Monthly Archives: June 2011

Change & Transition: Knowing the Difference

Being notified that you are being laid off is a big change in your life.  And it’s even a bigger psychological adjustment if you weren’t planning on a forced vacation quite yet.  I just came back from giving a workshop on “Career Transitions” for staff in higher education facing layoffs.  I always start with helping folks understand the difference between change & transition and then the three phases of transition.  That foundation seems to be very reassuring because it shows people the path through their feelings of anxiety and uncertainty.   

Change is a Challenge

Managing the many changes in our lives is an ongoing challenge.  Hopefully, we get better at it as we get older.  We’ve been around the block a few times and we know that yes, things do work out with a bit of patience and proactive effort.  But it’s also important to recognize why sometimes a change (like a new job or a move to a new house) is relatively easy but then when the exact same change happens a couple of years later it is much harder.  Why?

The Difference Between Change & Transition

William Bridges, author of Transitions,  has written extensively on change and  transition. I love his material and have used it in every workshop I give on change management.  Bridges first explains that a “change” is an external event.  Examples are: a move, new job, new baby, getting married, going to college, a death etc.  And we may experience the same change  several times throughout our lives. 

That’s not the hard part.  The challenge is the psychological adjustment to the change.  That is the internal “transition”.  And the psychological adjustment to the exact same change may vary greatly at different times in our lives.

Why Is It So Hard Sometimes?

Several factors make the difference.  The timing of the change – is it “on-time” or “off-time”?  Was the change expected or did it come “out-of-the-blue”?  Does the change impact many areas of your life?  Is it a temporary or permanent change?  Do you have control over the change or not?  These are some of the factors that directly affect how we psychologically adjust to a change in our lives. 

Think about this for yourself.  Look at several changes that you have recently experienced.  How did you adjust to them? What seemed to make the difference?  In my next blog I’ll tell you about the three phases of transition – it might surprise you how we often go through transitions “backwards”.

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Layoffs: The Stress of Waiting

Over the last few days, I’ve talked to several people waiting to hear about possible layoffs.  It’s the end of the fiscal year and either they will be laid off  July 1st or not.  The waiting is the hardest.  Even for the most resilient and optimistic people this suspenseful time of not knowing is very difficult.

Employment changes are always challenging.  The “What Ifs” take over and you can find yourself imagining and worrying about all kinds of scenarios.  “What if I can’t find another job?”  “What if I have to move?”  “What if I can’t pay my mortgage?”  These may be very realistic concerns and the worry can quickly escalate especially in the middle of the night.

Taking Control of the Uncontrollable

The stress of the unknown is really all about control.  When you or your spouse is facing a layoff it’s easy to feel that you have little control over your future.  And that may be true as it relates to your paid employment.  But what about the rest of your life?  You (and only you) have control over that and once you take back that control there is a ripple effect on your paid work as well.  Here are three steps to get you started.

First, what isn’t changing in your life? List out the  main areas of your life (health, family &, friends, employment, hobbies, community etc.) that you spend time and energy.  I like to use the image of the 5 Olympic Circles because they connect creating synergy between the circles. And it keeps it simple with the 5 main areas of my “whole” life.

Second, have a realistic talk with yourself.  Are these other areas really changing significantly? Sometimes yes, but many times they are staying relatively the same.  Life goes on with many of the same routines and traditions – that’s actually quite reassuring.

Third, make a Plan B and a Plan C.  Have backup plans if you are laid off.  Know your options. Get an accurate picture of your financial situation.  You may be pleasantly surprised that it’s better than you had imagined.

Taking Control is Empowering

This is a new life chapter which you can design for yourself.  In my work as a career coach, I’m seeing people take this opportunity to create new career paths that they previously never thought possible.  Yes, a forced change such as a layoff is unsettling and disruptive.  But remember, that in the midst of chaos is the opportunity for incredible growth and possibilities.  It’s exciting and the sense of taking back control is incredibly empowering.

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Building Strategic Alliances

Just yesterday I was reminded again about how wise it is for business people to actively build strategic alliances.  I had gotten a message through LinkedIn from a new licensed clinical social worker who was just starting her practice here in Reno.  She had gotten my name through a mutual colleague and wanted to meet me over coffee.  She explained that she was interested in my coaching work and wanted to share what she was doing – and then maybe we could refer to each other as needed. 

What’s the Benefit for Me?

Was I interested?  Absolutely!  First, I love to meet new professionals that are starting their own businesses.  I want to see them succeed and if I can encourage and support them I certainly will.  Second, I am always updating my own referral list – for local counselors, resume writers and consultants with specific expertise that I don’t have.  I enjoy being known as a “go-to” person and I’m delighted to connect others with those that can help them.   It’s a win-win for all of us.

How To: Building Strategic Alliances

Building strategic alliances that are mutually beneficial is a practiced skill.  It is identifying what you need to be more successful (just as this woman did), what someone else needs to be equally successful and then forming a strategic alliance to make that happen.  And it’s just as important to form these alliances inside an organization if you’re working for someone else as it is when you have your own business.  Here’s how to begin:

  • Identify 3 areas you want to improve or expand in your work
  • Ask around . . . “Who else does this kind of work?”
  • Keep asking to see who knows who – can you get a personal introduction?
  • Reach out and invite the individual to coffee – see if there is a positive energy between you
  • And then explore “How can we help each other be more successful?”

My Challenge to You

It’s the summer and work schedules are often more relaxed.  This is a perfect time to build contacts and relationships.  My challenge to you is to take this time to reach out and get to know at least three new professionals working in related fields.  Choose people that you think you would genuinely enjoy and that you see a possibility of your work mutually benefiting each other.  If one out of the three works out that is great success.  And then let me know how it goes!

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The Power of Optimism!

Optimism is a powerful business tool.  It is a magnet.  People gravitate toward others that project that  positive energy, spirit and belief in the future.  It is good business whether you own your own company, work in collaboration with others or are employed by someone else.  Adopting an optimistic outlook (yes, you can learn it) makes all the difference in your personal power, influence and future business success. 

What is Optimism?

“Optimism is the ability to look at the brighter side of life and to maintain a positive attitude even in the face of adversity”.  Bar-On 2002  Optimistic people have hope.  They are energetic and self-motivated because they perceive difficult situations as:

  • temporary with an end in sight
  • as not being their fault (bigger than just them)
  • that they have control in how they respond (a choice)

Teaching Yourself to Be Optimistic

So how do you learn to be optimistic?  Yes, we first learn optimism from those adult figures in our early childhood but as the years go by we can also teach ourselves to be more optimistic.  We do this by shifting how we think, speak and act.  It takes self-awareness and daily practice.

Here are five ways to bring more optimism into your life.

  • Think Differently (practice realistic abundance thinking not scarcity thinking)
  • Speak Differently (use words and ideas that expand not restrict your perceptions)
  • Act Differently (step into possibilities, act “As If”)
  • Develop an “Optimistic Network” (actively seek out others that boost your energy)
  • Sleep & Laugh More (physical & emotional self-care)

The ROI of Optimism

Is it worth the effort?  My answer is yes!  Try it and see.  On the business side, optimistic people are like magnets.  Others gravitate to them – they want to do business with them.  Optimistic people expect to be successful and their positive attitude and energy attract opportunities. 

On the personal side, optimistic people are physically and emotionally healthier, have significantly more positive relationships with family and friends, are well-connected to their communities and generally enjoy and appreciate their daily lives.  They live in abundance not scarcity. 

So be that person that others seek out – there is no down side only multiple benefits for you!

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Summertime! Can’t Get Anything Done

Okay, I have an attitude problem.  I just can’t get anything done.  My mind is gone . . . and it’s on the beach at Lake Tahoe or on that tandem bike down in Geneoa.  It feels great to finally have some warm weather here in Northern Nevada.  Just last Monday morning, June 6th, it looked like the old days of living in Norway – cold & wet.  But now it’s is lovely and I’m ready to just play.  So how do I “self-coach” myself to not bolt out the office with flip flops & swimsuit in hand at noon each day?  Now you might be much more disciplined that I am but just in case you struggle with this same delicious impulsive behavior here are three good tips . . . 

Keep the “To-Do” List Very Short

I like to work with odd numbers.  So this morning I said I would get five main “work-related” tasks done.  No more – no less.  I write that list down and check it off.  Some of the tasks I even break into smaller pieces so I can give myself lots of credit for getting part of the bigger elephant eaten.  I turn off the music, close the blinds and not allow myself to wander off down the hallway to chat with colleagues.  And lots of celebration for getting those five tasks done. After all, it’s summertime!

“Chunk” Your Time

Remember this ‘ole way of maximizing your time and energy.  Take your day and divide it up into chunks of time.  And then decide what tasks are the most important and put those into the chunk of time that you are the most energetic, alert and productive.  For us business owners, put in anything to do with the financial end of your business into this prime time.  I know that I am much more productive early in the morning – I can get more done at 5:30am than the whole evening before.  So I try to minimize working late at night and instead just get up a bit earlier in the morning.  That early morning “chunk” is my best time. 

Plan Ahead to Slow Down

If you can, plan ahead to enjoy the summer.  Being an obsessive planner myself, I mapped out the summer months way back when we were buried in snow in January. I blocked out time on the wall calendar that I knew I would either be back on the East Coast, hitting the wineries with my identical twin or transporting various college kids back and forth to their schools.  If I can, I slow down the number of training commitments I make for the summer months and instead schedule those in the early fall.  Usually, that is just fine with others since they also want to be less hurried and stressed during these nice warm days. 

Finally, just go do it. Slide out the door discreetly and head for either the Truckee River to float your toes or grab up those vacationing kids and head up to Lake Tahoe.  After all, summertime only comes once a year!

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