(703) 763-3823

Contact Us Today

Business Skills Training Professional Development

Can You Have Trust Without Being Vulnerable?

Brené Brown is a research professor at University of Houston. Over the last decade, she has spent her time studying vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame. In her TEDx Houston talk on the power of vulnerability, she engages her audience with insight and humor. She delves into the understanding of what people who allow themselves to be vulnerable have in common.

One of the elements of vulnerability that Brené explores is that people who allow themselves to be vulnerable have an underlying quality of worthiness. They believe in who they are and all their imperfections. With that worthiness comes courage, compassion and connection.

Trust and vulnerability are intertwined. In order to learn to trust each other, individuals must allow themselves to be vulnerable with those same people. Even the simple act of believing that someone will do what they say they will, is making oneself vulnerable and open to the possibility that they may be let down. The more that trust is developed, the more individuals will gradually allow their vulnerabilities to show through, thus creating opportunities for growth. Developing trust and exposing vulnerabilities in the work place are critical for a team to develop and meet the mission that they were all brought together to fulfill.

It may seem counterintuitive to expose vulnerabilities during professional team building exercises, but with a strong facilitator, team members can grow and learn, and together strengthen their weaknesses. Trust is the foundation and underpinning of any successful team. Without trust and vulnerability, teams will falter and fail.

With openness and honesty, an environment for creativity and innovation can be fostered. When individuals are taught to be open to honest solutions, they will find growth in their roles within an organization and improve both in their skill sets and in their comfortability within the framework of their position.

Leadership coaching programs conducted by trained facilitators, help foster trust and creativity while understanding vulnerability and courage in the workplace. These programs also allow participants to begin understanding emotional intelligence and the need for this within any social setting particularly in the workplace. A strong program may start with EQi-2.0 or EQ 360 assessments to provide each individual with a baseline from which to begin building upon their individual strengths.

The bottom line is that trust must exist in order for team members to successfully offer solutions, take constructive criticism, be open to disagreement, and work through potential conflict. Respect is an important aspect of allowing one’s self to be vulnerable. When mutual respect is fostered and exhibited, ideas and opinions can more freely flow. Without that respect, trust will not occur between individuals in the workplace. Instead, elements of systematic, organizational dysfunction will begin to impact team performance and mission success leading to an environment rife with high staff turnover and major financial implications.

How do you develop trust in your organization?

Career Development Personal Development Professional Development

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!

Business Skills Training Career Development Corporate Teams Executive Coaching Leadership Development Leadership Skills Leadership Training Professional Development Project Facilitation

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
Professional Development Training and Productivity Tips Uncategorized

Are You Earning Enough?

Using a Salary Calculator.

Let’s talk about how much money you make. It’s okay, it’s just the two of us here.

Financial conversations are hard. Whether you are landing your first job out of college or are looking to make a leap into a new position or career, understanding your worth and your financial needs are difficult.

Some companies treat salaries like a competitive game. The less they can pay you, the more they believe they win.

Some companies have unfair and illegal biases against women and minorities.

Some small companies and non-profits simply can’t compete with large companies with full benefit offerings.

Then there’s the education piece. The more you have, the more you’re worth. That also includes the amount of experience and any specific certifications you may have earned over the years.

Let’s add location into the mix. Two people with identical resumes won’t earn the same in New York City vs Detroit. The cost of living in these two locations is too different and salaries are always adjusted to account for the location.

Are you looking for a raise?

My advice is to first take your organization’s pulse. How are the current and projected earnings, rate of hiring, and place in the market? Are you affected by the current trade war like farmers trying to sell their soybeans to China; manufacturing like Boeing; or labor issues like the GM Strike?

Next, determine how much you’re worth. You can try this salary calculator tool. Also, check out my column in Prince William Living magazine for a cost of living calculator to help you determine your worth relative to your location.

Consider your current compensation and benefits. How much is healthcare? What is the organization’s 401K or retirement contribution? How much do you spend to commute and park if you drive? How many vacation and sick days are you given? Are there other non-monetary benefits to include health club membership, access to legal services, or onsite childcare?

Finally, and most important to your company, why should they give you a raise? Just showing up every day isn’t enough. What have you done for them lately?

Come to any salary discussion with a list of accomplishments and ways you’ve improved and helped the organization. Make yourself invaluable and your management will want to compensate you for fear of losing you.

I know this sounds like a lot of work for the sake of your work. Yet before you can have a thoughtful and well-argued discussion about your compensation, you have to have all the facts as they pertain to you and your specific job and location.

Armed with data and a thoughtful accounting of your roles and successes, you’ll also have the confidence you need to have a difficult and important conversation about your compensation.

Studies suggest that the best time to have important discussions is in the morning before decision fatigue sets in. If you don’t have a defined salary review, schedule time on your manager’s calendar. Come prepared, it’ll show.

Contact me with your salary negotiation question.

Career Development Professional Development Training and Productivity Tips

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.

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.

Business Skills Training Leadership Development Leadership Skills Leadership Training Professional Development Wise Ways Consulting

A Review of Performance Reviews

To paraphrase a well-known Biblical verse, “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven….” And to every employer and employee there is a time for an annual performance review.

If you think my pulling in the Bible is a bit heavy handed, it’s not. To many, this annual ritual is fraught with the same emotional up swells, wrath, judgement, and indignation as any powerful religious parable. And like the reading of any religious text (the Bible isn’t exclusive to this metaphor) it is followed with faith, awe, and confusion.

The Annual Performance Review As A Tool

The human resources community has been examining the role of the annual performance review as a tool for, well…employee performance. The results shouldn’t surprise anyone who has given or received an evaluation. It can be a miserable experience that people on both side of the desk feel is a waste of time. Many companies have done away with the formal review, opting instead for real-time evaluations. However, that isn’t yet the norm. There still needs to be a formal vehicle for tracking how employees are, or are not doing their jobs, as well as disciplinary actions, and accolades that lead to promotions.

Global advising firm, Willis Towers Watson in a 2016 study on employee evaluations, formally referred to in the report as employee value proposition (EVP), revealed some interesting results.

Employees want employers to connect with them the same way they connect and value their customers. Employees who are unhappy with performance reviews cite that their managers lack the skills or the time to make it effective. Only 51% of employers say that performance management is effective at creating a positive employee experience.

Employees who do find reviews helpful are often the most engaged employees. This means their managers have done an effective job in placing their role within the overall organization, provided positive coaching and feedback, and attended to employees’ concerns for security, pay equity, and a clear career path.  You can find the complete study here and it’s a worthwhile read: https://www.willistowerswatson.com/en/insights/2016/09/employers-look-to-modernize-the-employee-value-proposition

But here’s the spoiler alert. Effective employee reviews come down to effective communication skills. The same hold true on the other side of the desk. Employees need to listen and ask the right questions to elicit the most helpful feedback.

Anyone who has worked with Wise Ways Consulting has hopefully walked away with an appreciation for the power of communication in the workplace and a belief that there is always room for improvement.

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]

Sign up for our Newsletter to find out about the latest Leadership Trends