Have you ever noticed that when it comes to promotions there seems to be little rhyme or reason to the process? Your organization has promotion criteria, and yet for every set of criteria you look around and see someone getting promoted who didn’t meet them. It can be frustrating. And yet, there is hope. There are some things you can do.
If you feel like you’re working hard but you still aren’t seeing the recognition that you expected, it’s time to take a closer look at your particular situation.
Are you really set up for success in the area of career progression? Here are 4 key areas to take a look at:
These first 2 areas are fairly straightforward. . .
1. Check Your Landscape
The first is a simple landscape question: in your current position, is there a next step up?
In today’s budget environment some positions just don’t have an option for promotion. There is nowhere to move up to. If you are in one of those positions and have already “maxed out” and you want to be promoted, it’s time to think about doing something else. . . either a different career track in the same organization, or a similar career track in a different organization with more “head room.”
Last month, we took at look at an old familiar recipe for Frog Soup . We talked about what it is, how you make it, and most importantly, how to take the Quantum Leap (making a conscious decision to recognize, magnify and put into service your unique abilities at the highest level) required to get the heck out of the soup pot. Since making a Quantum Leap requires jumping FIRST and THEN reaching for the hand that will support you, it is time to talk about how you find that hand when you need it.
How do you find the mentor that is right for you?
Here are 5 key things to look for in a mentor:
1. Choose Someone Who “Gets It”
You wouldn’t dream of hiring a golfer to teach you how to waterski, and the same is true with a mentor. You want your mentor to be someone who has been there, someone who can relate to your experiences and your specific situation.
As you’re building your career within a large, bureaucratic organization around your life, rather than the other way around, it helps to have somebody who understands the context of your situation. Someone who gets the rules, regulations, and restrictions (real or perhaps perceived) that apply in your world. Your mentor can best help you apply a new way of thinking when she understands the environment in which you are operating.
Your mentor should be somebody who is willing to push you beyond your own previous experiences and limitations. I don’t mean that she should ask you to do something crazy or unsafe, but a good mentor will gently push you as you step into a new way of thinking, a new way of being, and a new way of living.
Let’s face it, doing what you’ve always done will get you what you’ve always gotten. And doing things differently can be uncomfortable. You want a mentor who forces you to get comfortable being uncomfortable.
3. Choose Someone Who Honors Your Individuality
Find a mentor who is interested in helping you become the best version of you. . . as opposed to a clone of them.
Each of us is on a different path and each of us has different Gifts (the sum total of your talents, skills, abilities, experiences, physical attributes, quirks, and “flaws.”) Your Gifts are unique to you. They are yours to give to the world and if you don’t give them, they will never be given. Therefore, you need a mentor who is committed to helping you magnify your best Gifts.
4. Choose Someone Outside Your Normal Circle
It is said that you become the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with. If you find yourself in the soup pot, seeking help from someone else who is also in the soup pot is not productive.
Intentionally choose a mentor who is outside of your normal circle, and ideally outside your organization. She’ll have a different perspective and be able to see options that you can’t. She is also less likely to have an organizationally imposed “hidden agenda.” (NOTE: This point is not intended to contradict Point 1. It is intended to highlight the need for balance between context and perspective.) If you’re ready for the kind of change that will get you out of the pot, you must assume responsibility for your own leap.
5. Choose Someone You Trust
In order for a mentor to truly be effective, you must be able to trust her. You need someone who will hold your discomfort, your celebrations and your disappointments in highest respect and confidentiality. When you find someone who will let you be completely raw and honest and share your most authentic self, that’s when the magic of the Quantum Leap really starts to kick in.
On your journey from Frog Soup to Royal Buffet, you will encounter incredible success that you have not seen before. You will also experience valuable lessons that will be uncomfortable. Your mentor is there to teach you how to let success and discomfort be easy.
If you recognize that you’re done with Frog Soup…if you know it is time for you to jump out of the pot and take your place at the Royal Buffet, I want to be the first to congratulate and acknowledge you.
And, if after making your clear, committed decision, you wonder if I might be the right mentor for you, let’s talk. You can apply for a complimentary Leadership Design Consultation HERE, and we’ll see if we’re a good fit.
You’ve heard it before. “Don’t work harder, work smarter.” But what does that really mean? And when you aren’t getting the results you expect, no one tells you how to “work smarter.” They usually tell you to “work harder.” Let’s take a candid look at what it takes to get great results in less time over the long haul.
First, let me be clear about something: there will be times when you have to work more quickly than you like, stay later than you planned to, or come in earlier than you want to. Those times are RARE. As in, if-you-don’t-do-it-someone-is-literally-going-to-DIE kind of rare. If these times are showing up in your life on more than the rare occasion, keep reading.
Remember, when you are constantly in a state of frantic activity, skipping meals, workouts and otherwise neglecting your physical self, and/or cutting yourself off from the things that bring you joy, you are also cutting yourself off from the energy, creativity, and innovation required to accomplish the very goal you are working so hard on. Mother Nature demonstrates it best: Everything has a season. There are times for exerting effort, and there are times for rest. There are times for creation, building and generation, and there are times for assessment, reflection, and waiting.
If you’re feeling overworked, frantic and exhausted and still not seeing the results you expect, here are Five Simple Steps you can take today toward getting better results that do not include losing sleep and skipping family time.
1. State the Clear Intention
Specifically, what is it that you’re trying to do or create? For example, if you work for the IRS, the desired result might be that every citizen who contacts your office for tax advice is left feeling respected and empowered to manage their tax situation.
We’re really good at stating what we don’t want – “I don’t want customer complaints going to my boss,” or “I don’t want to re-do so many returns.” What would it look like in your office if you stated clearly what you do want?
2. Define the Evidence
How will you know when you’ve achieved your desired result? Perhaps the evidence is something as simple as every customer ends their phone call with, “Thank you so much, you’ve really helped me.” Maybe it’s a measurable number. For instance, if the number of returns that process cleanly the first time goes up by 20%. Either way, create a specific, concrete measurement that you cannot miss so you can acknowledge your achievement.
3. Recognize Your Choices
We often tell ourselves, “I had no choice. I had to do X. The regulation says XYZ . . .” And let me be clear, I’m not advocating breaking laws or violating regulations! But I am saying that many times you do have a choice and may not even realize it. Does the project that you’re working on really have to be finished at 5 pm, or can it go in at 10 am tomorrow morning?
Just because your boss said it had to be done at 5 o’clock, doesn’t mean that is necessarily true. He may have chosen a random deadline to give himself something to track, and if you requested more time, he would be open to it.
Even if the project really is due at 10 am, you still have a choice: you can choose how to get it done…get help; come in early tomorrow vs. stay late tonight; provide an interim solution; etc.
4. Take the ONE Next Best Step
For complex tasks or large projects, it can be easy to get overwhelmed because you can’t see HOW you will complete it. When you have a Clear Intention (Step 1), you don’t have to see all of the steps from beginning to end. You only need to see, and take, the ONE next best step.
Make the best decision you can make and move forward. You’ll notice that in making that step forward, your options will have changed, you will have additional information, and you will be ready to take the NEXT, next best step. (NOTE: If you are unable to see the one next best step, either your intention or your evidence is NOT clear. Go back to step 1).
5. Be Committed but Not Attached
The key to achieving results is to be committed to the Clear Intention but not attached to how you get there. When we get attached to a certain methodology, or the way we think things are “supposed” to happen, we actually make the task more difficult! Remaining committed to your desired result but unattached to the path you take to get there allows you to remain open to new opportunities and resources that were not previously available to you.
Have you ever tried to do something that you just couldn’t seem to achieve? You knew the actions you were supposed to take but you just couldn’t take them? Or maybe you were taking the right action but still not getting the results you wanted? If you answered, “Yes,” these next two articles are for you. This topic is too big to cover in one article. And too important not to discuss. So here we go…
The human mind is a profound, powerful, and mysterious machine. I’m sure many of you have heard that we only use about 10% of the power of our brains. That’s actually a gross understatement, and the part that we DON’T use can either be our secret weapon that helps us create exactly what we want or the booby trap that derails us when we aren’t looking.
The part of our brain that we routinely use is the part we call the “Conscious Mind.” It is the logical part of you. This is the part that does things like make the grocery list, put gas in the car, answer the phone, and make the to-do list. According to Dr. Bruce Lipton, this part of the brain sends impulses that travel 120-140 MPH and processes data at around 2,000 bits/second.
The part of our brain that is either the secret weapon or the booby trap is the “Subconscious Mind.” The Subconscious Mind is working constantly in the background to store, sort, and process the enormous amount of information that it encounters daily. Sending impulses at 100,000 MPH and processing data at about 4 BILLION bits/second, it is in charge of every cell in your body. It tells
your heart to beat, your diaphragm to breathe, and your muscles to contract or relax. It is also the place where all of your emotions, memories, habits, quirks, experiences, and beliefs reside. (Does that list sound familiar? It should. These are the components that make up your Gifts.)
If your life, including your work, is already exactly the way you want it, and you are easily able to create or accomplish anything you choose, then you Subconscious Mind is already programmed to be your secret weapon. If, on the other hand, you are dissatisfied with certain aspects of your life, your Subconscious Mind is probably working as a booby trap. We will explore “how” it works as a booby trap next month.
In the meantime, here’s a tool you can start using now to begin to transform your Subconscious Mind from Booby trap to Secret Weapon:
First, WATCH YOUR LANGUAGE:
1. Listen to the way you talk to and about yourself. Do you say things like, “I am clumsy.” “It is selfish of me to want X.” “This kind of stuff always happens to me.” “I’m not smart enough to learn X.” I once had a friend who described this language as “self-defecating language” (pooping all over yourself.) For now, don’t worry about changing it. Just start to notice. What do you say to yourself?
2. Listen to the way you describe your world. How much time do you spend talking about what you DON’T like or DON’T want?
Go 21 consecutive days with NO Bitching, Whining, Complaining or Criticizing. If you have a little slip, no worries. Simply say, “Oops,” and start over at Day 1. To help you out, I’ve created a little graphic for you to print out and hang where you can see it often. Just click the image in this article to download it.
I’m going on a rampage here so get ready. I am SICK of hearing EVERYONE say, “you have to be willing to sacrifice if you want to get ahead.” I hear lots of people in our organizations say, “We are looking for and rewarding those officers who are making the biggest sacrifices.” Well, I say, “That explains a lot.” If you are looking for mediocrity and status quo, asking for “sacrifice” is the surest way to get it. If, however, you are looking for motivated individuals who are ready to take on the toughest challenges for the long haul, what you really want is “Gift.” Here’s why:
Reason 1: “Sacrifice” assumes limited resources!
Sacrifice means giving from a place of limited resources. Therefore, by definition, at some point there will be nothing left to give. Whether you are considering the productivity of a team inside an organization, the emotional resilience of a family unit, or the physical stamina of an individual, at some point the entity will give out. The sacrifice has drained the reserves. There is nothing left to sacrifice.
Gift, on the other hand, assumes giving from a place of abundance, of overflow, of extra. By definition, the overflow does not get depleted. Every person has their own GIFTS, that collection of knowledge, skills, abilities, talents, desires, experiences and quirks that are unique to them. When each person uses their GIFTS, the supply is constantly renewed. It does not end.
Reason 2: “Sacrifice” hurts!
Sacrificing is painful, stressful, uncomfortable, and difficult. Therefore, people must be “convinced” to sacrifice. The perceived reward must be sufficient to warrant the discomfort and pain associated with the sacrifice. Unfortunately, no outside party can quantify the pain level of a given sacrifice so the “reward” is never enough. In short order, the one making the sacrifice begins to feel unappreciated, unrecognized, and resentful. They will certainly not entertain the notion of sacrificing a second time. “Find some other sucker!”
Giving does not hurt. In fact, it feels AMAZING! It’s like a drug. When a person uses his natural GIFTS, he does not need any outside reward. The reward comes in the true satisfaction and fulfillment of authentically being in service to the world. I once had an interview where I was asked, “Have you ever made any sacrifices in your life?” I thought for a long moment before I answered the question. What I said was, “Yes, I’m sure I did. But it didn’t feel like it at the time.” I realize now that I had NOT sacrificed. I had GIVEN freely and generously. And was eager to do so again.
Because sacrifice depletes resources, when the well is empty, it requires time to refill and recharge. The amount of time and resources required to refill the well varies depending on the nature of the sacrifice and how many times it has been drained dry in the past.
Given the challenges and responsibilities facing our public institutions today, THERE IS NO TIME to recharge. We must continue moving forward as fast as we can just to keep up.
Because giving does not deplete resources, it does not require recharging. The act of giving is inherently self-sustaining, as the reward comes in the act itself. Some people will read this statement and think, “Well, if we operate this way, no one will ever do the hard jobs or take the tough assignments.” What those people don’t realize is that the “hard job” is NOT HARD for the one ideally suited to fill it. For every assignment there is someone for whom the assignment is IDEAL. ALWAYS. Here is the key: Only the one GIFTed for the role knows that it is IDEAL for them. No other outside party can make that determination.
A Final consideration:
We’ve been conditioned to believe that the value of a contribution is directly related to the level of pain (sacrifice) involved in making the contribution. Viewed from the above perspective, the opposite is true. For one week, try shifting the mindset to: the value of a contribution is directly related to the level of satisfaction (gift) it provides both the giver and receiver. Notice what happens.
For those of you who are familiar with my work, you know that I focus on the idea that when you are doing the work that you are ideally suited to do, the work that takes advantage of your highest “gifts,” (skills, abilities, talents, experiences and desires) your unique natural leadership abilities will come out on their own to be gently tweaked and refined according to the needs of your role and your mission. Well, I confess, recently I was having a hard time believing what I teach. In one instance I’d worked for hours on a project only to have it completely ignored. When I approached my supervisor to ask if he had questions or concerns because he hadn’t moved it along, he simply said, “it isn’t on my priority list right now.” About the same time I learned that my organization had recently changed their policy on tour extensions (something they frequently do but usually provide some generous loopholes), and this time there would be no consideration for extensions and no opportunity for discussion. These highlights were cherries on top of a new unit chief who was “in the shorts” of the first line managers to the point that they were refusing to exercise any initiative without specific instruction for fear of being reprimanded or second-guessed. (Does this sound familiar to any of you, or am I the only one who ever experiences this?)
At the same time that I am feeling all of the frustration, disappointment, anger, physical fatigue, headache and muscle tension of working in that situation, I was also coaching clients. Specifically encouraging them to notice how they were feeling (mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually) because those feelings were indicators of alignment and clues to their best next steps. Yet I couldn’t seem to do it for myself. I felt like a hypocrite, a liar, and a fraud. (Not a really good operating place for a leader, an employee, or a coach.)
That said, there are a few things I know without question:
- Life, especially the Conscious Leader’s life, is not a flat road. Frankly, it is a road through the Himalayas. There are awe-inspiring peaks and deep, dark, cold valleys. You can’t have one without the other.
- Every truly successful leader has a coach through whom the leader has committed to invest in himself. Sometimes the coach GUIDES the leader through the Himalayas, and sometimes the coach ALLOWS the leader to find her own way.
- Not every problem can or should be FIXED. Some problems, much like a virus, just need to run their course.
My coach was deliberately “allowing” me to find my own way through an unrelated problem when I suddenly realized that I had the solution to both problems. The solution was the one leadership tool that most leaders are scared…absolutely terrified…to use. The tool is called Stop Pushing. Just stop.
Throughout our careers we’ve been taught that influencing others and having an impact on the mission is the hallmark of our success. We go to classes to learn to set goals and develop action plans to achieve those goals. We then take additional classes to learn to manage our time and increase our productivity. In a different venue we learn that we should be happy and positive all the time so when we don’t feel that way, we push ourselves to “fix our attitude.” We learn to push and push and PUSH. The one thing that we don’t learn is WHEN TO STOP PUSHING! What is astounding is that when we strategically learn to STOP PUSHING and allow ourselves to be PULLED, potentially in a direction that we might have initially judged as inappropriate, we see opportunities that never existed before. Instead of resisting our efforts, exactly the right people become our partners, and everything that was impossible before becomes easy.
I should warn you that this is an advanced level tool. That’s why most leaders are too scared to use it. There is a big difference between abdicating your responsibility or “selling your soul to the devil” and strategically choosing to allow yourself to be pulled. The art comes in knowing exactly what that difference is and when to use the tool. These past few weeks were the reminder that I needed to take my own medicine and STOP PUSHING.
Throughout my years as a leadership development instructor inside my own organization, I’ve noticed the same questions coming up over and over. I thought I’d take a few minutes to address the top 5 here. Do they sound familiar to you?
Question 1: How do I motivate my employees when there are no “carrots” left?
The truth is…you don’t. You inspire them instead. And, being an inspiration starts with you, not with them. Take a good long look at yourself. Do you LOVE your job? Do you love it so much you’d do it for free? Are you excited about the people you get to spend time with while doing that job? If you cannot answer these questions with a resounding “YES” (“OK” is not sufficient here), then the first person you need to inspire is yourself. When you recognize that the happiness you experience at work is a direct indicator of the degree of alignment between your work and your highest and best talents or gifts, you will realize that you not only DESERVE to have a job that you love, you have a responsibility to.
Question 2: How can I influence the future of my organization from where I am?
The most important step to influencing your organization from where you are is to check your alignment. Each of us, whether by accident or design–depending on your belief system, is uniquely suited to do certain things. I call that specific collection of attributes, skills, desires, experiences, talents, and quirks (often referred to as flaws) your “gifts.” You are the only person in the world who can do those things like you do. Even if someone else had the same exact job, they would do it differently because their gifts are different from yours. When you are in a job that aligns with your highest gifts, you become powerful. You have the gifts needed for that job at that time. No one else has these gifts. People recognize your expertise. They feel your energy. And you have influence just by showing up. If you don’t have a job that aligns with your gifts, then your gifts don’t get given, and the rest of us lose out. The catch is this…you are the only one who can know what your gifts are. Furthermore, you are the only one who can know if the job you are doing is truly aligned. When you are a Body Badly Out Of Balance, (a BBOOB), others can tell. You can’t hide it. When you are only Slightly Out Of Balance (a SLOB) others may not know…but you will know…and you will NOT be able to make the difference you want to make.
Question 3: How do I get rid of a problem employee?
Again–and take a deep breath here, you don’t. And, if you are one of those people who came to government service because you want to make a difference in the world, you don’t want to. If you have an employee who seems to be causing problems in the office, odds are that employee is a Body Badly Out of Balance. If you throw this poor BBOOB out the door, they will still be a BBOOB and not able to give their highest and best gifts to the organization or to the world.
See, you aren’t the only one with gifts. We all have them. AND, we all got different ones. On top of that, each of us receives our gifts in different ways and at different times. Sometimes they show up when we don’t know it–sort of like the Tooth Fairy leaving money under your pillow. That BBOOB in your office could use some help looking under the pillow to find his own gifts and figure out what to do with them.
Let me be very clear. This does NOT mean that you should ignore dangerous or illegal behavior or a failure to meet mission objectives. It does mean that you can guide that employee to discover and align their own highest gifts in order to create balance. Whether this balance has the employee viewing their work differently or asking to be released from their commitment to find another position, you no longer have a BBOOB in your office. You have a talented individual who is perfectly prepared and positioned to give their gifts to the world…and thinks you are amazing.
I know I promised you the Top 5 Questions that I get from government supervisors. Yet as I started writing, I realized this article was getting rather long, and we all have work to do. Look for questions 4 and 5 next month. (Look for them on the first Monday of the month.) Until then, I’d love for you to post your comments and questions here so we can discuss them in a future article. For those who resonate with this message and are looking for tips on how to implement the concepts here, enter your name and email address at www.ConsciousLeadershipBlueprint.com
Mahatma Ghandi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” We’ve all heard that a thousand times. Yet have you ever stopped to consider the implications of truly BEING the change? For the Conscious Leader, BEING the change is a tall order, and it requires 3 key elements that may not be immediately obvious. These elements, while difficult for some to master, are the building blocks for the Conscious Leader.
Key Element 1: The Conscious Leader is Open to Change. As leaders we often say that our organization needs to change this or that. So we gather data that demonstrates to the organization how its current way of being is ineffective and how being different would “improve” it. We begin a campaign to make the organization be open to change whether it wants to or not.
The Conscious Leader realizes that in order for the organization to be open to change, the leader himself must be open to change…open to seeing things differently. Interestingly, organizations are composed of …well…individual humans. In order for the organization to change, the individual humans inside the organization must be open to change. The individual humans must be open to evolution and growth not only within the construct of the organization but throughout the larger realm of their lives. As the Conscious Leader develops his own personal openness to change and growth, the organization around him becomes open to change and growth.
Key Element 2: The Conscious Leader does not waste energy DOING the change. Many organizations spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on employee engagement surveys. The results come back indicating that engagement is lower than desired, and employees complain about feedback, assignment and promotion processes, and evaluation systems. So organizations institute classes on feedback and career development, mandate review processes, and track the number of conversations that supervisors have with employees. A year later they do another survey and discover that the results have not changed. What happened? The members of the organization wasted time, energy and money DOING the change, not BEING it.
The Conscious Leader recognizes that BEING must come BEFORE DOING. The difference is very subtle and very powerful. Providing feedback and career development conversations will not create an organization with highly engaged employees. DOING the change. Rather an organization with highly engaged employees will automatically provide helpful feedback and develop powerful career development processes that work for everyone. The Conscious Leader knows that the only way to create an organization composed of highly engaged employees is to become one himself…BEFORE asking or expecting it of others. BEING the change.
Key Element 3: The Conscious Leader does not WAIT ON change. This may be the most difficult element of all. It can be easy to say, “This job will get better when I get a [newsupervisor/budget/office/the regs change/my husband’s job lets us move]. When [that thing] happens, I will have a job I love. Until then I’ll tolerate things as they are.” News Flash: When you tolerate a job that does not make your heart sing, you cannot offer your highest and best self. Yes, you may work very hard, and you will be doing the best that you can…in that situation. But it will NOT be the best that you are truly capable of. With each day that goes by, you will sell a larger piece of your soul for the sake of a paycheck. In some cultures, they call that prostitution.
The Conscious Leader does not wait for things to change around her. She acknowledges that the change she seeks is already inside her and makes choices, large and small, in support of the change. She acts AS IF the change she wanted has already happened…AS IF she already has a boss she loves (and interacts with the current one in that manner); AS IF she already has the new office (and maintains the old one accordingly). As she consistently chooses in favor of those things that are most aligned with the world she wants to see, she BECOMES the change.
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If your “government service” is starting to feel more like “government servitude,” Leadership Architect Martha Austin will show you innovative yet simple shifts to transform the bureaucracy you hate into the mission you love so you can make more money, have more fun, and contribute more to the world. Get more FREE tips at www.freegiftfrommartha.com.