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Posts tagged ‘confidence’

The Best – And Worst Leadership Advice In One Sentence

The best, and worst, leadership advice given to me came in the form of a single sentence. It was delivered more than 20 years ago by the managing editor of a newspaper in California.

The comment resulted from a conversation I initiated concerning a colleague in the process of deciding whether to leave the paper. Her reasons for quitting were easy to address, and I went to bat for her because she was, and is, a very talented writer (who became a national best-selling author) who made the paper better. Plus, she served as an important mentor to several reporters, including myself.

After I finished pleading my case for action, he leaned back in his chair and said I should not concern myself with what decision she made because, “the paper will be printed and delivered tomorrow morning whether any of us quits or stays.”

The Good

Intentional or not, the statement’s wisdom is that no matter how important anyone thinks they are to an organization, it will not fall apart because one person leaves. This insight keeps me from getting “too big for my britches,” and is a reminder that no single person, regardless of title, is stands above the entire enterprise.

-the paper will be printed and delivered

The Bad

However, once I settled into my first leadership position, I learned that while the statement is true – it is dumb. The top priority for all leaders is to build, and sustain a great team. That means creating a positive culture, re-recruiting high performers, ensuring adequate education, and providing advancement opportunities.

When leaders, such as my former editor, infect a workplace with the attitude that employees are simply interchangeable cogs in a machine, it de-humanizes people.

The Ugly

Not surprisingly, one of the half-jokes in the newsroom was that reporters were going to be replaced by specially trained monkeys from Honduras (not sure why they were from Honduras). The culture resulted in poor productivity. It sank the point the managing editor created story quotas for news reporters.

Unsurprisingly, the quota system created a disincentive to work. Story length was not taken into account, so reporters who had beats that tended to result in short stories simply went home once they hit their quota because they were “done.” That aggravated many people, and added to the divisions and distractions already festering in the newsroom. The quota policy eventually faded away, but the damage was already done.

The Lesson

I have done my best to not emulate that editor. And if I could go back in time and respond, I would have said, “perhaps, but when you hire, value and support the right people, the product will be much better.”

Gregory Alford, MS. Psy., is founder of Accelerated Coaching & Consulting LLC, and specializes in business, leadership and life coaching and Marcom consulting.

Are You Stuck?

Many people seek a coach when they feel stuck in a job, a specific work role, or a relationship. The first step in the coaching process is to help people clarify their goals. But fear, doubt and other negative emotions can block people from taking action to reach those goals.

Striving for something better is scary because the status quo is known and provides some level of emotional comfort and security. However, almost nothing good in life happens until we take action. You have to apply for a job before you can hope to be hired. When you want a promotion, you have to step up and ask for or accept new responsibilities. When you want to go on a date with someone, you have to either make or accept an invitation.

-There is no happiness without action.- (1)Action can be scary. In my early 20s, I wanted a better career and knew a college degree would make it happen. I was a poor student in high school, and didn’t know if I could handle college coursework. But, I swallowed hard and enrolled.

Sitting in my first class (Journalism 101), my stomach churned, knees knocked and heart pounded so hard I could barely hear the instructor. But, I lived to tell the tale, and eventually earned a Master of Science degree in Psychology. My education opened doors I never would have known existed  — if I had given into my fear and not taken action.

Take a look around your workplace and notice those people who are unhappy with their career. They are easy to find, just try to ignore someone who expresses their unhappiness every day. These co-workers exert more energy complaining about being stuck than it takes to make positive change. Still, they make a choice each day to remain in a state of inaction.

As a coach, I help people create a plan, break it into small manageable pieces, and build supportive structures. The first action is usually the most difficult. Experience has taught me that when people take the first step toward their goal, the next steps are a little easier. With each step forward, confidence grows as action becomes the new norm and people begin to feel “unstuck.”

It is a privilege to follow the progress of my clients as they take action and rebalance their lives, build stronger relationships, grab that promotion or find a better job. In each case, success was the result of their willingness to take the action necessary to reach their goals and dreams.

If you are feeling stuck, please reach out to me via LinkedIn or my website for a free Power Session.

‘Impostor’ Bosses Are Trouble For Your Career

While many or even most of us may lack confidence from time-to-time, there are leaders who trap themselves into a perpetual state of anxiety when it comes to their self-image as a leader.

Dubbed “impostor syndrome,” these leaders are insecure, and unsure they are able to bear the responsibilities they have been given. Many build their work lives around to avoid being “discovered” as a fraud.

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Impostors often move quickly through the ranks using slash and burn political skills rather than high performance to make their mark. Often, these are outgoing, charismatic people who can tell a good story, and can accumulate enough power to ruin all or parts of an organization.

Insecurity drives them to ingratiate themselves with their boss, even at the expense of others or the entire organization. A common behavior is to divert resources to pet projects of their boss. Although this is not unusual, the impostor find it difficult to say “no” to even the most unreasonable (or possibly unethical or illegal) demand from their boss. To do so risks the primary work relationship the impostor is vested in, and risks angering the boss who might become critical of other actions the impostor has made.

Impostors As Narcissists

Perhaps paradoxically, to compensate for their internal feelings of weakness, impostors often take on characteristics of narcissists. They feel as if they are always in the spotlight, take credit for the success of team members, and are stingy with praise. When confronted with a failure or mistake, they blame others, and try to distance themselves from responsibility. They stand up for team members only when it is advantageous for them.

Impostors often end up as workaholics, and burn out because they can never satisfy their desire for external validation.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that impostors are wildly unpopular with subordinates. Impostor leaders communicate they distrust their followers in many ways. An example that I have experienced on multiple occasions, and my clients often describe, goes something like this…

After a of poor employee satisfaction score, Human Resources goes conducts focus groups with employees hand-picked by the leader. The group interview results include a list of opportunities for the leader to improve, which is presented to the leader.

Instead of taking time for self-reflection, gain an appreciation for how others perceive your leadership, and take steps to improve, impostors go into ego defense mode. The impostor leader schedules one-to-one meetings with team members who participated in the group interviews and grills each one to find out who made negative comments about them. People suspected of being disloyal are punished by losing plum assignments, receive poor performance reviews, or starved of resources.

The leader then makes the team responsible for improving their own work satisfaction (because the team is the problem). Nothing changes except higher turnover, and increased cynicism.

If you are working for an impostor, there are steps you can take that may improve the work environment. Or, you can begin to create a plan for the next step in your career. If you find yourself in this situation, please reach out to me for a free 50-minute session.

Gregory Alford, MS. Psy., is founder of Accelerated Coaching & Consulting, LLC, and specializes in business, leadership and life coaching and consulting. 

The Introvert’s Workplace Superpower

The difference between hearing and listening is profound. Several comments from readers about Monday’s blog, “Introverts And The Corner Office,” support the results of research into key differences in how introverts and extroverts listen and participate in workplace discussions.

Reacting Is Not Listening

When extroverts hear others talk or present in a business meeting, their brains are more likely to ramp up and make assumptions, quickly form opinions or questions, and pontificate before they pause to listen and observe participants’ vocal tone and body language. In addition, they may be unaware of the larger context of the discussion or the power dynamics in play.

One of the most sincere forms of respectThis is not listening – it is reacting.

In workplace meetings when political, personal or business stakes are high, this reveals itself when people talk over each other, carry on private conversations, or repeatedly interrupt others. Worse, situations can escalate into snide passive aggressive comments (or its companion behavior, disengaging with smart phone, tablet or laptop use), or heated arguments. I have witnessed fallout after these episodes that stalled or even ended careers.

The ability to listen rather than react comes down to impulse control (also called “attention” in psychology literature). Extroverts, such as myself, must take the time and make the effort to train our minds to be quiet to create a state of mind open to new information. It is tough, but worth the rewards.

The Power Of Listening

Introverts are more likely to be powerful listeners. Deep listening means you notice changes in vocal tone, body language and energy, as well as what is not being said. Instead of assumptions, you ask exploratory questions. Instead of comparing your perceptions of the current situation to past experience, you seek clarity with questions such as:

  • “What I hear you saying is…”
  • “Tell me more about…”
  • “What do you think can be done to improve our situation?”

These responses encourage additional exploration of the issues at hand and encourage problem solving rather than appearing to judge, be overly critical or uninformed. These questions allow others to feel heard and understood, which creates trust and builds powerful relationships. It also shows you to be a thoughtful, intelligent person who asks good questions and makes informed decisions.

However, for many introverts, saying anything in a business meeting can be nerve-wracking. My challenge to introverts is to listen, observe and ask at least one question or make one comment in every meeting. This will elevate your profile and build confidence, as well as build a helpful habit for your career.

Gregory Alford, MS. Psy., is founder of Accelerated Coaching & Consulting, LLC., and specializes in business, leadership and life coaching. 

 

Want A Promotion?

For decades psychology and sociology researchers have used the Five Factor Model (FFM, also called The Big 5) to study what dimensions of personality positively correlate with workplace success.

The Big 5 are (you can take a free Big 5 test here):Some people regard discipline as a

  • Openness (or intellect)
  • Conscientiousness
  • Extroversion
  • Agreeableness
  • Neuroticism (or emotional stability)

Why Conscientiousness Often = Success

The two dimensions proven to have the strongest connection to success at work are conscientiousness and extroversion. In Monday’s blog, I will cover extroversion, so the focus for the moment falls squarely on the broad shoulders of conscientiousness.

Conscientiousness is the predisposition to be disciplined, organized, goal directed, thorough, efficient, deliberative, and able to delay gratification. In the office, these are the people who have spotless desks, are reliable, and get desired results. Over time, they gain the trust of both leaders and followers. This allows them to keep stretching the goals of teams or organizations to reach goals that would have initially seemed far fetched.

Conscientious leaders excel at juggling multiple projects and priorities. The best keep team members focused on shared goals. Given the rapid pace of change and high expectations, it makes sense that people who create value and trust through goal attainment are picked for promotions or remain in executive positions.

How To Develop Conscientiousness Behaviors

If your desk is a mess and you struggle at times with projects hitting your inbox in rapid succession, there are behaviors related to conscientiousness that you can adopt to increase your effectiveness.

Find and consistently use a system to stay organized. This can be a white board, checklists, sticky notes, electronic calendar, spreadsheets, color coded filing system, or whatever keeps your mind uncluttered and tracks progress

  1. Understand the goal
  2. Understand why the goal is important to the organization
  3. Explain numbers two and three with everyone who needs to know, repeat often
  4. Communicate expectations and progress regularly

By keeping you and your team in front of projects, you are much less likely to be derailed or run over by new projects or competing priorities.

Caveats

Without emotional intelligence, conscientiousness may not move the needle of personal or organizational performance. And, when work is artistic or social (such as sales), creativity and spontaneity are often called for rather than a by-the-book approach.

Still, for most of us, behaviors associated with conscientiousness will take you a long way toward reaching your goals.

Gregory Alford, MS. Psy., is founder of Accelerated Coaching & Consulting, LLC., and specializes in business, leadership and life coaching.

How Driving 140 MPH Can Improve Your Career

The car fought back as I wrestled with the wheel to push the screaming NASCAR down into lane one before taking the second turn at Chicagoland Motor Speedway in Joliet, IL., at 140 mph.

NASCARs do not come equipped with power steering (or brakes) and I was still getting used to the bubbly rumble of its engine, the sticky heat trapped in my helmet, and the energy it took to aim the car.

Civilians can pay for the privilege of driving solo in actual NASCAR vehicles at the speedways  throughout the country. And for a few minutes (five to eight) get to feel for what it is like to drive at speeds of up to 155 mph.

I Am Going To Die

“Why would anyone allow me, a middle age man with questionable reflexes who drives a Prius,  behind the wheel of a race20140711_163446 car and drive about 150 mph?” kept racing through my mind during  training and waiting for my turn to drive.

Those thoughts melted into a mix of terror, exhilaration and extreme focus as I shifted into fourth gear and transitioned from the pit to the apron of the track. After that, I don’t recall breathing – just my mind spewing a string of expletives broken up only by the voice of a spotter giving me instructions through my earpiece.

After making it off the track and out of the car alive, I was elated that one more item on my personal to-do list could now be crossed off.

The Power Of Experience

I have rock climbed, rappelled, played with dolphins, whitewater river rafted, sat with people as they died, kayaked to a bioluminescent bay, hunted poisonous snakes, eaten meals from street carts in developing countries, and stumbled upon a mamma bear and her two cubs while hiking alone in Wyoming.

These and other stretch experiences provide context for the more mundane days and activities of daily life. Benefits of pushing your boundaries include:

  • Confidence to handle adversity and unexpected situations (i.e., “If I can climb a 150-foot vertical cliff without soiling myself, I can make a presentation on short notice without soiling myself”)
  • Understanding there is much more to life than your daily work routine
  • Inspire and educate yourself
  • Positive reinforcement to learn and do new things
  • New experiences add to our creativity

Not that you have to risk life or limb to push your boundaries. Your list could include a camping trip, finally read Moby Dick or relearning how to ride a bicycle. Put your list together and start making it happen and see the difference it makes in you and your work life.

Gregory Alford, MS. Psy., is founder of Accelerated Coaching & Consulting, LLC. 

 

Grow Your Self-Confidence

Just as there are no born leaders, no one is born born with confidence. It comes with experience and practice. As adults, we experience life events that make us feel confident. Perhaps you helped your child understand a life or school lesson, reached an important work milestone, or completed a DIY project on your home.

40% (1)While none of us feels confident all the time, cultivating confidence and living more confidently can improve our lives in many ways. A confident person feels comfortable within themselves. They live their values and beliefs, make decisions easier, respect others and are grateful.

What Self-Confidence Provides You

  • Openness to new experience
  • Positive energy
  • Calmness
  • Influence
  • Action orientation
  • Future focus

The other side of confidence is doubt. While doubt can be healthy in small doses, too much creates indecision and the loss of self-efficacy. When we remain in an indecisive mindset, our progress falters and our goals slide out of reach.

You can increase your confidence simply by making decisions. Nurturing the habit of decision making builds confidence by moving you from a state of inaction to action. Inaction drains you confidence and sense of empowerment. Action generates progress and feelings of accomplishment. Even if your decision turns out to be incorrect, simply learn from the experience and continue to move forward.

A second habit is to take a few moments each day to visualize past accomplishments that gave you confidence, and re-experience those positive emotions.

Avoid or minimize your exposure to negative people. They drain your energy and have little or nothing to add, other than why you can’t or shouldn’t take action.

Finally, develop self-care habits so you feel your best. This can include exercise, mediation, hobbies, volunteering or spending time with family and friends.

Cultivating these habits will recharge you and give you more energy to live with greater self-confidence.

Gregory Alford, MS. Psy., is founder of Accelerated Coaching & Consulting, LLC., and specializes in business, leadership and life coaching. Learn more at http://acceleratedcoachingandconsulting.com.

Successful People Have A Confidence Habit

“And no one will listen to us until weBy Gregory Alford, MS. Psy.

Just as there are no born leaders, no one is born with confidence. It comes with experience and practice. As adults, we have experienced life events that made us feel confident. We may have helped our child with a life or school lesson, reached an important work goal, or finished a DIY project on your home.

While none of us feels confident all the time, cultivating confidence and living more confidently can improve our lives in many ways. A confident person feels comfortable within themselves. They live their values and beliefs and have respect for others and gratitude.

What Confidence Looks Like

  • Openness to new experience
  • Positive energy
  • Calm
  • Influential
  • Action oriented
  • Future focused

The other side of confidence is doubt. While doubt can be healthy, too much of it creates indecision. When we are indecisive, our progress falters and our goals slide out of reach. Doubt can stem from external sources such as negative people, or our own negative thoughts.

Sometimes, simply making decisions, even if they turn out to be incorrect, boost our confidence. Learn from the outcome of the decision and continue to move forward. Simply developing the habit of making decisions builds confidence by moving you from a state of inaction to action.

Also, take a few moments to visualize some of your past accomplishments that gave you confidence.

Finally, practice self care so you feel your best. Self care includes exercise, mediation, hobbies, volunteering and spending time with family and friends. These activities will recharge you and give you more energy to live with confidence.

 

8 Ways To Banish Self-Doubt And Restore Confidence

By Gregory Alford, MS. PSY.

When we trust ourselves, we remove doubt and open the door to greater achievement.

When we trust ourselves, we remove doubt and open the door to greater achievement.

Each day, many of us play an internal game tug-of-war with self-trust and self-doubt pulling us in opposite directions. When self-trust gives way,  a cascade of negative feelings rush in.

What is Self-Trust?

Author Steven Covey describes self-trust as feeling confident and secure in our lives. Strong self-trust results in deeper a connection to ourselves, our loved ones, co-workers and community. It also is an indispensable part of self-reliance, resiliency and your ability to overcome inevitable setbacks.

Another benefit of enhancing self-trust, is it diminishes doubt. When we give into doubt, confidence and self-esteem are stripped, and energy and momentum are lost. When your thoughts tell you, “no,” “not now,” or “this is too hard,” when you want to take action – it is doubt talking.

Fortunately, you can improve your self-trust in many ways, including:

  • Make and keep promises by setting small goals and tracking achievements
  • Focus on what actions led you to achieve previous  goals
  • Develop support structures and habits that encourage achievement (i.e., self-care, calendars, checklists)
  • Visualize success
  • Choose to believe in yourself!

There are also things you can stop doing as well, such as:

  • Paying attention to negative people
  • Comparing yourself to others
  • Worry about what others think of you

Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. We all need help getting unstuck every once in a while. Be kind to yourself and reach out people who love and support you, a coach or therapist to help your build self-trust and confidence so you can achieve greatness.

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