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You are Your Actions and Your Aspirations

“To understand the heart and mind of a person, look not at what he has already achieved, but at what he aspires to.”
— Kahlil Gibran

If you ever lean toward cynical humor, or you are just tired of peppy, motivational posters, then you probably enjoy some of the posters, calendars and other ‘gifts’ that come from Despair, Inc. (https://despair.com/collections/demotivators).

To paraphrase from one of their items, “Get to work, you are not paid to believe in the power of your dreams.”

Think about your CV (curriculum vitae), your LinkedIn profile and what you look for when you are hiring. It is all about achievements. What have you accomplished? What have you delivered? Does anyone care about your aspirations?

To be fair, MOST of you are part of teams who are being paid to produce. Your job is to meet tight deadlines with budgets just as tight (or tighter). Who has time for aspirations?

What place do aspirations have in an achievement driven world? Where do project ideas come from? Some are rooted in compliance and operational issues and profit margins, but some come from what your organization aspires to be. Those project aspirations represent your organization and what it represents and why it exists.

Aspirations can turn into projects and projects have plans. The aspirations of your colleagues and potential new team members are part of their personal project plans. Your personal aspirations are part of your personal project plan.

Your aspirations describe who you are and what you represent. When you interview potential team members, their aspirations tell you what they represent. Ask your team members about their aspirations and you just might learn about what motivates them. The team member who aspires to be a famous actor, just might be motivated by giving presentations and being in the spotlight. Your team member who aspires to provide shelter for the homeless could be an excellent choice for a project that is driven by compassion.

Of course consider whether or not someone can do more than dream when you are hiring, but consider their dreams too. You are hiring the whole person; their heart and their mind and their ability to produce all come together.

 

 

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Go Ahead, Let Them Rant

Mary Carol had never seen Jim quite so upset before. He came into her office, pulled out a chair and just launched into an all out rant about his colleague Joyce. Jim was really dumping some negativity. Mary Carol had no idea that Jim had these hard feelings toward Joyce.

As Jim continued to rant, Mary Carol felt torn. She did not necessarily agree with all of the negative comments he was making about Joyce. Both Jim and Joyce worked on her team. Each of them was a strong team member. To listen to Jim complain about Joyce almost felt disloyal. Almost. Then Mary Carol realized that in this moment, what she could do was to provide a safe place for Jim to express his feelings. It was better for Jim to rant to her, than to Joyce or to others about Joyce.

Still as Jim continued to rant, Mary Carol wondered what she should do differently. She wanted to allow Jim to get these hard feelings off of his chest. At the same time she did NOT want Jim to allow these hard feelings to set the tone for the rest of his day or to damage his professional relationship with Joyce.

After a few minutes Mary Carol, held up her hand, “Jim, could you stop for just one moment?”

Jim replied, “I know, I know, I should not come into your office and speak poorly about another team member.”

“That is not it at all,” replied Mary Carol. “You may consider this a safe space and a safe conversation. But let’s work to make this time even more productive. Try this with me. I am going to give you ten more minutes to rant about Joyce. Say whatever you need to say. At the end of those ten minutes you need to switch topics. You need to then list the good qualities that you see in Joyce and the positive aspects of working with her. After you do that, you are going to set an action plan. Maybe that action plan is to go take a break and calm down. Maybe that action plan is to find a way to discuss your concerns with Joyce. Or maybe that plan is to spend some more time considering just why it is you are so upset with her.”

Jim listened to what Mary Carol said and then abruptly replied, “Great, can I go back to ranting now?” Mary Carol nodded while thinking, “Well so much for THAT approach.” To her pleasant surprise, Jim did not even need ten more minutes to rant. All of a sudden he took a deep breath and switched gears. He began to discuss what a good job Joyce does in analyzing difficult problems. He recalled the time that he lost his place in an important executive presentation and she stepped in and joined him, as-if that had always been the plan. He listed some other positive qualities that Joyce exhibited and then he stood up and headed for the door.

As he opened the door he turned to Mary Carol and said, “My action plan is to use this approach with my friends, family and colleagues whenever they need to go on a rant

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There is NO Magic in New Year’s Eve

Make YOUR Own Magic

Make YOUR Own Magic

“New Year’s Day is every man’s birthday.” — Charles Lamb (And woman’s….)

There is a lot of negativity around 2016 right now. People are calling it their worst year ever. There have been some high profile celebrity deaths. Are there more deaths this year than last year or are we all falling victim to our own tendency toward negative news?

If you take a look at social media, you will see statements and stories on how people are so ready for 2016 to be over. Are you looking forward to the end of the year? You probably do have some years when you are happier than usual to close the door on the old year and get started with the new one. Perhaps 2016 is one of them.

Have you created a belief that once you make it through to the end of the year, everything will be good again? Poof – New Year, a new clock ticking and you will instantly be re-energized!

Of course YOU know that life does not work that way. Anytime you fall into this type of thinking you are really falling prey to a false deadline. I don’t mean the kind of false deadline your project sponsor gives you to make sure that you are ready in plenty of time for the real deadline. I mean a false deadline as in, non-existent, completely not real. All in YOUR head.

Life does not know about the pages of the calendar. There is nothing about the experiences you are having (happy, sad or tiring) that are specifically tied to a time of year. There is nothing about the calendar flipping from one time period to the next that makes your experience change. There is no magic time genie that looks and says, “Wow she had a long year with some challenging experiences but all of those challenges will disappear as soon as it is a new year.” Life does not work that way. Life brings what it will bring and your job is to celebrate the good and to meet the challenges to the best of your abilities.

You do not need the date to change; you need to make a change. If you are feeling worn out, then you need to rest. If you are looking forward to ending an assignment, then you need to evaluate why you are happy to end that assignment. That is true ALL of the time; you don’t need to wait until month end, quarter end or year-end for this to be true.

Marking time is something very convenient we do as human beings. It is good to recognize seasons and special dates and milestones. And celebrating the New Year can be lots of fun. And looking back over the past year can provide valuable insights. But to view a new month, quarter or year as some kind of magical completion date at which you will no longer be ill or tired or have difficulties; that my friends is working toward a false deadline.

 

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How to Survive Your Office Holiday Party

9networking-tips_pmstudentheader

It’s that time again, peace on earth and good will to all.  Or at least it would be if you were not worried about those darned office parties.  What are they anyway?  Are they work or are they parties?  Here are some tips to help you navigate the maze of professional pitfalls that lurk behind that innocent invitation to celebrate with your co-workers.

Keep these tips in mind and emerge with your reputation clearer and stronger that ever before.

9networking-tips_pmstudent2

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Resilient, the word for the day is Resilient

Bend do not break and move forward.

Bend do not break and move forward.

The team had just suffered a crushing blow. They had been competing for a specific contract for months. They wrote an amazing response to the RFP (request for proposal) and made it into the top five and then into the top two. When their potential new customers asked them to build a prototype, they rose to the challenge and provided a high-quality prototype and held an exceptional demonstration session. And yet, they lost the contract.

The reason they were given was that the other team came up with some additional requirements that were not requested in the initial RFP.

The competing team provided an upgraded version of the prototype.

As Mary Carol gathered the team around to discuss the loss, strong feelings began to surface. Some team members were angry and felt that the process had been unfair. Others were mad at themselves and others for not expanding the requirements. One person started to say, “I told you so.” Mary Carol let them vent. Eventually they realized that she was just sitting there watching them. The team fell silent and stared at her expectantly. They did not know if she was angry, if she would chastise them, they waited.

Finally she spoke. “I have an assignment for all of you and it is due in two hours.” The quality control lead interrupted her by saying, “I know, you want us to come back with our lessons learned, our what we could have done to prevent this.” “There will be time for that later.” Mary Carol replied. “What I want you to do right now is go back to your desks and by yourselves consider what it means to be resilient. Meet me back here in two hours with your thoughts on resiliency.”

Two hours later the team came back together. While one or two were still puzzled by this unconventional assignment. Most of them embraced it, many of them bringing quotes to help them express their understanding of resilience. Like the assignment, some of these quotes were unconventional:

“Sometimes Grace comes in the form of a punch in the face.” Mary Elder

And

“Inside of a ring or out, ain’t nothing wrong with going down. It’s staying down that’s wrong.” Muhammad Ali

Other quotes were more traditional:

A good half of the art of living is resilience.”  Alain de Botton

And

Man never made any material as resilient as the human spirit .“ Bernard Williams

“It’s not the winning that teaches you how to be resilient. It’s the setback. It’s the loss.” Beth Brook

And

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” Winston Churchill

      The lead, initially so quick to assume they would be working on their lessons learned was one of the first to see the point of this assignment. The point was to transition them away from a place of loss and upset and to begin to move forward with a sense of strength and ability. It was also Mary Carol’s way of letting them know that she was not angry with them, she did not think they had done a poor job, they were just bested by the competition. Now it was time for them to move forward.

Wishing you resiliency whenever it is needed.

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