Monday, August 31, 2015

Fighting the Fear of Rejection

Sometimes, despite our desire to have certain things in our lives, our fear of being rejected may hold us back.  Interestingly, the Fear of Rejection is often the single biggest obstacle standing between you and success.

Being rejected is one of our deepest fears.  In ancient tribal times survival was dependent upon being part of a group. Therefore, losing the safety of that community typically equated to a death sentence. As a result, we are wired with a desire to belong.  We tend then to engage in behaviours that help us be seen in a positive light, that help us to gain acceptance. We therefore hesitate to take risks and actions that we think may not be viewed as favourably by others.

The issue with this is that our fears are not always 'true'. They are typically only our thoughts or beliefs about what 'might' happen.  Regardless though, they can create a damaging pattern of behaviour and belief that limits and restricts our growth and, ultimately, our success.

Rejection is driven by emotion.  It is not our thoughts themselves that cause us to feel rejected, but how our thoughts make us feel.  Unfortunately, we can generate these feelings without even being rejected; our thoughts of the possibility of being rejected are enough to hold us back.  This possibility is enough to...

  • Prevent us from saying 'Yes' to new opportunities.  Fear is designed to save us from danger, to introduce an element of caution when facing new challenges.  This makes sense when we are confronted by a bear but not so much when we are facing a new task, challenge, or opportunity. We have to risk rejection if we want to receive the rewards.
  • Lead us to trying to please everyone. In an effort to avoid being rejected by anyone we can go out of our way trying to be everything to everyone. Trying to please everyone is perhaps the best definition of 'impossible' there is.  Additionally, when all our efforts are put toward pleasing others our own wishes and wants will usually get lost in the process. 
  • Leave us speechless. The possibility of someone taking exception to what we say leads us to stifle our voice, not sharing our true thoughts and opinions lest someone not agree and reject us as a result. We tend to then assume a much more passive voice, adopting language that will appease others.
In order to step up to the plate and take the action we need, to drive the success we want, we need to be able to Reject of Fear of Rejection.  Yep, stare rejection right in the face and reject it first! Confident people tend to take rejection in stride, assuming it's an expected and natural part of living. We too can learn to do the same.  Try a few of the following tips to help you gain the upper hand in your relationship with rejection...
  • Stop 'Awfulizing'.  Stop making things out to be worse than they are.  As you build the projected size of the potential rejection up, you also build your emotional barriers.  Your desire to avoid the possibility increases accordingly. Take the time to think rationally about the worst case scenario, the 'what's the worst that could happen' result and assess its impact on you.  Usually it will not be anywhere nearly as big as you were making it out to be, leaving it to be far more approachable and 'do-able'.
  • Focus on your wants, not those of others.  The clearer you are of what you want and need from the opportunity, your career, your life, the less likely you are to allow the opinions of others to stand in your way.  Recognise that often their opinions are more about their fears than they are beliefs about what is possible for you.  Don't allow yourself to become a prisoner of the opinions of others.
  • What are you actually afraid of?  This is a key question to ask.  Without it we typically are merging multiple fears into one, increasing our emotional barrier to the situation.  Instead, isolate those fears and deal only with the one which is actually applicable to the challenge you face.  This will immediately make the barrier smaller and more realistic to face, sidestep or jump over.
  • Focus on what you want, not what you want to avoid.  The more you build up the benefits of your desired end result the better.  Make the positive gain bigger in your mind than your perceived potential pain of rejection and you will be okay with pushing through.  The bigger the perceived gain versus the perceived pain the more you will accept the risk.
  • Use rejection as a growth opportunity.  Most of us could benefit from developing a slightly thicker skin than we currently possess.  We don't need to be made of teflon, but we do need to learn to accept a certain amount of rejection in our lives, pulling from it whatever lessons make sense to us, using it as critical developmental feedback.  Learn what you can from it, do what you can with it... toss the rest away!
  • Short list the people to please.  Of course we will want to please some of the people in our lives, we just don't want to get caught up in trying to please all of them.  Consider each situation as unique.  Who is it important to keep happy for that situation?  Your list will shift for each opportunity and challenge you face but, in all situations, You should be at the top of every short list.  
We all want to receive a validation of our value, not a rejection of it.  However, the first person that we should seek out to validate our ideas, opinions and worth is... Us.  The more we belief in ourselves and our cause the greater our protection against the rejection of others.  As the old John Fogerty song Garden Party goes (and feel free to sing the lyric in your head with Ricky Nelson's voice)... 
 'You see, you can't please everyone so you got to please yourself'

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Tip Thursday - Public Speaking

Consider the power contained within the Rule of 3 for your next speech, article or even song.  The Rule of 3 is based on the fact that ideas presented in threes are more interesting, more enjoyable and more memorable.  Three is the smallest number of items you need to create a pattern or a collection. With groupings of 3 we find a sense of completeness and satisfaction.  Enough so that you find trios, triplets and triads throughout western culture, from: the Three Musketeers, to Life Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, to Location Location Location, to Sex Drugs and Rock 'n Roll.  Examples of the Rule of 3 abound.  Martin Luther King Junior's speech - I Have a Dream - would not be the same without it.  Consider upping the memorability of your next speech by putting this rule to work for you!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Tip Thursday - Motivation

Never measure from where you begin, measure from where you are.  Looking backward will serve to highlight how far you've come and give cause for celebration. Looking forward gives you a measure of how far there is to go. Your motivation will increase the closer you get to your target. Measuring from where you started will always seem like there is so much yet to achieve, whereas measuring from where you are demonstrates how much closer you are to achieving your desired outcome, and motivates you to continue the journey.  Always consider:  How much you've done versus how much there is left to do.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Why Being 'Too' Nice can Kill your Career

We grow up being taught to play nice with others.  We're told to be nice or others won't like us. These messages serve to teach us, at an early age, that being nice can gain us social recognition and acceptance. In the name of full disclosure, research does show that being nice can have positive benefits such as...

  • boosting your health
  • increasing your happiness level
  • slowing the aging process
  • appearing more attractive to others
  • feeling good about ourselves
Given the above, wouldn't we want to be as nice as possible?  As it turns out... no.  As with many other things in life, there is a balance and too much of anything is not always better. It seems that being 'nice' in business is okay. It can help us to be seen as collaborative and supportive of others; to be seen as a positive, caring leader.  However, if we somehow err and skew a little too far on the 'niceness' scale, tipping over into being seen as being 'too' nice... we, and our careers, are likely toast.

If you're 'Nice' you are deemed to be friendly, kind and pleasant.
If you're seen as 'Too Nice' though, you are viewed as being overly accommodating and focused solely on pleasing others. This deferential attitude can, and has, cost many people promotions, without them ever understanding why.

Research into the perils of being seen as being 'too nice' have found that the potential negatives are quite numerous...
  • often taken for granted
  • viewed as being too 'soft' 
  • seen as indecisive
  • easily manipulated
  • politeness can cost them visibility
  • feel exhausted trying to please everyone
  • ignore own self interests on behalf of others
  • lack a 'position' of their own on issues
  • can appear needy and insecure
The implication is that if you are 'too' nice, then you lack the confidence and strength of will to make tough, unpopular decisions.  As a result, careers get stalled.  Leaders are required to give voice to their opinions, to take a stand on issues, to make tough decisions, to push actions forward.  They need to hold others accountable to standards and to provide direction and even discipline when needed. 

The assumption of others though is that if you are 'too nice' you will be unable to fulfill some of the more difficult aspects of a leadership role.  In particular, that you will compromise some of your decisions in favour of maintaining the goodwill of others, that you will shy away from confrontation, that you will be more susceptible to the influence and persuasion of others. 

If you find that you get caught up in wanting others to like you, that you are a little too concerned about what others think, if you are constantly putting your own interests on the back burner, if you describe yourself as the 'peace keeper', or if you are consistently taking actions that don't 'rock the boat', you are likely skewing into the 'too nice' zone.  Many a career has floundered and even been sunk in this zone, in which case it should be avoided at all costs. Try using any of the following to help keep your career on the right track...

  • Work on saying 'no' more often
  • Actively put some of your needs before others
  • Develop your thoughts, strategies and position before seeking the input of others to help you stand firm in the face of conflicting needs
  • Learn to interject your thoughts in meetings to gain visibility 
  • Stop holding back to be polite
  • Adopt more confident body language cues
  • Establish your absolutes, lines you absolutely won't let others cross
  • Stop agreeing with everyone and everything
  • Respect yourself more and expect the same from others
And if you find it too difficult to let go of the need to please others...  maybe the best solution for you is to simply continue to please 'em... just put your name at the top of the list and please yourself first!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Tip Thursday - Success

We can waste a lot of time and effort in trying to please or sell to everyone.  When wondering where to direct your energies, consider the 33% Rule which says that generally, no matter what you do...

33% will like it
33% will hate it
33% won't care

What matters to your success is which group you are catering to. All too often we make the mistake of trying to 'convert' the haters, mostly because we just don't like to not be liked!  Invest your time where there is the greatest potential payoff for you. Play the percentages!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Punctuality: The High Cost of Being Late

I hate being late.  For anything.  For meetings, engagements, appointments, reservations.  Truly, it causes me undue stress and distress to not arrive at least 10 minutes before the 'start' of anything.  For me arriving 10 minutes ahead of the start of something isn't 'early', it's on time. Meetings should start at the designated time which means you must arrive prior to ensure that happens.

As much as I hate being late I hate it even more when others are. I get that we are all busy, but it only makes it that much more important for you to not waste others' time.  Although I have long recognised that I am in the minority when it comes to my views on punctuality, organizations are coming to realize that there is a cost associated with 'tardiness' and are no longer willing to continue to foot the bill.

We all know that meetings have a high 'waste' factor associated with them. Starting a meeting late is just one of them, but it is a consistent and common element.  I have one client that expects (and accepts) that a meeting scheduled for 9:00 am will not get started until roughly 9:10.  Most internal attendees don't even saunter into the meeting room until 10 minutes past the hour, which does nothing to endear them to any external attendees.

Beyond the obvious dollar cost of having people get paid to sit around and 'wait' for a meeting to begin, there are additional costs that many fail to recognise.  Being consistently late can impact your:

Credibility.  It is difficult to convince someone to give you the opportunity to oversee a large project if you are chronically late.  Your inability to arrive on time for meetings is likely to lead others questioning your ability to get a project done on time or in budget.

Opportunities.  For the reason above, you may find that your future opportunities become seriously limited.  If you can't manage to get yourself where you need to be, when you need to be there, it is an easy assumption that you are not 'ready' or 'capable' of taking on a new responsibility.

Level of Respect.  Let's face it, arriving late to your meetings and appointments with others is just plain disrespectful.  It indicates to them that you do not value them, their time, or their importance. However, respect is a two way street.  It is difficult, if not impossible, for you to gain the respect of others if you don't also demonstrate respect. Being late is inconsiderate and indicates you don't care. If you don't... why should they?

Perception of Organization.  Being late looks disorganized.  Being consistently late confirms it.  If you are looking to climb further within an organization then you must appear to be capable of taking on more responsibilities.  However, arriving late appears as though you are barely managing your current workload and will therefore call into question your ability to take on more.

Reputation.  If you are late to everything then you quickly become someone that others can't count on. That becomes 'who' you are and 'what' you are known for.  This becomes a key part of your reputation.  Consider now if this is a reputation that you can build a career on.  Odds are it is more of a limiting factor than an exclusionary one.

Too many people in today`s business environment are somehow feeling that it is okay to be late, that a quick text message indicating that you are running 10 minutes behind is enough to alleviate any hard feelings about having kept others waiting.  Your explanation of how `busy` you are will justify letting others sit around until you arrive.

I recently was booking a two-hour consultation with a new client.  I indicated that my preferred start time for the location she requested was 9:00 am, however she preferred a 9:30 start to allow her sufficient time to deal with all of her `family`issues in the morning.  I agreed but indicated that we would then have a hard stop after 2 hours to allow me sufficient time to make it to my next appointment. At 9:30 I received a message indicating that she was running 15 minutes late but was on her way.  She arrived 20 minutes late and then requested an opportunity to grab a coffee prior to the start of our session so she could `decompress`.  We therefore started a half hour late.  I, however, kept to our agreed upon end time of 11:30.  She wanted more time with me to make up for her `missing`a half hour of our session. She was not pleased to discover that she was being charged the full 2 hours.  Somehow she thought her `message` that she was running late and her `need` for a coffee excused her tardiness and that my billable time adjusted accordingly.  Not so.

There is a cost to being late and that client soon learned it.  Both to her pocketbook and also to my feedback and recommendations.  She appeared disorganized and disrespectful and incapable of assuming any greater level of responsibility.  Difficult for me to then recommend her for the promotion she was being considered for.

Consider how often you are running behind and the messages it is giving to others about who you are and what you are capable of. Do these messages help build a brand that will carry you forward or will they limit your growth?  Five minutes may not seem like much but they may carry a bigger cost to your future than you may be thinking.  Getting to meetings and appointments early, or even just on time, can reap huge benefits.  Rather than allowing your lateness to become a habit with a negative impact to your career, develop your ability to arrive on time building a reputation as someone that others can count on.  Demonstrate your efficiency and reliability. Build your credibility and reputation... see what you've been missing out on.  

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Tip Thursday - Improving your Memory

As it turns out, your memory operates similar to a Camcorder.  if you don't turn on the record button then it doesn't matter where you point the lens, you won't have a record of what you saw. When it comes to your memory, attending to a conversation or lecture is not enough to positively impact your recall.  You need to 'turn on' your memory prior to engaging. In essence, knowing that you will want to remember something, prior to experiencing it, significantly improves your memory and recall of that information. So next time you are listenign to something you feel could be important... make sure you push that mental 'record' button first!

Monday, August 3, 2015

The #1 Secret to Becoming a more Effective Listener

We all know how important effective communication is to our success.  If we can't get our ideas across to others then we are done.  The flip side to our ability to share our ideas (whether through speaking or writing) is our ability to listen.  Although there is no true communication taking place without listening, it is a skill that many lack.  Most are so caught up in their own messages that they fail to actually listen to those being delivered by others.  This proves problematic not only for the productivity of the organization as a whole but for the growth of each individual contributor.

Most articles on Effective Listening will highlight the need to strengthen listening abilities by doing the following:

  • Utilize effective body language - direct eye contact, leaning in, tilting the head slightly
  • Ask pertinent questions
  • Don't multi-task
  • Remove distractions
  • Offer listening cues: head nods, smiles, mm-hmms,..
  • Paraphrase to ensure understanding
  • Hold back on interjecting with your thoughts, opinions, information
All of the above are great tips, but they are all about 'how' to listen better.  Ultimately, they are not worth anything if you don't want to actually hear what the other person has to say.  Therefore, the key to good listening is - Desire.  You have to 'want' to hear the other person, you have to 'want' to understand their position, you have to 'want' to gain new insights and new information.  Without desire you won't activate any of the items from the list above, you won't shift your focus from your communicative needs to address the needs of others.

There is a story that is told of Franklin Roosevelt who was tired of making small talk and offering meaningless flattery at various receptions and in receiving lines.  Truly one of the tiresome aspects of the role itself no doubt.  However, he decided to determine how much people really paid attention to the comments and greetings made in such situations. The next reception he attended, while standing in the receiving line, he greeted everyone by cheerfully sharing "I murdered my Grandmother this morning".  Most were so caught up in themselves, so focused on making a good impression, that they responded with "Congratulations" and "Keep up the good work" and "I admire what you've done" platitudes.  It wasn't until near the end of the line, when greeting a Foreign Diplomat from Bolivia with his greeting of "I murdered my grandmother this morning" that he was actually heard.  The gentleman paused, leaned in and quietly responded "I'm sure she had it coming".  

How many of the messages surrounding us do we miss because we are not entering the engagement with the desire to hear so much as to be heard?  If our focus is firmly upon ourselves then we are not going to be attending to what others have to say.  We may 'hear' it but we aren't truly listening. Listening effectively requires focus.  It requires us to pay attention to not only what is being said, but also to how.  The 'how' provides the subtext.  Therefore, true listening requires a depth of attentiveness that allows us to pick up on both the verbal and non-verbal messages being delivered. Truly listening is work. It takes effort and therefore, we need to want to do it.  It's all in our desire.

Long story short?  The secret to becoming a better, more effective Listener?  Ya gotta wanna.