Lose Your Job Without Losing Yourself

I went through an experience quite a few years ago where I lost my job due to downsizing and budget reconstruction. My position was eliminated, and it took me a long time to find another job that fit my experience and qualifications. I felt rejected, frustrated and somewhat alone during the process.

I recently talked with a couple of people who shared a similar experience, and this got me wondering how many others out there have been ousted from a position because of no fault of their own and felt like they had lost their value. I want to share some examples of the emotions that go along with a job loss as well as to encourage those who are going through this process, or may go through this process in the future.

Susan had been working for a company for 20 years when she was asked to leave. The CEO retired and the new CEO wanted to build her own team. After losing her job, Susan didn’t sleep well and found herself mourning the loss of her job. Her confidence was shaken and it took about 6-8 months before she found work that really interested her. She reached out to friends, volunteered with a non-profit, and worked on some part-time contracts. One of the contracts turned out to be her new full-time gig and several others became her side gig.

Chris worked for 30 years at a company and had worked his way up to a senior leadership position.  When he was let go, he was devastated for months and not able to think through what he needed to do. His job was his identity; he was emotionally paralyzed. The loss of his job struck him to his core and he couldn’t function without the help of friends. He also began volunteering and taking on short-term contracts before he found his next position.

One of the things we all had in common was that we had money set aside for emergencies and thankfully the urgency to bring home a paycheck was not a factor. The rule of thumb to have 3-6 months of savings set aside for emergencies – such as job loss – may not be enough if you have only one source of income. It may take longer than you think to find something that fits your experience and qualifications, so be prepared financially to manage emergencies in your life.

The other thing we all felt was the grief of loss. The grief associated with job loss is real and can affect your physical and emotional health, your relationships, and your sense of purpose. Grief is not something most people talk about, so it is important to acknowledge what you are feeling and give yourself time and space to process. If you don’t have close family or friends who you can confide in, you may need to speak to a counselor or therapist to help you refocus and set new goals.  

Be confident in your skill set. Take the time to learn new skills and be willing to be stretched. If you have transferable skills and valuable experience you will either find a place to work, or you may decide to become an entrepreneur and start your own business. Know what your strengths are and what you can do, and don’t forget to tap into your network.

Remember your job is not who you are as a person, and it does not define your value. If you find yourself out of work, remember to take time to grieve, lean on friends and family for support, engage with your network to let them know you are looking for work, and do things you enjoy. If you are going through a job loss situation and need to bounce ideas off someone or need help getting grounded let me know.

Work/Life Balance

I am drawn to inspiring motivational sayings and quotes, and I read one other day that made me stop and think about work/life balance.

On the wall in front of me was a plaque that read, “Passion, Purpose & Play.” I am an organized person that loves to schedule and plan, and often work on several projects in parallel – so I feel like I have passion and purpose down pretty well. However, I have found that when I don’t take time to play my passion and purpose lose their shine.

Passion is about our emotions and what lights us up, what gets us excited or motivated about doing things. Purpose is about why we do what we do; some people are driven by a aligning with a higher power while others focus on goals and targets. We can be passionate about our purpose and play, but when the passion for purpose and play gets mislaid or misplaced the dominate feeling can become boredom and monotony.

We are all wired differently, so what excites one person won’t necessarily excite everyone – and this is a good thing. Have you stopped recently and reflected on where you are and where you want to go? Are you still on Plan A or have you moved to another version because things changed? Plan A is always my starting point, but it doesn’t take long for something to change and B has to be implemented.

Which brings me to play and how important it is to schedule play, fun or just down time like you would any other important event or activity. Whether you are taking time to play sports, going out with friends, or taking your dog for a walk, find something that you enjoy that puts energy back into your system rather than consuming it.

The last few years have been especially challenging for many people. Some have been asked to work from home when their preferred workspace is at work. Others have been quarantined because of personal or family illness and feel disconnected from the normal routine. I have found that whenever life is disrupted I need more time to recharge than usual. So, be gentle with your self where you are, and check in to see if you need more play to boost your passion and purpose.

I encourage you to evaluate your passion, purpose and play to see if you need to make adjustments to get where you want to go! Let me know if I can help you with your work/life balance.

Continuous Improvement

The past few years have proven challenging for many small business owners as they adjusted, pivoted, modified and realigned to meet the changes they faced.

Some businesses were not prepared for what 2020/2021 brought and sadly closed their doors. However, others positioned themselves to take advantage of the opportunity to rethink and reimagine their business to meet the needs of their customers.

While it may take facing a disaster for some business owners to examine and explore opportunities to improve their business, continuous improvement is a critical component to success in any business – regardless of size or sector.

Continuous improvement is an ongoing process that focuses on:

  • Identifying opportunity for improvement and planning for change.
  • Implementing small-scale change and analyze the results.
  • Applying the successful change on a wider scale.
  • Assessing continuously and beginning the cycle over.

I have seen several business owners work on continuous improvement even while going through challenging times. One woman closed her business in one location and found an opportunity to reopen successfully in another location by collaborating with an existing business owner. Another family business had just launched as the pandemic began spreading and they worked creatively for almost eighteen months to stay in business before they could safely open to the public.

These examples of determination and resolve to succeed were accomplished by people working together to achieve a goal. To some degree we could say that they were reacting to changes brought about by a disaster rather than by creating an action plan for change, but they made it work. All businesses could benefit by continually looking for opportunities to improve and analyzing the data to make sure changes bring about results regardless of what is happening in the world.

Businesses that have continuous improvement as part of their strategic plan are better positioned to withstand natural disasters, limited resources, or whatever comes their way. Even solopreneurs can work together with support teams – virtual or otherwise – to creatively look for ways to stay ahead of the business curve. Just think how much better businesses that already have teams in place are positioned to use their collective expertise to keep the business primed for success.

Does your business have a continuous improvement plan? This could be another tool to add to your toolbox. Let me know if you need support in putting together your continuous improvement plan.

Motivation and Leadership

What would you like to accomplish in 2022? What goals have you set so far? What motivation do you have in place to support your steps towards reaching your goals?

Are you motivated by rewards or restrictions (the old carrot or stick principle) or are you driven by passion, mission, and vocation? There is no right or wrong answer; the key is to understand what inspires you to reach your goals. Once you know what motivates you as a leader, the next step is to understand what motivates your team members as individuals – and collectively as a team. 

Motivation can be external or internal. Often we can be motivated by both external and internal factors and the important thing is that you understand your motivators and incorporate them to reach your goals. External motivation comes from rewards like honor, reputation, and wealth. Internal motivation is about what makes you feel fulfilled mentally, emotionally, and physically.

As a leader, it is important to understand and adapt to what motivates your team – as individuals and as a team. For example, say you offer financial incentives as an external motivator to reach a department or organizational goal but you find that none of your team members are motivated by external factors. The chances of reaching organizational goals are slim.  Things would have probably turned out differently if you had checked in with your team and found out what motivates them.

It is interesting to note that in“The Great Resignation” movement of today is more about internal motivation rather than external motivation. For the vast majority of people, it is not about pay or about status, but it is about enjoying the work, finding a work/life balance, and having personal happiness.  There will always be a need for compensation for work, but as a leader being able to motivate your team to tap into their intrinsic motivation is priceless.

As a leader, some of the ways you can cultivate motivation include:

  • Value and highlight the strengths and capabilities of your team members.
  • Create small steps towards a goal and celebrate the successes along the way.
  • Provide regular feedback on how progress towards the goal is going.
  • Use positive interactions instead of negative communication.

Combining internal and external motivators supports a productive work environment. And motivation is a key component towards reaching not only your own personal and professional goals, but those of your team.  

Contact me and let’s talk about how we can put the right motivators in place to help you reach your goals in 2022.

Tradition and Reflection

During the holiday season, no matter where you live, you will probably participate in some type of traditional event or practice. Many traditional events or practices are culture-based and passed down from generation-to-generation without much thought about the value or purpose.

This reminds me of the story I heard many years ago – you may have heard it also:

A young woman asks her mother why she cuts the ends off the ham before she cooks it. Her mother told her that she learned it from her mother. So, the young woman asks her grandmother why she cuts the ends off the ham before she cooks it and the grandmother said it was something she learned from her mother. Finally, the young woman asks her great-grandmother why she cuts the ends off the ham before she cooks it, and the great-grandmother said it was because the ham didn’t fit into the pan she had to cook it in.

This is a wonderful example of what happens when we don’t question why we are doing the things we are doing and discover the meaning behind our traditions or rituals.

We have the opportunity as we step out of one year into another, to reflect on what works, , what doesn’t work, what we could do differently or what we should continue to do because it’s our “magic sauce”.  We need emotionally intelligent leaders. Perhaps it is time to  create new events or practices to help you as you grow as a leader, therefore I encourage you to:

  • Reflect – take some time and think about what you have accomplished this year. Even when we face challenges and obstacles, we still can learn from the experiences. Most often the things that cause us to grow are not our accomplishments but our challenges. Everything we do is an opportunity to learn and grow not only as a person, but also as a leader. What do you wish you could have done better? What are you proud of? 
  • Give Thanks – one of the best ways to boost happiness is to show appreciation for a job well done. As a leader, we can thank customers, colleagues, and co-workers for their contributions in the past year; be honest and sincere – maybe even go old-school and send a handwritten  note! 
  • Declutter – this is one I am working on right now! Start small. Clean out your inbox, filing cabinet, virtual or physical work space. You will be amazed at what this simple act will do for your mental health. The end of the year is a great time to assess what needs to stay and what needs to go. Create  a clean-out plan that allows space for possibilities and opportunities in the New Year.
  • Start a new practice – as a leader, what do you do to support your own personal physical, mental and emotional well-being? Could your existing daily practice use a boost? Try adding journaling, meditation, yoga, or working with a coach. Something  as simple as taking a walk to prepare for or  unwind from the day will help improve your well-being. 

I am thankful for the opportunities I have experienced this past year. As I look forward to the new year ahead, I am excited about connecting with new people, places, and opportunities. Let me help you step into your possibilities, lending you the support  you need to show up as your best self. Let’s see how we can make 2022 an exceptional year together!

Data-Drive Decisions

If you think about it, we use data every day to make decisions. I look at my fuel gauge in my vehicle to decide how soon I need to add fuel to the tank, and I check my oil usage to know when I need to change oil (which needs to be done next week!)

I check my fitness tracker to see how close I am towards reaching my daily step or sleep goal. One of my fitness goals is to keep my daily steps between 8,000 and 10,000. Some days I do better than others, but on average I am able to stay on track because I check the data.

I can check my spreadsheet to see how much revenue I have been able to generate in order to meet my business goal. I have a goal to bring in a specific amount of revenue by the end of the year, so I break it down each month to make sure I am on track to reaching my goal.

Before you can collect information about how your business is doing, you need to know what you should be tracking and why. For example, if you want to focus on improving sales, then daily, weekly and monthly sales would be important data to track. However, if you have seen an increase in customer complaints then tracking customer satisfaction data would be important. Having three to five metrics that you are following will help you stay on top of key performance indicators for your organization.  

Once you have decided on what needs to be measured or tracked, then you need to create goals around the data. Using the S.M.A.R.T. goal approach will help you to create specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound goals. Clearly describing what you want to achieve, what will be measured and why, with a well-defined timeline will help you reach your goal.

The next step is to create a scorecard that identifies what information needs to be measured or collected, by who, and what the target goal is for each month will bring together the data for easy access. A spreadsheet is a good tool to use for developing your scorecard, and make it shareable so that those responsible for tracking data for a particular measurable can input data as needed.

I use spreadsheets to track my data because it is easy to use and it gives me a quick snapshot of where I am so I know what I still need to accomplish. Much like health data such as heart rate, blood pressure, and temperature tell us how well our body is performing, scorecard data is a snapshot of how well your business is performing.

Think about what data you track, and let me know if you need help in setting goals or creating a scorecard to make your data-driven decisions.

Leading in Complex Times

Leaders continually face challenges and discover that some challenges are more complex than others. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, no silver bullet, for the leadership challenges we face.

However, leaders facing these challenges learn two things: what works and what doesn’t work. The thing to remember is that what worked or didn’t work in the last challenge won’t necessarily work in the next.

Lynda Gratton is a professor of management at the London School of Business and wrote an article for the Harvard Business Review. In this article, she recognized that businesses are constantly challenged by change and crises. Lynda explained that leaders need to see what is happening from different perspectives and be able to work collaboratively with others even when they are under stress.

During a Tedx Talk, Matt Beeton described the importance of a leader to first connect and understand himself or herself before connecting with those in the organization. When a leader is able to focus on self-reflection, self-regulation, and self-perception, then that leader is able to receive feedback in a way that is constructive to the challenge at hand. Without self-regulation, a leader could take feedback as criticism and rather than incorporate the feedback, the leader may become emotional and disregard important details.

As a leader, connecting with people is necessary to create a cohesive, collaborative environment where people are able to dissect a challenge and identify solutions. While leaders may be liable for strategic decisions, they don’t have to make those decisions alone, and as Ms. Gratton points out, obtaining different perspectives or viewpoints often brings new clarification to a challenge.

Think about the challenges you face as a leader:

  • Do you try to work through challenges on your own or do you look for feedback and perspective from your peers, colleagues, and employees?
  • How often do you reflect back on your own performance as a leader and look for ways to improve your own emotional intelligence?
  • Are you able to control how challenges impact your professional – and personal – stress level?

The first step in becoming a leader who can navigate complex challenges is to develop one’s own emotional intelligence. Knowing your emotional triggers will help you skillfully navigate conversations and manage stress. When a leader is self-aware, it helps him or her to listen better, find solutions, and build relationships. Being able to accept other points of view often leads to new ways of thinking and overcoming challenges.

Leadership is more about who you are – rather than your title or what you do. In times of challenges and uncertainty people look to their leaders for purpose and passion – be that leader!

I would love to hear about your leadership journey, and let me know if you need support around the challenges you face.