Here are some things that are true about me:
What do those things tell you about me? Of course, each person who hears that list will come to their own conclusion about who I am.
But, that’s not the point.
The point is, I’ve defined myself this way. I don’t snack between meals. I just don’t. I’m not a person who snacks.
It isn’t a value judgement. It doesn’t make me better or worse than someone who does snack. It just is a sentence that describes one aspect of who I am.
Now, what if, instead, I said “I can’t snack between meals?”
That is a completely different situation.
I can’t snack now becomes a rule I must follow. A rule that takes willpower. Something that I must keep myself from doing. Something that I struggle against. It is a whole different ballgame.
Create Your Identify
When you use “I don’t” you are defining yourself. Giving yourself an identity. It takes away the struggle. It requires no willpower because it isn’t contrary to who you are.
Let’s talk about the statement “I don’t check email after 6, on weekends, or on vacation.” Many of you are saying to yourself that this isn’t possible for you. That your boss expects immediate answers to their email. That your job requires it of you. That you must be constantly connected, or you will fail at your job.
I respectfully challenge that assumption. First of all, I work in a high pressure, fast paced industry in a position of leadership. Most of my coworkers answer emails at all hours and on weekends. Yet, I’ve been very successful in my career without doing these things.
How do I make it work and they don’t?
There are a lot of parts to that answer, but the one I’m focused on today is that I simply am not a person who answers emails after 6 or on weekends. I don’t. It is who I am and – believe it or not – other people accept it.
Do I struggle or get stressed out thinking about my unanswered emails? Absolutely not. I don’t think twice about it because it isn’t who I am.
Change Takes Time
If you are thinking “that’s great for you Rachel, but I could never define myself that way,” then let me tell you that I used to be that way too.
I used to work 80-100 hours a week, frantically trying to keep up with all the email, deadlines, crises, and expectations. It was pretty much the only thing I thought about from the moment I woke up to the moment I went to bed.
And, to be honest, I didn’t sleep well back then so I guess I was thinking about it even after I went to bed.
Eventually, it became unsustainable, and something had to give. That’s when I made the decision that I wasn’t going to be the kind of person who spent every waking hour working. I didn’t want to be defined as a workaholic because workaholics never have a happy ending.
Out of that situation came some of the rules I still live by today:
It didn’t happen overnight, but over time I got to the point where I stopped checking email and nobody said a word.
And, here is a dirty little secret – I don’t have email on my phone.
One of the things I listed was “I don’t shy away from conflict.”
That isn’t true.
At least not yet.
You see, one area I need to improve on is being able to stand my ground when someone either challenges me or disagrees with me. I give in way too easy because I’m worried about damaging the relationship.
I’m learning how to stand my ground and be comfortable that I won’t damage the relationship because we have a difference of opinion.
Remember how I said that I used to work all the time? Then I defined myself as someone who doesn’t and I worked my way to the point where how I live my life and how I define myself were in line.
That’s what I’m in the process of doing now with conflict. I’ve defined myself as someone who doesn’t shy away from conflict and I’m working my way toward living in alignment with that definition.
Define Who You Are
In 2012, the Journal of Consumer Research published a study called “I Don’t vs I Can’t: When Empowered Refusal Motivates Goal-Directed Behavior.”
They trained one group to set “I don’t” goals and another to set “I can’t” goals. Later, when given the choice between a candy bar and a granola bar, twice as many people in the “I don’t” group chose a granola bar over a candy bar.
Pure and simple – I can’t feels like a struggle while I don’t gives you a sense of self.
What “I can’t” can you turn into an “I don’t”?
This week, find something you have been struggling with and create a definition for yourself that you can start to work toward.
Make yourself a little note and put it by your monitor so you can remind yourself throughout the day that you are defining yourself in a new way.
Remember that it won’t happen overnight. It takes time for your brain to wire itself with this new information. But, if you stick with it long enough there will come a day in the future where you don’t even think about it anymore – it will just be who you are.
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As you progress in your career, one of the things that is important for you to be successful is to network.
You are building relationships at each job. As you move on to your next job or your colleague moves on to their next job, it is important that you maintain that relationship because at some point in the future one of you is going to need to call on the other for help.
What makes this process challenging is that it takes work and, although important, it isn’t urgent so it is easy for you to let it go. You don’t maintain the relationship because it isn’t right in front of you and then when you need it, you are starting off from a less than ideal situation.
Professional Relationship Lifecycle
The life cycle of professional relationships is interesting. You work with someone and because you spend a huge portion of your week at work, you get to know the person pretty well.
Think about the people you work closely with. There are people you talk to daily and people you talk to at least weekly. You talk regularly because your job requires it.
And, although you are likely talking about work, over time you are building a relationship. You get to know the person and they get to know you. You know what they are good at, the way they communicate, whether or not you can rely on them, if they meet deadlines, etc.
And then, you get a new job and move on. Suddenly, someone you were talking to every day is no longer part of your life. Someone you relied on to get your work done – to be successful in your career – is not part of your life at all anymore.
It is a very interesting phenomenon. Now, you may keep in touch with some of the people who you developed a more personal relationship with. These are people who crossed over the professional relationship divide into the personal relationship category.
These are not the people I’m talking about today.
I’m talking about the people you had professional relationships with – strictly professional. Keeping in touch with them is important for your career. The better you are at keeping in touch, the better off you will be when you need something that they can help you with.
Networking is not something you do at a weekly breakfast or cocktail hour. That type of networking, when you goal is to hand out as many business cards as possible, is really a marketing activity.
What I’m talking about is a relationship activity. You need to constantly maintain your network because relationships are important to your success.
Doing this isn’t hard – at all. But, it also isn’t easy for the simple reason that its not urgent, which means most of us won’t get to it. We aren’t intentional about networking because it isn’t in our face.
The piles of email and stacks of status reports are in our face.
The deadlines we have to meet this week are in our face.
Reaching out to Dan, who we worked with 2 jobs ago is not in our face because we don’t need anything from Dan right this minute.
Become Intentional About Maintaining Your Network
What I’m encouraging you to do is to be intentional about maintaining your network. Here are a few things you can do to make this process a more active part of your professional life:
For example, recommend a book or app or tell people about a tip they can use such as how to better organize their email or how time blocking can make you more productive.
The idea with this third activity is that you are posting something general out to your network that will both remind them of you but also be seen as something of value that will create a memory in their mind that you are someone who is always adding value.
The Difference Between Networking and Thought Leadership
I want to talk a little more about why this post should not be specific to your company or industry. What I’m talking about in this post is the importance of building and maintaining your network. I am not talking about the importance of building your reputation as an expert in your particular industry. I’m also not talking about the importance of marketing your company.
Both of those things are also important, but just not for this episode. So, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t do those things. But, I am saying that you need to separate the activity of maintaining your network from these other 2 things.
My network has people in a lot of different roles. I am connected to sales people and accountants, writers and educators, marketers and developers.
If you are in accounting and the only thing you ever post is related to accounting, you are not being relevant to a good portion of your network.
By posting something that is more general, that can be useful to people in a lot of different roles, you are making connections with them. Don’t stop posting about topics important to accounting, just remember to also post about time management or goal setting or communication as well.
By doing these 3 things monthly, you’ll see a lot more traction from your network and find that when you are in need of something from your network, you’ll find them more responsive.
Being intentional about your networking will pay dividends the next time you need something!
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Are you a specialist or a generalist? The world needs both, so I’m not going to argue for one over the other. I can see the benefits of choosing either path for your career.
And, to be honest, I’m not even sure I know what the definition of specialist is because it is all relative. You can specialize in marketing vs finance – sure. But, within marketing there are a lot of different roles you can specialize in. I’ve even seen job postings for inbound or outbound marketing specialists. Apparently, there is a big difference between whether you send the message or receive the message.
The thing is, when you specialize in an area, you begin to look at everything in a certain way. You fall into patterns or routines. You know the saying ‘to a hammer, everything looks like a nail?”
To a marketer, every problem looks like a marketing problem.
To a finance person, every problem looks like a numbers problem.
We all approach our specialty with blinders on. We bring our experiences, our knowledge, our comfort zone to our actions. It is natural and expected, and doing this doesn’t make you a bad person or serve as a weakness.
Expand Beyond Your Specialization
But, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t strive to improve. Having a broad, generalized knowledge about areas outside of your core specialty help you to find innovative solutions to problems. It helps you to connect seemingly unrelated dots in ways that others might not have thought of.
This takes effort and requires you to be a little deliberate about the whole thing.
It may require you to go a little outside your comfort zone.
It takes some effort and time, so you will need to build that into your schedule.
But, my experience has been that it is so very worth the effort.
Area of Focus
So, what I’m advocating for this week is that you pick an area of focus to expand your horizons. What is something that you can learn about that is outside of your area of specialty? Spend the next 6 months purposefully learning about it.
That could mean reading books about the topic.
It could mean listening to podcasts focused on the topic.
It could mean reaching out to people in your company, or in your network and asking them to teach you about it.
Not because you want to move into it as a career, but because you want to expand your knowledge beyond your current blinders.
An area of focus is like taking a 101 course in college. Your goal is to learn the basics and be able to speak the language. Whether you move beyond 101 is up to you. But, you have to be deliberate about it. It takes effort. It doesn’t just happen. It isn’t going to be part of your routine, so you need to make it a priority for yourself and give yourself enough time. Little by little, you can learn more about the topic until it is time to pick the nxt area of focus.
Over the years, I’ve had areas of focus in sales, support as I’ve already mentioned, critical thinking, nutrition, podcasting, change management, customer experience, and literacy. Right now, I’m taking a deep dive into the industry of senior living community operations.
What will your next area of focus be?
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I learned a valuable lesson this week that I thought I’d share with you.
Let me ask you something: what is your job?
You’ve probably just pulled up a mental picture of a job description. The thing you tell people at a cocktail party when they ask you what you do. You’ve probably said something like “I’m a project manager for IT projects,” or “I work in accounts payable,” or “I’m a customer support specialist.” And, if I were to answer that question – I’d say “I run the operations of a professional services organizations.” It is what my job description says, after all.
But, the lesson I was reminded of this week is this – my job is also to make my manager’s life better. The way I do that is by making the operations of our professional services company run smoothly. For our project manager, the way she makes her manager’s life better is by ensuring the project stays on budget and on schedule. For our accounts payable clerk, he makes his manager’s life better by ensuring everything is paid on time and nothing is overpaid. Our customer support specialist handles customer issues in a manner that they don’t get escalated.
How do you do your job in a way that makes your manager’s life better? Think about it for a minute. How are you contributing to your manager in a way that makes their job easier?
What value are you adding for your manager?
More Personal than Objectives
There are a lot of articles and books that talk about how important it is to ensure that employees are able to tie their objectives to the corporate objectives. Can each employee tie what they do to the overall success of the company?
Having spent my entire career in back office type roles, I know first hand that it can really be a stretch to do this sometimes. Many times,, the company objectives are sales related, which means that if you aren’t in a sales or marketing role, it can be hard to see how what you do contributes to the company objective. It can sometimes feel like the company doesn’t value your role as much as the sales team because all eyes are focused on the corporate objective of growing revenue.
If you struggle to tie your work to your company’s objective, what I’m suggesting is that you change your perspective. Don’t think of it in terms of objectives. Think of it in terms of tying what you do every day to how that makes your manager’s job easier – up the chain then everyone is contributing to the company’s objective.
This takes something a bit esoteric – objectives – and makes them more personal. Finding ways to make your manager’s life easier brings it to the personal level. I think it is also more fulfilling. Let’s be honest – most of us work for companies with objectives that aren’t really all that fulfilling. That’s ok – you can get your fulfillment through other means. One of which is by becoming an employee that makes life easier for others.
Although this is a philosophy I’ve had for a long time, I was reminded of it this past week. We’ve been really under the gun for the last few months at work because we’ve had some record quarters and we are understaffed. Everybody is swamped an that inevitably means things start falling through the cracks. I’ve been wracking my brain trying to figure out who to get us back on track and wasn’t coming up with any great solution.
Then, I changed my approach and asked myself – what could I do to make Scott’s life better. Scott, as you might guess, is my manager. Once I started thinking of it in those terms, I came up with two ideas that could really make a difference. After spending some time on those two ideas, I narrowed in on the one that I could really sink my teeth into and moved ahead with it.
There is something about putting the question into human terms that really opened up a new set of options for me. Rather than solving this esoteric problem, I was simply trying to help Scott. And by helping Scott, I free him up to use the time on something else. And, if that continues up the chain of command, then we will achieve our corporate objectives.
Spend some time this week thinking about what you are doing to make your manager’s life easier. Not only will you feel more fulfilled by doing this, you’ll also be more successful at work because manager’s reward employees who make their job easier.
Also, put this technique into your toolkit so that the next time you are stuck, you might be able to use it to become unstuck like I did this week.
In the book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R Covey, habit #2 is to begin with the end in mind. On the surface, it sounds like he is talking about setting goals, but what he talks about is more fundamental that that.
Begin with the end in mind means that you must have a clear picture of what you are trying to accomplish in order to get there. That seems pretty straight forward, but it is actually very nuanced. The problem is, a lot of us aren’t self aware enough to really understand what it is we are aiming for. We may have a general picture in our mind and we may think of it every once in a while, but we aren’t consciously designing our outcomes.
Let me give you an example from my life.
I got my degree in accounting and I worked in an accounting job for maybe 5 years of my entire career. I eventually figured out that what I wanted to accomplish had nothing to do with accounting. I was moving forward in my career – just not in the one that was right for me.
That was back in the early days of my career. Once I got onto the right path, my career has been a consistent accomplishment toward the vision I had of my goal. Then, about 4 or 5 years ago, I started to see a new vision. The objective was shifting and the picture has gotten clearer, although I’m still refining it. Starting this podcast is part of it.
Covey talks about all creations being created twice.
The 1st creation is your mental image of it.
The 2nd creation is the physical manifestation of it.
If that 1st creation isn’t made consciously, you aren’t the one driving the objective.
For me, I went into accounting mostly because it was what everyone around me was doing. I knew in college that I didn’t want to be an accountant. I liked business and I was good at a lot of the skills I needed for accounting – so that’s the direction I took. I didn’t know enough about the real business world to define my outcome any other way. So, my 1st vision for my career, although perfectly legitimate on paper, turned out not to be the right vision once I translated it from my mental image into a physical career.
Although I thought I knew what I wanted to accomplish, I was wrong. And, I think this is natural. I don’t feel like I failed because I didn’t stick with accounting. Once I got out into the business world and saw what other jobs were out there that could use my skills, I was able to see a different vision for myself. Once I saw a new vision, I was ready to start moving in that direction.
I think the important lesson is to look up every once in a while and ask yourself if the world you are creating is actually the one you want to be creating.
This is going to require a lot of self awareness.
Self awareness is something we talk about a lot on People Move Organizations because it is so foundational to a successful career.
Self awareness is knowing one’s internal states, preferences, resources, and intuitions.
The reason it is important that you have self awareness is that you have to have a good handle on yourself in order to be able to set a goal or a vision that will be fulfilling for you. It is so easy to fall into a habit or a pattern where you get up and go to work every day and do what you do.
Whether it brings you joy and fulfillment or not.
If you aren’t absolutely miserable, you aren’t likely to think about your vision. Defining the end state is about knowing yourself well enough to know – well, not just know – to really take positive action toward, to be motivated to act toward an end goal that will bring you fulfillment.
Daniel Goldman summed it up nicely in his book Working with Emotional Intelligence, “Self awareness is a building block of commitment: if you don’t know you own guiding principles, you may not recognize when something is or isn’t a fit.”
As you become self aware, you start to see where something isn’t a fit and you can start to create a new vision for yourself. Again, Habit 2 is: begin with the end in mind.
When was the last time you spent time thinking about your vision for yourself?
Without the vision for where it is you are trying to get to, it is impossible to take the next step – which is making progress toward the goal.
Begin with the end in mind is for processes too
Do you have a problem at work that you are trying to solve? A process that isn’t working well? Before you can fix it, you’ve got to be clear on what end state you are trying to get to.
Just this week, I found myself spinning my wheels on a problem. I feel like the process we use for forecasting our staffing levels isn’t working as well as it could. I was trying to figure out why it isn’t giving me a result I could trust and I found myself with 10 spreadsheets open and 10 partially completed analyses – none of which gave me an answer. I was in analysis paralysis. So, I literally said out loud to myself “what exactly are you trying to accomplish?” I had lost track of the end result and had to remind myself.
Whether you are using Habit 2 for big life changing decisions of for thorn-in-your-side tactical problems at work, make sure you regularly step back from the daily grind and ask yourself what are you trying to accomplish?
Before you can actually accomplish anything, you’ve got to have a vision for what it is you are moving toward.
And, don’t beat yourself up when you vision changes over time. It is natural for your priorities to change and therefore your vision to change as well.
If you aren’t clear on you priorities, it will have an impact on almost every other aspect of your life. We commonly refer to work – life balance when we are talking about priorities. But, it isn’t just about what you do at work and what you do in your personal life. Your priorities have an impact to many different aspects of your life. Its all inter-twined.
If you just think about your work, you can think about how productive you are during any given week. Are you as successful as you could be or as you want to be? How can you be more productive or successful in the - air quotes – 40 hours you spend at work each week?
Now, expand beyond work and consider your family life. I will include friends really – you social life, which includes family. How fulfilled are you in your personal life? Are you accomplishing what you want in this area? Do you feel like you are giving it the attention it needs?
Lets expand again. Now, what about your community life? When you think about everything you want to accomplish outside of work and our social circle, do you feel like you have a handle on it? Are you happy with the contribution you are making?
And finally, let me expand one more time. What about you personally? For yourself? What are your goals? Do you have hobbies? Is there a hobby you want to pursue that you haven’t?
It’s a lot to keep track of.
What do you want to accomplish at work, at home, in your community, and for yourself? How on earth do you balance it all?
How do you ensure that each and every week you are taking actions that align with these goals?
How do you balance your personal set of goals with other important people in your life?
You really can’t set your priorities without taking your bosses priorities into consideration. If you are in a relationship, you can’t set your priorities without taking your partner’s priorities into account. It can get overwhelming very quickly. That is exactly why so many people just ignore their priorities and let their life unfold the way it unfolds.
When you let life unfold, it has a tendency to be driven by the urgent things – regardless of how important they are.
North Star List
There is a tool that I use to help me keep track of it all. It helps me keep an eye on my priorities so that I can feel confident that I’m always acting in accordance with my priorities. I call it the North Star List, and although I’ve talked about it a lot on this podcast, today we are going to deep dive into it. My goals is that you leave this week with a North Star List of your own.
The way I describe the North Star List is that it is the job description for your life. Just like a job description outlines what you should be spending your time on at work, your North Star List outlines what you should be spending your time on in life.
As you think about the different areas of your life – work, social circle, community, and yourself, you are going to write out a description of what you want it to be for you. Don’t feel like you have to cover every scenario. Your North Star List is going to change over time because – well – your priorities change over time. Let’s just take work as an example.
When you first start working, you may have a priority to find a good solid job that has good potential for growth. Or maybe that has good potential to learn a specific skill you want to pursue. Then, over time you may decide that what you really want out of work is a certain title or a promotion and climbing the ladder is your top priority. And, if you are like me and you’ve been working for nearly 30 years, your priority ay move from climbing the ladder to just maintaining a paycheck because your priority is shifting from career to retirement.
Obviously, the same is true for your social circle. When you are young, your priority is likely a circle of friends. As you get older and start a family, it is likely your immediate family – your spouse and children. And, as you get older and your kids move out, it is likely going to shift back to friends.
So, as you can see, the priorities in each are of you life are going to shift over time. There will be times when your work/life balance is completely focused on work, and times when it is completely focused on life, and everything in between.
What the North Star List does is it helps you think about your priorities and ensure you are acting in alignment with them at all times.
So, let’s put together your North Star List. When you think about your life, what is your job description?
Start with your work. If you were writing a job description for the role work plays in your life, what would it be? Is it the central responsibility you have? Is it an important part of your job, but not the most important thing? Or is it one of those nice-to-have things that they always put in the last section of a job description? How would you describe the role your work has in your life?
My current North Star List has work listed as “provide for my family through a job that pays enough to provide the lifestyle we desire.” What does that tell you about my priorities? There is nothing in that statement about doing something I love or enjoy. There is nothing in that statement about a certain title or achieving anything other than – honestly – a paycheck. This is because I’m at the stage in my career where I’ve done everything I want to do and my job is no longer a focus for me. Don’t get me wrong – I still have to work and I still want to enjoy what I do, but as far as my priorities go – it doesn’t go beyond the paycheck. Practically speaking, what does it mean? It means that as I make my way through my week and I have to make decisions about my limited time, I let this priority drive those decisions. I don’t put a lot of overtime in because my priority isn’t to climb the ladder. I used to make decisions based on what might be good for my career. Now, I don’t because it is no longer such a priority. It is a subtle difference, but is so helpful in providing direction when I’m faced with decisions.
Ok, so lets turn to your social life. This includes family and friends. The next line in your job description should describe what you want this area of your life to look like. Knowing that you have to balance work with your social life. What is the priority for you when it comes to family and friends?
For example, my North Star List says “support my family by being present as a wife, daughter, sister, and friend.” That means I show up in meaningful ways for those people I love. Since I don’t have kids, there is no need to talk about the kind of parent I want to be. Your focus may be a lot more narrow if you are in a new relationship or have young children.
Next, think about the wider community. What role do you want to play in your community?
It may be that your answer is none. And, that’s ok. Again, over time, our focus changes. If you are young and have a new family and new career, you may not have any time for the wider community. There was a time when I very consciously called out my community involvement was limited to supporting organizations or causes I cared about financially because I could easily write a check, but giving my time was a much bigger challenge.
You can see how having this outlined in my North Star List made decisions easy. When I was asked to volunteer for something – having the North Star List to refer back to made it easy for me to say no because it wasn’t one of my priorities.
My current North Star List says “support my community by using my strengths too benefit organizations that serve missions that I believe in.”
Finally, it is important that you don’t forget about yourself. In your life’s job description, what is your current priority for yourself?
How do you take care of yourself? What is the top priority for yourself?
It may be tempting for you to say something about your work or family. Don’t. You’ve covered those already. It may feel selfish at first, but just do it anyway. If you don’t put yourself on your priority list, I can guarantee you won’t give yourself permission to do whatever it is that is important to you. And, that will lead to burnout.
For me, it is my podcasts. What will it be for you?
There is one thing that will, without a doubt keep you from being successful in your career. If your coworkers and bosses don’t have trust in you, you will be like Sisyphus, pushing your career up the mountain only to see it slip back down.
Mahatma Gandhi said it very well, “The moment there is suspicion about a person’s motives, everything he does becomes tainted.”
A lack of trust is something you can’t afford in your career. And, the thing is, trust is something other’s get to decide. Do they trust you or not? Of course, it is based on your actions, but the decision to place trust is still theirs.
So, how do you increase your chances of ending up in a place where your coworkers and bosses make a decision to place their trust in you? On this episode, we are going to talk through the different components of trust. By understanding the components, you can determine if there are any levers you can pull that may help you improve your trustworthiness in other’s eyes.
A lot of the basis for this is based on the book “The Speed of Trust – The One Thing that Change Everything” by Stephen MR Covey.
How Do You Define Trust?
First, think about what it is that you consider when you decide to place your trust in others. Think about someone you trust. What makes you trust them? Now, think about someone you don’t trust. What makes you lack trust in them? What would they need to do to build a reputation with you that would lead to you trusting them?
Even the most trustworthy person you can think of can lose your trust in a given situation. It is hard to make an argument that Mother Theresa was untrustworthy.
But, would you trust her to fix your car? No.
Would you trust her to treat your cancer? No.
Trustworthiness is relative because one component of trust is competence. In your career, your level of trustworthiness can not be separated from your competence.
Obviously, you are not going to ever gain competency in all areas. Nobody is. This is why trust is relative. Your goal is to build your competency in your particular area of focus. If you find yourself struggling to gain your bosses trust, you should consider whether or not the lack of trust is driven by a competency issue.
Competency is made up of: capability, results, and your track record. It takes all three to build trust.
Capability is your skill level for a given area. If you are in finance, it is your skill level understanding financial models, data modeling, your ability to manipulate a spreadsheet. If you are in customer service, it is your ability to solve problems, to stay calm under pressure, and to learn your company’s product or service well enough to answer questions from customers. If you are in sales, it is knowing how to read the room, how to build a business case, and how to listen for what your prospective client really needs.
Whatever role you are in – what you need to do is understand the skills that are core for your area and determine how you increase these so that you become known as competent.
By the way, if you are a Scale My Skills subscriber, you’ve got a guide in your inbox that will walk you through this process.
We don’t trust people who don’t give us results. You need to be seen as someone who gets things done.
Keep your promises.
Do what you say you will do.
Under promise and over deliver.
Are you someone who delivers results? More importantly, are you someone others see as delivering results?
We build trust by delivering results consistency over a long period of time. Trust deepens each time you deliver, and you build a track record that becomes a foundation of trust with someone. We will give someone who breaks our trust the benefit of the doubt if they have a track record with us. We see the episode as out of character for them and we think to ourselves “this isn’t like Jim – he usually delivers on his promises. Something must be going on.” Someone without a track record won’t get that same level of benefit.
So, one side of the trust equation is your competency – your skill level, the results you achieve, and your track record over time. If you feel like you aren’t getting the respect you deserve at work, take a good hard look at these areas and see if there is something you can work on.
The second side of the trust equation is character. Whereas competencies are situation, character is constant. Character is made up of integrity, motive, and intent.
Integrity is honestly, congruence, humility, and courage. Are you telling the truth and leaving the right impression. Are you acting in harmony with your values and beliefs? Are you concerned more about what is right than about being right? And, do you have the courage to do what is right even when it is hard?
Having integrity is foundational to building trust. Can you imagine trusting someone who has no integrity? It is table stakes. Without integrity, it’s a non-starter.
Intent is also important when it comes to trust. Intent is your reason for doing something. When your intent is in the right place, but you screw up anyway, people are likely to give you the benefit of the doubt. They won’t penalize you as much for the violation. Its like you just got off with a warning instead of a speeding ticket. Having a positive intent is character building.
Character is also influenced by your agenda. People will determine whether or not they can trust you by whether they feel your agenda is self serving or seeking mutual benefit. How often do you operate with an open agenda versus one where you maybe have an alternative motive? When you catch yourself in alternative motive mode, remind yourself that you are not acting in accordance with building trust.
And finally, character is built on your behavior. Behavior is simply the manifestation of your intent and agenda. People can see when your behavior is not trustworthy. Behaving out of alignment with intent is a sure fire indicator of a hidden agenda.
Every single one of us has a lot to learn. You may be an expert at something, but a complete novice in another area. Or, maybe you have only been out of school for a short time and you are pretty much a novice at everything. So, whatever your situation, you are going to be put into a scenario where you are not the most knowledgeable person on the topic, and you are going to need to rely on the advice or feedback of someone else. When this happens, one of the most important things you can do is accurately assess how much weight you should give to their advice.
Assess How Much Weight to Give Advice
How do you do that? By considering how much experience the person has and what their track record is on the subject. So, someone who has been working in sales for 20 years and has won top sales person over and over is very reliable when it comes to topics related to sales. But, you may not want to take tax advice from them. For tax advice, you will go to someone with a CPA who has 20 years of experience doing tax returns.
It seems pretty obvious when I use those examples, but in day-to-day situations, it isn’t always so clear cut.
If you want to improve your ability to make good decisions, you need to evaluate your decision making process. When you make a decision, who are you relying on? Are you taking into consideration the advice you are being given weighed against the person’s experience and expertise? Not every person is right for advice on every topic. Someone who is super smart in one area can still give you horrible advice in another area.
You must be able to distinguish the person’s believability when it comes to the topic. What most people do is they give equal weight to everyone in the room. Or, they may give weight based on likeability or how long they’ve known someone. But, even in those cases, they are usually doing it unconsciously.
Consider Experience and Track Record
When you are trying to make a decision about something and you are involving others, you must consider their experience and track record when weighing the impact their opinion will have on your decision.
When you are considering someone’s advice, ask yourself:
This 3rd point is really important. A lot of people have opinions they are willing to share, but when you dig into it, you find out it is not based on any personal experience. Many times, it is based on something they’ve heard someone else say. A person’s believability is tied to first-hand experience. If they don’t have 1st hand experience, then they aren’t the right person for you to be getting advice from.
Separating your respect for someone from the fact that they aren’t believable in certain areas is an important skill. In order to do that, you need to ask yourself if they have a good explanation for their advice. If not, you should consider how much weight you give it.
What Role Are You Playing?
The other thing to think about when making a decision based on other people’s advice is the role that you are playing in this specific instance. When considering your relative experience to the other person’s – are you a student, a teacher, or a peer?
If the other person is relatively more experienced than you on the topic, then you are in the role of student and you should be asking questions in order to gain understanding.
If the other person is relatively less experienced than you on the topic, then you are in the role of teaching. You should be explaining the process and experience that led you to your conclusion.
And, if you and the other person are relative peers – have a similar level of experience, then your role is to debate. To balance open-minded exploration of the experiences that led your colleague to his opinions while also being assertive in explaining your own experiences and opinions.
If you have signed up for Scale My Skills, our weekly newsletter, you received a matrix to help you assess your role and the actions you should take when you find yourself in each of the roles.
We all have a portfolio of skills that are used in combination to provide us with our living. Each person listening to this podcast makes their living in a different way, using a different combination of talents, selling them for different rates to different buyers – otherwise known as your employer.
Have you ever thought of your skills as a portfolio? A portfolio is more often associated with investments or creative careers than business careers, but the reality is – we each build our portfolio of skills.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines portfolio as a portable showcase of your talents. I guess in the traditional sense, our portfolio is our resume or CV. The strategy behind a portfolio is that you are typically trying to put it together in a way that maximizes its value. For an investor, they are picking the investments that they feel will give them the best return, but that is also diversified. The difference between an investor’s view of their portfolio and your view of your skills portfolio is likely that they are always thinking of it strategically, and you likely haven’t.
What I want to do today is to help you think of your skills in terms of a portfolio and to become more strategic about how you are thinking about them and deploying them. I’m going to give you a very concrete tool for thinking through your portfolio in a way that helps you decide what skills you should invest time in.
If you are signed up for Scale My Skills, our weekly newsletter, the tool is already in your inbox. Otherwise, if you’d like to get a copy of this tool, you can git it for free by signing up for Scale My Skills.
The tool that we are going to talk about is a matrix. On one axis is the question “what skills do I have or am I growing?” On the 2nd axis is the questions “are my skills well received in the marketplace?”
What skills do I have or am I growing?
For every skill you have, you rank it along a continuum based on your level of expertise. Skills that are your strengths go on the high end of the spectrum, and skills that are not your strengths go on the low end of the spectrum.
How well received are these skills in the marketplace?
The market sets different prices for different skills. Understanding the intersection of your skills and how the marketplace values them can give you great insight into the best way you can maximize your portfolio.
So, along the 2nd axis, you are going to rank the skills you have based on the going market rate. Skills that the market doesn’t value go on the low end of the spectrum and skills that they market highly values go on the high end of the spectrum.
Plot them in the Skills Portfolio Matrix
Ok, now that you’ve assessed your skills and what the market will pay for those skills, you are going to plot them in a matrix.
For those skills that you are not good at and the marketplace doesn’t pay well for – there is no reason for you to put effort into developing the skill. At least, not if your goal is to get paid for it.
For those skills that you are really good at but the marketplace doesn’t value highly, these can become sustaining skills. Think of them as an investor thinks of passive income. You may not put a lot of effort into it because the return is low, but the fact that you receive some benefit still has value to you.
For those skills that are a strength and are valued highly, you should consider making additional or continued investment in order to get the most out of the market’s willingness to pay. You should also make sure you are highlighting this skill on your LinkedIn profile and resume or CV. This is the skill that you want to market for yourself.
The point of the exercise is to help you identify the skills that make sense to invest in. Once you’ve identified them, it is a separate step to determine how they fit into your overall goals and priorities. What the matrix tells you about the skills that fall into the high value/ high expertise quadrant is that the investment in them will pay dividends if you decide to pursue them.
And, for those skills that fall into the quadrant for high market value but low skill, these are the more risky investments. Since you aren’t sure the skills is something that can become a strength, the amount of investment you need to make is higher. And, because you are farther away from the expertise, there is more opportunity for failure. You can get into it and find out you don’t have the aptitude. You can get into it and find out you don’t enjoy it. You can get into it and find out it is nothing like you thought it would be. So, it not only requires a bigger investment, it has a higher probability of failure. But, none of those things mean you shouldn’t do it. The payoff at the end may be big enough to be worth the risk.
Again, the point of the matrix is to help you identify the relative risk / reward and then it is up to you to take the next step.
So, I hope I’ve inspired you to take a look at your skills from a portfolio view. When you look at your skill portfolio in total, you want a good balance of skills that are highly developed and highly valued and skills that, if not so highly valued are not costing you in other ways. As you consider where to invest your time and money, you are thinking about the impact to your overall skills portfolio.
Having clarity of your personal purpose is a foundation to having strong self-awareness. Being clear about who you are and who you aren’t gives you the confidence you need to make hard decisions. But, unfortunately we are not all very clear about our purpose.
I don’t care how old you are, you likely have moments of “I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up,” every once in a while. You have to reach a special level of enlightenment to not question yourself everyone once in a while.
I’m not trying to get you to Buddha under the Bodhi tree level of enlightenment, but I do what you to be confident enough in our purpose that you can make decisions – possibly life changing decisions – with confidence.
I also believe that your purpose changes over time. When you are early in your career, you are focused on establishing your career. As you start a family, your focus shifts, and as you near retirement, your focus shifts again. So, it isn’t necessarily a one-and-done situation. If you haven’t thought through your purpose recently, it may be time to take another look at it.
So, as you are thinking about your purpose, think about:
If you make decisions from a place where your purpose is the foundation, you can be certain that you will do it with confidence. And, when you operate with a sense of confidence and from a foundation of purpose, you will be more successful in your career.
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