Seven Steps to Move Forward from Career and Life Transitions That Burn

Life and career transitions carry some of the biggest heartaches of our lives – relocation, divorce, job loss, aging parents, relationship changes, health challenges, death of a loved one, friends who move way. We feel lost, rejected, angry, afraid, abandoned, alone. Often the biggest influencer in these situations is not the transition itself but, the story we attach to it. When the story generates from a place of fear we get stuck. 

  1. Dispel Your Stuck Story

Define your perception of the situation – the version that you relive over and over in your head. It might be fear of what will happen in the future. It might be about health, relationships, career, financial security. It might be guilt about the past. You may feel like a victim or alone and that things will never change. What is your stuck story? Who is in it? Who do you blame for where you are? What is the worst possible outcome that could happen? We can dispel what we own. If we can’t face and own the...

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6 Tips When You are Taken for Granted

Often, we go about our lives thinking our relationships at work and in life are ok while under the surface a subtle ember of discord is burning. Then one day it bursts into full blaze and we do or say something that rips at our presence. At work this is particularly difficult when it strips your executive presence. One of the subtle feelings that shreds our peace is the feeling that we have been taken for granted. 

  1. Name what you’re feeling.

You might think you hate your boss or that a colleague is self-absorbed but that is focusing on their behavior and not your feelings. What does their behavior make you feel? Small? Disregarded? Disrespected? Undervalued? Naming the feeling disarms its power. 

  1. Draw healthy boundaries.

You know you want to draw healthier boundaries when you feel taken advantage of, taken for granted, responsible for someone else’s happiness or blatantly disrespected. To understand the power of health boundaries first imagine that you are...

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Ask This Question at Your Next Staff Meeting

At work sometimes we think the solution is to add more work onto what already needs to be done when often the most productive choice is to reengineer the work to eliminate useless tasks and combine others into streamlined processes. This requires a big step back to see the entire picture and not just the finite goal at hand - cause and effect. 

 

Sometimes we need to start over. That isn’t failure. It’s setting ego aside for innovation. 

 

In my two-decade career as a hospital executive I have watched new regulations bury front line workers as management teams tack on new regulations as one more thing to be done at the bedside by the nurse or professional. When my father was in a hospital across town it made me sad to see the nurses lined up at computers in the nurses’ station when I knew they would rather have been at the bedside.

I’ve also seen wise leaders reinvent processes so there aren’t more forms to fill out but one form...

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Six Acts that Build Executive Presence in a Difficult Moment

If you have ever been in an escalating conversation that is confrontational you know how hard it is to maintain composure when your heart starts racing and every nerve ending in your body is screaming “Danger!” With practice you can be the master of your own behavior in these high stakes moments, pacify yourself and be the respected colleague people notice has grace under fire. 

When you’re first aware that a situation is getting combative that is the sign to switch tracks before you’re on the runaway train of freeze-fight-or-flight. This is when your reaction becomes physiological -  your voice quivers, your palms get sweaty, and your heartrate elevates. Most people fear that this lack of physical control will show and undermine their effectiveness. It’s important to regain control of your body’s reaction by accepting what is going on with you and creating space for it to calm down. Turning away from the discomfort is not the...

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Does Your Team Put Work or Passion First?

I took this photo of a young man in Rio de Janeiro who spent the day canvasing the beach and garbage bins for empty soda cans to turn in for money. There are no entitlement programs in Brazil and while some choose to thieve on the beach (we saw them being arrested) this leader chose to contribute to his own worth and that of society.

Those of you who manage people understand the importance of engagement. Here are some sage words from Seth Godin on the tug of war between what comes first - passion or work.

'Work before passion

“Offer me something I’m passionate about and I’ll show up with all of my energy, effort and care.”

That’s a great way to hide.

Because nothing is good enough to earn your passion before you do it. Perhaps, in concept, it’s worthy, but as soon as you closely examine the details and the pitfalls, it’s easy to decide it’s better to wait for a better offer.

What about considering the opposite?

“Offer me a chance...

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How to Have Executive Presence in an Anxious Moment

Often clients ask me how to have executive presence - how to remain calm in the face of feeling stressed, threatened and judged.  

Mindfulness is key. Being mindful is being a third party observer to feelings we’ve leaned away from so that we may lean into them without judgment or the feeling of being swallowed by them. We observe the thought in the context of right now instead of forever feeling flawed.  

Think of a bird in the sky sometimes flying erratically especially when other birds are attacking. The bird is your thoughts or emotions. The other birds represent perceived threats. Yet the sky is constant. Undisturbed. When we identify with the sky instead of the bird we identify with our AWARENESS of all the thoughts and emotions instead of being consumed with the affects of thoughts and emotions. Here we can stay calm. We can mindfully stay in the moment without judgment and observe the situation from a detached perspective. In this safe place we can...

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When You Are Overwhelmed and Pointing Fingers

I work with clients a lot on how mindful daily practices impact your effectiveness and happiness. Recently, I bought some water color supplies on Amazon, watched a video on watercolor painting and experimented one evening. I had fun then tucked the supplies away for another day.  

Last week, after the overwhelming and emotional experience of having to clean out my parent’s house to sell, I got out the box of supplies, threw inhibition to the wind and on the first page of my new watercolor journal painted an image from a peaceful photograph I had taken in the low country of South Carolina. It won’t be in any art contests but the experience of doing this with a shuffle of Michael Buble playing in the background calmed me.

In that space I could get curious about my emotions instead of running from them. I felt frustrated that my brother was not there to help me. I was sad going through the papers and memories of my father. I was worried about my mother who we had...

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When Drama Overwhelms You

You’ve seen it at work and at home. Someone is anxious about something and suddenly you are feeling anxious too. You know this isn’t healthy and that you shouldn’t feel this way which only makes it worse. Now you’re self-judging for not distancing yourself from the drama and begin to doubt your own effectiveness. You start losing sleep and wake up in the middle of the night, running the day’s conversations over in your mind.  

Lately, I’ve been feeling overwhelmed and sucked in by another person’s angst. Drama is created when a person can’t accept the way they feel so they try to externalize it or put that feeling off on others, usually in a highly demonstrative or desperate way. This behavior provides them a temporary yet unsustainable relief from their discomfort. Thus, they continue the drama dance to try to unload their despair. 

I notice I have been feeling anxious and assuming the anxiety of this person. I’ve...

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What Beliefs Affect Your Career

As children we adopt a belief system based on the belief system of our parents. Depending on the parenting style, we are likely rewarded and reinforced for doing what these teachers think is good. We are criticized and penalized for what is bad. It is how we learn to stay safe. It is how we fit in. 

Negative feedback can be helpful in an urgent situation such as a hot stove. Not so much when it comes to development, leaving us feeling as if we don’t belong unless we are ‘good.’ 

As adults we live out this belief system and learned perspectives. When life sends us a difficult situation often we internalize this as having been “bad” and deserving of this hardship. “Must be something wrong with me.” 

Beliefs translate to behaviors. If we grew up around anxiety we’ll likely address discord with it. If we grew up around positivity we’ll find the good. Often negative life messages are merely assumptions but we are...

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When They Threaten to Make You Look Bad

Last evening a client told me a story of how a customer was being condescending and threatened to report her to her boss in a truly snotty way over something that didn’t make sense. My client felt under siege and desperately asked her not to do that. The customer is doing it anyway. I suggested three things:

  1. Never act desperate. Never. You have no power after that. 
  1. Write down the script of the conversation between both parties word for word (don’t just tell him), put it in front of your boss and ask one thing, “Do you have my back?” Trust must occur between manager and direct report or your culture is crap. 
  1. The next time anyone threatens you, confuses you, accuses you or makes you feel undone ask one question, “So that we are clear, what is it that you really want?” Most unhappy people don’t know and will try to deflect. Just keep asking the same question. This is your home base. 

My client said that if she had asked...

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