Can We Choose To Enjoy Our Jobs?

West point graduation

Can we choose to enjoy anything for that matter? Do we have the capacity to accept the circumstance in which we find ourselves, and make the choice to enjoy whatever we are asked to do?

In order to do this we must accept our circumstances as if we had chosen them.

Can we… I mean the majority of us, actually do that? Even if we can, most of us don’t know how. If we did, wouldn’t we all just choose to accept our circumstances and be a lot less stressed?

What does it mean to enjoy something?

The definition includes: to derive pleasure from, take pleasure in, get benefit from, or take delight in. How many parts of your job do you take delight in? There are probably some parts from which you derive pleasure, right?

Why do some people enjoy a job while others detest that same job?

Most of us find enjoyment in some things and not in others. We have hobbies, sports, exercise, interacting with others, being with family, helping others, spending money, showing off, learning… the list goes on and on.

Some people have always enjoyed running, while others detest it.

Some of us get real pleasure from meeting new people, while others avoid it at all costs.

I know people who would gladly spend their time sorting and organizing, while other people think of that as torture.

Plenty of people love being the center of attention; perhaps teaching in front of a group, while lots of others would rather have a toe bitten off by a snapping turtle.

Are some jobs inherently pleasant, while others distasteful or not enjoyable?

I want to say that most of us would agree that some jobs are generally enjoyable, and the more I think about it the more I wonder if it’s true. The more we hear about the lives of the rich, famous, celebrity, sports star… the more we understand their aberrant behavior. They may have nicer things around them, and they seem to have the same issues as the rest of us with enjoying their jobs and lives.

Is stress caused by our inability to accept what is happening? By our inability to choose to enjoy our jobs?

Stress is a state of mental tension and worry, or fear, caused by problems… and what are ‘problems’? Many would argue that most of our ‘problems’ are simply our inability, or unwillingness to accept what is happening in our jobs and in our lives, or our fear about what might happen.

Once we accept that we get paid the same no matter how we feel about what we have to do, then perhaps we can choose to enjoy whatever needs to be done.

I consciously choose to continue to go to this job for the money and benefits, in trade for having to do the tasks of this job.   If I fully understand that I have a choice… that I can choose how to see those tasks, then why wouldn’t I choose to do them as if I had chosen them, since I do in fact choose them each time I show up for work? And if I do them as if I had chosen them, it will be much easier to find some enjoyment in them. Work will be less stressful, and I will be able to do each task with purpose and enjoyment.

It’s all about acceptance…

There are two other sides of this that I think are worth addressing…

  1. We all have different personal limits.

We are all very different as we talked about above. Some of us find ourselves on the extreme side of either introvert of extrovert for example, and this, for most, is not a choice.

These personality differences can bring with them sensory limits, or other limits that we have to learn to live with. They are not crutches, nor can we use them as excuses.

Some of us can only be in crowded places for so long.

Some people find it very difficult to be or work alone.

There are people who seem work better with music or background noise, while others need near silence in order to do their best.

Do you know and accept your limits?

The way to deal with our differences is to fully understand and accept how we are. Self-awareness is the key to knowing what works for us, as well as what does not work for us.

Accepting ourselves for who we are, with our strengths and weaknesses, is our key to finding the right job, and making a life that where we can more readily find enjoyment.

You should choose a job that falls within those limits. Otherwise we are almost constantly at odds with our natural state, and it can be very difficult to accept that we have put ourselves into situations for which we are not well suited.

  1. Acceptance does not mean stationary or static.

Accepting what is happening as if we had chosen it does not mean that we cannot make things better, or improve our performance, our job, or anything else about our lives.

In fact it allows us to stop struggling so much with our current circumstances, which can make room for us to work on changing our circumstances. Acceptance can make it easier for us to make the changes we want in our jobs and lives, while we stop fighting the current reality.

Please let me know if I’ve left out any important parts of this topic.

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7 Things That Separate Average People From Amazing Performers

This is worthwhile talking about here, since we are all about getting you promoted.

Our themes so far have been about getting an honest picture of how you are/who you are at work, being the best you can at your current job, acting like someone your boss would want to work with, and acting like someone your boss could see trusting.

Most of us think way too highly of ourselves… if no one is talking to you about promoting you, you are probably not as good as you think.  If you feel like you already do all of the things listed in this article, again… you probably don’t have an accurate picture of how you act at work.  Talk to your mentor about how to get a more accurate view of your work performance.  You can and will get promoted if you keep working on the qualities we’be been talking about… Don’t give up…

7 Things That Separate Average People From Amazing Performers

So You Want To Move Up Part 16… What Is Your Job?

 

If you’ve been reading along, you know that this blog is here to help hourly team members figure out why they are having a hard time getting promoted, and achieving their goals.

We’ve talked a lot about how to act at work, and today we’re going to talk about the question ‘what is your job’? I don’t mean what is your job description, because that will be so different for all of us. We’re going to break this into several parts.

1. What is the purpose of all of the things you do and are responsible for? How would you describe the overall reason for the things that you do at work? This might be a little confusing for some of us, so how’s about an example…

Let’s look at my first job… at 14 I was hired as a porter at a New York state park that was only open during the summer.   There was lake with a beach, a pool, concession stands, and several bathrooms. My job was to keep the area around the concession stands clean, sweeping up trash, cigarette butts (there were a lot of them in those days), and emptying trash cans. Within 2 weeks they added washing dishes in each of the 2 concession stands. After that I was doing all of the earlier jobs, plus covering other people’s breaks by cooking hamburgers, hot dogs, and fries. By the end of the summer I knew how to do pretty much every job at that lake.

But what was my job? One boss told me it was ‘keep the place clean and keep the customers happy’. OK… so that opened up the possible tasks to include pretty much every job there, which is what I learned.

Instead of just cleaning up, I was able to help customers find their way around, know where they were allowed to picnic, and show them where the bathrooms were. In the concession stands I could now interact more freely with everyone because I knew how to do everything, how to cook everything, and where everything was. Whatever you want, I can do it! And I know what to charge for it (which makes the boss happy).

Knowing the larger, overall description of your job will help you:

  • Find ways to do more than you are expected to do.
  • Use your imagination to impress your boss.
  • Help customers by doing things that no one else thought about.
  • Fix the problems that no one else sees.
  • Enable you to be great, by going outside of the normal tasks of your job description.

If you don’t know the ‘big picture’ or overarching description of your job, you might want to take the time to ask your boss. Think about some examples that you can give before you have that talk, so you can show the boss you are taking this seriously.

The next part of knowing ‘what is your job’ is…

2. Your job is to always support your boss.

  • Yup… always support your boss. If you’ve been reading along, you’ll know we talked about that here. In order to get promoted, your boss needs to know that you are on his or her team, and that you will always have their back.
  • So how do you show that?
  • Don’t gossip. Don’t start it, and don’t get involved in it.
  • Stop being negative… Stop finding problems, or why we can’t…
  • Be positive… When asked if you can do something, the answer is yes. When asked to change, add, stop doing, fix something, or help someone the answer is yes.
  • Be great at the tasks of your job.
  • Make your boss look good.
  • Make your bosses goals your goals.

3. Your job is not:

  • To get laid.
  • To talk with your friends.
  • To work on your other job.
  • To check your phone every few minutes.
  • To have a great time.
  • To make your friends laugh.
  • To get away with anything.

If you truly want to get moving on a career path, and get promoted, take your job seriously. You are being paid to do what you are told. Do that the very best you can.

So You Want To Move Up Part 15… Now About Those Weaknesses

 

We talked last time about strengths, so now it’s time to address those weaknesses. You might remember from last time that most weaknesses aren’t really truly things we are bad at… they are more likely underdeveloped strengths.

We play to our strengths because we can make a huge impact with the things we are naturally good at. Working to get better at our strengths is thought by many to bring us more gains for the time and energy expended than working on our weaknesses. The same time and energy put towards a weakness might bring us a relatively large gain, however we started so poorly at these things that the gain might not be worth it.

Even those who don’t believe that we can get that much better at our natural gifts will still agree that cross training… working on skills and qualities that work well in conjunction with our strengths, can give us huge gains. We talked about this last time in Know Your Strengths.

There are a couple of things we can do here…

  1. Hire around our weaknesses. There are tasks for which we are not well suited, and we should hire people who are better suited to those tasks. For instance, I am not the most detailed person. So… running a restaurant often means the Leadership is responsible for everything, including HR functions. Filing, making sure each and every form is signed in the proper places, I’s dotted and T’s crossed… It simply needs to be done, and it needs to be done right! It’s a job that I can do if I have to, and for me jobs like this take a real effort, my complete attention, and much too long. So… when I hired an assistant I make sure that he or she finds this kind of work enjoyable. Our talents balanced each other, and we worked very well together. I helped her cross train in my strengths, and she helped me with hers.

You might be a great Leader, building relationships with your Leaders and team members, fostering a culture of trust, excellence, and encouragement, and you might rather fight a tag team cage match with you and Hillary Clinton versus a rabid badger and an angry baboon than speak in front of a large group of people. It’s probably not something you can totally avoid, so you need to be able to do it, if only in small doses. You can however, hire an apprentice for whom public speaking is a gift. Partner with them and share the responsibilities at your meetings. It will make your life easier, and your team will benefit from the passion your apprentice will be able to share with them.

I chose to decide which were undeveloped strengths and which were true weaknesses by how I felt about them. I would suggest taking some time, making a list of the things you would consider weaknesses, and let it sit for a day or two. Pick it up again, read each item to yourself, and see how thinking about it makes you feel. I picked the ones I had the most negative feelings towards as the ones for which I had to hire for. I did my best to get good enough at them, and still I hired for them as I hired new apprentices.

  1. Get good enough… There are some things each of us will never be very good at no matter how much effort we put into them. I had to be good enough at the HR functions in order to run the restaurants I ran. It is not OK to put all of responsibility for these tasks on our partners… we have to share the load. And, there will be times, if we are doing a good job helping our apprentices develop into Leaders, when they move into Leadership roles of their own, and we have to take over, if only temporarily. We need to be good enough.

Sometimes can be made much easier by an attitude adjustment on our part. How does it go? Believe it and you will see it?   I would tell everyone that I hated that kind of work… detail work gives me a headache… I just can’t do it. No one but me wondered why it took me so long and seemed so difficult. My attitude towards it was keeping me from seeing this HR work as just another task… one that I was certainly capable of doing, and with just a little effort, doing well.

What beliefs and old thoughts are holding you back from getting better… good enough at least, at the skills and qualities at which you might not be naturally gifted? Are any of these holding you back from developing qualities that would move you into the next level of Leadership?

This is important enough to spend some time on, since working on this can help us in more than one way. Knowing there are things we hate to do, or minimally don’t like or feel that we aren’t good at, adds unneeded stress to our already stressful lives. Anything we can do to relieve some of that stress is a good thing.

I found that changing my attitude towards any detail work helped me accept the fact that it had to be done. Complaining about it doesn’t help. Whining about it doesn’t help. These are behaviors best left in childhood. As adults, at work in addition to life in general, we need to develop the ability to accept the things we simply have to do as much as we need to accept what it happening. Remember? We talked about it here.

Get better at your strengths by working on the; by cross training ‘partner’ strengths. Hire for your weaknesses, and work to get ‘good enough’ at them. We can’t all be good at everything, so be great at one thing, very good at a few more, and good enough at the rest.

So You Want To Move Up Part 14… Know Your Strengths

weight lifter

What are your true strengths?

Before we get started, as usual we need to send those of us who need remedial help out to get that help, so… what are you great at? I mean really great at? I’m not just talking about skills, like a sport, juggling, running, or power eating.

We have to start thinking in terms of qualities, or character strengths. Like what you ask? Like creativity, empathy, humor, self-discipline, integrity, self-responsibility, perseverance… things like that. Feel free to look up a list of strengths, as it can be hard to think of more than a few off the top of our heads.

Think carefully now…

Use your fingers to count out the things at which you are really great, like… better than anyone you know. I’ll wait…

If you ran out of fingers, one of two things needs to happen.

1… you need to lose the attitude and be more honest with yourself. You are not really great at more than a few things. If you do not decide to start being honest with yourself, you will never get promoted. It’s really that simple. It’s up to you.

In order to change you will need to work with your mentor or coach. Talk over the things you counted as being really great at, and why you counted them. You will need to talk, out loud, to another person about whether or not you really believe you are better than anyone you know at that many things; and… if you don’t really believe it, why you weren’t able to be honest about it in the first place. If you cannot be honest with yourself, you will not be honest with others, and again… you will not achieve your goals.

Having an honest and accurate view of your strengths is an important part of your emotional growth, so this work is important.

2… you really and honestly believe that you are that great at many things. Your best bet would be to find and work with a therapist. You are not that good at more than a few things, and until you can see that, you will not be getting promoted. Thinking that you are better than almost everyone at many things makes you hard to get along with, arrogant, and not teachable. These things will have to change before anyone sees you as ready to be promoted.

So… for either of these options, some of you will want to tell yourself that you were just kidding, and you will not do the work involved in changing your view of yourselves. Please do not skip this step… it is a vital step in your growth as a person, and really… that is what will enable you to achieve your goals. Without that personal growth, you will not be able to build the kind of strong trusting relationships it takes to influence others to help you achieve those goals.

I’m begging you to take this seriously… do the work, and come back when you are caught up.

Onward and upward…

Your combination of strengths is what makes you special. No one else has your unique background, experiences, and strengths, and that’s great! Now what?

Well… to be your best at work, we will want to build on our strengths, play to our strengths, and get ‘good enough’ at the things we are not so good at. For now we’ll call them weaknesses, and really, they can be seen as underdeveloped strengths, so don’t worry that you have weaknesses.

I believe that there are two ways to build on your strengths.

1. You can capitalize on them, by focusing on them and using them to your advantage.

  • If one of your strengths is empathy, use it to your advantage by making sure those around you know that you understand how they are feeling about what they are saying, in addition to the words they are using. When we know that someone has heard us, and understands us, we are much more likely to really listen to what they have to say… that means we can be influenced by those people.
  • If you love an audience, and enjoy public speaking, you have a great gift. Use it to your advantage by speaking up at meetings to reinforce important messages, and support your Leader; perhaps offer to train groups of other team members.
  • If you are self-disciplined, you might be able to finish your tasks faster than most. That will free up some time… offer to take on additional responsibilities, help other team members, or work on a special project for your team Leader.
  • These are just a few examples of how you can play to your strengths.

2. You can work to grow and build a complimentary strength. Using the examples above…

  • If one of your strengths is empathy, you may not have the confidence needed to lead others. Working on your confidence can take you from a person that others trust, to the person others want to follow
  • If you love an audience, and enjoy public speaking, people will be more likely to listen to you if they trust you. Working on being thought of as trustworthy will enable you to influence your audience.
  • If you are self-disciplined, however not thought of as serious-minded or concerned for others, people may not want your help. Working on publicly supporting shared goals, as well as coworkers’ needs, will go a long way towards getting others to accept your help.

Again, these are just a few examples of how to both build and play to your strengths. And, we are just using your opinions of your strengths. I would advise you to ask your boss, coworkers, parents, friends, as well as your mentor about your strengths… often we can be blind to one or more of the things we do well.

Next time, we can talk about your weaknesses, and why I believe we just need to get ‘good enough’.

So You Want To Move Up Part 13… More On How To Get Along With Your Boss

We’re back, and talking more about the things your boss is looking for, particularly in the people he or she will want to promote. We’ve already talked about what your boss looks for in a hard worker, and now we are continuing our talk about what your boss wants to see in someone they can get along with.

Having the respect of the team comes up again here. Promoting someone from worker to supervisor usually means a lot of work for the boss. There are always team members who do not want to hear anything from the new supervisor, and the boss or team Leader will need to talk to them to smooth that out.

Our new supervisor will almost always be unsure about how to speak to the team, the people who were their peers yesterday, now that they are in charge. We will need to spend a lot of time and energy talking to them about how to get things done, and how to talk to people. And almost every new supervisor will mess up the first few (or more) conversations they have with team members. Talking to people so that they listen, with respect and yet authority is not as easy as we think it is. It’s a skill that takes time, as well as a lot of mistakes to learn.

The boss or team Leader will have to spend time and energy fixing the mistakes, and repairing the damage done by the new supervisor.

So… if we promote someone who already has the respect of the team, we save the team, ourselves, and the new supervisor a lot of work, as well as a lot of stress. Be the worker who earns the respect of the rest of them team. This will make it easy for your boss to look at you as a possible promotion waiting to happen.

If you want your boss to see you as someone they feel they can work with, you need to remember things… we just talked about this on how to be a good team member, and it’s important here too. As team Leaders, we kind of expect our team members to take up a certain amount of our time and energy. And… we only have so much of either. We cannot have our supervisors making us repeat ourselves with what to do, or how to do it. If you want to be promoted, pay attention and remember what you are told. If you find that hard to do, get a note pad and keep it on you at all times. Write it down so you won’t have to remember it! If writing it down doesn’t work for you, try something else. You need to figure this out before you will be able to move up.

We need the people who work with us to be humble. That means understanding that we don’t know everything, not thinking we are better than other people, and not arrogant. It means we are open to the ideas of other people, and we don’t simply discount them because we know better. We listen when someone gives us feedback, and we change our behavior accordingly. As a team Leader we cannot work with someone who does not listen to us, thinks they know better than we do, or cannot learn from others. We know that the team will not accept a Leader who is not humble… The team certainly will not respect them.

Humility starts with being honest with yourself… think about your beliefs about yourself, those around you, what you do well, and what you do not do well.

An arrogant person might feel that he or she is better than most, if not all other people… at least the people doing the same work. An arrogant person might think they are better at almost every task than those around them. An arrogant person doesn’t listen to the people around them, as those people don’t really have anything valuable to offer. An arrogant person doesn’t really believe the feedback they get at review time… that’s not the way I am, or the way I act!

If this is the way you feel when you are honest with yourself, you need to find and work with a therapist, coach, or mentor before thinking any more about getting promoted. These feelings will be getting in the way of your career, and you need to work through them now. Moving on…

There are not a lot of people out there developing Leaders, so we have to develop our own. When we promote someone, we look for them to be able to move into not only the next job, but also, after some training and a learning curve, the one after that, and maybe even the one after that! We look for the qualities that will be needed 2 or even 3 jobs from now, and if you aren’t showing those qualities, we might just pass you by.

These are the qualities of a Leader, and many of them are not easily taught. They come from within, and are grown out of self-awareness, and personal growth. So… if you don’t have them, or at least are not showing them, you might just be out of luck. Read more about them in The 21 Indisputable Qualities of a Leader, by John C. Maxwell. There may very well be more than 21, and if you can find and develop these, you’ll be in pretty good shape. We’ve been talking about the qualities of a good team player here, along with how team members can show the qualities of a Leader in my Leadership blog, starting here… you should be familiar with them.

Leaders will promote people who know how to challenge us in the right way. Good Leaders know that we don’t always have all the answers, and we want the people who work with us to work with us to find the best answers and solutions. However, team members will often decide to challenge us in public, with when we are unprepared, and sometimes with some personal agenda attached. No one likes to be put in this situation, and doing something like this will not pretty much destroy you chances of getting promoted. When in doubt, keep your thoughts and words to yourself.

Challenging may not even be the right word for what we want as Leaders. We want to get it right, do the right things, treat people fairly, help our team members, and be seen as successful. Sometimes we have to do things that we would rather not do, and yet it’s part of our job. So… we want to work with people who understand, and help us come up with positive solutions to our problems. We might know one way to get a job done; however another opinion from someone we trust is always welcome. We want someone to ask check our thinking, ask if that idea is really the best, talk through our ideas with us, and help us come up with the best plan in the end. To do this, we have to trust the other person, and they have to talk to us in private. Leaders cannot have team members challenging them, or questioning their decisions in public. You should not do this anymore than you would publicly question the way someone was parenting his or her child.

If you have a question for your boss, ask if you can speak to them privately. Then, with the door closed, you can respectfully as whatever questions you have. When I say respectfully, I mean that you can question a decision; you cannot question the intention behind the decision. You need to understand that your boss would not talk to your coworkers about you, or anything that had to do with you, so you may not ask any questions about your coworkers, how you feel they were treated, why they were written up, or anything like that. That is none of your business, and you need to respect their need for privacy around that subject.

You should not say things like “everyone thinks…”, or “we all feel…”. You should only speak for yourself, and not anyone else. Use “I” when speaking, like “I think…” or “I feel…”. Your thoughts and opinions will carry a lot more weight if you do it right, and only speak for yourself.

Anytime you are going to talk to your boss, you should set an intention… maybe check out this post on my Leadership blog about setting intentions. Go back and read, or reread this, and then come back here. Your intentions around talking to your boss might sound like:

I am going to speak respectfully, honestly, and only speak for myself.

I am going to listen to fully understand, and ask questions to be sure I fully understand before I say anything back.

I am listening to understand, not to reply.

I believe that my boss has good intentions, and I will speak and act with respect.

My boss has the same needs I do, and I will show them respect.

I will stay aware of what I am feeling, and speak honestly about my feelings.

Building a relationship with my boss is more important than being right.

I will keep my emotions in check, and not get personal.

I will be solution oriented.

I will remember that I don’t know what my boss has been told to do, and what he or she is allowed to tell me. Their job has different expectations than mine.

I will not make any threats, raise my voice, or speak when he or she is speaking.

I will be specific, and be ready to use different words to help him or her understand me.

These are just examples, and there are so many others you could use. Think about the way your conversations go with friends and family, and what you would change about your end of it if you could. Then set that intention… to do that thing differently.

At the end of the conversation, it really doesn’t matter if your boss agreed with you or not; whether you agreed with them; or what the outcome, you will tell your boss something like this… “Well, although I don’t fully agree with you, I’ll completely support your decision”, or “thank you for taking the time to speak to me… I’ll do what I need to do”. Whatever happens, you should be honest with your boss, AND assure them that you will keep doing your job, not go out and start complaining about the conversation, and not tell everyone what you talked about. You want to be promoted, right? Well… you need your boss to trust you, and that means you will keep your conversations private.

If your friends and coworkers ask what happened, what will you say? How will you support your boss? What is appropriate for someone who wants to be promoted?

You will not retell every detail of the conversation. You can say that you had a talk, and in the end you support whatever your boss wanted to do, or say, or… you know. You support it as if the two of your came up with it together. If you go on, and relate the entire story, you will not be supporting your boss, your boss is sure to hear about it, and you will not get promoted. If you cannot follow these simple rules, you are not ready to be promoted. It’s that simple.

OK… that’s enough for today… These posts might already be too long for anyone to read in one sitting, and I don’t know how else to provide you with the information you need in a shorter format. So there!

Oh… and if you like this blog, please ‘like’ my Facebook page. Thanks a billion!

 

So You Want To Move Up Part 12… Getting Along With Your Boss

So here we are again… talking about how to get promoted. We already talked about why you want to move up; why no one is talking to you about a promotion; and what your boss is looking for as far as a worker. Now it’s time to talk about another aspect of what bosses look for…

Your boss wants to promote someone that they can see themselves getting along with. As the supervisor, or whatever you may get promoted to, you will be working much more closely with your boss. Your boss will ask your opinion, need to trust your judgment, believe that you have their back, need you to keep their secrets, know when to ask them what to do, always do the right thing, maintain their values and standards, and so many other things. I bet you never thought that getting promoted meant all of that!?

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again now… we are all pretty much the same. We have the same fears, hopes and dreams. If we have kids we all want the best for them. Everyone from an entry-level hourly worker to candidates for CEO has the same worries and fears about their new job… am I ready for this? Do I have the skills I need? Will people like and respect me? Do I have what it takes to be successful? For those of you who don’t believe me, a quick Google search will give you countless articles and blog posts with advice for people at every level. See for yourself…

Believe it or not, your boss probably does things that they don’t always agree with. They are just like you, and they question some of the things they are asked to do. I know this from experience! And… when you get to be the boss, one of the things you are paid for is doing what you are told to do. You only get to question your boss in private, with the door shut. You can ask all of your questions, and no matter how those questions are answered, when you open the door, your job is to support your team Leader! Even if, in your heart, you disagree with the decision, your job is to support your team Leader. That’s why you make more money, and that’s what you have to do. So… your team Leader, or whatever he or she is called where you work, needs to be surrounded with people who understand this, and who will support them, no matter what! So that means they not only look what kind of a worker you are, but they also look at what kind of a person you are!

So, while you are working on being a great worker, you also need to be thinking about the other things your boss is looking for… Let’s start with the qualities of a team Leader. I won’t list all of them here, and we will talk about a few of the more important one for you to think about. I talked at length in my Leadership blog about how we show Leadership qualities, starting here and for the next few posts, and I would suggest that you read those posts.

Let’s start with Solution oriented… what does that mean? We talked about it a little before, listed in the qualities of a team player. It means seeing the solution rather than problems. If we are trying to get better, and try new things, there is always a negative side, what can go wrong, and why we shouldn’t do it. It’s easy to be negative, as it doesn’t cost anything. We can all easily see the downside and the problems; however pointing them out doesn’t really help most of the time. Many of the things that your boss wants to do are someone else’s idea, and it’s your boss’s job to get them done.

Here is something your should remember, since it might make it easier to understand, and get along with your boss. Part of being in charge is doing what you are told to do while making it seem as if it’s your idea. Many of the changes that happen at work come from someone way above your team Leader. Their job is to implement those changes, while making you think it was their idea. For a team Leader, it is NOT OK to say something like “we’re doing this because I was told we had to”, or “I was told we had to do it this way”. A team Leader has to pretend they are the ones who decided that this is what we are doing, and that we have to do it this way. That’s what they get paid to do. Please don’t ask your boss about this… it will not end well for you. Just accept that this is what’s happening, everywhere.

And, having said all of that, it is not uncommon for the team Leader to actually come up with their own ideas and changes, as well as full believe in the ideas and changes thought up by someone above them. Just because it’s part of their job to sell it as if it was their idea does not mean it wasn’t their idea, or that they don’t full agree with it… so there. Now where were we?

Oh yeah… your boss wants someone working with them who will understand these things have to get done, and will see the solution to how to do it. They do not need any negativity from the people working with them. Get it?

What about courage? Courage is one of the qualities of a Leader… and your boss will want the people around them to have courage. I know you are asking why… how does courage come up being a supervisor/key holder/foreman/whatever at work? Good question… I knew you were bright!

When is the last time you told one of your friends to stop talking and get working on whatever they were supposed to be doing? When did you last ask someone bigger, older, more experienced than you why they didn’t finish their work? Or why they were so late getting back from break? When is the last time you stood up to someone? You may have done one or more of these things, and they are not easy. If you are promoted at work, you will go from being a coworker to supervisor (or some role like that) overnight. You are now expected to tell the people you used to talk too much with to stop talking so much and get back to work… it takes courage. And this is where a lot of people find themselves in trouble… they are good workers, good at their job, then they get promoted only to find they cannot fulfill the requirements of that job. That’s why you are reading this, right? So you will be ready to be successful at that next job!

How about relationship building? Remember, a team ultimately has to get a certain amount of work done to achieve its goals. The job of the team Leader, as well as key holders, and supervisors is to get other people to do that work. This can be accomplished a number of ways… how do we think the pyramids were built? Yup… we can use a whip, threats, intimidation… and none of those are good ways of getting things done. Weak people who are not confident in themselves, who act out of fear, and who do not possess the qualities a Leader act this way. You will not.

The right way to get others to do things is to influence them. That is, in my opinion, one of the best definitions of Leadership… influence. So how will we influence people? We influence people by building strong, trusting relationships with them. By living our lives, and acting at work by the qualities of Leadership.

At this point, if you have read the other books I’ve suggested, you should read John Maxwell’s The 21 Indispensible Qualities of a Team Leader. Remember, you can get this and almost any other book at the library. And… remember that we all learn in different ways, so if you are one of the many people who have a tough time comprehending what you read, get an audio book. Our 17 year old has a 3.5 GPA, and scored high 700’s on his SAT, and he has a really hard time getting information from reading books, so he’s been listening to all of his books this year and it’s been great for him. You don’t have to feel any shame in finding an alternative to reading, and you don’t have to buy every book you want to read. So get going on these books!

Ok… that’s enough for today. We’ll continue next time.

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What To Look For In A Mentor…. How To Find A Mentor

So we’ve talked quite a lot about the importance of finding and working with a therapist, coach, or mentor.  Remember, we act like Team Players because of how we see ourselves, the world around us, as well as our relationship with that world.  If we see the world as an abundant place, where there is plenty to go around and enough for everyone, we are able to give credit, help those around us, and surround ourselves with people who are better than we are.  If we see the world as a scary place, where there in not enough, where we have to fight for everything we have and get, then we will not be able to share, give credit, or work with people who might be better than we are.

So really, being a good team player is about changing the way we see the world.  It’s about losing our fears and prejudices, and living our lives with more love, concern, and consideration for those around us.  In order to act like good team players and future Leaders, we need to be free to trust in others; give away credit; allow others the freedom to make mistakes; share information, and be transparent in everything we do.

There are those who would argue that we are born this way, however once we are in our late teens/twenties most of us are no longer in this place.  We are not always able to look at ourselves objectively and honestly.  Navigating middle school and high school, along with friendships and teenage angst, can teach us how to rationalize and justify our action.  We can find ourselves with a skewed view of the world around us; and see ourselves as we would like to be, rather than how we actually are.

In order to be good team players, we need to work on self-awareness, and gain an accurate picture of how we are.  We need to stop rationalizing and justifying if we are to be honest and transparent with others.  These habits are now ingrained, and not easy to break.  Please do not kid yourself and think that you are not like this, or that you can change yourself without any outside help.  It’s almost impossible to get an accurate and honest picture of how we are without the help of an objective observer, who has our best interest at heart… a therapist, coach, or mentor.

Talking to someone who is probably older, with much more experience can be intimidating, and scary.  So… some of you might agree that having someone to ask questions or bounce ideas off would be good, however you might hesitate to ask someone you don’t know to be your mentor.  You might think that you will ask a friend or coworker, and that would be a mistake.

The job of mentor or coach includes telling us what we need to hear… disagreeing with us, and giving us an honest assessment of our decisions and behaviors.  Our friends or coworkers are generally not going to be able to do this for us, even with the best of intentions.  It takes a real commitment, and we must really care for someone in order to tell him or her what he or she doesn’t want to hear but need to hear.  It takes emotional detachment that our friends or coworkers do not have.  If you are serious about being a better worker, please do not try to use a friend or coworker as a coach or mentor. Although these two terms can have different meanings, for this purpose I’m using them interchangeably.

Ok… We’ll assume that you agree that you should have a mentor or coach… what about that therapist I mentioned a bit ago?  Well…

If you think that most people have the wrong impression of you; if you regularly disagree with the feedback your boss gives to you; if you don’t see any reason you would apologize for your behavior; you feel that there are very few people who are trustworthy; or if you find yourself often angry or frustrated with other people, you would probably benefit from working with a therapist.  If you read this blog, or other books or articles about being a better worker and future Leader, and absolutely disagree with how to treat the people around you, you should seriously think about talking to a therapist, as opposed to a coach or mentor.

The difference between a therapist and a coach or mentor is that a therapist went to school specifically to help us get an understanding of why we do the things we do, as well as how to help us change the behaviors we want to change.  They have been trained to help people without getting emotionally involved, so they can see us and our view of the world, as well as our behaviors, from a detached and yet interested point of view.  In order to be the best we can be, we have to understand ourselves, and know why we do the things we do and don’t do.  Therapists are trained to help us achieve this understanding, and are uniquely equipped to help us achieve our goals.

OK… so now that you know why you should have a mentor, coach, or therapist, you would probably like some ideas on how to choose the right coach or mentor.

The right mentor will have the kind of life and work that you would like to have. You will have to decide exactly what this look like for yourself, and I suggest you find someone who values a decent work/life balance. If you are at the beginning stages of building a career, having a mentor who is in a particular line of business is not that important. However, later on, after you work on yourself, your qualities, work habits, and get promoted a few times, you might want to find someone in your chosen business.

The right mentor is someone you are not sexually attracted to. Do not make this mistake!

The right mentor will be someone who continues to learn and challenge him or herself. Not someone with fixed views and opinions that cannot be challenged. Someone who is closed-minded is not likely to be able to give you what you need. The right mentor could be someone from your neighborhood, like an older business person, or someone from your church.

The right mentor should not be a reflection of you, however they should probably be enough like you that the two of you can easily understand one another. If you are a true introvert, you might want to choose a mentor who is either somewhat introverted, or can demonstrate a good understanding of true introverts… non-introverts can have a hard time understanding true introverts.

The right mentor will want to know something about you… a very successful and busy mentor might only want to mentor people who they believe are on a good career track, with a great work history and recommendations. Even if they aren’t this picky, they should show some interest in who you are, and how they will be able to benefit you.

The right mentor will be a good listener… they will listen to fully understand what you are saying, and how you feel about what you are saying before they answer you. They will not interrupt you, unless you are being disrespectful, making excuses, or perhaps justifying/rationalizing your behavior.

The right mentor will have obvious Leadership qualities, like honesty, transparency, generosity, willing to extend trust, self-awareness, and self-discipline… While we cannot expect our mentor to be perfect, there are a couple of qualities that we should not do without, like character, trust, and a positive attitude. We talked about these qualities starting here…

 

The right mentor will be outside of your normal chain of reporting relationships.   So if you choose a mentor from your company, they might be someone with more experience in a position similar to yours, or in a higher position. Just make sure that you let your boss know what you are doing, and that your mentor is not someone who your boss, or her boss answers to… that might be awkward.

The right mentor should be someone you feel comfortable with… someone with whom you can be yourself. You will have to be open and brutally honest with them, so you must be able to feel comfortable with them, and fully trust them. The relationship should be respectful, and not be too formal.

The right mentor is someone who not only has your respect, but the respect of many people. They will not abuse alcohol, drugs, or other people. They will treat others with respect, and communicate honestly. It can be someone with the same interests as you, like a sport or hobby.

The right mentor will push for you to get out of your comfort zones. We love to stay with what we know and are comfortable with, and we often need to be pushed to try something new. The right mentor will push us, as well as help us choose the right stretch goals, and help us prepare to be successful.

The right mentor will occasionally give you an answer, however most of the time they should be helping you figure things out for yourself. You will learn less from a person who tells you what to do than you will from someone who helps you develop your own solutions.

Remember… very few people can teach us to be better than they are. So, for example, if you choose someone with poor communication skills, they will probably not be of much help in developing your communication skills. If they started their own business and have been working for themselves for their whole adult life, they may not be the best at helping you deal with your boss, as they don’t have that experience.

The right mentor will be open and honest about their own life, and share their failings and mistakes with you. This makes them human, builds trust and a stronger relationship. Everyone has a whole list of mistakes… if the person you have chosen doesn’t admit to any… well… don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Next, you’ll want to write down, yes write down your goals for this relationship. What do you need help with? In what ways will your mentor help you? You’ve been reading along right? So you know that self-awareness is one of the keys to being a good team player, right? You’ve been reading the books I’ve suggested, right?

So you have a pretty good idea of what you need help with, and you put together a list. This list will help you narrow down your choices, because you want to choose someone who’s strengths are some of your areas of improvement. You should write down your strengths and weaknesses, as well as your short and long-term goals.

So you’ll make a list of people you admire; people who are successful in your company; respected people in your community; respected colleagues; and perhaps a few people you don’t know personally yet, and yet respect and would like to get to know. Now cross off any and all that you are attracted to. It can be tempting to leave them on the list… don’t do it.

Now you have a narrowed down list of possible mentors. It’s time to do some research… get on-line and find out everything you can about each of them. Through this process you might end up crossing more off the list. Make sure they have the same values that you do. Their political or religious beliefs are generally not a concern, and you may have very strong beliefs that are important to match.

The final choice is yours of course… and you will want to prepare for your talk. You have your list of what you would like to get from this relationship, and you know some things about them. Now you need to write down why you chose them, and some questions specifically about what you need, and how they might help.

Ask if you can make an appointment to speak with them, and bring along your lists. Tell them what you’ve been working on, and the books you’ve been reading. Speak to the things you admire about them, why you believe they can help you, and ask if they would be willing to mentor you.

When they say yes, you will have to determine how much time they are willing and able to commit to you. They may be able to meet with you every week, and they might only be able to give you a couple of hours each month. Depending on your needs, you might want to have a few mentors, or you might need to find someone who can give you more time.

You will be able to find one or more people who are willing to mentor you… don’t worry. In taking with them you will agree on schedules that work for both of you. Respect your mentor’s time! Be early, and be prepared. You will need to be brutally honest with them if they are to help you… do not waste their time by withholding information or lying to them. Not only will that destroy your relationship with them, but it will also hurt your career goals.

You will ask your new mentor what they expect from you in this relationship, and how you can best help them help you. You are the one doing the work, and the one who needs the help, so you will be the driving force in deciding what you ask of your new mentor… you have a lot of responsibility.

Remember, you are 100% responsible for your relationship with your mentor. If things aren’t going as well as you thought, you need to rethink your role. Are you being completely honest? Are you making the most of the opportunity? Are you listening to the advice your mentor gives you? It’s the same as your relationship with your significant other… if there are problems with your relationship, look at your part. It does not help to look at your partner and find fault in what they are doing… you cannot control what they do. You can only control what you do, so it only makes sense to look at your part. What are you doing to make your relationship what you want it to be? Are you treating them the way you want to be treated… the way they deserve to be treated?

As always, if you disagree with any of this, or have any questions, please leave a comment.

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So You Want To Move Up Part 11… Supporting Your Boss

So… we are talking about the types of workers, the behaviors we can use, and the ways in which we can show that we are the kind of workers who might be good candidates for promotion.   In other words… what additional things your boss in looking for in people he or she considers as promotable.

We want good team members to remember things. We don’t expect that we will have to tell you anything more than once, or show you how to do something more than once. I’ll say that is true for most things… some things are complicated and might take more than once, but there are not too many of these. Remembering what we ask you to do, how to do something, or any direction we give, shows us that you are interested and committed to the job. Forgetting what we told you shows us that you are not really interested, and not paying very much attention. You are not the kind of person we will want to promote.

So how do you do that? What are you going to do to make sure you remember the things you are asked to do? I have a few suggestions if that’s OK? Great!

I would start by always carrying one of those small pads of paper (you know… the ones small enough to fit into your pants pocket) and a pen or pencil. It is perfectly acceptable to write down what you are asked to do… it shows interest. As you are being told what to do, write it down. Now is the right time to ask any questions you might have… DO NOT wait until you are half way in, and then come back to ask a question that you could have asked earlier. Your boss has things that they have to get done, and now you are just interrupting, and showing you didn’t care enough the first time around.

For a while I carried around a very small voice recorder… and even though it might have looked funny to someone else, I would leave a meeting and state out loud what I need to do, in words that I understood, with all of the detail needed to get it right. If you are allowed to have your phone out you could use that…and only if it is acceptable where you work to have your phone in your hand! Do not take a chance with this… people who know they should not have their phones out, and do it anyway are not the people who get promoted.

The last suggestion here is to listen to fully understand. It is certainly possible that you have a lot of important, crazy, or unstable things happening in your life right now, and this difficulty remembering things is just temporary. And… the much more probable issue is that you are just not all that interested in your job, what your boss cares about, and what your are asked to do. Many of us are like this when we are younger, and we cannot use this as an excuse. So…

Caring, paying attention, and listening to fully understand are all choices. You can decide that you will start caring about your job, what your boss cares about, and what you are asked to do, staring right now. No one can help you start caring… you just need to decide what is important to you. If getting promoted, making more money, and getting started on a career path is really important to you, then you will choose to start caring about your work. It’s the only way to get what you want, and only you can do it. The good part is that it’s pretty easy once you make that decision… just remind yourself every day that caring about your work is important to you, set an intention each day as you get to work, and you will find everything at work goes a little easier.

Listening to understand is relatively easy, meaning you are perfectly capable of doing it, once you decide to care. You must decide to care about work, what is important to your boss, and what you are asked to do. If you really care about it, you will make listening to understand important to you too.

Our final topic under ‘what your boss is looking for’ is making your boss look good. Stop asking why you would want to do that… You know why… to get you promoted! So lets carry on… Every one of us, worker or boss, is still a person. We all have worries, concerns, money problems, and family and money issues. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that if you just made this much money you wouldn’t have any money problems… Everyone thinks that, and almost everyone spends almost every penny that they make, not matter how much they make. Even people who make quite a bit of money worry about money.

At work, we are all concerned with how our boss sees us… maybe I should say we ‘should’ all be concerned. Even your boss has a boss, and each one of them wants to be thought of as doing a good job. Here is where you come in. You want to be promoted, right? Well, one of the best things you can do is make your boss look good. NO… it’s not about hair and how they dress. It’s about excelling at your job, doing great work, and taking a little off their plate to allow them to focus on other things, as well as those other workers who are goofing off. It’s about doing great work, finishing your work on time and doing high quality work. Everything your boss hands in; everything your department moves along to the next department; every piece you make; every thing you hand to a customer; every customer interaction in which you are involved; and every customer comment makes reflects on your boss. Making your boss look good will lead to them to feeling good about you, trusting you, and caring about what is important to you. Do everything you can to make your boss look good.

Other ways to do what you can to help your boss look good are: make sure you communicate with him or her. Talk about any problems you see, whether they are possible production problems, or safety concerns, your boss need to know. If they don’t know they can’t react to them or fix them, so play your part and keep them in the loop.

Never disagree with your boss in public. In fact… until you have a pretty good relationship with your boss, and you are seen as a good team player, don’t disagree with your boss at all. You can ask questions, but not snarky, sarcastic, or cynical questions… questions about what to do or how to do it are fine. Once you do have a good relationship with your boss, you will be able to disagree with him or her. However, you must be careful to disagree only behind closed doors. And no matter how that conversation goes, when the door opens, you fully support whatever your boss thinks is right.

Understand what your boss thinks are the priorities, and work on those things. If your boss thinks that customer service is the most important thing in the world, make sure customer service is your number one priority. Make whatever your boss thinks is important a priority to you.

Make sure to tell your boss about any mistakes as soon as you are aware of them. It is very frustrating for your boss to get a question from his or her boss about an issue on your team, and they don’t know a thing about it. If you failed to tell them, you have just created a lot more work for yourself in creating a relationship with them. This is one definition of being trustworthy… making sure your boss hears about your mistakes from you first.

These are just some of the ways you can make your boss look good. All of these things and more will come more easily if you actually care about your boss. Remember, caring about someone is a choice we make… you can choose to care about your boss, so do it. Today!

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