I had lunch with my assistant before I left my corporate world. She is fabulous and the best I ever had, I love her. She smilingly asked me if I remember what I said to her when she told me a couple of months ago that she needed surgery. I honestly did not remember what I said to her. She helped me recall that the first thing I said was to request for the calendar. We looked at how many days she was going to take off, when that would be and how the work can be handled while she was gone. That was my first impulse, first thing I said!. Of course, I cared about her, but I was more focused on the task. To this day, I am so embarrassed about my behavior, I commit to be more sensitive to others in my relationships, but that time, I did not know how. In hindsight, I knew that at that moment, I lacked empathy and was totally unaware.
Dr. Relly Nadler and I had a wonderful time facilitating our workshop: Leading with Emotional Intelligence for the HR Professional at the San Francisco office of SHRM (Society of Human Resources Management). As a recovered task focused, hard charging HR refugee, I had fun teaching the concepts of Emotional Intelligence with our participants. Here are some take-aways from the workshop:
1. One aspect of Emotional Intelligence is about being aware of your thoughts and feelings in the moment. When you are in the midst of a debate or argument, or under a tight deadline, what do you do? You may opt to continue to work just to get the task done. The emotionally intelligent person will know when to take a high quality break. Yes, the quality of the break matters. How can you best relieve your body and mind of stress that could drop your decision-making ability and IQ points? Take a brief walk around the block, journal your thoughts and feelings or talk to a trusted friend for at least 20 minutes, then go back to the task at hand. Sitting in the couch watching TV or reaching for that candy bar will not improve your EQ and will make you sluggish when you get back to work, dropping IQ points.
2. Honestly think about your relationship with your boss. A Hay study found out that 50% of life satisfaction comes from your relationship with your boss and 75% of employees say that dealing with their boss is the most stressful part of their day. If you do not have a good relationship with your boss or if you are in denial about how bad your relationship is with your boss, you may be losing IQ and EQ points that affect your work or may be getting sick without you knowing it. Find out what you can do to improve this relationship, if all else fails, find another job.
3. The good news about Emotional Intelligence is that it can be learned and improved, unlike IQ which is set. It is never too late to improve your relationships at work and at home. The first place to start is not to focus on other people’s short comings, but with yourself. Participants in the workshop took the Nadler EI self assessment and were paired with peer coaches to focus on at least two strengths to leverage and potential derailers. The participants created an action plan to develop their EQ.
Emotions are like the flu, they are contagious. Just watch your boss’ emotions and it travels like wildfire. Leaders underestimate the impact they have on people. It is not just their decision-making and analytical ability that impacts the team, it is also their emotions. As a leader, how much emotional self-control, self-awareness and relationship investment capital do you have with your co-workers and team members? How do you increase this to be at the top of your game?
Liza Sichon is an Executive Coach, Speaker and HR Consultant located in Silicon Valley. Visit her website at http://executivehrcoach.com
She is a new mother of 15 month twin girls and is having a tough time balancing her work and personal life. After working in a senior role for 15 years in a major company, she felt compelled to put in her resignation. She needed time to rethink her career, finances, and family life and hopefully find a family friendly employer. She is now in the process of winding down and closing this chapter of her life.
Transition times are tough and can be very stressful. There is a sense of loss, maybe some humiliation, and a lot of anxiety about the unknown future. There is also a tinge of excitement and anticipation about creating something new.
You may find yourself in the midst of a major transition. Here are some coaching questions that could help you during these times.
- As you go through this process, notice how you are feeling. Label it and acknowledge your feelings of the moment. Do not judge or make this feeling wrong. Whatever you are feeling is yours and you are entitled to this. Notice the change in your feelings as the transition progresses. Do not be alarmed if it gets tougher before it gets better.
- Notice your thoughts. What would you like your team and colleagues to remember about you? What would you like your transition theme to be?
- Who are you being throughout all this process? I’ve been through several transitions throughout my career and continue to do so during my encore career. We moved 17 times and lived in 3 continents, all transitions have been very stressful, some more than others. I have a theme or mantra that helped me tremendously whenever I am in transition and that is — “Move with Ease and Grace”. I meditate on these words every spare moment I have and it never fails to center me. It keeps me calm and greatly influences how I behave.
Transitions are wonderful, they give us hope, enable us to change to have a better life. When I think of my major transitions, I was fortunate to have a coach guide me through it. My coach helped make a cloudy and foggy journey clearer and certainly made me aware when I have reached my destination.
Have you ever received feedback that meant something to you? Feedback that was constructive? Feedback that has changed your approach and made you a better person?
Recently, we completed a leadership development workshop with a client and his direct reports. We used a powerful 360 assessment tool called Leadership Impact. Each participant received feedback on their leadership effectiveness with a set of recommended strategies that would make them better leaders. Some were quite surprised by the feedback, some were not. All were very appreciative of the opportunity to pause and think about how they are viewed by their peers, their bosses and their direct reports.
In my experience, most leaders generally have good intentions. They want to grow their business, develop their people, build a team and achieve higher margins. How leaders behave, the actions they take, what they say or do makes a difference on the impact that they want to have. This impact may or may not reflect their positive intentions.
How can you ensure that your intention matches your impact?
1. Be very clear about your intent. What is it exactly that you want to achieve? Is it to motivate others to do better? Build stronger relationships? Defend your points?
2. How are you going to communicate your intent? Are you going to send an email, pick up the phone or wait until you have a face to face meeting? The more important the issue, the more real-time conversation you will want to have.
3. What message will match your intent? If your intent is to motivate, you may want to use more encouraging language vs criticizing or nitpicking. According to the research of Heaphy and Losada 2004, (The Role of Positivity & Connectivity in the Performance of Business Teams) high performing teams provide positive feedback to each other in the ratio of 5.6 to 1 whereas low performing teams have an average of .36 to 1 with almost 3 negative comments to 1 positive comment with each other.
4. Deliver the message and ask for feedback. Did your message reflect your intention? In the example of motivating others, ask the recipient how your message was received. Was it motivational or discouraging? Ask how you could have better delivered your message. Ask how the person felt after your conversation.
5. Practice. Over time you will be more versed on how to match your intent and your impact. Yes, there is a place for negative feedback, usually when one is in a downward spiral or about to hurt themselves. Such conversations have an appropriate place and time.
Are you interested in learning about your impact on others? Ever wondered why you are not achieving the results that you want or perhaps are unable to sustain high performance? A trained peer coach or external executive coach can help interpret your assessment and help you change your leadership strategy to take your game to the next level.
I had a conversation with an HR Executive recently about her business leader who needs an Executive Coach. In the process of our conversation, she realized that she also wanted to have her own coach. But she is hesitant to hire one.
Why is it that HR professionals quickly diagnose when a situation needs coaching but rarely do they raise their hands to ask for their own coach? Here are some reasons:
1. They may be embarrassed to admit that they cannot resolve their own leadership gaps?
2. They are used to solving other people’s problems, and are hesitant to face their own?
3. They do not think they deserve to have their own coach. We are conditioned to being viewed as an expense.
4. They don’t want to call attention to themselves or be viewed as having a “problem”. To the unenlightened, having a coach was traditionally and incorrectly viewed as being a failure.
During the course of our conversation, I offered to coach her. She was very thankful for the coaching conversation. She is sharp, energetic and strategic but suffered from having everything in her head. Talking through her options and choices empowered and refreshed her. She became clearer on her course of action.
Working through issues with my coach have been some of the most powerful dialogues I’ve had in my career. The answers have always been within me, I just needed a trusted advisor and partner to work through my options without judgement.
If you need to work through certain choices, or are in the midst of transition or change, feel stuck or overwhelmed, work it through with a trained executive coach or email me at email@example.com for a complimentary session.
One evening, I was pondering my next career move and thought it would be cool to take the kids on a trip to Europe the next year. The idea grew on me and before I knew it, I entertained a string of “What If” possibilities for my career and my family.
What if we actually move to Europe for a couple of years? What if I take an international assignment in Europe? Wouldn’t that be really nice? The more I thought about it, the more attractive the idea became. I started thinking of what is possible: new experiences , new learning, meet new people and all the tangible and intangible benefits that my family and career could have.
That night, I did not sleep at all. I planned, strategized and got really excited about the possibilities. This desire and intention continued to grow day by day, a seed was planted and it started to grow. I shared the idea with my husband – he thought I was crazy. I shared it with my trusted colleagues and a few months later, I was offered the job to lead human resources International – responsible for the regions outside the United States.
I cannot forget my boss’ words to me – you can live anywhere, as long as it is outside New Jersey (our headquarters). I narrowed our choices to London, Singapore and Brussels and eventually chose Brussels. It is where our company’s European headquarters was located, a central location between Asia and the US and a more convenient time zone to connect globally.
My husband saw the possibilities and with his support, we were on a plane to Belgium a few months later.
The entire preparation and move was of course, complex and difficult, and we focused to get it done. I do not know if it was desire, focus, intention, God’s will, family support or a combination of all that made it happen. The intent was strong enough to handle any hurdle or obstacle that came our way. If you find yourself wanting something more from your career, here are a few things to think about:
1. Think and Dream It – What is it that you really want?. Visualize it and see the picture in your mind. Stay with the dream. If it is strong and coming from your heart, continue to think about what is possible. Eventually your heart and mind will align and focus on the dream.
2. Speak It – Share it with your loved ones, your supportive colleagues, your mentors. Speak your career aspirations to others, no matter how outrageous it may sound. Ask for advice and listen. Filter your listening to what is possible.
3. Work It – Take the first step to get closer to the goal. Ask around, pursue some leads. Take some phone calls. Work on the details. Work hard at it and do not give up.
Moving our family to Europe and back was not easy. It was exhausting, the experience tested our resilience while we attended to the many details of the move, selling our home, moving our stuff to storage, giving away some items, settling down and going though the repatriation process after two years. It was well worth it. It was one of the most enriching experiences for our family and my career on all fronts.
If you have the desire for a career shift, listen to that inner voice and work with a coach to make your career goals happen.
Yesterday and over the past months, I’ve been feeling burdened. Family is all good, health is in best shape ever and business has been going great, but I was struggling. I was feeling pressured and generally lost happiness in what I was doing. My rational brain was telling me that I have nothing to complain about, I have everything that I need and want. However, my feelings and emotions did not feel light and happy. I knew that I needed coaching.
I set up time with a dear friend, Pam Janaro, who is also an executive coach. She came to the call fully prepared to coach me. She had my Pro D assessment handy (a leadership tool that I took over 8 years ago that is still relevant every time she uses it) and started with her first question – in 25 words or less, tell me what you would like to talk about.
I prepared for the session too, I netted that the bottom line of why I am confused and struggling with my business is that I don’t have a formal business plan, I feel pulled in all directions. I don’t have a marketing strategy, a financial plan, a target market etc. I was responding and not proactive. I was not optimizing myself and my business.
After some clarification questions, Pam worked her magic. She went back to my Pro D assessment and told me that the reasons why I am not at my best was because I was not spending enough time with people. I am a people person first, I am motivated by interactions with people and am at my best when coaching. Over the past months, I’ve been doing a lot of writing, less speaking, less connecting. She nailed it and I felt a heavy burden lifted. I knew the actions that I needed to take.
Today, I feel more empowered, more in control, more of a leader and entrepreneur. I don’t need to be encumbered with “shoulds” and how things should be. If I am using my natural talents, which is coaching and speaking more than my acquired talents, work and life would be more fun. My coaching experience with Pam yesterday was uplifting and honest. What a difference it has made in how I feel about my work and my productivity!
If you are feeling stuck or struggling, maybe it is time to work it out with a trusted coach. Experience coaching for yourself and see the difference in your performance. Explore if coaching is for you, check out my coaching services and schedule an info session at http://www.executivehrcoach.com/schedule/
When Lynda’s first born was 3 ½ months, her baby started sleeping well. Lynda brought in a nanny and felt comfortable that this arrangement would be good for her child. In the meantime, her company was introducing a new platform that was both exciting and challenging to her and she wanted to be part of this change.
Lynda was able to go back to work feeling entirely comfortable with her choice. It was not a burden to get back to work, and she did not feel any pressure making the decision; it was simply a case where her daughter started sleeping well at night and she found a terrific nanny.
She harbored no guilt, because she felt like she had a choice and was not doing something wrong. It’s not that she did not have fears—fears like the children would prefer to be with their nanny or their father rather than her. But she kept her relationships with her children strong, and that fear did not materialize. In fact, her children fondly recall how fun it was to go to work with her on some weekends with their crayons and snacks. In spite of this, she prepared herself for this possibility and was willing to accept the consequences if this happened. The preparation and acceptance of the consequences of her choices empowered her to proactively manage a tough situation.
To keep herself going, she focused on the good and acknowledges what she feels really bad about or could feel bad about. This keen awareness of her feelings guided her priorities – what she scheduled, how she spent her time, and she tried to avoid anything that would make her feel bad. For example, she did not miss a birthday or an important school event—this was part of her priorities.
Achieving this priority entailed careful planning and communication with her managers ahead of time. She feels fortunate to have had understanding managers throughout her career. It is important to be clear in communicating what you want to your manager: “This is a very important date and I need to be there.” When she respectfully makes these requests, she found out that her managers are equally respectful.
Some working women fear speaking up for family or personal needs because it might reflect negatively on them. Based on Lynda’s experience, it is probably not going to be as bad as they think it will be. This is where she thinks parents feel guilt or suffer quietly. For Lynda, avoiding feeling bad is the balance, the compromise of balancing work and personal life.
Ask yourself questions like: Why am I doing this? Is it important? Is it healthy? Do I care about my children? Absolutely! Is this a reasonable request? Are they safe and cared for? And how much of this is me and my ego, vs are they truly going to be ok?
Could it be that those who feel really bad about working and unable to achieve balance, really do not want to work? Or are not happy with their work and they prefer to be at home? There is nothing wrong with wanting to stay at home, but it is really important to recognize the distinction – Is this something I’m really worried about for my child or is this something about myself?
Asking these tough questions help you get to the bottom of what’s really bothering you about being a working mom. Some working moms choose to blame the company, the government, the system, their boss. Taking honest ownership of how one feels about their children’s care and how much they love their job are the more important questions. Finding the appropriate care support system for your family eventually pays off. You will have peace of mind and can focus better on your work.
Being clear of her priorities is key to Lynda’s work life success. She loves her job and gets fulfilled in her career. She loves her family and her children’s growth and development is very important to her. With her priorities and non-negotiables clearly set, Lynda found a way to make multiple priorities work. Lynda is a high achieving woman.
Do you know a high achieving woman? Describe what she is doing.
We have been discussing the importance of setting priorities and non-negotiables for work life success. Having a set of priorities helps us make choices. Being clear with our non-negotiables, free us from stress and indecision. We realign our priorities as our lives and needs change.
An important non-negotiable for high achieving women is career flexibility. This is the ability to be fully present at home when needed while having a career that supports your personal needs.
Georgia Smith, corporate executive and one of the women I interviewed for my forthcoming book – You Can Be It All, Secrets of High Achieving Women (current working title), was able to achieve career flexibility, working full time while raising her son.
Georgia always knew that she was going to be a working mom even before she got married. Georgia and her husband discussed what they would be willing to do for each other’s career and where they will live. While her husband was raised in the East Coast,USA, his preference is to work and live in the West Coast. They knew that they may have to pass up advancement opportunities by making this decision. Georgia did not regret this decision. She knew that she would forego making a lot more money and would take longer to get to executive ranks, but it was more important to her that she felt good about the positive contribution that she was making at work, still made good money and lived comfortably close to her extended family. The ego was probably the only thing impacted by these non-negotiables and this was not an issue with her.
When she had her son, she had the classic struggle of all working women: “How can I be a full-time mom and a full-time professional and give everything needed to both, without short changing either?”. Her husband traveled most of the time, so balancing childcare and her own career demands rested primarily on her. She was fortunate to be able to explore different roles within a company that recognized her skills and potential. When she wanted to have flexible hours, she decided to stay in the same company and changed to field work.
Georgia’s non negotiable is career flexibility. While her son was young, she benefited from a flexible schedule on the road as a Sales Account Manager. She had the ability to be in the field and would take the time to watch her son’s sporting events. As her son moved to high school, she decided to finish her college education. They had dinner together every night to catch up on their day and studied together after dinner. As her son moved on to college she shifted to a regional role and was able to do more travel.
She considers herself fortunate to be have a career that met her personal needs and did not give anybody less than they deserved. Her son is now an accomplished lawyer with his own family and never felt short-changed having a full-time working mom. He remembers that she was with him for all the important moments in his life.
Georgia’s non-negotiable, career flexibility, enabled her to be the best mom that she can be while achieving career success. Georgia is a high achieving woman. Do you know a high achieving woman? What is she doing? What is your non-negotiable and how has it served your needs?
A couple of months ago, I blogged about the importance of defining your priorities and aligning them with your non-negotiables to achieve work life success. At that time, I was building my own business and set my priorities as: God, Self, Business, Husband, Children in this order.
These priorities helped me focus on my business launch and I’m very pleased with my results. Since I placed myself as Second, I was able to schedule daily hot yoga on my calendar and attended this religiously about 5 times a week on average. Not bad, am very happy with the results. I learned more about eating heathy, tried to get in more sleep, scheduled girlfriend time and vacation time . I was able to maintain my weight loss and generally feel very good and healthy.
I told my husband that he was in fourth place and he didn’t seem to mind. He likes to do his own thing, so we went about living our lives doing our own thing. Our children are all young adults with full lives living in the East Coast. We talked weekly over skype or text almost daily, so I feel I am very involved in their lives despite the distance.
While I am very pleased with the results of my priorities, life evolves and happens. Our eldest daughter got a job here in Silicon Valley and together with her husband, moved in with us. We are proud expectant grandparents for our very first grandchild in December. I also sensed that my husband and I no longer spend good quality time together.
I realize it is time to realign my priorities with my non-negotiables!. So I am flipping Business and Husband. I think I”ll learn how to play golf. I’m still keeping God and Self in the same position and I have a strong suspicion that come December, Grandchild will take over the top slot.
Aligning your priorities and your non-negotiables with what you want to have in your life is such a liberating thing to do. It’s amazing to see how the results become exactly what you ask for. The good news is we can shift them, observe and see if these priorities enable us to live our ideal lives.
What are your priorities? Are you satisfied with how these results are showing up in your life? Feel free to reorder and change them as your situation changes.
A corporate refugee is someone who just left their job and feels blah, sad or angry. He or she knows they need to get back to the workforce but something inside them says they need a break. They need to process their whole company experience in many deeper levels but do not know how. This is a new experience for them. They also feel guilty about their decision to leave or for not being aggressive enough to find a new job. In some ways, they feel like a victim. They only remember the sad and unhappy times at work and seem to have blocked the good times. If this resonates with you, you are not alone. I’ve experienced being a corporate refugee and many of my colleagues have similar transition experiences as well. Here are some of their experiences:
- Corporate refugees are no longer happy or interested in their jobs or their company but are afraid to admit this.
- Corporate refugees have the need to revitalize themselves and a week’s vacation doesn’t do it.
- Corporate refugees are burned out, confused and guilty.
- Corporate refugees have lost their soul or no longer know who they really are.
- Corporate refugees need space and healing.
Here’s the good news:
- Corporate refugees can go back to the battle field once again and find fulfilling work.
- Corporate refugees eventually learn to forgive others and themselves.
- Corporate refugees do not ignore transitions, they master transitions. They do not merely jump to the next job, they allow themselves time to process their experience, own it and design a new life commitment.
- Corporate refugees bounce back stronger and smarter.
- Corporate refugees eventually find their passion and use their natural talents to fulfill their life purpose.
Do not be concerned if you find yourself in the early phases of being a corporate refugee. Don’t ignore the signs. You need to go through the process to find the path forward, there are no short cuts. I’ve witnessed many wonderful reinventions and transformations. I’ve also experienced the transformation myself. It was not easy, but I was fortunate to have a supportive family, friends and coaches. The transition process enabled me to achieve better work life success.
Are you a corporate refugee? How can you move yourself through the process? What worked for you?