Fear – how to manage it

Fear in the workplace.  This fear keeps us from speaking up, using our voice, asking for the raise, asking for the promotion, offering our opinion, showing our value.

I think the best I’ve ever heard is a book called the Imposter Syndrome.  Where our fear makes us believe we’re frauds and if we speak up, it will be proven true.  There are multiple books out there.  I haven’t read many of them so I can’t provide a recommendation.  I would focus on a book where the reviews speak to you, where the book cover connects with you.

Another option is to prepare for your battle.  Let’s say this particular battle is your annual performance review.  You feel like you should get a raise but how do you go about this?  Start with documenting why you think you should get a raise – what actions did you take to improve the company (focus on what made your boss look good).  I’m not referring to actions that saved your company millions or revolutionized your industry – that’s not normal life.  Life is about the small moments – helping your customers on a regular basis, improving our team’s reputation by consistently delivering on what is being requested, etc.  Write it all down – be factual, be brief but be complete.  If you feel prepared, you feel confident.  Practice a few key paragraphs that put it all together – what differentiates you and why you are an asset to your team and to your company.  Know that they are true and say them with confidence.   What if your particular battle is speaking up in meetings?  Start with sending your comments to your manager after the meetings and see what response you get.  If they are positive responses, this will give you the confidence to speak up when the time is right.  If they are not positive, ask why – learn more about what matters to the company, so your ideas match their culture.

In all instances, fear is managed by confidence.  Think of it as a teeter-tooter.  If fear is up, then confidence is down and if confidence is up, then fear is down.  Fear is good in a lot of situations – don’t go into dark alley ways, stay away from serial killers in the elevators, if the food smells bad – it is.  But if it keeps you from using your voice, standing up for yourself, knowing what’s right, feeling strong about who you are – then you need to practice more.  Practice speaking up using a LOUD voice – in the shower is fine as that’s a great start.  Even if your practice is a made up scenario – practice gives us the confidence to carry it forward in real life.

You are ENOUGH.  Your voice MATTERS.  YOU MATTER.

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Fuel for the Future

I bet you were thinking I was going to say solar energy…or maybe wind energy…or let’s turn plastic waste into energy…all good ideas but not where I was going today.

Nope – nothing earth shattering or outwardly revolutionary.  I’m thinking about our internal fuel – what helps us move forward.  What is the fuel that lives within ourselves? Think of all the stories you hear of people rising from adversity.  It that the fuel that pushes them forward?

Yes.  Our stories and our dark places give us the motivation to push forward.  Of course, those dark places give us fear and doubt that can keep us locked.  A quote I saw recently was ‘Fear is the cheapest room in the house. I would like to see you in better conditions’ Hafiz. 

Fear and doubt keep us quiet, keep us from living, keep us from speaking up, keep us from sharing our voice.  When you look around your office today – think about the fact of each and every one of your have dark places – some darker than others.  Even those happy and outgoing people can have some of the darkest places.  The outside is no indication of the inside.

I’ve been on a journey these last 5 years – not an intentional one but a clear, driven journey none-the-less.  With the benefit of hindsight, I see a hard journey with lots of walking on hot coals, lots of stripping away the past – the fear – the doubt – the worry.  I have cleaned more dark corners than I ever thought could exist in my heart.  Each step forward gave me confidence for the next steps.  Each cleaned corner made me feel lighter, more at peace, more comfortable, more confident.  It’s my fuel to reach higher, to write more honestly, be more open, be vulnerable. 

Our fuel is our dark places, our dark corners, our pains and our scars.  As we work to clear them out and face them, we feel stronger and have more courage.You can do it.  You are ENOUGH.

Doubt – the real killer

When I take a moment and look at Office Politics, I see misguided expectations, missed communications, manipulations, I see who grows and who doesn’t, who is promoted and who isn’t, and a myriad of other things we as humans experience.  I see one true killer – DOUBT.

Doubt makes us hesitate, doubt makes us wait, doubt makes us quiet, doubt makes us put our eyes down, doubt makes us worry, doubt listens to fear.  Doubt creates bullies.

I remember when Taylor Swift was coming into stardom at the ripe age of 16 years old or something.  I think it was a speaking engagement at a college on the east coast where she mostly took questions from the audience.  Someone asked her if she had doubts.  She responded almost comically that she doubted herself hundreds of thousands of times – I think she implied that was every day.  But with every doubt, she decided to move forward anyway.

Doubt is a human condition.  Animals listen to their intuition and act accordingly – that smells funny – don’t eat it; that animal is mean – don’t introduce yourself; that animal is hungry – run.  If they doubt, they don’t live long enough to tell about it.  Humans don’t have that swift mechanism to keep doubt at bay.  Doubt has been allowed to grow and become a persistent bug in our psyche – a loud, noisy, irritating, hard to kill bug.  Like a beautiful hot summer day where you’re supposed to be enjoying the picnic, but the flies have found you and landed on everything.  They have poisoned the moment.  Now you’re swatting at them unsuccessfully, your head is down, you’re worrying about the food, you’re getting emotional and hot, now the sun is beating down on you…it’s a cycle we get into to when we listen to doubt.

When that fly starts buzzing in your ear, when the doubt starts creeping in – I shouldn’t say anything, what do I know, I’m sure I’m wrong, I’ll get in trouble…the list of shitty things we say to ourselves is never ending and gets meaner.  When it starts, simply ignore it.  Decide that you are worth it, and it is worth it to move forward.  Keep your head up, raise your hand, raise your voice, be honest, be open.

If it’s scary – start with something like ‘I don’t know if I have all the facts, but I believe the problem is …’; ‘I would like to take that assignment on – is there anyone who would like to help me?’

As we try things, we fail.  That’s ok – we learn a WHOLE LOT more when we fail than when we succeed.  As we try more things, we succeed.  That’s ok – it helps us try new things.

We get stronger by small actions on a regular basis.  It’s like strength training – you must grow slowly and surely. 

You got this! fffffffffff

Perspectives

Every study on Diversity/Inclusion proves that it is the smartest business decision you could make – there’s no getting around it.  To me, the obvious reason is Perspective

The most powerful human force on the planet is a team of dedicated people.  The more diverse the team, the more successful they will be.  Each obstacle they encounter is an opportunity to bring all the different perspectives into play and come up with the best possible idea to move forward.  Then, there’s the original design to consider.  If there are different perspectives at the table when an original design is presented, then the potential issues can be addressed immediately – always smart business.  It is MUCH less expensive to avoid a mishap than apologize for it afterwards – especially when the apology must be done publicly.  Proof is in the recent slew of fashion design screw ups that clearly did not have diversity at the table when the designs were created.  I mean honestly – a noose as a fashion design element?

But it’s not just about having lots of voices at the table – if the voices don’t feel they can speak up.  In offices across the country and in EVERY industry, women and men feel they cannot share their perspective.  If they appear to disagree or disprove their leader’s idea, then they fear for their job or their career.  If they speak up at their group’s table, they fear they will be criticized or worse, ignored.  There’s some magic about higher levels within a company that implies they are smarter than you – that they’ve ‘earned’ that big salary and big title and what could *you* provide?!?!?  The truth??  They are no better and no smarter than you.  They may have more knowledge (which is NOT about being smart) or more experience, but they don’t have YOUR perspective.  And maybe (in fact, most likely) – YOUR perspective is what they need the most.

I remember years ago, I worked for a very large organization.  The executives were struggling with low employee moral/low earnings (they go hand in hand) and decided to go on a Road Show to talk with the people on the front lines and learn more.  They came to our office.  Prior to the town hall, I was specifically pulled aside and told flat out to NOT SAY A WORD.  The leaders of my office were afraid of the truth, they were afraid of being targeted as the ‘problem’ office, and they certainly did not want to be held accountable for what was really going on.  I wasn’t going to be disrespectful and I wasn’t going to be mean or vengeful.  But I was denied an opportunity and more importantly, the executives were denied honesty.

What matters is Diversity with Inclusion with the culture that promotes speaking up.  Without each of those, each manager hires people who are just like them – typically the same gender, the same color, the same background.  We do that because it’s who we feel will hear us and understand us. What we really need though – is to be open, to be told when our idea isn’t the brightest or the best, and to listen more than we speak.

Did you see an old man and an old woman in the picture – or a young man and a young woman?

When Things Become Unbearable

When you’re getting up in the morning to prepare for work and you’re really preparing for battle.  You hate it, you dread it, you can’t stand it, you want to quit but you can’t afford it…it all feels impossible.  You become inward, you talk less, you become paranoid, doubt is constant, you think it’s you, everyone else seems fine, no one wants me here, I’m doing the wrong job, these people think I’m weird, I don’t fit. Everything is worse and everything is bottled up.  There’s too much to do, not enough time, everyone is pulling at me.  I get it – I’ve been there more times than I realize.  One thing consistently got me INTO these places – I closed down and stopped talking to people about how I was feeling.  I believed the negativity that no one wanted to listen to me whine and no one wanted to hear my woes. 

One thing consistently got me OUT of those places – talking.  I think I heard someone call it ‘Talk Therapy’.  It’s up there with aromatherapy, shopping therapy, movie therapy, and our favorite sugar therapy.  EVERYONE needs a chance to vent, whine, complain… get it off our chests.   Think of it as an onion – the outer layers are the annoyances, the moles we grow into mountains.  If you can get those out of the way, they reveal the bigger issues that are the real issues. Maybe we don’t feel valued, maybe we are in the wrong position, maybe the office is too toxic – you can’t even look at those unless you vent and whine and complain.

Talk therapy. People see different parts of us and different parts of our situation – they can provide real insight. Or bullshit – it’s up to you.  It’s not only therapists (although they’re pretty good at it).  Even water cooler conversations can lead you into some great conversations. 

Example: If you are not sure if you’re the only one frustrated – use open ended conversation starters….  “I was surprised at how <<the boss>> handled that call yesterday.”  You don’t have to say you were happy or sad or disappointed or disgusted.  Find out what the other people feel – the more people in the group the better.  Your use of ‘surprised’ will be the perfect opener to make the others feel like you agree with them – whatever they feel.  You will most likely find people who agree with you that you can commiserate with – it will help BOTH of you feel a lot better.  And maybe you’ll find a new friend at work – the best possible outcome.