When Someone Makes You Look Bad at Work

If you work anywhere you likely have had a colleague try to make you look bad. Most of my clients have had to struggle with this. It is disempowering and injects a fear of losing your job which ultimately leads to a fear of losing people who you love. This is where executive presence is crucial. This is where you don’t react at all. This is where you just pause, stare at them for a count of five and then ask, “Are you trying to make me look bad?” That will stop them dead.

Call them out with curiosity for exactly what they are doing. Don’t characterize them, get angry or defensive. Simply ask them if what it looks like they are doing is in fact what they are doing. If they deflect back to you say, “Ok, I wanted to get clarity on that because for a minute it felt like you were trying to make me look bad.” No one can argue with how you feel.

This scenario gives you a few moments to recenter yourself, for people on the periphery to validate in their...

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A Client Letter - You're Bad Leader

Below is a note I recently received from a client that although makes me sad, it carries great wisdom. This high performing executive leader was leaving an organization she loved and had relocated for with mixed feelings. As is often the case, she was leaving because of her boss.

 

Good morning Mary Lee,

I have one more week reporting to this woman that has made the last 14 months of my life incredibly difficult. The exit process has been even more difficult.

In 20 years in the workplace I have never experienced anything like this from someone at this woman's level. 

Every leader has opportunity, but I do not believe there are many who behave as badly as what I have witnessed over the past year.

I am also amazed how her leaders look away, an ostrich to this woman's behavior. I am not personalizing this (thank you Mary Lee), I understand it is simply inconvenient to disrupt the status quo or face the difficult conversations or the admit that perhaps it was a mistake to...

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One Thing for Your Well-being, Career Efficacy & Executive Presence

Two years ago on a cold December day I felt stressed and overwhelmed so I made a commitment to do something about it, not unlike what many people do as the New Year approaches. I ordered a very expensive and really pretty planner. (Since when did planners start costing $85?) About a week into it I found myself writing mindful daily practices in the margins to hold myself accountable. Three weeks later I was writing my daily goals in the margins too. Four weeks later I was recreating the entire page, ignoring what was on it.

Five weeks into it I tried another planner. Two weeks into using that one I was now writing in the margins again – my gratitude thoughts, how I was feeling – daily practices that help release the negativity we often don’t spend time processing and then can’t let go of. (Dreadful feeling.) I already had a calendar for my to-do list and appointments. I needed a planner for my well-being and big goals. 

Over two months I ordered six...

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Do This One Thing to Minimize Conflict

Most conflict in the world comes from the need to be right - even the conflict you have with yourself. Your ego tells you that you aren’t safe unless you’re right so you argue, defend, act out, withdraw or stand firm on something that most likely is out of your control. 

When you find your opinion is a little too strong or there’s a feeling that makes you uncomfortable that’s the very time to pause and ask yourself, “What am I trying hard not to face? That I’ll be _________ if this doesn’t change?”

Draw closer to the nasty feeling that chases you down. Name it. That disarms it’s power. “This is what it feels like to feel ______.” Then give yourself a break. “May I be gentle with myself in this moment. I’ve got this one.”

You’re amazing. Don’t ever forget that.

Here is a free tool to help you navigate your career in a complicated corporate setting: 31 Success Practices for...

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Two Questions to Ask When the Issue is Generational

I hear so much in our culture about the differences in the generations. I even hear people identifying themselves by a generation. I think it’s wise to understand people’s differences but I think identifying someone’s behavior with a certain generation is no different than identifying them with a race, religion, sexual orientation, or national origin.

When I hear, “Millennials are the way they are because their parents spoiled them” or “Boomers can’t keep up with technology” I wonder how comfortable people would feel saying, “Hispanics are the way they are because their parents spoiled them” or “Catholics can’t keep up with technology.” Calling out by generation to make a point is elitist, discriminating and insulting.

When you find in a conflict that you are putting someone in a generational box before you characterize them ask yourself, 

“What do they really need me to understand about...

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The Two Things That Kill Careers and Happiness

We continually strategize on the things we need to do to advance our careers, close the sale, be happier, have better relationships and get what we want. More often than not it is what we need to cease doing that gives us the most power.

  1. Don’t discount your dreams.

I used to live life from a “but at least it’s not ______” perspective. I thought this was being positive because I could always think of something worse. This was an OK way of remaining optimistic in the face of adversity until it became habit for all of life and halted my ability to envision the openness of wonder. 

It wasn’t until I was aware of this that I began to risk shifting to the vulnerable choice of exploring joy without expecting it to be short lived. To ushering in opportunity that I knew was meant for me without holding onto fear. To seeing all that was there with the curiosity of a child. This ability to stay in the moment without fast forwarding to an anticipated ending...

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I'm Feeling Anxious

I’m feeling anxious today. I have committed to take two journeys simultaneously that will

1) I’m taking a six-week Dreamwork Coaching Program with master Will Sharon to help my executive coaching clients further build their conscious awareness, peace and effectiveness. It’s not for the faint of heart. It requires online training, hours of classes, work with a partner and more. 

2) I’m taking a Podcast Fellowship Program with a colleague of Seth Godin’s to learn how to launch my first Podcast series around ‘New SMART Leadership.’ 

I asked myself, “Ok Mary Lee, what would you ask a client in this position?” The answer is that I’d ask her to execute the PAUSE Cafe strategy...

I PAUSE and take a deep breath. 

I ASK myself, “What’s going on with me?” I’m feeling scared that I won’t be able to manage my time and will feel stressed. I feel vulnerable because I am not good with...

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High Tech Meet High Touch

High Tech meet High Touch. There is so much being done in companies around diversity and inclusion - which are not at all the same thing by the way. But I see little focus in either area to include AGE. 

Five generations are in the workforce right now and there is so much to learn from each other. Roughly 40% of US workers have a boss who is younger than them. 

How do we stop discounting the sage worker who has wisdom, mentoring skills, intuitive experience, relationship building acumen and historical perspective bar none? I have clients with expertise beyond compare in these areas who are being forced out as if their skills are passé. So unwise. Profoundly foolish. 

If you fall in this category and would like my white paper on how to avoid age bias feel free to email or message me at [email protected] Or if you want to know how to better utilize this age group in your company the same article will make it clear.

Let’s all open our thought and...

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The Best Tip for Career Advancement

People ask me all the time for my best tip for career advancement. It isn't who you know or what company you work for. It isn't what title you have or what social group you belong to. It is unequivocally the ability to self-regulate your emotions in real time so that you exude the executive presence that draws a loyal following. Period. There are plenty of smart people who don't advance and it isn’t because they aren't capable.

At any moment you may be called on to have confidence to risk, to have candor to create connections or calmness to cool fury. They don't teach this in business school because it's personal to you.

This graphic illustrates one process my clients work on to build executive presence. Become good at untangling life messages that are really only assumptions. You assume you will be judged when in all truth people want you to succeed. You assume you'll be overwhelmed when forging ahead has served you before. You assume your idea isn't important yet when...

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Banishing Mommy Guilt at Work

Recently I attended my first grandchild’s first birthday party where I was awestruck by two things: 1) the grace and poise of new moms today and 2) how in 30 years our culture has not evolved to lessen what I call ‘Mommy Guilt.’

I was dumbfounded by how well put together all the new mothers were. They were vibrant, gorgeous, abundantly warm and loving without over compensating or being overly protective. I remember being tired, worried, and protective. I did not hear one complaint. I heard vulnerability around if they were making the right choices and a lot of support for each other.

A discussion began around breast feeding – how long to do it, how to do it and go back to work, will there be time to do it, how will I get enough sleep and breast feed, will there be a place at work to pump….. Friends weighed in on the merits of the right amount of time to do it, the right breast pump, how to make it work, what materials were the best.

I sat there...

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