Category Archives: Professional Development

11 Tips on How to Drink from the Firehose and Not Drown!

Firehose-Spraying-Water
Firehose Spraying Water

Over the last few weeks, I have found myself drinking from the proverbial firehose in my new job. That is, meeting new people, navigating a new work environment, taking in new information, listening, learning the scope of my new responsibilities, and asking questions to better understand the operations of the organization. Prior to starting this new role, I had never heard of the metaphor of drinking from a firehose. However, as soon as I heard it used, I could not help but smile at how well it described what I had been experiencing as I settled into my new job. Afterall, the many meetings, the rapid flow of new information, new acronyms, names, faces and roles sometimes passed in a blur, as I attempted to take copious notes and prayed for good memory. Which I imagine is exactly what drinking from a firehose might feel like?

What Does Drinking from the Firehose Mean?

According to the Urban Dictionary, the metaphor “drinking from the firehose” is defined as “to be overwhelmed (with information, responsibility, work, etc.); to do something intensely; to be inundated.” This experience or feeling is typical for most new hires during the first few days and weeks settling into a new job. During the onboarding process, (See previous article), new employees spend the majority of their early days getting to know their team(s), learning about business operations, key stakeholders, listening to customer needs and expectations, while scanning for opportunities to apply their skills and knowledge. And if not careful, one can quickly feel like the gushing firehose is spilling more water over one’s face and clothes, rather than what ends up in one’s mouth.

So, what can you do? How can you learn how to drink safely from the firehose and avoid the drowning feeling of being overwhelmed by the rapid flow of information, scope of work and many expectations that comes with your new role or job?

When I started my new role, I really wanted to do my best. So, I decided to draw on the wisdom of the crowd by asking my professional network on LinkedIn to share tips and advice to help me to position myself for success in my new role and confidently apply my skills and knowledge. I received over 100 valuable responses offering wisdom, tried and tested advice and key reminders that can help anyone achieve success when starting a new role or new opportunity.

How to Drink Well from The Firehouse

Here are the top eleven tips that you should keep in mind as you put your best foot forward and drink well from the firehose:

  1. Believe in yourself and your abilities. Do not be consumed with trying to prove yourself- you are the person for the job
  2. Listen twice as long as you intend to speak. As you do so, pay attention to what is said and to what isn’t. Keep your eyes and ears on the ground.
  3. Be a learn it all, not a know it all. Rather than be an expert, be a sponge and ask questions to learn and understand. Be humble.
  4. Be social. Try to say hello to everyone and try to meet as many people as you can. Remember to smile and be respectful of everyone.
  5. Build relationships and connections. Surround yourself with the right people. The relationships you build will be the most valuable currency you have to spend.
  6. Remember that trust and vulnerability go hand in hand. Be willing to be vulnerable and to trust your team as you get to know each other and vice-versa.
  7.  Learn the organization structure and culture. Understanding this will help you to get a sense of how you fit in and can contribute, as well as how things get done.
  8. Maximize your first 90 days by setting realistic goals. Once you have gotten an understanding of your role and responsibilities, work with you manager to identify and agree key work priorities and goals to be achieved over the first 30-60-90 days.
  9. Be open and ready to learn, fail and make mistakes. Things will not always work as planned, nor will all your bright new ideas be accepted. Don’t take this personally. Continue to listen and pivot. Fail fast and early and recover well. And as you do so. extend yourself grace and remember progression is better than perfection.
  10. Ask your manager and team for feedback. Regular feedback will help you to gauge how you are doing, how you can add value and gain insights on your opportunities for growth. Allow yourself time to settle into your new space and work environment. And celebrate all your wins- no matter how big or small.
  11. Be your authentic self. Don’t pretend to be someone you are not to impress others or fit in. Own your unique talents, perspectives, abilities and recognize the value you bring to the organization. Also remember to be patient and present for each step of your new journey.

At the end of the day, failing to manage the firehose and to drink safely while settling into a new opportunity will lead to frustration, burnout, stress, fatigue and less than optimal results. As you adjust to your new role, remember to pace yourself, and ask for help when and where you need it. Also, be willing to set healthy boundaries to maintain work – life balance and to ensure positive overall well-being.

So, what additional tips would you add to help others drink from the firehose and not drown?  What has worked for you? What advice do you have for someone who is starting a new role or a new opportunity? Share and let me know.

Until next time, Remember, ItsALearningLife!

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How to Onboard Your People Right!

New Employee Onboarding-Image

Let’s face it – starting anything new can feel daunting, exciting, and challenging at the same time. Whether it’s a new job, new relationship/partnership or resettling to a new area, the process can be nerve-wracking. Because of this, it is not unusual for people to experience mixed emotions once the decision has been made. In fact, one of the most common emotions that many people experience is uncertainty -due to one or a combination of the following reasons:

  1. Change isn’t easy and moving out of your comfort zone can prove difficult and painful.
  2. People fear failure and want to do well and/or succeed in their varied endeavors. But the fear of failure, low risk tolerance and not wanting to make a mistake can be crippling.
  3. The desire to do well or make an impact can create undue pressure and drive feelings of anxiety and self-doubt.
  4. No one can predict the future; the future is unknown and even the best laid plans can go awry.

Last week, all these things became real to me as I started my new job. While I knew I was capable and competent to do the job and felt confident that I had made a great decision, when the first day came around, I couldn’t be sure of how things would unfold. How would my first day turn out? How would I feel at the end of the first week? Would the people be warm and welcoming? Would they like me?  Would the environment be open, positive, supportive – one where I could learn, apply my talents and grow?

It is safe to say that my musings and thoughts are not unique to me. Most new employees approach their first day on the job with excitement and hope for a great experience, but with lingering fears of the outcomes. Fortunately, by the end of my first week, I could happily report that all went well. The team was warm and welcoming, the scope of work was what I expected, and the work environment was one where I felt confident that I would make a positive impact and continue to develop.

While I was deeply grateful for the positive experience, I am keenly aware that this is not always the case for many new employees on the first day, week or month on a new job. This is primarily due to the approaches that various managers and organizations use in onboarding new hires.

Importance of Effective Onboarding

Depending on the culture of the organization, the style of leadership and management and/or the quality of onboarding systems and policies, starting a new role can be equals parts chaotic, confusing and stressful.  According to the Society for Human Resource Professionals (SHRM), “Onboarding is a prime opportunity for employers to win the hearts and minds of new employees”.  Amy Hirsh Robinson also points out that “Onboarding is a magic moment when new employees decide to stay engaged or become disengaged”. And “it offers an imprinting window when organizations can make an impression that stays with new employees for the duration of their careers.”

Unfortunately, however, some organizations waste this opportunity by not creating the right conditions to set new employees up for success or the environment for them to feel safe and thrive. Robinson cautions that “new hires who experience such badly planned and executed initiations may conclude that the organization is poorly managed and decide that it was a mistake to take the job. And “rather than setting new employees up for success, organizations with poor onboarding processes are setting the stage for an early exit.”

How to Set New Employees Up for Success

Whether the role is in -person, remote or hybrid, new hires expect their managers and organizations to provide opportunities to help them learn and understand their roles, familiarize themselves with the organization and understand policies and procedures. Research suggests that “69 percent of employees are more likely to stay with a company for three years if they experienced great onboarding. And “new employees who went through a structured onboarding program were 58 percent more likely to be with the organization after three years.”

So, what can employers do to ensure they are effectively onboarding new employees and get them started on the right footing.

According to Gallup, effective onboarding of new employees should focus on people, learning and processes.  On the people side, the focus should be helping new employees meet and connect with new team members, ask questions and foster positive relationships. The learning should focus on helping new hires understand the mission and vision of the organization and how they fit in and can contribute in their respective role(s). With the processes, managers should provide new hires with a clear structure and journey for learning the job, the tools, systems, and technology, so that they have what they need to do the work.

Six Tips for Effective Onboarding

So, here are six tips recommended by Gallup that managers should consider as they seek to set their new employees up for success with effective onboarding practices:

  1. Find creative ways to build connections:  Whether it is in person or online, managers need to create opportunities for people to connect and build relationships as they acclimatize to the organization and their roles. This could include but is not limited to virtual coffee chats and or in -person meet and greets.
  1. Encourage tenured employees to reach out: Ensuring that new hires feel supported is a crucial part of the onboarding process. As such, a word of encouragement or check in from senior staff can help to build confidence in new employees and provide reassurance that there is help should they need it.  
  1. Lean into Learning: Effective onboarding processes should help new employees understand the greater mission and purpose of the organization. Gallup emphasizes that “When employees understand why and how their job fits into the bigger picture, they can start delivering brand promises faster.”
  1. Add experiences that bring your culture to life: According to Gallup, new hires need to see and feel how the organizational culture plays out and how they fit into it. This requires both communication and firsthand experiences and accounts from existing employees at all levels of the organization and/or provide opportunities for new hires to observe the culture.
  1. Create a formal mentorship program: One of the main expectations that new employees have of their managers and their organizations is for them to provide opportunities for growth and development. Gallup suggests that “to meet this need and promote retention — leaders should pair new hires with a mentor or adviser who can answer their questions and help them learn and grow.” Mentors can also serve as a sounding board and a source of inside knowledge to help new hires navigate their roles successfully.
  1. Prepare managers for an active role: Gallup emphasizes that “managers must be present, involved, and available throughout new hires’ onboarding journey.” Managers should model the culture, demonstrate the values of the company, and provide learning experiences that bring the culture to life. For effective onboarding, managers need to become coaches and connect their new employees with the right people and provide the support and mentoring they need.

Finally, in today’s job market where most organizations are struggling to attract and retain top talent, the saying – “First impression counts”, does not just apply to the new employee who is trying to impress his/her boss. The research confirms that managers and organizations need to get their onboarding processes right and to create the right conditions for their new and existing employees to engage. For when all is said and done, the quality of the onboarding experience can make all the difference in whether new hires decide to stay or with the company or jump at the first opportunity they get.

So over to you- what has been your experience when starting a new job?

Did you feel supported? Did your onboarding process provide structure, clear information, specific job-related goals and the resources you needed to do the job? Did the onboarding process set you up for success?

Until next time, Remember, ItsALearningLife!

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The Flip Side of Being “The First”!

1st Place Blue Ribbon
1st Place Blue Ribbon

“The First”- is the label usually attached to the person or people who come before all others in the context of time or order. For those who have earned the distinction of being “the first”, great honor and fanfare go with the achievement. And while being “the first” to achieve a major goal or milestone event should be celebrated, being “the first” can easily become a double-edged sword.

The label of being “the first” can create lofty expectations of the title holder that might quickly become isolating and burdensome. In fact, when someone becomes “the first” to achieve a significant goal or accomplishment, you will often hear much about the accolades and the hard work that led up to it. But what happens after? Does being “the first” guarantee future success? Does the label help or hurt? Is being “the first” a blessing or a burden?

Being “The First”

There are many benefits to being the first. Being “the first” gives the title holder bragging rights, and honorable mention in the history books as the first male or female to ever do “it”. Whether it is a personal or career accomplishment, being “the first,” gives the individual an opportunity to blaze a trail to lead others into the future, make a difference and to pave the way for those that come behind them. At the same time, being a forerunner presents great risk as there might not be any precedent or roadmap for the novel big idea.

Being “the first” might also mean longer hours devoted to building a new business, huge sacrifices to personal life, costly mistakes and failures, and tireless efforts to get support, develop new systems, and incredible pressure to be a great example. Because, when you are “the first” to do something big or new, you have both the burden and opportunity to cast the vision, get buy in, create access, identify opportunities, or transform systems.

So, whether you earned the first-place position, are a first born, was the first to start the business, first to graduate college, first to purchase a home, first male or female president/vice president- being “the first” is hard. Research tells us that many first-time entrepreneurs fail, in their first attempts to establish a business. First generation minorities to attend college, suffer from high dropout rates due to an absence of adequate resources and support. And first-time leaders are prone to make mistakes that can permanently derail their careers or set them back personally and professionally.

The hardships, uncertainty and risks associated with being the first is also true for anyone taking on a new role or doing something for the first time. For example, many first-time supervisors and managers lament the many mistakes they made, in making the transition from being a member of the team, to becoming the manager/leader of the team. First time managers often find themselves struggling after landing the job because they were not properly trained, or prepared to handle on the scope of work, varied expectations, and new responsibilities. As a result, they find it difficult to perform important functions such giving feedback, managing the work, engaging, and developing their people. Usually, after some trial and error, they gain the experience and confidence to help them turn things around. So, there many growing pains associated with doing anything for the first time.

Blessing or Burden?

I remember the first time I heard of the newest U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown-Jackson. Brown Jackson became “the first” black female justice in America’s highest court. Prior to the confirmation hearing, I had never heard of her of President Biden‘s nominee. And though all of whom watched the hearing were very impressed by her credentials, legal acumen and background, most of us were equally appalled by how she treated by the republican senators during the hearing.

While the treatment of the Justice might have been partisan, the hearing and the subsequent favorable outcome for Justice Ketanji Jackson Brown shone a light on the significant hurdles that black and brown people and other minorities in America and elsewhere face, in their journeys to become “the first”. Her ascension to the bench also highlighted the disparities in holders of the highest offices of the land and why representation matters. To her credit, Justice Ketanji Jackson Brown navigated the confirmation hearing with poise, grace and patience and made people who looked like her- very proud.

Personal Reflection on “Being the First”

For me, Justice Ketanji Jackson Brown‘s journey to becoming “the first”, though different, is similar to the experiences that may people face in their efforts to be “the first” and achieve their career or life goals. It also struck me that being “the first” does not guarantee future or continued success either. In fact, history books are littered with men and women whose initial success never amounted to much. And many first timers suffer from imposter syndrome or the fear of not able to sustain the success they have achieved. If anything, the scrutiny, pressures that come with being “the first” and the need to live up to expectations, can create undue stress, anxiety and fear that might cripple many first timers and holders of the title “the first”.

So, how do you avoid the dangers of being “the first”? From my perspective people who earn the distinction of being “the first”, as well as first timers, need three basic things to thrive and build on their past success:

  1. Self-Belief /Assurance:  When no one else sees or trusts your vision or the mission you are seeking to accomplish, you will need the conviction to believe in your talents and abilities, trust your judgement and to walk in the purpose you have defined for your life. This will help you to hold true to your values, ignore the noise and push past fear to pursue your goals and dreams.
  1. Support: No matter how hard you work, how talented you are, you will never be able to fully realize your goals and objectives without support and engagement from key stakeholders and partners. In fact, most organizational change efforts fail because of the lack of leadership support, inadequate resources and the absence of employee participation. On a personal level, efforts to get to the goal might be tougher, if you do not have support of friends and family to help you physically, mentally, and emotionally.
  1. Perseverance: When you look at successful and famous inventors and inventions, their history is marked by repeated failures on the path to success. As such first timers will need to demonstrate the resilience to able to pivot and bounce back when their best efforts fail. And to choose to hope again and again.

So, what advice would you offer up to a first-timer or someone who is struggling with being “the first”?

Until next time, Remember, ItsALearninglife.

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Quit the Excuses!

What's- Your- Excuse -Image
What’s Your Excuse – Image

I can still remember my high school’s days when the then popular “My Dog Ate My Homework” caption was plastered on 3 ring binder folders to serve as the classic excuse for students who had not done their homework. As funny and implausible as that excuse was back in the day, today, many of us use varied excuses to justify our inaction or failure to follow through with important daily tasks and activities. One might even argue that it is human nature for people to come up with reasons or excuses to justify or explain why work projects and tasks were not completed, phone calls were not returned, emails went unacknowledged, key decisions were not taken or dreams and goals were never fully realized. And while there might be good explanations for any or all the above, how do you distinguish between when it is an excuse or a valid reason?  Why do people make excuses anyway? And at what point do the excuses no longer add up and need to stop? This article will attempt to answer all these questions.

People use a mix of reasons and excuses to account for their thoughts, behaviors, or actions. And though reasons and excuses are sometimes used interchangeably, the two concepts are not one and the same. Difference Between explains that “a reason simply refers to a cause or explanation. Reasons explains why someone did something or why something happened. On the other hand, “An excuse, is also a type of reason that specifically justifies or defends a fault.” Based on this, the main difference between the two is – a reason is merely an explanation, and an excuse specifically focuses on justifying a fault. So, how do you account for your behaviors and actions?  Do you have good reasons, or are you merely making excuses?

Why Do People Make Excuses?

According to Tony Robbins, “Making excuses can almost always be traced back to one of three reasons: fear, uncertainty or lack of purpose”.

  1. Fear:  The fear of failure is perhaps the biggest fear that most people have. Robbins goes on to explain that fear and more specifically the fear of failure can cripple some people and cause them to make excuses that prevent them from going after their dreams. This fear of failure might play out as self -doubt or self-limiting beliefs and result in a lack of confidence in one’s potential and ability to succeed.
  1. Uncertainty:  Robbins explains that “as human beings, we all have Six Human Needs that drive our decisions. And one of our most powerful needs is certainty- that is the desire to avoid pain and seek out things that we know will bring us pleasure”. Because of this, people are more likely to remain in their comfort zone and situations that are less than ideal. So, when we are faced with circumstances that we feel uncertain about, our brains prefer, or are likely to default to making excuses over dealing with uncertainty.  Nonetheless, you can override these natural impulses and stop making excuses.
  1. Lack of Purpose: According to Robbins, “people who make excuses often come across as lazy, uninspired and apathetic.” However, he notes that this perception might not be true as it is more likely that they haven’t yet discovered their purpose. Therefore, Robbins advocates that “People are not lazy. They simply have goals that do not inspire them.” So, if you focus on finding your passion and living a meaningful life, the tendency to make excuses will stop.

Top Excuses People Make

Sometimes, I am just as guilty of making excuses as anyone else. For years, I have used both reasons and excuses about timing to justify not starting a doctoral program I have done the research to identify. I have also used excuses about not knowing how, to delay writing and publishing a book that I hope to. But all my excuses and reasons really mask- is my fear of failure and doubts about my abilities. I share all this to say, making excuses is a part of the human condition and is as natural to many of us as breathing.  

So, while the following list of common excuses people make is not exhaustive, you might easily find that the excuses you make are only slightly different from the ones below and might be linked to the reasons given above. Here are seven common excuses that people typically make:

  1. I don’t have enough time/money/ resources:
  2. I am afraid of failure
  3. I am not inspired/ I’m stuck
  4. This is not new/ it’s not original enough
  5. I am afraid of the competition
  6. This is not the right time to do it
  7. I have too much going on /I don’t have the support

So, how do we move past the excuses and avoid sitting like a frog on a log?

How To Stop Making Excuses

According to Tony Robbins, “making excuses is normal from time to time. But if your  excuses  start to interfere with your life and prevent you from reaching your goals, it might be time to learn how to quit doing so. As such, Robbins suggests the following tips that you can use to stop making excuses and take meaningful action towards your goals and dreams:

  • Take Responsibility: Robbins suggest that “the first step to stop making excuses is always to realize that you alone control your destiny. Robbins reminds us that “No matter what has happened to you in the past, your future is up to you.”
  • Shift Your Perspective: Robbins argues that “when you take responsibility, you begin to see that problems are opportunities, not obstacles. Life is happening for you, not to you. Everything that has happened in your life brought you to this moment – and you can either transform your life or keep making excuses.”
  • Uncover Your Limiting Beliefs:  According to Robbins, “People who make excuses are likely have certain limiting beliefs that are holding them back. These are the stories we tell ourselves about who we are. If you believe deep down that you’re not deserving of success or that you don’t have the inner strength to overcome failure, you’ll continue making excuses to avoid going after what you really want.”
  • Change Your Story: Robbins recommends that “Once you’ve identified your limiting beliefs, you can change your story and stop making excuses for good. Do this by identifying negative self-talk and replacing any limiting beliefs with empowering ones. When you change your words – and your story – you change your life.”
  • Find The Lesson: Robbins says that “People who make excuses don’t bother to look closely at their mistakes and determine what went wrong. They blame others and never learn the valuable lessons that failure can provide. Successful people always look for the lesson and apply it to future decisions.”
  • Stop Overthinking: Robbins tells us that “The path to success is to take massive, determined action.” So, to quit making excuses, you must stop overthinking, let go of the past and take decisive action.”
  • Define your vision: Robbins encourages that  you “Go back to the drawing board and examine your blueprint for your life. What do you really want? Create a powerful vision that you’ll be proud to follow, and you’ll never make an excuse again.”
  • Set Goals:  Here Robbins points out that “Discovering your purpose is valuable, but setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible. Working toward actionable goals forces you to stop making excuses and start creating a compelling future. Start small and set achievable SMART goals. As you build confidence, set bigger and bigger goals.”
  • Get Support: When all is said and done, Robbins emphasizes that “The key to stop making excuses is to hold yourself accountable for your actions – but this isn’t always easy.” Therefore, lean on your trusted friends and family for your support.

Over to you- what excuses are you using to undermine your progress and chances for success in your personal and professional life? Whatever they are, it’s time to quit.  Until next time, Remember, ItsALearningLife!

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How to Affirm Yourself & Encourage Others?

Positive Affirmation Statements-Image
Positive Affirmation Statements-Image

“Be Kind. For Everyone You Meet is Fighting A Battle You Know Nothing About.”

Unknown

The need to feel affirmed, supported or appreciated is one of the most deep-seated needs that all human beings have. From time to, we all will need a “pick me upper”, a personal boost, or a word of encouragement to help us move forward. Afterall, some days are better than others. Some struggles longer and harder, and some experiences more painful and disappointing than the ones before. So, what do you tell yourself when the going gets tough and your best laid plans or best intentions fail or fall short?

When faced with new, uncertain, or challenging situations, one of the first thing that many people do is to question themselves and their abilities. In so doing, they risk becoming paralyzed or overwhelmed by fear, fatigue, doubt and a lack of focus. Others may even become overwhelmed by negative thoughts as they question their abilities, resources, or self-worth. Affirmations have been touted as a powerful strategy for people to use to tackle and overcome negative thinking and inspire themselves and others.

Importance of Affirmations

According to Psychology Today , affirmations are  defined as  “positive phrases or statements used to challenge negative or unhelpful thoughts.” Love them or hate them,  “affirmations are used to reprogram the subconscious mind, to encourage us to believe certain things about ourselves or about the world and our place within it.”  This view is supported by Walter E. Jacobson, M.D., who argues that, “there is value in affirmations of this nature, because our subconscious mind plays a major role in the actualization of our lives and the manifestation of our desires. What we believe about ourselves at a subconscious level, he says, can have a significant impact on the outcome of events.”

Afterall, you can’t do difficult things with negative thoughts. Just as you use positive affirmations to shape your thoughts and actions for good, if you flood your mind with negativity, this is likely to lead to negative outcomes. In that, the more often you speak negative affirmations (E.g., I can’t do it) about yourself and your situation, the more likely you are to believe it and act accordingly. And overtime, these self-limiting beliefs and self-defeating behaviors will hold you back and become a form of self -fulfilling prophecy. So, if you get to choose what you affirm about yourself or your situation, why not make it positive?

The-Power of Affirmations-Image
The -Power- of -Affirmations- Image

The Power of Affirmations

I know first-hand, the importance of using words of affirmations to encourage myself and others as one of my daughter’s love languages is words of affirmations. In his book the 5 Love Languages, Chapman describe words of affirmations as “unsolicited compliments and encouragement offered to someone to express love or appreciation.” So, every day before she goes to school, I place a handwritten card with words of affirmation in her lunch box to encourage her, remind her who she is and build her self-confidence. Although I write her a card daily, I never stopped to think about what she does with the cards after she reads them.

One day, she came home upset about a stack of cards that had somehow gotten wet in her lunch bag pocket. As she tried desperately to dry and save them, I asked her why it was so important for her to keep them. She then shared that her cards served as a ‘pick me upper’, she turns to when she is experiencing doubt and fear or feeling sad or bad. After she shared that, I bought her a huge photo album which she now uses to archive her words of affirmation cards.

While I don’t write positive affirmations and words of encouragement to myself and others as frequently as I do my daughter, I frequently use words of affirmations to encourage myself to push through low moments, remind myself of who I am, what I am trying to do, why I do what I do and to show myself compassion and grace.  But I know my daughter and I are not alone with these struggles. None of us are immune from experiencing doubts, regrets, or disappointment from decisions made, words spoken, actions taken or not.

So, can develop your own affirmations?

How to Write Your Own Affirmations

While not for everyone, positive self-talk or affirmations are used by many to overcome adversity, banish negative thoughts and to empower them to work towards their purpose and goals.  HuffPost offers 5 steps below that you can use to write your affirmations and make them work for you:

  • Step 1:  Make a list of what you’ve always thought of as your negative qualities. Include any criticisms others have made of you that you’ve been holding onto; whether it’s something your siblings, parents and peers used to say about you when you were a child, or what your boss told you in your last annual review.  Make a note of them and look for a common theme, such as “I’m unworthy.” 
  • Step 2: Now write out an affirmation on the positive aspect of your self-judgment. You may want to use a thesaurus to find more powerful words to beef up your statement. For example, instead of saying, “I’m worthy,” you could say, “I’m remarkable and cherished.”
  • Step 3: Speak the affirmation out loud for about five minutes, three times a day — morning, mid-day and evening. An ideal time to do this is when you’re putting on your make up or shaving, so that you can look at yourself in the mirror as you repeat the positive statement. You can look at yourself in the mirror as you repeat the positive statement.
  • Step 4: Anchor the affirmation in your body as you are repeating it by placing your hand on the area that felt uncomfortable when you wrote out the negative belief in step one. Also “breathe” into the affirmation while you are saying or writing it. As you reprogram your mind, you want to move from the concept of the affirmation to a real, positive embodiment of the quality you seek.
  • Step 5: Get a friend or coach to repeat your affirmation to you. As they are saying for example, “you are remarkable and cherished” identify this statement as ‘good mothering or good fathering messages. If you don’t have someone who you feel comfortable asking them to use your reflection in the mirror as the person who is reinforcing the healthy message.

Words of affirmation can be powerful sources of inspiration and positive self-change for the person who repeats or hears them. No one likes to feel unsupported, unappreciated or to have their hard work and efforts go unacknowledged. Positive affirmations provide another technique you can use to reframe negative thoughts, overcome hardships, spread kindness, peace, and love. Our words and actions have the power to make to break someone, to positively shape their lives or turn moods and day around.

So, over to you- how will you affirm yourself and become more intentional about encouraging others?

Until next time, Remember, ItsALearningLife!

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The Hidden Costs of Saying Yes!

Quotes About Saying Yes
Quote About Saying Yes

Why Do People Say Yes?

Many of us go through our daily lives, continually saying yes to a range of requests and demands from others around us. With each interaction, we say yes to new tasks, responsibilities, opportunities and relationships. And every time you and I say yes, we expand our varied roles, add to our existing workload, schedules and obligations. And before you know it, you find that your bandwidth has shrunken, and you feel overextended from having stretched yourself too thin. With so many people struggling with fatigue, burnout and stress, why do you continue to say yes?

There are many reasons people say yes to the seemingly never-ending demands on their time, resources and talents. Some of the main reasons they say yes include, but are not limited to their need to:

  • Respond to challenges and seize new opportunities
  • Build and preserve relationships personally and professionally.
  • Meet the expectations and needs of friends and loved ones.
  • Fulfill varied roles and responsibilities related to work.
  • Learn new skills to enhance their growth and development
  • Expand their influence and impact on the world around them.
  • Be recognized, valued or affirmed.
  • Respect the power dynamic in relationships and organizations (Playing politics).
  • Avoid the consequences of saying no, or the Fear of Missing Out (FOMO).

Regardless of your reason for saying yes, have you ever paused to consider the hidden costs of doing so?

The Power of Saying Yes

In her TED Talk- My Year of Saying Yes, Shonda Rhimes talked about her experiment where for one year, she said yes to everything that scared her, made her nervous and pushed her out of her comfort zone. Rhimes shared how the act of saying yes and doing the things that scared her, made them less scary. And she further explained how saying yes to everything, changed her, her life, helped her rediscover her creativity and ultimately saved her career. She is not alone. Founder of the Virgin Group, Sir Richard Branson is also a big champion of saying yes.  According to Forbes, he earned the nickname Dr. Yes, because he prefers to say yes instead of no. And his belief in saying yes and “fortune favors the bold” were instrumental in shaping the Virgin Story.

Therefore, there is no denying that saying yes can be life changing. Whether it is to a marriage or business proposal, this three-letter word has the potential to open doors to great possibilities and to unleash power to those who say it. Afterall, saying yes to a call for volunteers can expand your personal and professional network and give a new sense of meaning to your life. Saying yes to a work assignment, can equip you with new skills or shift you towards a new and exciting career path. Saying yes, can provide you with limitless experiences and exposures that could expand your horizons.

The Hidden Costs of Saying Yes

Every yes you give, has an opportunity cost. With only 24 hours in a day, and 365 days in a year, time is a precious and scare commodity. Each time you say yes, you are saying no to something and someone else. And before you know it, your yeses can add up, and become very expensive to your well-being and overall personal effectiveness. For example, saying yes to a project team at work, might mean less time during the workday to complete your primary duties and potentially longer hours in the office. And saying yes to a new opportunity, could result in less time for leisure activities and downtime on the weekend with loved ones. So, with each yes you give, you risk taking on increasing responsibilities, which left unchecked can lead to you becoming overworked, overused and burnout.

And if your word is your bond, or you do as you say you will do, saying yes also obligates you to show up for others. A yes to a simple, small or random request from a co-worker, stranger or loved one, will require you to organize yourself and your resources to respond. This can become especially problematic for people who hold themselves to high standards. In that, the need to perform, meet expectations and fulfill promises, can create additional stress and pressure which can become burdensome fast. Ultimately, saying yes will require you to practice greater levels of prioritization and to make deliberate efforts to maintain work -life harmony.  So, each time you say yes, you put your reputation, resources and relationships on the line.

Additionally, being labelled a “yes- person” isn’t exactly flattering.  Saying yes to everything and everyone could create the impression that you’re a people pleaser. And that you lack the ability to communicate assertively what your needs, goals and priorities are. It might even suggest that you lack the ability to manage your time and set appropriate boundaries. So how do you decide when to say yes?

When to Say Yes?

I recently came across a quote that says, “It’s not hard to make decisions once you know what your values are.” This means that in saying yes, you should consider how your yes aligns to your priorities, broader objectives for your life and how you want to impact your world. But as you do that, you will still need to be careful not to bite off more than you can chew.

So, here are two tips from A.T. Gimbel that you can use to evaluate your yes /no and still maximize opportunities to achieve your goals and live a successful and fulfilling life:

  1. Evaluate your gum balls vs your glass balls:  According to this analogy, “Glass balls break when dropped and need to be handled immediately or the mess from it breaking is even worse to clean up. Rubber balls will keep bouncing over and over again and do not need to be immediately picked up. Eventually they stop bouncing and often roll away; worst case you have to stop and pick it back up. Say yes to the glass balls over rubber balls.”
  2. Be explicit about tradeoffs:  Ask yourself, “What am I saying no to if I say yes to this? If I am choosing between A or B, how do I make it clear to my customer/team/partner that I am making this prioritization?” Doing this will make it easier for you to explain and get support for the tradeoff you are making and why.

In the final analysis, you cannot and shouldn’t say yes to everything and everyone. Your yes should mean something and be given after you have considered your existing roles (at work and at home), the potential costs and benefits to you and your loved ones, and the impact you wish you have on the world around you.

Until next time, Remember, ItsALearningLife!

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Let’s Talk About Your WHY?

Definition- of -Why

What’s your WHY?

Imagine for a second that you were in a conversation, or an interview and you were asked the question- What is your WHY? How would you respond? Would your answer explain why you do your job or had taken that specific career path? When asked this question, most people immediately begin by talking about their work and sharing what their job is all about. If you did this, you would be wrong, but you’re not alone. The What is your WHY question,” is not meant to uncover why you do your job. Instead, it is intended to have you think about the deep-seated reason that motivates you to get out of bed each morning (not money). Your WHY speaks to the purpose for which you were created, the thing you are most passionate about, or the role or contribution you play in the lives of others and the world around you.  So, what is your WHY?

Writing in his book ‘Start with Why’ Simon Sinek explains that, while every one of us has a WHY, a reason for being, not all of us know what it is, or are able to clearly or confidently articulate it. Sinek explains that, knowing your WHY, and being able to communicate it clearly, is a game changer and differentiator between highly successful and inspiring people and companies and their less successful or inspiring counterparts. He further adds that knowing our WHY, help us to wake up inspired to go to work and come home at the end of the day feeling fulfilled by the work we do. Knowing our WHY, provides us with the ability to inspire and influence people and enlist their support and loyalty. And the people who know their WHY, are driven by a purpose and a cause that enables them to push past their disappointments and mistakes to do what they believe they are called to do. Therefore, do you know your WHY?

Start with WHY!

In Start with Why, Sinek uses the “golden circle model” “to explain that every organization, every person regardless of their industry operates on three levels – what we do, how we do it and why we do it.  What we do refers to our job/role, products, or services we sell. The how we do it is related to what makes us different from our competitors and stand out in the crowd.” Sinek (2017) argues that once you understand your WHY, the better able you will be to express what makes you feel fulfilled and satisfied, and to better understand what drives your behavior when you are at your best. Knowing your WHY enables you to be more intentional about the choices you make for your business, career, and your life. Knowing your WHY, allows you to work with purpose, and to do things on purpose, to achieve your goals and create the life you want or desire. And when you do that, Sinek explains that you will have a point of reference or road map for everything you do going forward.

For as long as I can remember, I have always had a passion for leading, learning, sharing and engaging with others. And when I look back at my life over the years, transitioning from childhood to young adulthood, whether it was student leadership, speech, drama or debating clubs, I can see many clear examples of me always being involved in activities that gave me many opportunities to influence others, use my voice, share ideas, and help others. While I didn’t always know my WHY, this passion led me to my first teaching opportunity where I tutored undergraduate students on campus while pursuing graduate studies. And it would later help me transition to my first professional role, where I facilitated adult learning with working professionals who were seeking to improve their knowledge and skills through lifelong learning, education and professional development.  

Today my journey continues, and I know that my WHY is to “lead, learn, engage, and develop people wherever I go.” Therefore, I am passionate about helping people grow and develop to become a better version of themselves- personally and professionally. As a result, I use my skills, lessons, experiences to share insights and resources to help others navigate their own journeys towards personal and professional development and to impact their world for good. It is this bigger purpose that motivates me to write this Blog even when I doubt anyone will read it, or to start a YouTube channel even though I questioned if anyone would find the content useful.

It is also this same WHY that drives me to volunteer at my daughter’s school, at church, at work and to pay it forward and serve my community. And in my day job, this strong belief drives my commitment to working collaboratively with others, to continue to bravely ask the hard questions that challenges the status quo and to share ideas and suggestions for new initiatives (Even when they are not approved or implemented.) And at the end of the day, this bigger purpose helps me to find meaning and fulfillment in my life.

So, how can you find or discover your why?

Find Your Why!

To discover your WHY, the authors of Find Your WHY offers up several strategies that organizations, teams and individuals can use for their WHY discovery. For individuals, they suggest that you work with a partner (preferably not a loved one or friend) to follow the three-step process below to develop your WHY story that will help you discover and articulate your WHY:  

Step 1- Gather Stories and Share them: According to the authors, “each of us has only one WHY. Our WHY is an origin story which we can develop by looking at the most significant experiences in our lives, the people who influenced us, the highs, and the lows to identify the patterns. Our WHY is not a statement about who we aspire to be, it expresses who we are when at our natural best. And this helps us to identify and play to our strengths (See previous post and video).

 Step 2- Identify Themes: As you reflect on your defining life experiences and share your stories with your partner, notice the themes and insights about yourself about yourself that you may never have expressed before. As the process unfolds, the themes will get bigger and more important.

Step 3- Draft and Refine a Why Statement: According to the authors, your WHY story should culminate in a WHY statement that starts with TO________SO THAT___________.  The first blank represents the contribution you make to the lives of others and the second blank represents the impact of your contributions. Your WHY statement should be simple, clear, actionable. It should also focus on the effect you will have on others and expressed in positive language that resonates with you. For example, my WHY statement is: To Lead, Learn, Engage and Develop People Wherever I Go, So That they can grow and develop to become a better version of themselves (personally and professionally) and impact their world for good.

Finally, I have seen individuals struggle with feeling a lack of self-worth, direction, and fulfillment with their lives because they didn’t know their purpose or how to discover it. Knowing your purpose will help you to stay committed to your beliefs, focused on your goals when you face setbacks, or are struggling to find the motivation to continue. So, if you or someone you know is finding it difficult to determine their WHY, find someone to help you take the time to use the three steps mentioned to start your process of digging deep . The process will help you to uncover the moments when you have been at your best and the defining life experiences that shaped you and influenced the person you have become. And as you do so, I hope you find your WHY and discover a new and more powerful reason for getting out of bed each morning and leave a legacy you can be proud of.

Until next time, Remember, It’sALearningLife!

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How to Get Relationship Goals at Work?

Building a Heart Shaped Puzzle

Are Relationship Goals for Workplace Relationships Too?
When it comes to romantic relationships, #relationshipgoals is the hashtag most used to
highlight the ideal or desired romantic relationships. According to Slangit, “relationships goals is a phrase that refers to an admirable relationship.” But in the context of work and workplace relationships, what does relationship goals look like? Do #relationship goals even apply?

According to research, we spend one-third of our lives at work. This means that during any given week, most of us spend more time with our coworkers than we do our loved ones.
Therefore, the quality of our workplace relationships has a significant impact on the quality of our lives. Most of us know from experience or observations how strained or bad workplace relationships can create toxic work environments and how good workplace relationships can help us to thrive. So, how much effort do we put into building and working towards relationship goals at work? In this article, I will explore the importance of relationships at work, how the worker -employer relationship is evolving in the new world of work and offer some tips to help us achieve relationship goals at work.

Why Relationship Goals at Work?

Think about your best and worst work or team experience? For the best-case scenario- what made it great and enjoyable and for the worst-case scenario- what made it so difficult or challenging? Chances are that the nature of your workplace relationships with your supervisor and coworkers accounted for the biggest difference in your experiences. Bad workplace relationships at work can lead to low levels of job satisfaction, poor cooperation and teamwork, low employee morale, lack of trust, breakdowns in communication and a loss of productivity due to conflict and a stressful work environment. On the other hand, when employees have good workplace relationships, it builds camaraderie, increases collaboration and team performance, fosters creativity, and boost overall performance and productivity.

This view is supported by a McKinsey & Company article which states, “there is a strong
connection between happiness at work and overall life satisfaction. The article points out that bosses and supervisors play a bigger role in employee happiness that we might have guessed. And that “relationships with management are the top factor in employees’ job satisfaction, which in turn is the second most important determinant of employees’ overall well-being.” I would also add that this works both ways as the job satisfaction of bosses and supervisors is also influenced by the quality of their relationships with their teams. Afterall, happy employees mean a happy and less stressful work life. Right?

Changing Nature of Relationships in the New World of Work

According to a Deloitte article, “the pandemic strained and tested the worker-employer
relationship beyond anyone’s anticipation. Employers were called upon to support workers’
health, livelihoods, and dignity to an unprecedented degree, and their success—or failure—to do so came under unprecedented scrutiny.” If employers supported their staff well, they were praised highly and rewarded with employee loyalty. If they ignored work conditions and failed to do enough to support and safeguard their employees, they faced the backlash and a wave of resignations. With the Great Resignation, and the War for Talent, employers are increasingly concerned about employer and worker relationships as they try to recruit and retain the best talent. At the same time, with the rise of hybrid and remote work, many employees are taking advantages of new opportunities to choose where they work and how they work as they seek to preserve work-life balance. So, going forward how can we build and maintain relationship goals at work?

How to Build Relationship Goals at Work

When it comes to assessing what employees want and need to be happy, productive and engaged at the workplace, the Gallup Employee Engagement Survey suggests that there are 12 questions that employers need to use to assess this. A quick review of the questions reveals that four of them are directly linked to building positive relationships between supervisors and direct reports, coworkers to coworkers and interactions of the whole team. The four questions are:

  1. I know what is expected of me at work.
  2. My supervisor, or someone at, seems to care about me as a person.
  3. I have a best friend at work.
  4. In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work.

These four questions reinforce the fact that at the heart of any healthy and positive workplace relationships are qualities such as good communication, care, support, and a feeling of being valued.

So, here are some tips to help you to build and maintain relationship goals at work?

  1. Establish needs and expectations: To build effective interpersonal relationships at work, it is important to clarify what the people you work with need from you and set expectations for working together from the start.
  2. Recognize and Affirm: People do their best when they feel valued and recognized for their efforts. If you are a supervisor, find out how your direct reports want to be recognized. As coworkers, use your team meetings to connect with each other and celebrate achievements and milestones.
  3. Help Others Feel Safe: Psychological safety is a huge component of employee wellbeing. Create environments where people feel safe to express themselves. As a supervisor, help your employees to know that they won’t be judged or penalized for failing or making a mistake. If anything, help them to fail fast and early and provide the supports they need to recover quickly.
  4. Show Empathy (That You care): According to Maya Angelou, people will forget what you did and said, but they will never forget how you made them feel. Remember, there is ‘no one size fits all’ approach to leading and managing. Show that you care by taking time to listen and demonstrate empathy to colleagues that might be going through a tough time.
  5. Prioritize Communication: When it comes to workplace relationships, it is better to err on the side of overcommunication rather than under communication. In these uncertain times, it is important that managers and leaders’ share information clearly and frequently to help employees stay on track with the mission and navigate change and transitions. As an employee, seek feedback, ask questions to understand and clarify.
  6. Do What You Say You Will Do: Nothing breaks trust or confidence in a relationship than not honoring your word or doing what you said you would do. As you work in teams and support others, it is important to follow up and follow through with tasks assigned as people might be relying on you for key inputs to complete their task.
  7. Respect difference: We don’t have to agree to respect each other. People come from different backgrounds and bring varied experiences to the rooms they walk into. Avoid the way of thinking that suggests that the other personal must be wrong for you to be right. Despite our differences, we have more in common than what sets us apart.
  8. Assume Positive intent: With less and less in person interactions, it’s easy for communication breakdowns to occur. Due to language, channel, and tone, the message being sent might be different from the one received. Rather than taking offense, Assume Positive Intent (API). Ask for clarification rather than relying on your assumptions.
  9. Build Trust: Trust is a crucial ingredient for any relationships to work. But remember trust requires both competence and character. You can’t expect people to trust that you will do your job if you have not demonstrated the competence or capabilities to execute. Similarly, you might be skilled in an area, but if you show up as unreliable and inconsistent, you will not be able to gain the trust of those you work with.
  10. Be Adaptable: People are different in the way they lead and approach the world so avoid the comparison trap. Don’t let your biases for how you would like to see things done stand in the way of a new idea or process. Be open to new approaches, different personalities and leadership styles and try to understand the culture of your environment you’re in. Then be intentional about identifying ways that you can add value to the team.

So back to my earlier question, are relationships goals for work too? You bet they are. Great relationships take time and effort and are totally worth it. So, until next time, Remember, “ItsALearningLife”.

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It’s Not Your IQ, It’s Your EQ?

Head -with-A -Heart-Image
Head-With A -Heart

EQ or IQ- Which One Matters More?

Much like the soft skills debate, there is a seemingly never-ending debate about whether cognitive intelligence (IQ) or emotional intelligence (EQ/EI) matters more for your success. For a long time, IQ or book smarts has served as a key predictor for an individual’s success in life and to determine who is afforded opportunities and who is likely to be more effective on the job. Overtime, this bias towards cognitive intelligence has resulted in a perception that intelligence (IQ) matters more than its emotional intelligence counterpart. And this misguided approach has led many people to focus more on developing their intelligence (IQ) and to neglect or minimize the value of emotional intelligence (EQ)in their efforts to improve personally and professionally. But not so anymore.

An overwhelming amount of research suggests that “more real-world problems get solved with people skills than raw intelligence. That means you can get more bang for your self-improvement buck by focusing on EQ”.  Google, also adds that “leaders with high emotional intelligence make better decisions”.  “Emotional intelligence gives you the ability to read the environment around you, to grasp what other people want and need, what their strengths and weakness are; to remain unruffled by stress and to be the kind of person others want to be around” (Stein& Book 2011).

What is Emotional Intelligence?

According to the authors of Emotional Intelligence and Your Success, intelligence, or IQ “is the measure of an individual’s intellectual, analytical, logical and rational abilities. It gauges how readily you learn new things, focus on task and retain information, engage in a reasoning process and solve problems”. Simply put, your intelligence speaks to your capacity to carry out a specific activity, perform a technical skill and certain tasks. On the other hand, emotional intelligence can be defined as “a set of emotional and social skills that influence the way we perceive and express ourselves, develop and maintain social relationships, cope with challenges, and use emotional informational in an effective and meaningful way”.  

Therefore, your ability to demonstrate emotional intelligence will determine your ability to influence others, communicate effectively, resolve conflict, and build and maintain healthy, positive, and productive relationships personally and professionally.  In other words, your emotional intelligence or street smarts are key to how you live and operate in the world around you. People operating with high IQ and low EQ are like wrecking balls that can potentially damage or destroy everything and everyone in their path. By not being able to identify and manage their own emotions and to recognize and respond to the emotions of others, they create conflict and toxic environments which make it difficult for people to live and work with them.

Why is Emotional Intelligence Important at Work?

Over the last few years of the pandemic, we have seen a huge amount of change and disruptions in every area of our personal and professional lives. Now more than ever, many employees find themselves struggling to navigate the new emotional landscape at work and to cope with unprecedented levels of stress, burnout, uncertainty, and grief driven by the pandemic. The pressing need to constantly pivot and change the way we do business, work, or serve clients, have taken a physical and psychological toll on employees mental and emotional well-being. Today, many employees report feeling increasing levels of anxiety, unhappiness, social isolation, and fatigue.

To respond effectively to all these challenges in the environment, emotional intelligence matters individually and organizationally. For leaders in organizations, leading with emotional intelligence means communicating clearly and frequently to reduce uncertainty, having a pulse on what employees are feeling in response to change, determining what is motivating them or not and implementing strategies to support the emotional and mental well-being of their employees. Managing with emotional intelligence will require supervisors to be flexible with how they manage the performance of their direct reports who might be struggling with meeting deliverables and showing empathy to employees who are experiencing tough times.

On an individual level, having emotional intelligence will help an employee to build and maintain positive and healthy personal relationships with their co-workers, show care and empathy for each other, collaborate, work effectively in teams, solve problems effectively, cope with stress and navigate change. Employees with strong emotional intelligence, are more self-aware and better able to manage themselves and their emotions and set boundaries to protect their overall well-being. 

How to Improve Your Emotional Intelligence Skills?

To build your emotional intelligence skills, it is important to understand the different dimensions of EQ. According to the Bar-On Model  of emotional intelligence and social intelligence, EQ can be broken down into five dimensions and 15 characteristics  summarized below:

  1. Self-Perception: This refers to your ability to understand your emotions (emotional self-awareness), pursue self-improvement (self-actualization) and the extent to which you have confidence and respect yourself (self-regard).
  1. Self-Expression: This speaks to your ability to be self-directed (independence), communicate your feelings and beliefs in a non-offensive way (assertiveness) and constructively express yourself (emotional expression).
  1. Interpersonal:  This focuses on your ability to form and maintain mutually satisfying relationships (interpersonal relationships), appreciate how others feel(empathy) and help others around you (social consciousness).
  1. Decision Making: This includes your ability to be objective (reality testing), find solutions when emotions are involved (problem solving) and to delay or resist an impulse to act.
  1. Stress Management:  This deals with your ability to cope with stressful situations (stress management), overcome adversity, maintain a positive outlook on life(optimism) and to be adaptable with your thoughts and behaviors (flexibility).

One additional indicator of this emotional social intelligence model is – happiness. This measures the degree to which you feel content with your life, your ability to enjoy yourself and others and experience joy in a range of activities. Altogether, these elements represent what it means to be emotional intelligent and the skills you will need to demonstrate it. It is important to note that your performance in any one or combination of these dimensions can be stronger or higher than the others. The key here is to identify areas where you have gaps and work towards strengthening them.

So, how do you rate your emotional intelligence skills?

Which area (s) might you need to improve?

Where do you intend to start?

The good news is- emotional intelligence is a skill that you can develop and strengthen overtime. Your journey toward becoming emotional intelligent will need to start with an honest self-assessment of your strengths and weaknesses, a recognition of your limitations and intentional efforts on your part to address them. Enlist the support of trusted friends, coworkers, and family members to provide you with feedback that will help you to identify the blind spots that might be affecting how you show up and impact others. When all is said and done, your emotional intelligence will determine the quality of your relationships at work and in your personal life, ability to bounce back and overcome adversity, manage stress, make decisions, and find meaning and satisfaction in your life. 

So, when it comes to intelligence – Your EQ, not Your IQ Matters More! Until next time, Remember, ItsALearningLife!

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Who- Moved -My- Cheese- 7 Tips for Dealing with Change -Video

How to Get Your Personal Board of Directors!

Chess Pieces- Image
Chess Pieces- Image

Do you have a personal board of directors?

Every successful company has a board of directors or governance structure that is responsible for providing the necessary oversight and direction for it to grow, perform and succeed. So, if you are the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the company called you, shouldn’t you also have a personal board of directors? I first came across the concept of a personal board of directors (PBOD), while participating in a leadership development program. The concept was introduced as a key tool or strategy for professionals to use to manage their professional development and career success. Not unlike a company’s board of directors, Forbes explain that “Your personal board of directors “exists to act as a sounding board, to advise you and to provide you with feedback on your life decisions, opportunities and challenges”. This article will explain why you need a personal board of directors and offer guidelines on how you can use this tool to advance your career goals.

Why a Personal Board of Directors?

Are you feeling stuck or wondering about your next career move? Do you need advice to deal with a difficult situation at work?  A personal board of directors can help you. Throughout my career, I have benefited from having trusted advisers who have provided input, guidance, and encouragement to help me navigate crucial career decisions and manage challenging work problems. Similarly, a personal board of directors exists to:

  • Provide advice and perspectives that will help you craft a vision and strategy for your career success.
  • Hold you accountable for your actions and behaviors, as you work towards executing key activities relating to your goals.
  • Help you identify new opportunities and provide feedback to help you to grow and improve.
  • Be an advocate for you in rooms where you don’t have an ear or a seat.

Who Should Be on Your Personal Board of Directors?

Who you select to be on your personal board of directors is critical for its success and yours. While your personal board of directors might include a friend or loved one, that should not be the main criteria for selecting the persons who will serve in these important roles. According to Harvard Business Review, “The people on your board of directors should know more than you about something, be better than you are at something, or offer different points of view. Choose people who can make different contributions to your thinking.”  Using these criteria, your board members could include a current or previous manager or a colleague you admire — or both. Regardless of your job, your PBOD should include people who are experts in your field or industry. Relying heavily friends or relatives for guidance on key career choices, will limit your ability to get the objective advice you need to pivot, grow, and take your professional development and career to the next level.  

Positions for Your Personal Board

While there is no fixed rule, your typical personal board of directors should have 3-4 members with the following roles or positions:

  • Coach:  By asking powerful questions, this is the person(s) who will engage you in deep and reflective conversations about your behaviors and actions. Your coach will provide feedback that might be uncomfortable to hear and help you to deepen your self-awareness by holding up a mirror to yourself.
  • Mentor: This is someone senior to you that you respect and trust. Your mentor(s) should have experience in navigating an area you are struggling with or have expertise on a subject that you aspire to grow or upskill.
  • Sponsor: This is a person of influence at your current organization. Your sponsor’s role is to look out for you, spot trends, and help you make connections to expand your professional network and boost your visibility and impact at work.
  • Peer Mentor: This is a trusted colleague that supports you and is always willing to lend a helping hand. Your peer mentor should be someone you often share, learn and collaborate with.

When it comes to putting your board together, bigger does not always mean better. The roles you choose might depend on your specific career goals. Ultimately, the size of your PBOD will depend on your needs and the availability of the people in your network to support you in this regard. It is also important to note that your PBOD does not need to meet at any one time. The key is to consult each member of your board when you have important career decisions to make, and when you need help with coming up with a plan of action.

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Directional -Signs- Image

Guidelines to Build Your Personal Board of Directors

I have utilized my personal board of directors at crucial stages of my career. I remember a few years ago when I was struggling to stay engaged at work due to a hurtful work situation. I shared my challenge with my coach, and our monthly conversations were instrumental in helping me move past the discouragement I was feeling and get back on track with my goals.  Similarly, my current mentor was the hiring manager for a job I interviewed for and failed to get. After the interview, I reached out to him for feedback to help me prepare for my next opportunity. That conversation led to me asking him if he would be my mentor and he agreed. Since then, he has helped me to come up with strategies to navigate challenges in my current role.

Over the last few years, I have had a few sponsors at different levels of my organization. My sponsors have provided leads and opportunities for me to make important connections to expand my network and increase visibility for the work I do. My peer mentors remain a source of ongoing learning, shared collaborations, and encouragement.

So, are you ready to set up your personal board of directors?

Forbes offers some guidelines that you can use to put your board of director in place:

  1. Choose people who you regularly keep in touch with, so when you ask for their help, it feels like a natural partnership to them. It is also important to build rapport and maintain positive relationships with them.
  2. Once they have agreed to serve on your board, let them know that you appreciate their guidance and will carefully consider it, whether you follow their advice or not. You should also let your PBOD members know how their assistance helped you with a decision or moved you closer to achieving your career goal.
  3. Since serving on your board is an unpaid role, think of ways that you can give back to your board. Think about what you can do for them or who you can introduce them to. You can also offer to help them out with a project that you are skilled in.
  4. Respect your PBOD’s time. Establish what their availability looks like from the start, the most convenient time to meet and the best channel to use to stay in touch. When you do meet, be prepared, and have clear objectives for the check in.

Finally, your career and professional development are serious matters and should be treated as such. Surround yourself with the right people who have the experience, expertise and connections to help you position yourself to level up!

Until next time, Remember, ItsALearningLife!

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