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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.

EQ-i 2.0 Personal Development Professional Development

What’s Getting in the Way of Growth? Is it You?

As we set our goals and identify areas of opportunity, and potential growth it is important to look at how we prevent ourselves from achieving those goals. It’s critical that we examine this so that we sidestep the same pitfalls we sometimes find ourselves in as we ease into the coming year.

It has been said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. An important goal should be to break the cycle and figure out what is preventing you from making the changes you’ve identified during goal-setting exercises in order to be successful.

When we put together leadership coaching programs we help individuals and teams identify obstacles that prevent change. The first step is looking into whether or not obstacles are within the individual or part of the environment. Sometimes an obstacle may seem like it is environmental when in reality it is created by the mental attitude in which you dwell in your own circumstances. Will changing your attitude and your mindset change the way you are perceived or the way you see others?

It can take a lot of courage to admit that your own decisions and behaviors are what create a certain working environment. Regardless of the position you hold in an organization, you have the ability to affect change just simply by deciding what attitude you will bring to your daily interactions.

With regard to goal setting, ask yourself “What do I have to do on my end to make these changes in the workplace? What result would my transformation have on my immediate team, leader, or subordinates?” When you start thinking about the organization as an organism that operates with the emotions, strengths, and weaknesses of the entire team, you start to realize that you can be the brain, the heart, the lungs, or the moral compass of the whole simply by the role you choose to play within the workplace.

Once you begin to identify whether or not you are getting in the way of your personal and professional growth and success, you will begin to realize how much power you have to make changes. You truly are in charge of your own growth!

Diversity Training Personal Development

Merry Christmas vs. Happy Holidays

Well, the battle over “Merry Christmas” vs. “Happy Holidays” seems to have reared its ugly head yet once again. Apparently it’s becoming a new holiday tradition.

I listen to people wishing each other “Happy Holidays” and yet complaining about not saying the other. I wonder why the dilemma. Why are we so unable to wish a Merry Christmas to those celebrating this Christian holiday? Yes, there are those who are not celebrating this event but instead, celebrating Hanukkah. So are we so unable to say to those, “Happy Hanukkah”? Why can we not look to those in our communities who may be Muslim and offer them “Eid Mubarak” or “Ramadan Kareem”?

Why are we so aholidaysfraid to embrace members of our community for the diversity that they bring?

I watched the Michael Buble Christmas special earlier; in one segment of the show, he spoke with two little girls and asked how they celebrate Christmas. They let him know that they are Jewish so instead, they have their own traditions. He asked them to explain and they did so happily, sharing their excitement and joy. Out of the mouths of babes…..

Why is this so hard for us to do as adults? Why are we so afraid to ask people, friends and strangers, to help us understand how they celebrate their own holidays in their homes? Why can’t we learn from each other? Why are we so afraid of that which is different?

I lived in the Middle East for nearly a decade. During that time, community members took pleasure in wishing each other congratulations on the various holidays that occurred. If people there can accept each other and that which makes us unique, surely we can learn to do so here.

Can’t we?

Effective Communication Personal Development Professional Development

When the Cherry Blossoms Don’t Bloom

March in Northern Virginia and Washington, DC, kicks off the region’s “Everyone’s Coming to Town” season. Beginning with the Cherry Blossom Festival than on to the spring break pilgrimage, moving right into the summer tourists! Great to have everyone here putting money into the economy but who isn’t glad to have the roads back in September!

Think of all the planning that goes into the festival, the parade, and the trips. All those plane, train, and car rides, vacation days, packing, and rest stops! It’s as if spring fever is a planning virus.

Yet at times, life doesn’t go according to plan. You put in to attend a conference only to learn your co-worker has been chosen to go instead. Your car needs a repair – there goes your vacation fund. A new project hits your team and you are staring at it late at night. You didn’t get the raise/promotion/(insert your work reward of choice) that you were counting on. Your entire family comes in for the Cherry Blossom Festival and once again the trees aren’t blooming. Heck, at this year’s rate, they’ll be done by the end of March!

But the celebration goes on.

Here are some strategies for success in the workplace, even when life doesn’t go according to plan.

To be fair, there are life events that are hard to dust yourself off from, such as a significant illness, the death of a loved one, or a crushing personal crisis like a divorce or bankruptcy. Life-altering events need care and nurturing.

But when you feel off kilter because your request to travel to a conference was denied or you are chastised by your boss for being late again because traffic patterns continue to change, it’s time to evaluate and push through.

Take responsibility for your actions.

Each job disappointment is unique but when you are denied a request, overlooked for an accolade, or taken to task for a behavior, ask yourself, “Did I somehow contribute to this outcome?”

It’s hard to take responsibility when you are angry at a situation or a person. Why was your request denied? Is it a budget issue, a poor time for you to be away from the office, or a project? Did you fail to check the most recent travel reports and once again underestimated your commute? Did a co-worker do a better job?

By owning your mistakes, you can learn from them, work harder and make changes.

Stop expecting rewards when you don’t deserve them.

If you are denied earned vacation time, overlooked for a promotion after consistently high evaluations, or are not being paid for legitimate paid overtime, you have an HR problem that needs to be officially resolved.

But if you are denied vacation and you’ve only been on the job for three months, you have unrealistic expectations. If you feel you should have received a promotion over a co-worker, take some time to investigate his or her qualifications and ask your manager what you can do better. If you still feel you should have received the job, it may be time to look for a new job. That may be its own reward.

Give yourself a break.

It’s ok to admit you’re not perfect. No one is perfect. We all have days and even months when bad goes to worse. Recognize that life and work run in cycles.

Winter runs into spring and no matter how much we plan for the cherry blossoms, they don’t bloom when expected. But they do eventually bloom. Just plan for the traffic when they do.

Leadership Training Personal Development Professional Development Wise Ways Consulting

The Value of Getting Out of Town

In an earlier post, I advised readers to plan for their summer vacations.  There is a tremendous value both physical and mental for taking time off.

Now that summer is here, and I hope you have scheduled your time off, I want to push you out of the Northern Virginia nest. It’s easy to want to plan a “stay-cation.” Northern Virginia has many regional treasures and monuments, historic battlefields, great nature trails, and fabulous panoramic views of the Potomac.

However, getting away from work should mean getting away from the stressors of life in this region!

Every day we deal with it – the constant political and economic chatter. We get it from the person sitting next to us at work, on the news, at the PX, at our kids’ soccer games even!  “Is the government going to shut down?”  “I’m a contractor.  Is my employer going to win that recompete?”  Some work on the Hill – that comes with its own set of headaches!

Because of where we live, we hear more and know more than we probably want to! As Dr. Seuss’ Grinch says, “all of the noise, noise, noise, NOISE!”

Many advocate the value of a ‘stay-cation’.  It’s easy and cost-effective. But this year, if you are able, get out of town and away from the chatter.

The Benefits Of Vacation And Travel

According to a 2016 report from Project: Time Off, an initiative of the U.S. Travel Association, estimates that an incredible 659 million vacation days went unused in 2015.  That’s 1.8 million years. I won’t even begin to calculate the salaries.

  • Travel keeps you healthier. Another study showed that women who vacation at least twice a year have a much lower risk of having a heart attack as compared to those who only travel every six years or so. For men who don’t take a vacation, the study showed a 20 percent higher risk of death and a 30 percent greater risk of heart disease.
  • Vacation helps with your mood. When vacationing at least twice a year, women are less likely to suffer from depression and chronic stress than those who take time away less than once every two years.
  • Escaping town helps with our relationships. Spending time away from this area will allow us to have time away from work, the smart phone, and the work-obsession environment that we inhabit.  It’ll give us time to truly reconnect with those closest to us.
  • Dedicating time to a vacation helps improve our self-esteem. By putting our mental health first and committing to our vacation days, it tells us that we are important and worthy of that time away!
  • Vacations boost creativity. New stimuli including faces, places, tastes, smells, experiences, can help bring about new creative ideas!  Being able to develop new avenues to tap into your creativity can help as you work through challenges back at the office or at home.

Leaving the region will help you leave the chatter behind.  Set your email and voice mail to an away message and leave the noise behind.  Save the stay-cation spots for when friends and relatives come into town, for when they are escaping their own chatter-filled regions.

Career Development Personal Development Professional Development Uncategorized

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]

Personal Development Professional Development

How to Beat the Commuting Blues

Words can bring about emotional reactions. How do you feel when you see these: I-95, I-66, the Beltway, Prince William Parkway? Do you feel a tingle of apprehension? That feeling is the commuting blues.

If you live in the Washington DC region, even if you work from home, you feel it. Everyone has a button on their car radio set for “traffic and weather on the 8’s” because a distracted driver can lead to a crash, can turn into a “car-be-que”, can close down a major artery, back flowing side routes, and yeah….

Data from the American Community Survey, which comes from the US Census Bureau, report that the average commuting time in our area is 26.9 minutes. That’s above the national average of 25.2 minutes. I think you would be hard pressed to ask ten random people if their commutes were 26.9 minutes or less. However, another telling statistic is that 77.5% of people commute to work alone – we drive.

Commuting Time is Still Usable Time

We can’t change the reality of where we live or make overnight improvements to our public transportation system but we can make better use of our commuting time.

First, unless you are carpooling – more on that in a bit – PUT DOWN YOUR PHONE! No kidding, don’t text and drive, email, play games, watch movies, or anything on your phone while you drive.

I would also caution to limit hands free phone calls. The “I’ll take this on the road,” meeting leads to two outcomes. The first is a potential accident as you are listening to a group of people and not paying attention. The second is you really don’t get anything out of the meeting because you are paying attention to your driving.

However, time alone in the car is a great opportunity to listen to a book on CD or download a podcast. Companies like the Great Courses offer hundreds of classes where you can learn organic chemistry, business negotiation skills, or the history of Italian art. Other companies offer language media, or go to your local library. With a free Prince William County library card, you can check out books on CD and download hundreds of audio titles from Overdrive, One Click Media, and hoopla – free!  With over an hour in the car every day, that’s a lot of material.

Another option to get the most out of your drive time is to carpool or take public transportation. When you call “shotgun” you are then free to play on your phone, read, work, or talk to the driver or others in the car. Yes, you have to take your turn behind the wheel, but the free time can help you get a jump on your day. Also, being part of a carpool forces you to arrive and leave on a schedule.

Another commuting trick is to schedule flex time. Talk with your employer and see if they will allow you to come to work early or late and leave early or late. Another possibility is to work part-time from home. Technology such as Go-To Meeting and Skype allow you to video conference. No need to meet in person, especially for early morning or late afternoon meetings.

Driving is about moving you from home to work and back again. The time trapped in the car doesn’t have to feel like prison.

Corporate Teams Effective Communication Government Agency Training Leadership Development Leadership Skills Personal Development Professional Development Training

The Bully Behind the Desk

Here’s some eye-opening news. Suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people. A Yale University study found that victims of bullying are between two to nine times more likely to consider suicide than those who are not being bullied. The National Education Association reports 160,000 children miss school each day for fear of being

Much has been written in recent years about bullying; many schools have developed a no-bully policy. However, that doesn’t stop the behavior any more than a no-smoking sign outside a building stops people from smoking.

Let’s move past the tender school years and jump into the workforce. A 2014 survey conducted by the Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI,) reports that twenty-seven percent of workers “have current or past direct experience with abusive conduct at work.”  Not surprisingly, managers are the majority of offenders.

Now, let’s connect the dots. If students are missing school and contemplating suicide, how does that translate to working adults? Students can and should report all incidents of bullying to school authorities. But what does a worker do if the consequences are professional retaliation or job loss? Not everyone is in a position where he or she can just get another job.

First, it’s important to recognize and define workplace bullying behavior. WBI defines it as conduct that is threatening, humiliating, or intimidating and includes actions that lead to work sabotage. This can come through verbal abuse or written text or emails.

If you think that these behaviors walk the line between bad actors and legal actions, you’re right

  • Document the activities, names, dates, events, and witnesses if applicable
  • Report activities to human resources or the highest authority above the person who is the bully
  • Seek the advice of an attorney
  • In extreme cases, call the police

Most of all, realize that you are not alone. The schoolyard bully does grow up, yet unfortunately, may not outgrow his or her reprehensible behavior. No one has the right to abuse another person on the playground or at work.

Wise Words Newsletter – read the rest of the April newsletter here!

Goal Setting Personal Development Professional Development

Finding More Time Now For Fun Stuff Later

April is one of the best weather months in this region! We enjoy longer days and consistently warmer temperatures. It’s easy to let important tasks fall behind when all you want to do is be outside. So how do we ensure that we have more disposable time to play outside and enjoy the fun side of life?

Start by asking what are the things that you WANT to be doing. Are there roles that you pick up because you face a series of blank stares from your family – and let’s face it, it’s just easier to do the tasks than deal with the grumbling? What could you do to make the tasks a little more palatable?

Instead of arriving at the end of summer and thinking to yourself about all of the fun things that you (again) didn’t take part in, identify these now. Make a wish list, and go crazy! Write down what you want to do before September rolls around. Think about how much joy you would bring to your life just by doing a few of the things on your list! Then grab your calendar and identify what you’ll commit to attending/doing.

Remember that by creating extra time in your life, you’ll have to give up something along the way.

  • Your child needs to bring cupcakes to a school function. Normally you’d spend the time baking, icing, and producing mini-masterpieces! Instead consider the value in picking up something from the grocery store, thus creating time for an evening walk with your child, sharing time together instead!
  • Does spring cleaning need to be tackled? Have your children help out – even if it takes you some time along the way to teach them what to do. Will they complain? Quite possibly but the tasks still need to be completed so teaching them when they’re younger makes it easier later in life.
  • Speaking of cleaning, some individuals find great pleasure and satisfaction in these tasks. Me? I love the feeling of accomplishment when cleaning through closets and finding new homes for things – out of my own home! However, housecleaning just isn’t my favorite activity. I would rather coach an extra client, do something I love to do, and then pay to have the cleaning completed. I learned the act of cleaning things from my closets from my father and then the enjoyment of having my home cleaned from my mother!
  • Try the minimalist approach! Do you REALLY need all of the things in your home? How about the extra items you picked up at the new home store at Potomac Mills? Consider putting those items back on the shelf instead of in your trunk. If you couldn’t resist a new pair of shoes at DSW or new golf shoes at Dick’s Sporting Goods, remember the rule of balance. For each pair of new shoes that you bring home, one pair needs to be donated. If you bring new clothes instead, you need to remove something from your closet. Consider cleaning out your closet regardless of whether or not you’re bringing extra things in.
  • Instead of waiting to do your taxes until April 14th, do them in February. For those of you who think saving receipts in a shoebox, use a home bookkeeping program throughout the year. There are plenty of applications available to help you!

Personally, instead of getting bogged down in the day-to-day ho-hum, I’d rather be doing any of these:

I practice what I preach, come join me at the Jimmy Buffet concert at Jiffy Lube Live, May 20th!


Career Development Personal Development Professional Development

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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