’s major accomplishments and ask: What is the accomplishment? Why is it important? What would further progress look like? and What are the immediate next steps? The exercise makes you feel on top of things, plus generates your To Do list for the following week.
- Don’t go it alone. John Kotter, a famous management guru, has eight steps for change management, two of which are about getting the support of others. The first is about getting a close team of advisors – get advocates or a good friend early on to help with accountability, bouncing ideas, and picking you up after the bumps.
- Shift how you view wins. Often a client will tell me that they got a ding letter. And I say, “Bravo! Until now, they haven’t even acknowledged you. This is progress.” No kidding. Big projects are like crossing the ocean in a row boat – when signs of progress that are comfortable and familiar are not there, you have to find another way to measure your forward motion.
A few years ago I came across a Peruvian proverb: “Step by Step, One Walks Far.” When you are tackling a big project, mindset is so important. Keep working, and look for when a small step generates a a big shift.
Enjoy the end of summer! Cool stuff about my new Free Agent Clarity program is coming soon. If you are curious about it now, just email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
There are two requests I get all the time: 1) Clarity on the big picture, and 2) A road map to get there. There is one more element that is key. It’s to have the confidence to activate the first two. My clients (you!) are mostly high-achievers. In reality, you don’t want someone to tell you what you want or provide the road map. You want the understanding and confidence to do it yourself. What has emerged from our work together is a philosophy I call Free Agent Clarity and it consists of three parts:
- Impact: Beyond having a list of strengths, have the calm confidence of knowing the impact you have on your team, organization, friends and family
- Initiative: Have the courage to act, and the resilience that comes with experience
- Influence: Know the rules of communication and interaction so you can anticipate others’ behavior and negotiate your way
Free Agent Clarity grew from working with ambitious professionals who initially wanted to find a new job. When they truly embraced what they excel at and how it fits in the big picture, starting acting from their point of view, and learned to manage communication, the influence they enjoyed allowed them to be less frustrated and happier. They were free to make their own choices. The difference was dramatic. Nearly half my clients stayed in their jobs and earned several promotions. Those who did change jobs found that the work they did with me allowed them to lead better wherever they go. Part personal growth, part career and life strategy, Free Agent Clarity provides the freedom to be in charge of your destiny. It’s subtle, but critical. When you know what you want and are negotiating it, you are not just blindly doing that looks good on paper. That critical difference brings focus, balance and success.
“Leadership belongs to those who take it.” Sheryl Sandberg
This new leg of my journey will be about stepping up and taking charge of a bigger game for yourself. Many of you have been on my list for some time and I would love for you to join me. As a starting point, will you ask yourself:
- Do I know my top three strengths? How do they help my colleagues, friends and family?
- When I feel nervous about what I think, do I speak up or hang back?
- On a scale of 1-10, how comfortable am I about predicting people’s behavior?
Over the next weeks and months I will be sharing more about Free Agent Clarity, how it has helped hundreds to perform better and enjoy more success, and the exciting new programs I’ve developed in response to your requests. Stay tuned!
If you are like most people, when you think about networking, your first thought is about that big fish mover and shaker who can offer you a great opportunity on the spot. Which is also why, like most people, you probably stop before you even start. Getting to the “right” people is not about a key moment. It takes slow and steady work, and it begins with the people who know and like you. As far as the big fish, it’s easier when someone they trust trusts you. And when you do get to speak to them, you are more confident when someone has put in a good word.
- Figure out what you want and what you can do for an organization in your target position. And eliminate the phrase “I am open to anything.” Check out Through the Brick Wall for more.
- Make a list of 10-30 people in your immediate network, close friends included.
- Set up coffees or lunches and share your “what I want, what I can do, and which organizations (industry, big/small, etc)” pitch. Then ask them who they think you should talk to.
- If you haven’t talked to people in a while, don’t worry. Just acknowledge it and move on. People love helping others, as long as you make it easy for them.
To power up your network, ask about my Career GPS program: claire@
Read Lean In or attend a panel discussion of successful executives and you often hear, “Then I was offered the opportunity to …” or “Then I was asked to join…” What they don’t tell you is that they were offered an opportunity after they asked for it. In a Forbes interview I read, Sheryl Sandberg, Marisa Mayer, and others, responded to many different questions, but one answer was consistent to a word: “What advice would you give someone who wants a promotion?” The unanimous response: “Ask for it.”
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if your employees had the maturity to know what they wanted and what it could do for the team and your organization? In all likelihood, you would be thrilled to offer them more to do!! Managers can spend a lot of time thinking they are helping their reports, only to find them leave the organization in frustration. Here are some guidelines:
Make an assessment of employees with the highest potential. It may seem obvious, but I see managers every day who have favorites from a personality perspective, not based on skills and contribution.
Learn employees’ aspirations, work and personal, what motivates them, and how they like to be recognized and rewarded. Then listen. It may not be what you think. Help them understand the bigger picture or the industry ad organization and how their strengths contribute. Act like a consultant to their business and have them take ownership of it.
Put them in your shoes. You have someone to answer to, and need employees who can. Managers can spend a lot of time thinking they are helping their reports, only to find them leave the organization in frustration. Here are some guidelines:
- Make an assessment of employees with the highest potential. It may seem obvious, but I see managers every day who have favorites from a personality perspective, not based on skills and contribution.
- Learn employees’ aspirations, work and personal, what motivates them, and how they like to be recognized and rewarded. Then listen. It may not be what you think.
- Help them understand the bigger picture or the industry ad organization and how their strengths contribute. Act like a consultant to their business and have them take ownership of it.
- Put them in your shoes. You have someone to answer to, and need employees who can make your senior leadership feel confident about handing them more responsibility.
- Rinse and repeat. As employees evolve, so do their perspectives. Check in and listen anew.
Getting to the heart of an employee’s motivation is not rocket science, but it does take a little attention.
All my best,
Read Lean In or attend a panel discussion of successful executives and you often hear things like, “Then I was offered the opportunity to …” or “Then I was asked to join…”. It can leave the best of us wondering, “What am I doing wrong that I am not in such demand?” What they don’t tell you is that they were offered an opportunity after they asked for it. In a Forbes interview I read, Sheryl Sandberg, Marisa Mayer, and others responded to many different questions, but one answer was consistent to a word: “What advice would you give someone who wants a promotion or raise?” The unanimous response: “Ask for it.
We are taught that if we just work hard, our career will take care of itself. It’s true that you don’t just get the next opportunity because you want it. You have to do the work. AND you have to know when and how to ask for it. As strange as it seems, your boss may not know that you want to move up. Here are some rules of the road:
- Time your ask for when you have just worked on something significant.
- Understand the bigger picture and how your strengths contribute. Consider what’s happening in your industry or organization, and your part in it all.
- Be ready to paint the picture of how your contribution could help even more if you were given the opportunity you are asking for. Have a couple of “war stories” about how you’ve contributed in the past.
- Put yourself in your boss’s shoes. He or she has someone to answer to. What will make your senior leadership even more confident about handing you more responsibility?
- When you ask, make it about more than this opportunity. Remember to reaffirm your commitment to the team and/or the organization.
If it’s not a little uncomfortable, it may not be big enough. When you want it though, you will ask.
All my best,
Your Story – Why it’s Key to Getting a Job You LoveA recent client took a shot at giving me her elevator pitch, and it sounded like this, “Seven years at X bank, an internship at Y bank, all in selling financial products with good results.” Even with how much I like her personally, I was not inspired. The pitch was a cookie cutter list that sounded like hundreds of other people in her business in New York.So I asked about her childhood, “Forget work. Tell me the stories your mom tells about what you were like.” And she was off to the races. That’s easy, she said. My mom always says that when we were on the airplane, I would disappear down the aisle and come back half an hour later with a full inventory of who was going where, whom they were visiting, how many grandchildren they had. Oh, and she got a glass of water for an elderly passenger because the woman couldn’t get the flight attendant’s attention, etc, etc. Now THAT sounds like a salesperson.Her enthusiastic curiosity about people is a unique ability — and we all have them. These are core talents that are like a well that keeps on giving. Using these abilities each day gives us a sense of purpose, and is what makes us good at what we do when we are in the right job.Learn to share the stories that highlight your unique abilities. Whether it’s for promotion or job search, they help develop your brand and they help people see what you are capable of. Connect one of your core skills to an impact you’ve had in your work. For example, “I used to go around asking people all about their stories and what they need. In my sales job, getting curious about my clients allowed me to customize solutions instead of pushing product. I grew existing accounts by 25% and expanded to 15 new clients in three years.”Too many of us think that personal stories won’t sound professional. On the contrary; if you link them to your work impact, they provide depth and make people remember you.Enjoy the summer and please play with sharing your unique skills!All my best,Claire