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I’m not good enough for this job. What happens when I’m discovered?

I feel fortunate that my work takes me around the world to work with high-ranking military executives, technical experts, C-suite executives, technical experts, project managers, and all variety of men and women who have a spark to succeed.

One issue many people reveal to me is that they feel like a fraud. It’s a belief, and sometimes a gripping fear, that they haven’t earned their position, and when they are found out, the consequences will be devastating.

This Fear is Imposter Syndrome

  • I only got the promotion out of luck.
  • I don’t know enough to do this job.
  • If I’m not perfect, it will show and be my downfall.
  • I find this work too hard for me and I will fail.
  • I was part of a team. Why am I the only one earning the rewards?

Does any of that sound familiar? It’s more than healthy self-doubt. It’s negative thinking that can derail your success.

What’s Healthy about Self-Doubt?

In a normal day, we question our activities. I don’t think I’ll make the meeting in time. I’ll call and let everyone know. I don’t know if this presentation is right for the client. I’ll ask someone to review it. And so it goes. As you question what you do or don’t know, you seek answers.

Imposter syndrome shuts down the internal conversation and derails your success.

People who fall into one or more of these five competence types have a tendency to struggle with imposter syndrome issues. Do you see yourself on this list?

  1. I’m a perfectionist – 100% or nothing. You overwork setting standards for yourself that no one else has.
  2. I must be an expert before I try to accomplish the task.
  3. If I didn’t do the work alone, it’s not my accomplishment. Me, myself, and I – a team of we.
  4. I am a superhero. If everything in my personal and work life isn’t perfect, I am failing.
  5. If I don’t understand something the first time, I’m an idiot.

What’s also interesting to note is the more success people have, the worse the condition becomes. The higher you are, the harder the fall.

Imposter syndrome leads to bad outcomes. People procrastinate for fear of failure. People don’t seek out promotions or interesting new jobs. Some become socially isolated and may turn to destructive behaviors. When you avoid the fear, it builds.

The Imposter Thrives in Isolation

Here’s a truth bomb: your thoughts are not always fact. Failing to close a deal, coming short on a presentation, missing a flight or missing a meeting, is life. It’s human.

Don’t compare yourself to your peers’ greatest hits on social media. Your friend posts pictures of a beautiful beach day with his family. You call when he returns. Looks like your vacation was amazing. He confesses he had a fight with his wife, his kid got food poisoning, and it rained for most of the trip. What others show to the world is not true. Your Facebook life vs your real one!

A rival wins an award and social media is lighting up with the event. You only see the result. You missed the squishy middle where her five previous attempts went nowhere.

The way through imposter syndrome is to move past competence type #3 – if I don’t do it alone, it’s not my accomplishment. Talk to people. Share your concerns and soon you’ll see you are not alone.

Recognize that not every day is your best. When you do feel down, you tend to skew toward the negative.

Back in March, I devoted this newsletter to the concept of luck. It may be bad luck your car skidded on black ice and you landed in a ditch. But it’s not good luck that you didn’t. You have experience driving, you were warned that road conditions favored black ice and you took precautions. It wasn’t good luck you got your great job. It may have been by chance you saw the opening, but it was your talent, networking, experience, and the fact you applied that landed the position.

I’ve included references to two interesting resources from social scientist Amy Cuddy. Her ideas on body posture and body language can change your outlook on your confidence. She has the saying, fake it until you make it. This means even if you don’t feel competent at a task, keep your head down and move forward until you do.

You may be alone with your thoughts but your feelings are universal. Take a step outside of yourself and engage.You are not alone.

Contact me with your leadership and team questions. I’d be happy to build an offsite learning or training program for you.

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The Positive Impact of Empathy in the Workforce

I want to cringe every time I see a TV series or a movie that features a crazed, former military member brandishing a gun, running with simulated voices in his or her head, and ominous music of impending doom – all due to post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

I applaud storytellers for bringing mental health issues to light and for attempting to tell these often-silent stories. Yet what is often lost in the sensationalism of a highly trained person with a gun, is the humanity and seriousness of the situation.

The US Department of Defense, National Center for PTSD reports that issues of PTSD vary. For veterans who served in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom between 11%-20% suffer. For the Gulf War, Desert storm the center reports 12%. For the Vietnam War the numbers are 15%.  These numbers cover only those who have been diagnosed; the estimates for actual individuals coping with PTSD are thought to be even higher.

These numbers are important because if you live and work in the Washington, DC region, or any area of the country with a large military population, you interact with people who may be suffering or who have suffered from PTSD.

In my role as a leadership development trainer and executive coach, I work with large populations of both active duty and retired service members. They are some of the most highly trained technical people and skilled managers in the workforce. When these people transition from active duty and enter the workforce, they can and do bring real value to the companies fortunate enough to snap them up.

Please don’t avoid anyone you know with PTSD or pass them over for job or promotions because they may have issues. Don’t be afraid of them or not trust them. After all, these brave men and women have given their all to protect us. Instead, learn to manage PTSD in the workforce, whether you are a manager or co-worker.

Coping with PTSD in the workplace

  • Create a safe place to ask questions and work together
  • Bring in a trained facilitator/consultant to work with both management and veterans to better understand issues and then develop solutions
  • Develop written procedures, meeting notes, and training manuals so employees and can refer back if they missed something at a session or need additional refreshers
  • Have published calendars for team tasks so individuals can refer to these privately
  • Provide access to alternate/softer lighting in work spaces
  • Initiate organization-wide strategies for managing stress
  • Set aside money for additional training for new members
  • Provide disability training to all team members
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Making the Most of Employer Feedback

Employer feedback is one of the best-established ways to communicate with an employee. With positive feedback, an employee, or even an entire team, will feel energized about their mission and skills. Negative feedback can, in theory, right a ship careening into a rocky coast.

Let’s talk about some feedback problems

  • Feedback trap – No one wants to hear feedback and no one wants to give any. This means our information is ignored or the feedback we get is thin or simply wrong.
  • Feeding my ego – The employee only accepts information that fits his or her beliefs. The employee pushes back against anything else.
  • Feeding me to the lions – Employees are asked to provide feedback on their boss or senior leadership. Employees fear reprisal and lie or don’t provide any useful information.
  • Feeding buffet – Too much feedback with no action plan, accountability, or follow-up, can loop back to feeding my ego – the employee only responds to what he or she believes is best.

I’m not advising you to ditch your feedback surveys, discussions, and procedures. However, for feedback to be effective, it needs to be administered with care.

Consider what or who you are looking to solicit and provide information concerning specific issues or behaviors. If your organization’s policy is to ask a variety of people to provide input for performance, assure direct reports that the information is confidential – unless they are filing a formal complaint.

Direct your questions to specific areas, not general questions about work habits and issues.

Ask the right people for feedback. If you only solicit information from subordinates or “friendly” sources, you miss essential critical comments from peers, and in some cases, customers.

If you have to deliver a lot of negative feedback, pick one or two of the most important issues where you want to see improvement. A blanket “your work habits are poor, you fail to communicate, and you are bordering on sexual harassment behavior” is not actionable.

If the person receiving the feedback is prone to only listen to what fits his or her world view, action items are essential. My book, How Not to Act Like a BLEEP at Work, takes you through a workplace scenario where an employee is placed with a mentor who helps her see her flaws and turns negative feedback into positive results.

This issue of Wise Words explores feedback and how to ensure it works for you and your employees.

Need some help? Check out my classes including my popular Communicating Strategically class.

Contact me with your leadership and team questions.

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Dress For Success and Other Confusing Fashion Cliches

Fashion, according to this month’s book recommendation, Dress Code: The Naked Truth about Fashion, is the world’s fifth largest industry. We’re talking about trillions of dollars moving around the globe that covers literally everything from tiny baby booties and hair clips to bespoke suits, and hand-made Italian shoes.

This month’s edition of Wise Words explores the role of clothing in the work force. Whether we want it to or not, our manner of public dress (you can wear whatever makes you happy in private) sends strong messages to those around us.

How You Dress Says Alot About You

Consider the idea of a uniform. There is traditional military dress; each service branch has its own style.  That extends to police and fire departments too. There is the “uniform” of the white coat worn by the medical profession, the business suit worn by high-paid consultants, and even the “blue collar’ that traditionally refers to trade professionals.

Most people in the workforce dress in a hybrid style of business-specific attire combined with what he or she sees as a personal style. Maybe that’s jeans with a blue blazer, or a conservative dress with a colorful statement piece of jewelry.

How does dress reflect or affect work performance? This month’s video recommendation, “Dress Like You Mean It,” explores the power of clothing to transform your attitude and propel your success.

If we consider the culture of fashion, combined with the power of money and our attitudes toward how people look, it’s easy to see that clothing is not something we can ignore. Working in a professional environment should come with the underlying expectation that we dress professionally.  The woman walking into the office on a hot August Washington DC day in a tube top and short shorts will, and should, raise a few eyebrows. As would the man in sandals, a graphic tee with an offensive graphic, and frayed shorts.  If we say to these two, your dress is inappropriate, are we denying the right to free speech? If we tell the Muslim woman wearing a hijab (headscarf) or a Sikh man wearing a turban that their outward appearance draws too much attention and makes us uncomfortable, are we denying their religious freedom?

These are interesting debates that this space doesn’t allow us to delve into. What we should consider is that in the workplace and other organizations such as schools, there is often a dress code.  This may include either a formal written set of requirements or a cultural understanding. Ignore them at your own risk.

Dress And Peer Group Acceptance

How we dress determines how we will fit into a particular peer group. Just observe any group of teenagers at any mall and you’ll see how one teen blends into the other. I’m not advocating you dress exactly like your peers or that if you go outside the standard you’ll be alone and lonely.  But I do advise that you treat your wardrobe, whether an official uniform or what you consider your uniform, as a form of communication. Respect in the workforce also includes how you dress. As this month’s picture illustrates, if you are dressed inappropriately, you can be denied entrance to a house of worship. With certain environments come expectations of both dress and behavior.  Ignoring those may have future repercussions, both personally and professionally.  Always consider your career and your personal brand!

Want to learn more? Contact me at [email protected]

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It’s started – “When do I get a Day off?”

When will I get a day off? screams have been heard throughout the new year.The first week back in January can seem the longest and most demanding in many professions. The fact that people are already planning their upcoming vacations is positive. There are far too many of us who believe that we cannot take time off and that the world cannot function without us. However, taking advantage of our time off is essential to both our continued existence and the calibre of the work we produce while at the office.

Why do people vacation? According to studies, having a vacation boosts productivity and lowers the amount of sick days that people take. After returning to the office, employees say they feel happier in their jobs. Employers prefer to produce people with better work/life balance in organizations with more lax vacation regulations, which results in higher-quality work.

974 of the 1500 Dutch individuals surveyed for a study by Erasmus University in Rotterdam reported taking a holiday. People who took vacations said they were happier than people who didn’t. They were so eager for the holiday that it affected their job. Their enhanced enjoyment was visible in their work when they returned to the job site. The trick, according to the study, is to take two or more brief vacations spread out over the course of the year as opposed to one extended trip. Share the happiness all year long!

Vacations help you unwind!

We frequently talk about being worried, and the research is conclusive: stress triggers specific physiological reactions, such as a rise in cortisol and adrenaline levels.

When we experience excessive stress over an extended length of time, our bodies react negatively. High rates of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and heart disease are typical. Men who frequently went on vacations had a 32% lower risk of dying from a heart attack, according to the 2010 Framingham Heart Study. That percentage was 50% for women, which was considerably higher.

A getaway can help you stay focused.

Studies have revealed that persistent stress has an impact on memory and an individual’s capacity to engage in goal-directed activities.

Recent studies have revealed that those who vacation frequently report an improvement in their sleep of over 20%. Vacations help to improve sleep quality. Additionally, they slept for about an hour longer on average each night, which continued until they got home.

While some people might consider holidays to be a luxury, they are actually essential for leading a balanced, healthy life. They are just as vital as eating right and exercising.

From an organizational perspective, workers who are rested, enthusiastic, and less stressed are happier and more focused workers. They also take less sick days and are more committed to assisting the business in achieving its goals.

According to a 2012 Harris Interactive Inc. survey, Americans will squander an average of 9.2 vacation days by the end of the year.

This is more than the 6.2 days that were typical in 2011.

Do everything in your power to bring that average down in 2017!

Wise Words Newsletter“ read the rest of the January newsletter here!

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February is supposed to be a month of love…how about loving your work life?

Welcome to February! The coldest month of the year and the month when we are bombarded by the idea of romantic love and all the happiness that is supposed to come from fulfilling relationships. Yeah, I’m not going there.

February should be a month of love but one devoted to the love of self, love of work, and love of life!

With 2017 in full swing, and many resolutions are already broken, it is time to (using a political term from last year’s debates) pivot our self-talk.

Start by asking yourself some hard questions. Do you like your job? Do you like the people you work with, either your staff, co-workers, or managers?  (Heck, do you show up to work in a way that lets them like you?) Do you feel you are doing your best work and making progress in your life and your career?

So many people plod along, day after day, unhappy. I’m not talking about ‘misery can’t get out of bed’ unhappy. Rather, underwhelmed and disappointed. No one is expecting anyone to jump up and down about work, every single day. But wouldn’t it be nice to feel a sense of pride and accomplishment in your work?

Think back to the start of your current job/position. There must have been something about it that excited you or you wouldn’t have accepted the role. If your job has changed or the people around you have changed, there isn’t much you can do to control that. But what CAN you change?

Make a wish list, and go crazy with it! Write down that you want to run the company and fix everything. Then have a laugh and list the two or three, or even ten habits, procedures, or relationships that you can change and make a plan.

That plan may require training, enlisting the help of others, or being brave. Just imagine how you will feel if you make those changes and improve your outlook on your work and your career!

Then do the same exercise but pretend that your career and life are the company that you want to run and fix.  What do you want to do differently?  What do you want to do more?  Do less?  If this was your last year, what would you do to make it your best?

Now that would truly be something to love!

Wise Words Newsletter’s read the rest of the February newsletter here!

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PTSD in the Washington Region – Hidden in Plain Sight

Living in the National Capitol Region, we share the area with many military installations and service members. Americans pride themselves on supporting the military. People rally around the returning troops, attend fundraisers to help support individuals, brave freezing December temperatures to lay wreaths at military cemeteries, and countless other opportunities to show their gratitude. Some even come together to build homes for those who have sustained more severe injuries that require building accommodations for prosthetics, wheelchairs, and other mobility-enhancing devices.

But what about those soldiers, men, and women, who carry silent burdens? Many look the same but suffer the natural consequences of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). According to a study by the RAND Corporation, at least 20 percent of service members returning from the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from depression, PTSD, or both. Military counselors estimate those numbers to be higher, especially when coupled with a TBI or traumatic brain injury.

As veterans transition into a civilian work environment, both themselves and their employers must understand how PTSD may impact everyone. They must work together to develop solutions so both the company and the veteran have the best chance at creating a successful work environment for all. According to 2012 research from Babbel, PTSD can impact veterans in many ways including memory loss, which can impact those struggling to learn new tasks on new jobs or function in meetings; lack of concentration; stress, including panic attacks, flashbacks, and emotional extremes resulting in the potential inability to work well with colleagues and managers; and hypersensitivity to sounds, lights, large crowds, and unknown areas resulting in headaches, migraines and panic attacks. Many veterans may not be used to the traditional work structure as compared with the military rank structure. This can cause stress and frustration as the employee works to forge a new path. For someone suffering from PTSD-induced memory loss, being unable to remember how to do that basic task explained earlier in the day may cause the individual to become overwhelmed and then lash out and blame a colleague or a supervisor. These types of negative responses can impede the development of relationships and workplace morale, particularly if other employees don’t understand that the incident isn’t about them. As the tension comes to light, it’s important to identify the root cause. Is it coming from one of the identified symptoms of PTSD? Supporting Individuals with PTSD in the workplace

  • Create a safe place to ask questions and work together
  • Bring in a trained facilitator/consultant to work with both management and veterans to better
    understand issues and then develop solutions
  • Develop written procedures, meeting notes, and training manuals so employees can refer back if they
    missed something at a session or need additional refreshers
  • Have published calendars for team tasks so individuals can refer to these privately
  • Provide access to alternate/softer lighting in workspaces
  • Initiate organization-wide strategies for managing stress
  • Set aside money for additional training for new members
  • Provide disability training to all team members

A solid relationship between employees and managers is critical for a productive workplace. This may be difficult for a veteran suffering from PTSD, working for a manager with little to no awareness of their background. Just like any employee, if the manager exhibits a lack of empathy for the individual’s situation, it becomes more difficult for the employee to be successful. This is magnified for someone struggling with PTSD.

Transitioning into a new workplace is difficult for anyone, but for those who bear the biggest burden for our freedoms, the task can seem impossible. If everyone did their part, the difference would be immeasurable.

This article was initially published in Prince William Living Magazine.
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Are you a reason, a season, or a lifetime?

So here we are again in December.  The time when we reflect and take stock of all that we’ve accomplished or in some cases, not accomplished.  Heck, sometimes it is even difficult to find time during the holiday season to sit still and breathe, let alone reflect!

What did you set out to accomplish in 2016?  But, before you harangue yourself for not finishing everything, think about your year beyond your list of goals.

I’ve always found this poem to be poignant; given that we are nearing the end of the calendar year.

 People always come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.
 When you figure out which it is, you know exactly what to do.

 When someone is in your life for a REASON,
 It is usually to meet a need you have expressed outwardly or inwardly.
 They have come to assist you through a difficulty,
Or to provide you with guidance and support,
To aid you physically, emotionally, or even spiritually.

They may seem like a godsend to you, and they are.
They are there for the reason you need them to be.
Then, without any wrongdoing on your part or at an inconvenient time,
This person will say or do something to bring the relationship to an end.

Sometimes they die. Sometimes they just walk away.
Sometimes they act up and force you to take a stand.
What we must realize is that our need has been met, and our desire fulfilled; their work is done.
The prayer you sent up has been answered and it is now time to move on.

When people come into your life for a SEASON,
It is because your turn has come to share, grow, or learn.
They may bring you an experience of peace or make you laugh.
They may teach you something you have never done.

They usually give you an unbelievable amount of joy.
Believe it! It is real! But, only for a season.
And like Spring turns to Summer and Summer to Fall,
The season eventually ends.

LIFETIME relationships teach you lifetime lessons;
Those things you must build upon to have a solid emotional foundation.
Your job is to accept the lesson, love the person anyway;
And put what you have learned to use in all other relationships and areas in your life.

It is said that love is blind but friendship is clairvoyant.
Thank you for being part of my life,
Whether you were a reason, a season, or a lifetime

Consider the people in your circles at work and social.  Who were/are the reason, people?  What lessons did you learn?  How did you grow?

Who are the season individuals?  What experiences did they bring for you that brought joy?  When the reason and season people in your life moved on, were you able to accept that it was time and think about the growth in your life?

Who are the lifetime folks?  What are you doing to learn from those individuals?

Relationships are not meant to be one-sided.  Think also about your influence on the lives of others.  Who have you represented to them?  Have you been released from a relationship along your journey?  What did you bring to the space that you shared?

At work, if you are a manager/leader you can extend that idea to new employees, new clients, and new upper management.  If you have hired someone for a job you can extend that to the consultants, new customers, and customers you may have lost.

If you are a team member, you can extend that to your boss, co-worker, and the idea that 2017 is the time for a change.  Maybe it’s time for you to push for a promotion, get/finish a degree, or even a new job.

As you move forward into 2017, consider how you will ‘show up’ to those in your life.  Take steps to ensure that you are bringing your authentic self, both in the workplace and in life in general.

To those of you celebrating holidays in the next few weeks, enjoy!

All the best, see you in January!

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