“What you are shouts so loudly in my ears that I can not hear what you say.”
Do you work with someone that you don’t trust and so, no matter what they say to you, you don’t believe it? Who they are is blocking out everything they say. No matter whether what they are saying is true and genuine – your interpretation of what they say is going to be colored by your opinion of them.
I once had a boss who would spend a good portion of every conversation bad mouthing someone else. Whether or not I shared his opinion about the other person, the only thing I could think of what “how much time does he spend bad mouthing me when he talks to others?” Regardless of the fact that he would tell me that he thought I was doing a good job – I couldn’t believe that he genuinely thought that. How could it be that I was the only person he thought positively about? I didn’t trust him, couldn’t trust him, and it didn’t matter what he said, his actions drowned out the words.
By the way, I didn’t work for him for very long. I knew that there was no up side for me in that relationship. Only downside.
Today, we are going to talk about paradigm, and how it has a profound impact on your career.
A paradigm is a model, theory, or frame of reference. It is the way you see the world. Each of us has a different frame of reference because each of us brings a different set of experiences and values to our perceptions of the world. This fact has really come to the forefront recently with the global discussion that is going on about equality in the world.
It isn’t a political statement to say that my paradigm as a white, middle-to-upper class woman is very different than the paradigm of a black middle-to-upper class woman. It is simply a fact. Her experiences and my experiences are different and as a result, we bring a different frame of reference to our interactions.
My paradigm is influenced by the fact that I grew up in the restaurant business because my dad owned restaurants. Chances are good that you don’t have that same experience.
I grew up with a stay-at-home-mom, which gave me another piece of my paradigm. I went to public school, and was in the band. I’ve never been robbed or broken a bone. All of these things combine to make my paradigm – my frame of reference - different than yours.
Recognizing, and being conscious of the fact that you have a unique paradigm is important because it colors everything you do.
Stephen Covey says in the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: “to try and change outward attitudes and behaviors does very little good in the long run if we fail to examine the basic paradigm from which those attitudes and behaviors flow.”
Each of us tends to think we see things as they are – that we are objective. But, this is not the case. We see the world not as it is, but as we are – as we are conditioned to see it.
If everyone you interact with throughout the day is seeing the world as they are conditioned to see it, what does that mean for you?
It means that you can easily be misunderstood, or your actions can be misinterpreted. Whether the other person realizes it or not. Whether you realize it or not.
It also means that you can easily misinterpret or misunderstand someone else. Before you react to something, stop to consider if the person may be using a different paradigm than you.
These different paradigms could easily be seen as a problem. If everyone is walking around misunderstanding each other because of different frames of reference, how will we ever get anything done?
But another word for these paradigms is diversity. This diversity helps form better solutions to a problem because when everybody comes to the table with a different frame of reference, you end up with more insights and a more complete solution is the result.
Embrace the different paradigms
The key skill that I want to help you develop this week is how to embrace these different paradigms. As I already mentioned, the 1st step is to recognize it.
Spend some time thinking about the paradigm that you have. What circumstances and life experiences have you had that have an impact on how you view the world? Get comfortable with the fact that everything you do is done through the unique lens.
Next, you need to become cognizant of the fact that everyone else is coming to the party with their own lens, and you are likely never going to know all of the things that form the lens.
For instance, I’m never going to know what experience led my old boss to a place where he thinks it is ok to spend so much of his time bad mouthing others. Somewhere in his past, something occurred that allowed him to form an opinion that this is ok behavior. My guess is he doesn’t even recognize that he is doing it. But, it is certainly part of him and definitely colors everything he does. I will never know how that came about.
So, recognizing the fact that we each have our own paradigm is step 2. The reason it is important is because, when you find yourself in a tense situation – either you are having a disagreement, or it doesn’t have to be that dramatic – maybe you are working through a problem at work and seem to be getting stuck – not making progress toward a solution. When you get into a situation like that, it can be helpful to kind of take a step back and say – ok what is it about our paradigms that are contributing to this situation?
This will help because it automatically makes you more curious about the situation. Curiosity is not confrontational. It is open and starts to engage other parts of your brain that will start making connections to things that may have been previously unrelated.
For example, I’m a rule follower. It is part of me and although I don’t really think about it, my natural tendency is to follow rules. Worse than that, I tend to impose rules that aren’t even really there. The result is a lot of times, I don’t think of options for solving a problem that others see. I may overlook an option because it is going to cost money and I have this rule in my head that you shouldn’t spend money unless there is no other alternative. So, I’ll ignore a solution and search high and low to find another solution. I don’t even realize I’m doing it until someone else I’m working with says “well, if we just bought this thing, it would solve the problem.”
My paradigm about spending money colors the way I solve problems. When someone else comes with a different paradigm, I automatically start to think more creatively because a whole new set of options become available to me.
Another tool for getting the most out of differing paradigms is listening. Now – this ain’t easy folks! Especially when you are dealing with something highly emotional.
Let’s say your manager comes to you and says your performance is not meeting expectations. You think you’ve been doing a great job, so there are obviously 2 different paradigms here. Once you get over the initial shock of it, you can recognize that you and your manager are coming to your interaction with 2 different world views.
You can get curious “I wonder what her perspective is and how it can be so different from mine?”
And then you can listen. Really listen to her point of view. Don’t judge. Don’t defend. Listen. Listen to understand. Listen to empathize. See if you can understand her world view. See if you can recognize how all of her life experiences have added up to a different perspective than yours. Look for areas where your world view may be limited by your experiences and behaviors. Ask yourself if your world view could use an update as a result of this experience.
So, back to Emerson. “What you are shouts so loudly in my ears that I can no hear what you say.”
Your homework for this week is to get to know your paradigm. Think about how you show up, and what lens you bring. Because to be successful in your career, people need to be able to hear what you say.
This week, I want to focus on helping you think in a new way about achieving your longer-term goals. We all get so caught up in our daily lives that sometimes it can seem impossible to make any meaningful progress toward longer term goals. These longer term goals are usually important, but not urgent which makes them easy to deprioritize when you are facing a weeks’ worth of meetings, problems, and deadlines.
What you need to learn how to do is to be able to separate the urgency of the day-job from the importance of the longer-term goal. You need a way to keep your eye on the ball while keeping your head above water each day. There is a combination of very tactical activities that can help you achieve that, and that is what I want to cover today.
Know what your goal is
First, let’s assume you are already clear about what your important goal is. This is something you want to accomplish that is outside of your day job. For our purposes today, we will use an example from my job.
We had a process of forecasting revenue that was monthly and prepared by our finance department. The process was: about halfway through the month, the finance department would prepare a spreadsheet that forecasts revenue for the current quarter and the next quarter. They would send it to me and I would review and correct it. Typically, about 25% of the forecast was wrong and I would have to compare line-by-line to find problems, make notes and updates, and then send it back to finance. Then, finance would have to make the updates based on my notes and put together the final presentation for our leadership team.
This process was stressful and frustrating for several reasons. First, I am closer to the business than finance and have a better understanding of the forecast than they do. This is why there were so many corrections. Second, the time between when the 1st draft was sent to me and when the forecast had to be presented was usually about 2 days which meant there was always a crunch time to turn around my corrections to finance. And third, looking at the forecast once per month was not frequent enough to allow us to make adjustments when we needed to in order to make our numbers.
So, my goal was to improve this process. I wanted to reduce the stress of the process and be able to be more proactive about taking action in order to meet our quarterly targets.
But, because of my day job, it seemed like something that would be hard to accomplish.
So, we’ve got our goal.
Identify the levers that influence the goal
The first tool is to think about what things influence the goal. Think about levers that you can pull that if they change, they will impact the bigger goal. These are called lead measures.
For example, if you want to lose 20 pounds, the levers you can pull are eating fewer calories and exercising more. If you know each day that you ate fewer calories and exercised more, then you can be certain you will achieve your goal of losing weight. If you take your focus off the end goal and put it on the levers – or the lead measures – you can achieve your goal even within the constraints of daily life.
For my goal, in order to be able to be more proactive about achieving a quarterly target, I knew we needed to get to the point where we knew where we stood each week.
For me, the lever became a weekly scorecard that told us if we were on track for the quarterly target.
That seems simple enough, but the reality is that I’m already working 10 hours a day and not getting everything done. Adding a weekly report to my schedule was an overwhelming thought. It would be very easy to have ignored it and just let the current process continue.
Make 1% Progress
Tool number 2 is to think in terms of 1% progress toward your goal. What is 1 small step you can take this week to make progress toward your goal? If you can take 1 step in the right direction this week, you’ve made progress toward your goal.
A lot of times, we set a goal and feel like we’ve got to make huge progress toward it or else we aren’t successful. Then, because our day job doesn’t stop, we can’t get to our goal and then we feel like a failure. Too often, we have unrealistic expectations about changing our daily life in order to accomplish this new goal. Your daily life isn’t going away. In order to accomplish an important goal, you need to come up with a plan that will allow you to make progress in spite of your daily life.
So, think in terms of 1%. What is something you can do this week that will progress you toward your goal? It should be something related to your lead measure. You already know that the lead measure is a lever that will influence the outcome of your goal. So, if you are going to make incremental progress, it definitely needs to be something related to that lever.
For our weight loss example, it might be to eat 1 vegetable each day. It may seem like an insignificant step toward losing 20 pounds, but it is directly linked to weight loss and moves you toward your goal.
For my goal of getting to a proactive forecast, using a weekly scorecard, it meant setting up a set of reports that would feed into the scorecard. So, my original 1% goal or that 1st week was literally to just think about what the scorecard would look like. I had to have a clear picture of the scorecard in order to identify the reports I would need.
Week #1: draw a picture of the scorecard.
Week #2: identify what reports I need in order to fill in the scorecard.
Week #3: pick 1 report and create it.
Week #4: pick a second report and create it.
You get the picture.
Time Block for your 1%
Tool #3 is something we’ve covered in a previous episode – time blocking. If we acknowledge up front that you are going to have to achieve these goals in spite of your daily life, then you need to start to build in time to your daily life for these 1% activities.
Parkinson’s Law says that work expands to fill the time available. And its true. Your daily life is going to take up all of your time. So, you need to block off time on your calendar to ensure you can take your 1% step in the right direction.
Time blocking is the practice of scheduling a meeting on your calendar with yourself to accomplish an important task.
If you know what your goal is and you know the levers you can pull to get you there and you know what your next step is to get you 1% closer to your goal – then the only thing left is to find the time to do it.
So, block time on your calendar each week to take your 1%.
And, then, the hardest part of all – honor the time. Without a doubt, you will have something urgent from your day job that will want to take that slot on your calendar. But, if the goal was important enough to set in the first place, it is important enough to honor the slot you reserved to focus on it. Put the slot on your calendar for 6 months. If you achieve the goal sooner – great. You can always unblock your calendar once you’ve achieved the goal.
So, let me end by telling you that it took a little over 6 months to achieve my goal. I could have easily accomplished it in much less time if it wasn’t for my pesky day job! But, that just wasn’t going to change. So, although it took 6 months to get there – I got there! Our new weekly scorecard is now part of my day job, but there is recognition across the organization that it is a far better process than the old process. And, it is a lot less stressful for me.
Willpower is a funny thing. We all have willpower – we just all have it in different areas. Improving your willpower obviously helps you in life, but it will help you in your career as well. Understanding willpower can help you influence others, which can also help you in your career. So, there is a lot to be gained by better understanding it. There are a lot of different topics we can cover related to willpower, but today, we are going to focus specifically on the concept of social proof.
Social proof is the phenomenon that when the people around us do something, we think it’s the smart thing to do.
Do you think that because you are an adult, you are past peer pressure? Well, you’d be wrong!
When everybody else is doing it, we want to do it.
In California, researchers put door hangers on 371 homes that encouraged people to conserve energy*. Some homes got a door hanger that focused on the impacts to the environment. Others got a door hanger that appealed to their impact on their grandchildren. Others got a message about how much money they could save. And the last group got a door hanger that said ‘99% of the people in your community reported turning off lights to save energy.”
Each house received the same door hanger for 4 weeks in a row. Energy usage was measured at the beginning and end. The only message that resulted in reduced energy usage – you guessed it – was the message that ‘everybody’s doing it.’
Logically, you know that using less energy is better for the environment, your grandkids, and your wallet. Just like logically, you know that eating more broccoli and less chocolate cake is better for your health. But, for some reason – and psychologists call it social proof – the biggest motivator is what those around us do.
Kelly McGonigal, in her book Willpower Instinct says it well, ‘Social proof can strengthen self-control when we believe that doing the right thing is the norm.’
So, if you want to improve your willpower, the best thing you can do is find a group of people for which the things you aspire to is the norm. If you go to the gym everyday, you are going to be around people who consider daily exercise to be the norm – no willpower needed. Pretty soon, you start to think that way too.
If you want to get your customers or coworkers to behave in a certain way, you need to look for opportunities to help them feel that your desired way is the norm. Similar to our California door hangers, I can picture a client newsletter that you send out that says ‘99% of our customers never need to call the help desk because they found their own answers in our online knowledge center.”
Ok – that might not be the best idea.
But, how could you encourage your customers to believe that the behavior you want to encourage is the norm? The same with employees. If you’ve had more than one job, you’ve probably noticed that different companies have different norms. At first, if the norm isn’t what you are used to, it is a struggle, but eventually, you fall in line so that you can fit in and before long, you forget that you ever used to do it a different way.
If we look at the other side of the coin – what happens when you feel rejected from a tribe? Well, it’s a fast way to lose your willpower. Once the tribe has rejected you, you think to yourself – “well, why should I even bother?” And, you’ll give into your willpower right away.
So, it turns out that the tribe that you surround yourself with is very important to your ability to stick with your willpower. And, you have an influence on those same people. Their willpower is influenced by you. What are the norms that you’re telling yourself are ok because everybody else is doing it? Are you late to meetings because everybody else is late so its no big deal? Do you not follow through on commitments because you see others around you do the same? Do you gossip about coworkers behind their back? If that is the norm for your tribe, then you better believe that they are talking behind your back too.
Recognizing that you are influenced by peer pressure and that you are the peer pressure that others are influenced by can be a life altering paradigm shift. Be diligent about recognizing what your tribe is telling you is normal when deep down you suspect its not. Recognize that you can find other people to surround yourself with who have a different definition of normal. Recognize that you can and do influence others with your definition of normal.
Want your coworkers to show up on time? Make it normal to do that. Want to get people to follow your process? Let them know that everybody else is doing it. There may be 100 logical reasons why doing your process is the best option. Just like turning off your lights is good for the environment and saves you money. But -logic doesn’t always get people to change their ways. You are more likely to win your bet when you bet on social proof.
Your homework for this week is to identify an area where you feel your self-control isn’t where it should be. Are you surrounded by people who are making this unwanted behavior the norm? Are you telling yourself that its no big deal because everybody’s doing it? If it doesn’t feel right in your gut, then you are probably not surrounding yourself with the right people. Or, think of a role model who you can call to mind if you can’t change your tribe.
*Energy Conservation Study – Nolan, JM “Normative Social Influence is Under detected” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 2008
Do you have a 1:1 meeting with your manager? If not, why not? If you do, do you feel like you are getting value out of it?
Sadly, I think many 1:1 meetings are less effective than they could be. I think that many people – both managers and employees – don’t have a clear idea about the purpose of the meeting. And, because of this, its hard to make them effective. Let’s start with a discussion of what a 1:1 meeting is. It is a meeting where you and your manager met on a regular basis. The idea is that this is a recurring touchpoint between just the 2 of you. The reason 1:1s are important is because managers have multiple direct reports, so they need the opportunity to spend time with each one on a regular basis. If they don’t have something on their calendar, it would be easy for weeks, months, or even quarters to pass by without any meaningful conversation between the two of you. The demands of day-to-day work, special projects, fighting fires will all consume a work day about it can easily lead to a lack of time for something that is important, but not urgent.
1:1 meetings are important for a lot of reasons:
So, 1:1 meetings are really important. But, they are in no way urgent. As a result, they can easily be put on the back burner. Rescheduled or worse, cancelled altogether. It is something you need to be aware of. Where many employees go wrong is to assume it is the manager’s responsibility to manage the 1:1. It is just a much your responsibility. Your relationship with your manager is very important for your career. Whether they are a good manager or no is not something you are going to be able to control. But, what you can control is your ability to meet 1:1 with your manager. With a bad manager, it might take more persistence, but it is within your control.
If you don’t currently have a 1:1 with you manager, you are going to take the bull by the horns and schedule one.
Now, let’s turn to the topic of what makes an effective 1:1. A 1:1 is a time to step outside of the day-to-day hustle and bustle. It is a time to check in about the bigger picture. To align on priorities, direction, and vision. In some cases, it is a dedicated time for addressing questions that you’ve saved up during the week. Many people treat it as a status meeting. Of course, your particular situation is going to dictate the content or agenda for your 1:1. It is hard for me to give any specific agenda that would work for everybody.
There are some things you can think about that will help you ensure that your 1:1 is giving you the benefits you deserve.
In episode 9, we talked about preparing for your annual review. You should be preparing for it monthly by documenting each month what you accomplished. This process helps you with your 1:1 also. You can refer to this list when meeting with your manager to highlight what you’ve done since your last meeting.
4. Think about your career development. What coaching do you need? Do you know what skills your manager thinks you should develop? Does your manager know what your long term career objective is? Are you at the point in your job where it is time to be talking about what’s next for you? Some portion of your 1:1 agenda should focus on this longer-term career development topic in whatever form makes sense for you in your current situation.
5. You may want to build time into your agenda for addressing current issues you are having that you need your manager’s help solving. This could mean helping to remove a roadblock, giving you a steer in the right direction, being a sounding board to talk through the issues with, or giving you the answer you need. You may or may not have current issues that need to be addressed, but if your manager’s time is hard to come by, using your 1:1 to get what you need might be a good option. So, those are some of the things you should consider when you are planning your 1:1 agenda. If you get our newsletter, you’ll get a guide this week that will help you think through this process and come up with an agenda. If not, you can sign up for our newsletter here and you’ll get access to our full back catalog of guides.
One thing to note about the agenda. You may not cover all of these topics each time. For example, it may make sense to only talk about career development topics each third time. Or, you may not talk about status as a regular agenda item, but some specific situation causes you to add it to the agenda for your next 1:1.
What I’m hoping you take away from this episode is that it is important for you to establish a 1:1 with your manager. If your manager hasn’t taken responsibility for it, then you should do so yourself. There are 2 people in the 1:1, and you are one of them. So, the responsibility is yours to make sure that you have this important mechanism in place to keep an open dialogue with your manager.
The circle of influence is a concept popularized by Stephen Covey in the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Although Covey takes no credit for the idea, he was a master at explaining it in a way that is so clear and actionable that it has become part of our business lexicon.
Today, I’m going to do my level best to explain it to you in a manner that will allow a light bulb to go on and for you to be able to walk away from this episode and put a new habit into practice. Even if you think you’ve got the concept down, I encourage you to listen to this episode. It is always good to have a refresher.
I fall into this category myself. If you were to ask me if I live or embody the concept of circle of influence I would have said yes. I think of and employ the concept frequently. I’ve talked about a lot of the ideas in one way or another on previous episodes. I would describe this concept as a core of my philosophy and personality. And yet – I just re-read the chapter in 7 Habits and found myself learning more. Being reminded of little nuances I’ve forgotten. Being shown a different way to approach it. So, there is always something more you can learn.
Let’s start by defining the circle of influence. Think about your world in 3 buckets:
This you can’t control
Most people are pretty good about how they deal with the things they can’t control. There is a recognition that you can’t do anything about it, so you adjust your behavior in whatever way is relevant and you move on with your life. The majority of people recognize this situation the majority of the time.
The weather is a classic example. You can’t control the weather. You know it and, although you may be disappointed when an even gets cancelled due to the weather, you don’t let it eat away at you.
Another example I like to use is a sports example. When a referee makes what you think is a bad call, there is literally nothing you can do about it. You can yell and scream and post as many bad tweets as you want, it isn’t going to change the outcome. The reason I use this example is because I think it is an example of where people who otherwise generally recognize situations where they don’t have control temporarily lose sight of that fact.
When it comes to the things you can’t control, your best option is to recognize as quickly as possible that you have no control, which takes away their ability to control you. If you feel like this is an area where you need to so some additional development work, I suggest you listen to Episode 20 about Productive and Unproductive Worry.
Things you can control indirectly through influence
Within the circle is the circle of influence. These are the things you can control indirectly through influence. These are things that other people are responsible for, but for which you can impact their actions. Your circle of influence with your children, if they are still young, is pretty large. And, although it decreases as they get older, it is still a very large part of your circle. Your circle of influence at work is likely smaller than your circle of influence at home, but you still have influence. Your objective should be to increase your circle of influence to be as large as it can be.
I believe influence is a mindset issue. You need to 1. Believe you can influence the situation and 2. Take responsibility for your actions or response. The way you know if you are doing this is by looking at the language you are using:
Is the issue someone else’s fault?
Do you feel like you are the victim?
Are you talking in terms of ‘onlys’? If only I had a better boss. If only I had this certification. If only management understood that our customers are impossible to deal with.
You have influence over each of these if only’s. And you can take action to influence them. When you give up your right to take action, you’ve made the choice to dis-empower yourself.
“If only I had a better boss.” What about your boss do you have a problem with? What can you do to build a relationship with your boss to gain influence that will change the impact? If they are a micro-manger, it means that they need a high level of detail to be comfortable. Increase the level of detail you provide when you communicate with them. By proactively doing this, they will become comfortable with you – they will trust in the work you are doing and will no longer feel the need to micro-mange.
“If only I had this certification.” If you think you aren’t getting considered for a role because you are lacking a skill, what are you doing to go get the skill?
“If only management understood that our customers are impossible to deal with.” How can you help them understand? Are you documenting the scenarios that come up? Have you investigated the steps necessary to address the scenarios? Have you asked management for what you need to address the scenarios?
And, taking responsibility for your actions means that if you feel you’ve tried to influence and the outcome is still not acceptable, then you take action to move on.
Things you can directly influence
Which takes us to the final part of the circle of influence – things you can directly control. These are your habits, your mindset. Taking responsibility for your actions proactively is one of the key things that sets highly productive, highly effective, people apart. Taking action on your own behalf is a fundamental skill. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is that you believe that you are the architect of your career.
As human beings, one of the things that sets us apart from other animals is our ability to be self aware. Our freedom to choose how we respond to a situation. When there is some sort of situation thrust upon us, we are the architects of our response. I’m not trying to imply that by having a positive attitude, you can turn a bad situation into a positive situation. Bad things happen. Sucky things will always suck. But, you have 100% control over how you choose to respond. You can let bad things eat away at you, impacting the rest of your life, or you can let bad things be one part of your story rather than the whole story.
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