This week, I’m replaying Episode 18: Building a Reserve. It is a topic I’ve been talking about for over 10 years, and I really feel that it is core to managing stress in your life.
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Every single one of us gets paid to solve a problem. The type of problem we solve Is what categorizes us into different job titles.
A sales person is solving a problem for the person he is selling to, but also solving the problem of brining in revenue for his company.
A product owner is solving a problem for the people who will be using his product. The product owner of Salesforce.com is solving the problem of tracking contacts, sales opportunities, and all of the sales metrics that sales leaders need.
An accountant is solving the problem of accurately accounting for the company’s financial health.
A recruiter is solving the problem of hiring other people to solve problems.
So, fundamentally we are all solving problems and you may not even think about it that way. But, sometimes you get into a problem so big, or complex, or maybe so amorphous that you aren’t sure how to fix it.
Today, I want to introduce you to an approach for tackling problems that works well when you are feeling stuck. This is something I first learned from the book Do More Great Work by Michal Bungay Stainer when I read it many, many years ago.
There is a set of 6 questions to ask yourself – or a group – when doing this exercise.
The process is brainstorming with urgency. So, you are going to do this in a rapid-fire type of way. Ask the 1st question and give yourself no more than 5 minutes to write down your answers. As you move onto the next question, reduce your time to 4 minutes. For the remaining questions, give yourself 3 minutes each.
The exercise is designed to get your creative juices flowing. To help you think of things you may not have thought of because they aren’t part of your routine. To expand your options so that you aren’t limiting yourself by unspoken or even unconscious assumptions.
Ok, so let’s do this. To help illustrate the process, I’m going to use an example I’ve run into several times over the course of my career. Let’s say you work for a company that is growing fast, and there is a need to hire a lot of people, but the recruiting efforts so far just aren’t resulting in enough qualified candidates to fill the roles. Its stressful because there is more work to do than there are people to do it and as long as the positions stay unfilled, everyone else suffers.
So, you pull a group of people together and tell them about the problem. Once everybody is clear about the problem, you ask:
Obviously, these ideas may be good or bad, but the point is,, they get you thinking. Coming at a problem from the stand point of ‘what would be fun’ is out of the ordinary, but frees you to think without imposing assumptions that you might not even realize you are imposing.
Chances are, after you do this exercise, you will continue to have ideas about how to solve it in the days to come. With your creative juices flowing you’ll start to make connections between seemingly unrelated problems over the coming days. So, don’t feel like you have to pick a solution as soon as you finish the exercise.
So, I hope you put this problem solving technique to use the next time you feel stuck.
If you want to take a deeper dive into this topic, check out Do More Great Work: Stop the Busywork. Start the Work that Matters (note: this is an Amazon affiliate link. Your cost is the same, but a small portion of your purchase will come back to us to help offset the costs of the podcast)
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A job search is a stressful time for people. Even if you have a job, it is stressful. If you don’t have a job and the bills are looming, there is another level of stress – a bit of urgency added to the mix. On today’s episode, we are going to talk about managing your mental state during a job search. These are practical tips about actions you should be taking, or skills you should be focusing on during your job search. Although a good dose of positive attitude or positive self-talk may also be necessary during this time, I’m going to let other podcasts give you those. I want to give you some actionable business skills that will help you though the process.
Let me start by saying that a job search is a time that requires a high level of emotional intelligence. We talk about emotional intelligence a lot on this podcast because I believe it is a fundamental factor in success. Emotional Intelligence is defined as: the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically. Its always important, but even more so during a job search.
First of all, you are under a lot of stress and stress will uncover any weakness you may have when it comes to the building blocks of emotional intelligence. Second, a job search can put you in a very vulnerable spot. If you’ve just been laid off or made redundant, you may also be dealing with feelings of betrayal or grief. If you lost your job for performance reasons, you are likely dealing with confidence issues. And, if you’ve made the decision to look for a new job while still employed, you may be dealing with stress that your current manager may find out, or feeling that you may being letting your current team down. You may also lose motivation to keep working for your current job. I know that I go through a stage of disengagement from my current job once I’ve decided it is time for me to move on.
So, for many different reasons, a job search is a time of high stress, which can be really challenging for even the most emotionally intelligent. Because of this, I think it is important to have a set of skills that you remind yourself about regularly during the time of a job search.
So, let’s dig in. Here are some tools that can help you maintain your mindset during a job search:
Set Appropriate Expectations
Every employee of the hiring company has an edge on you because a company is likely to fill a position with an internal candidate if they can. An internal candidate who is a known quantity, even if they don’t have the exact experience is hard for any hiring manager to pass up. Another thing you have working against you is networks. Any candidate who has a connection at the hiring company has an edge over you. You recognize both of these things are true when you look at it from the company’s side. As an employee, you would expect your employer to give an internal candidate or a candidate referred from an employee preferential treatment over someone off the street that nobody has any experience with. But, when you are that candidate, you don’t think about it that way. You look at the job description and your skills, identify a match and figure ‘why wouldn’t they hire me?”
Think about what you need to do to keep you mindset from letting the rejection turn into an excuse for inaction. When you get a rejection, what are you going to tell yourself about it? Thinking about this before you need it will help you separate the head from the heart when the time comes. For example, one of the things I tell myself is, “they must have had a referral from an employee that was a good fit.” Do I know it is true? No. But, it is not only possible, it is likely and if it is true, there is nothing I could have done differently that would have gotten me the job.
Look at it from the Hiring Manager’s Perspective
People with high emotional intelligence have the ability to see things from several perspectives. This skill is important when looking for a job because if you can see the job from the perspective of the hiring manager, you may be better able to position yourself for the job.
First, keep in mind that hiring is, for most managers, a painful activity that requires a lot of their time during what is usually a stressful time for them. They’ve likely just had someone vacate the role unexpectedly, they are having to pull double duty while they fill the role – or someone on their team is having to fill in. They want to get the role filled as quickly as possible, but at most companies, the process for getting jobs posted and candidates identified is usually frustrating. Interviewing takes a lot of time out of your day job. They need to find the right candidate because everyone they hire ultimately reflects on them.
So, when you are preparing for the interview, think about these things. Bring empathy to the conversation. Think about how you can make the process as painless as possible for the hiring manager. Think about how you would feel under the stress and realize that they are likely coming to your interaction in something less than the best version of themselves. Where possible, become someone who is helping them solve a problem.
I fully believe that an interview is as much about you ensuring that the job and company is right for you as it is about the company figuring out if you are right for them. Too many people approach an interview as if they are the commodity in the equation.
Of course, there are times where your situation or the economic situation dictates that you can’t be very picky when it comes to your next job. Sometimes a paycheck is more important than a job that is going to fulfill you. I get that, and recognize that you don’t always have the luxury of putting yourself on equal footing with the hiring manager.
But, when you are not in that situation, you need to remember that it is just as important for you to be interviewing the hiring manager as it is for them to be interviewing you. Of course you are selling yourself – your skills, your assets, your ability to get the job done. But, this isn’t a on-way street. If you are going to work for and with the people you are interviewing with, you need to be assessing them as well.
Activate Your Network
Lots of jobs get filled because of referrals. Your network is going to be critical during your job search. You are going to need to set aside time to reach out to people in your network and let them know that you are looking and what you are looking for.
I also find it helps to remind them that they may know someone in their network who has a position to fill. By reminding them of this, you are not only activating your network, you are activating their network. For example, you may be in finance. Someone in your network may be in education. It would seem like they couldn’t help you because they are in such an unrelated field. But, what if their next door neighbor is the head of Accounts Payable at a local company? You just never know what connections people might make. But, I find that you have to trigger people to think about their network. Just to tell your friend in education you are looking for a job isn’t enough. He may think ‘that’s nice, but my school isn’t currently hiring for any finance roles.” But, tell him that you are looking and though he might have someone in his network that is looking to fill a finance role and he’ll think of his next door neighbor, and bring it up on Saturday when they are both out mowing the lawn.
The other thing you need to remember about your network is that you are not the center of their lives. They may remember you are looking for a week or two, but eventually, they will forget. They’ve gotten on with life and the fact that your job search is a really big deal for you doesn’t mean it is top of mind for them. If your job search goes on for a while, your mindset can start to take a turn toward the negative and you can start to feel like your network has let you down. In order to keep your mindset positive, remember that you may need to remind people that you are looking. Don’t be a pest about it – but, just because they didn’t know about anything at the time you originally reached out doesn’t mean they won’t know about something now.
There are a lot of different ways that we look at personality types. The reason we have all of these different categories is because it helps us to understand ourselves and others. Why we behave the way we do. Why others behave in ways we can’t understand.
I’m an introvert, which means that I get my energy from being alone. I can’t imagine what it would be like to get energy from others, but because I understand the idea that there are other personality types, I can recognize an extrovert as an extrovert even though we have a fundamental difference in personality.
Different personality type indicators have different focus. Today, I’m going to introduce the Enneagram Types. I’ve also covered Myers Briggs if you want to listen to that episode as well. Its episode 17.
In this episode, we are only going to be able to cover the Enneagram at the highest level because there are 9 personality types and you can’t cover them all in a 10 minute podcast. Enneagram is primarily concerned with your instinctual motivators. Another way to say it is to talk about it in terms of habits. We all have an instinctual way we interact with the world based on our underlying motivators. Someone who is motivated by fear is going to react differently than someone who is motivated by shame.
Enneagram starts by lumping the 9 types into 3 triads, each of which is defined by its underlying motivator:
The Instinctive Triad. The 3 types in this category are driven by anger. They respond to life at the gut level and are typically very honest and direct. What sets the 3 types apart within the triad is how they manifest the anger.
The Feeling Triad. This group of people are driven by feelings and instinctively motivated by shame. They develop habits that help them cope with their feelings of shame in different ways.
The Thinking Triad. This group of people are driven by fear or anxiety. They relate to the world through their mind and plan carefully before acting.
The reason you should become familiar with Enneagram types is because it helps you understand your overall patters and behaviors. If you understand that you are fundamentally driven by shame, it helps you understand why you make some of the decisions or take some of the actions, or react to others in the way you do.
It also helps you understand that not everyone has the same motivation as you. We all have a tendency to assume others react the same way we do. Logically, we know this isn’t true, but in the moment, as we work ourselves through the day and week, we fall into the more comfortable, or maybe more expedient mental approach that our way is the only way.
But, if you can recognize that your coworker, who has a talent for seeing potential problems and dealing with them before they get out of hand is a Type 6 – and is driven by their fear and anxiety, you can better understand that you and he have a different filter on life.
I’m a big believer that anything you can do to better understand yourself and others is worthwhile. You will be more successful at work the more self-aware you are. Getting to know the Enneagram types will help you identify your coworker’s motivations and filters. It helps you understand the unique way they relate to others, what their perceptions and preoccupations are, and what their values are and how they impact the way they relate to life.
As I said at the start, there is no way for me to cover each of the types in detail, but there are extensive resources that you can use to learn more. Here are the ones I covered in the episode:
Episode 17: Understanding Myers Briggs
The Road Back to You Ian Morgan Cron & Suzanne Stabile
Discovering Your Personality Type Don Riso & Russ Hudson
You are probably familiar with the saying “the glass is half full.” Just like people are either cat people or dog people, I think people are either glass half full or glass half empty people. One means you have a tendency toward seeing the positive and the other means you have a tendency toward seeing the negative.
Well, it turns out that goals are the same way. Goals can be classified as Promotion or Prevention.
Promotion goals are all about what you can achieve. They are about what you’d ideally like to accomplish and how you can maximize your gains. Promotion goals are the glass half full goals. “I’m going to finish writing that novel” is a promotion goal.
Prevention goals, on the other hand, are about safety or obligation. They are the things you feel you ought to do in order to minimize loss and avoid pain. Prevention goals are the glass half empty goals. “I really need to start looking for a job because I heard layoffs may be coming” is a prevention goal.
Understanding the type of goal is helpful because there are different strategies and motivators that you should use depending on which type of goal it is.
There is a concept called Expectancy Value Theory. It says that people are motivated to do something as a function of 1.) how likely they are to be successful (this is the expectancy part), and 2.) how much they think they will benefit (this is the value part).
For promotion goals, the Expectancy Value Theory is generally driven by how likely you think you will be to succeed. Because promotion goals are achievement or accomplishment driven, it makes sense that you are going to give more consideration to your chances of success. When you complete a promotion goal, you feel a rush of success. A promotion goal makes you smile from ear to ear.
For prevention goals, you are on the other end of the Expectancy Value spectrum. Because prevention goals are more about minimizing loss or avoiding pain, you focus a lot less on the expectancy part of the equation. How likely to are to succeed has less impact because the alternative – doing nothing and suffering the expected loss – is the motivation. Whereas promotion goals result in a feeling of accomplishment, prevention goals result in a feeling of relief.
So, take a look at the goals you are currently pursing and think about them with this new filter. Is there something different you might do to accomplish them now that you know which kind of goal they are?
If you want to dive deeper, listen to our episode on Making Sense of Your Goals
Time Mindset can have a profound impact on your productivity. Productive people don’t have more time than unproductive people. But, they do have a different mindset about it. If you want to see an increase in your productivity, one of the things you need to think about is your relationship with time.
How much time have you spent thinking about your relationship with time?
Do you approach it unconsciously, or do you know where you stand with it?
I think a lot of people are really unconsciously dealing with time.
The symptoms of someone who doesn’t consciously understand their relationship with time are things like getting to the end of your day and not getting the most important things done.
Or starting every conversation with “I’m so busy” or “sorry I couldn’t get you what I promised, I’ve just been so busy.”
Another common symptom is negative self talk about your productivity. Telling yourself you just aren’t accomplishing what you want to accomplish. Being down on yourself or – even more diabolical, making yourself a victim of time.
These are all symptoms that occur when you aren’t conscious of your relationship with time. And, the simple way to fix them is to become conscious of it. Once you become conscious of it, you will begin to see that you can become more productive because your mindset sets you up to be more productive.
Notice your mindset about time. Are you making decisions about how you spend your time or are you unconsciously letting your time get by you?
Do you feel good about your time mindset?
Do you have a mindset about time that serves to make you more productive, or is it limiting you to a life where you feel like there just isn’t enough time?
Become someone who takes responsibility for your time mindset.
Expand your understanding of this topic by listening to Words Matter.
Getting ready to leave for a vacation, and coming back to work after vacation are usually very stressful. Sometimes you feel like you need a vacation after your vacation just to catch up. In this episode, we cover some tips for how to productively manage the time leading up to your vacation and the day you return from vacation.
The process starts 2 weeks before your schedule vacation:
1. Add an out of office notification to your signature. This is going to alert people to the fact that you are going to be out. It will nudge them to take action on something that they might need before you leave.
2. Review your calendar for the time you are away. Make a list of any deliverables that you need to prepare during your absence.
3. Block time on your calendar over the next 2 weeks to prepare everything on your list. For example, if you have a meeting where you are responsible for preparing and presenting a slide, you would block time on your calendar to both prepare the slide and make arrangements for someone else to present the slide at the meeting. Learn more about Time Blocking from Episode 10.
4. Block an Inservice Day, or half day for the day before you leave and the day your return. An inservice day is when you block your calendar as if you are out of the office, but you are actually working. It gives you the time and space you need to catch up because people think you are still out.
5. If you have the type of job where someone will be covering for you while you are out of office, block time on the calendar for a meeting with them to manage the transition. You should block time for before you leave and when you return.
One week before you leave, you will start to:
1. Say no to any new request that comes your way – don’t take on more work when you know you have a hard stop in advance of your vacation.
2. Be extra diligent about your priorities. You are going to go into hyper-vigilant mode. If it isn’t absolutely necessary, it can wait.
Some other tips:
Sometimes, when you aren’t being as productive as you want to be, it is hard to put your finger on the reason. Here are some tips that might help you identify what may be holding you back:
What should you not be doing?
Over time, we become progressively less productive because we let a bunch of things that have become unproductive take over our time. It was probably serving a purpose when you started doing it, but over time, it lost its value and you’ve just kept doing it because you’ve always done it.
Consider what you are doing that is no longer necessary and stop doing it.
Are you following your priorities?
What are the highest priorities in your life? We call this your North Star List. If you want to be productive, you need to ensure that you are only doing things that support your priorities. As a matter of fact, we’ve even done an episode just about this topic: The Foundation of Productivity is Priorities.
Recognize that mindset can impact your productivity. Have you ever said this:
I can’t get everything done, there just isn’t enough time.
This is a mindset issue. When I catch myself saying this, I change my words to:
I don’t need to get everything done, just the next thing.
Take away the power that the thought has over you.
Become aware of the mindset that is impacting your productivity.
Something I fundamentally believe is:
Positive Mindset + Effort = Achievement
Positive Mindset Only = Rosey Glasses
Mindset takes effort in order to make a difference in your life.
Another thing I believe: Mindset and Assumptions are cousins. Let me explain:
Assumptions are a set of beliefs or rules that have gone unsaid. These unacknowledged beliefs may be different than someone else’s or different than reality, which can lead you to take a wrong action.
Mindset is similar – you can make decisions and take actions everyday based on your mindset. An un-examined or unacknowledged mindset can drive you to take wrong actions.
Understanding your mindset is critical in order to recognize the actions you are taking. There are 2 types of mindset:
When you believe you either ‘have it’ or you don’t. What you have is what you have, so no additional effort is required. This mindset is about the outcome.
When you believe there is always room to learn. That what you were born with is just a starting point. This mindset is about the experience.
Words matter. The language you use matters. It impacts your mindset. It gives you a definition of yourself that can become limiting.
Have you ever noticed the different ways that waiters introduce themselves to you?
“I’m Rachel, and I’ll be your server tonight.”
“I’m Rachel, and I’ll be taking care of you tonight.”
A subtle difference, but one communicates that my responsibility is to serve you your food and the other communicates that my responsibility is to take care of you – completely.
Have you ever said, or heard someone say ‘I’m bad at math”? What does that tell you? Do they know that it takes 4 quarters to make a dollar? Do they know calculus? For most of us, knowing calculus isn’t important or necessary for our daily lives. So -if you don’t need to know calculus and you don’t know calculus, then why would you say you are bad at math?
Become aware of the words you use. How do they impact your mindset? What do they communicate to others about you? Are they serving you well?
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