Posts Tagged ‘business success’

Three Ridiculously Easy Tips to Defeat Perfectionism

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014


If you are like most of us, you are doing more with less. Most businesses take pride in the ever increasing productivity of workers. Bosses often pile on too much work to too few people. Solo-entrepreneurs over-commit themselves. And, pretty much everyone is sleep-deprived, caffeine and sugar-high, or otherwise brain drained by the habits we rely on to keep us going.

So how can you manage a pile of projects, your social media commitments, and have time for Scandal? Plus get some time to see your friends and family, walk your dog, eat right, workout, sleep enough and occasionally chill!

The simple way to satisfying the taskmaster – your boss or yourself – is to drop the perfectionism.

Highly productive people who live satisfying and successful lives seem to share the same philosophy. It can be summed up as:

Focus on the outcome. Consider the time and resources available. Embrace the traits of swift and simple as tenets of your personal brand. Enjoy life.

In my research on work behavior, I’ve identified three different types of perfectionist work styles. While you might have obvious signs of perfectionism, some perfectionist behaviors are sneaky. Which of these might apply to you?

The “Everything Matters!” perfectionists

These folks give everything the same priority: top notch! They live by a much repeated and truly debilitating adage: “If a job is worth doing, it’s worth doing well.” That’s simply not true. Why scrub empty milk cartons before placing them in the recycling, when a simple rinse will do the trick? Don’t take more time creating the perfect Netflix watch list than you do watching movies.

TIP #1: Make a list of everything you could do poorly, without sacrificing health, wealth and your personal brand at work. Then enjoy the extra sleep, creative time, and just doing nothing once in a while.

The “Chicken Little” perfectionists

Often called micromanagers, these people are sure the sky will come crashing down, if they don’t have everything they need in advance and everything in place in case anything goes wrong. They suffer from a lack of basic awareness that humans are inherently good problem-solvers. They also ignore that the 24-hour gas station minimart has a pretty good substitute for whatever you’re missing.

TIP #2: Make a list, check it twice and then be nice to yourself.  The Queen of England eats breakfast cereal out of a Tupperware bowl. Give yourself the joy of spontaneous inspiration, when you get to source a wealth of substitutes because something is missing or the plan needs tweaking on-the-spot.

The “Too Much, Too Tired” perfectionists

Whenever you see clutter on the desk, the office floor, the bathroom at home, or in the car, handbag or briefcase, you pretty much have the most insidious perfectionism at hand. These folks are so overwhelmed by the stacks, piles and most importantly good intentions to do the world’s greatest job at work and home, they get very little accomplished. The same is true with the overfilled calendar, because they’ve said yes to too much.

TIP #3: Get a good friend to un-pile your life. As you clean up, have a heart to heart discussion about what really matters. Then organize your time and life around those priorities. Block off a full hour each day to throw away your mess and reorganize your space, so you can keep calm and be proud of what you do accomplish.

Do you feel like you’re breaking your back, losing your mind or otherwise suffering from an unmanageable workload? Let me know the number one thing that’s really important for you to do perfectly, and five things you can choose to do more swiftly and simply. I’ll be your accountability partner. Email me at [email protected]. Subject line: Perfect.

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Bullying in the Workplace: Fear, Loathing and Lawsuits

Tuesday, March 4th, 2014



In sociology, you learn that all small groups function similarly and that includes the opportunistic behavior of bullying. This learning is one of many reasons I encourage students to get something more than a vocational education, since simply studying finance, engineering or another skill-based major leaves you without the requisite knowledge for understanding behavior at work.

Social sciences should be required for anyone who intends to earn a living.

Bullying is a fact of life, whether you work in a company, volunteer in a cause-based organization or play hopscotch on the schoolyard in third grade. At some point, it’s likely that someone will try to dominate, frighten, and otherwise rob you or someone you know of rights, income or a sense of well-being.

Bullying typically serves the bully’s self-interest, which might be financial gain or simply the antisocial urge to harm another. In school, bullies steal lunch money. In business, bullies go for greater financial gain, privilege or position.

Of course, there is a difference between a schoolyard bully and a workplace bully. Largely the difference is who knows and is complicit in the bullying, who has gain associated with it, and what the harm equates to in real terms. There are special issues of the legality surrounding bullying when they take place within the confines of a corporation. The legalities may involve the responsibilities of corporate officers who knowingly engage in such acts or neglect to take corrective action when they are made known. Intentionally causing emotional harm, self-dealing, conspiracy, slander, and misrepresentation or misappropriation of assets may have significant legal consequences.

When you are bullied, the best course of action is to get sunlight on the bully’s behavior.

The first person to engage in this manner is the bully him or herself. Let them know what you are seeing. Be clear, objective and stick to the facts. Make your best attempt to stop them, by making it clear that it’s in THEIR best interest to stop. It will help to have a record that you can refer to.

Should that not be enough, report the behavior to get more daylight on it. Once again, be objective. At this point, it’s critical to have documentation, not just about the bully’s actions but also the effects on you.

Even when there are supervisors, it’s possible that no one wants to intercede. After all, fear and intimidation are part of the bully’s arsenal, and most people are loathe to stand up to a bully. In schools we see vicious bullying going on with the knowledge of teachers and administrators, much less other students. People choose to ignore the behavior because they feel imperiled or worse, they join with the bully, because it feel empowering to side with someone boldly causing harm to another.

Unfortunately, that leaves you with the final option, which is legal action. Get a knowledgeable attorney who can intercede on your behalf. The goal should be to stop the bullying behavior, and restore your workplace to a safe environment so you can be productive.

Bullying happens. It’s happened to me. And, likely it has or will happen to you.

Keep in mind that your ability to manage yourself, will allow you to lead others to a solution that is not just best for you but for your company as well.

You may be a world-class employee. You may have helped or otherwise supported the person who is now bullying you. Don’t let bullying change your values, your personal brand or your belief in yourself. Be smart. Be objective. Don’t become a smaller, angrier or vengeful version of yourself.

Key Learnings:

  1. Never expect anyone to come to your aid, even when in the past you have come to his or her aid. Never confuse how you act with how anyone else will act.
  2. Don’t mind read.  Simply document actions and observable behaviors.
  3. Advocate objectively for yourself and your organization. Use the appropriate chain of command, as long as you are getting responsive action.
  4. Don’t stand on principle; be practical. Don’t expect anyone to have a sense of right and wrong. Rules, codes of conduct and corporate values are often suspended when fear and money are involved.
  5. Remember this is not about you. Your perspective should be that it is in the best interests of everyone – including shareholders – to stop a bully from diminishing the productivity and value of a business or organization.

Are you being bullied? Or have you left a job because of a bully? Has it negatively affected your work history? Let me know your story, and I will give you some guidance. Email [email protected]. Subject line: Bully.

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Hoarders At Work: Clean Or Consequences

Thursday, February 20th, 2014


When you have to separate a very talented person from your company, it hurts. As my partner often repeated, “Nice beats genius every time.” Make sure you fit into the culture and connect with people at work in a polite and congenial way. Showing respect for your co-workers is paramount, no matter what else you produce.

Having empathy, sensitivity, and good personal habits are all part of the emotional intelligence that can come with good parenting, life experience or coaching. For many of us, relational skills are not innate or intuitive, but simply learned. The sooner, the better.

There are certain chronic personal problems that cut down even a towering intellect, great talent, or an otherwise hardworking individual.

Hoarding is one of those personal problems that can ruin your career. Unfortunately, this affliction seems to come with a “thick skin,” which may be a euphemism for an antisocial personality disorder. That’s why the hoarder acts like a victim when people are finally fed up, no matter how many times they’ve been told to clean up their act.

We think of hoarding in its extreme as a problem people have in their homes, where they can hide from onlookers. Hoarders often make less of a mess at work, because at the office a cleaning crew comes in and tries to toss away the worst of it. But sometimes, even the cleaning people can’t approach the task of untangling what should be saved and what’s trash. And, they certainly can’t file away piles or make order out of chaos.

You may have seen this at your office: a staff member who has an obvious insensitivity to the rules of shared space, despite repeated attempts to make them aware of how they are affecting those around them. Here’s what we dreaded facing at work, every day.

A small aisle through half open boxes and old lunch sacks led the way toward my co-worker’s desk, where she sat amid a half dozen empty Coke cans and a stained, two day old Starbucks vente cup.  To her left and right, sat small mountains of discarded documents, several pairs of reading glasses, pens, soiled paper towels and crushed flyers. On her credenza, a load of whatnot crammed the small space in front of books leaning at different angles. Color charts splayed open, a clutch of paper cuttings sat precariously atop the cutter, and an exacto knife stuck into a board perched above it all. The floor under her desk was crowded with more used bags, old paper and rotting food, giving her just a few inches of space to move her small chair.

No amount of asking, explaining, or doing got the office tidied, much less clean. A couple of times each week I stayed late, putting things in order. But it didn’t take a half-day before she was sunk in her mess, and we all were surrounded by it.

The best we could do was shut her door, but sometimes clients came in and we were mortified.

Her office mate got sick and stayed sick for months, perhaps from the dust and the dirt. Plus, he was just plain miserable from his increasingly smaller oasis of clean amid her uncontainable mess.

So, after years of trying to manage this, we had to be fair to everyone else in the office. We had to lose a hardworking teammate and a really talented person. No more hints, no more talks, no more cleaning up after her, no more good friend. We simply could not operate around the problems she was causing. In the end, it’s everyone’s loss.

Are you struggling with hoarding or another personal problem that’s cutting away at the goodwill of your co-workers? There are many support groups that offer guidance, often with a sponsor who has made their way through the problem you have. Do something about it, and let your co-workers know what your plan is.

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Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014

Change?SMIf you have a job, you have asked yourself, “Should I stay or should I go?” You may have the same question about your location. And, if you’re in a relationship, you undoubtedly have asked yourself the same thing.

Should I stay or should I go?

It’s just human nature to wonder about finding something better.

Last night my fiancé brought home Sunset magazine, with its headline screaming: Best Places to Live! I noticed our town (if you can call Los Angeles a “town”) wasn’t listed.

Does that mean LA is NOT the best place to live? The default answer is right now, it is and we are staying. Not always and forever, but right now we have great work, no house payment, and two great big furniture-eating, hole-digging dogs under two years old. But I have to say, once they lifted the quarantine laws off dogs coming from the US, the south of France started to look really good.

I can complain about why everything here is difficult. The traffic alone makes the case to go (if the traffic would only let up so you could).

Do you feel the same way about work? You feel stuck. You are not sure you have a long-term future in your company. Maybe your issue is you can’t keep working these hours, or reporting to your boss, or sitting in a cubicle, or being isolated at home.

As this economy has crept upward, increasingly people write me, asking whether they should leave their jobs or flee their industries entirely. It is the single most common question I get.

The correct answer is no. Don’t leave. That’s the default answer, anyway. The reason is simple.

No matter where you go, there you are.

Consider that it might not be the job, the industry, the town, or anyone else around you that makes you want to leave. Consider it just might be YOU that you secretly want to leave. You may simply be tired of repeating the same patterns, making the same mistakes, and doing the same old things.

Before you make a move, make a list of what you would like to change about your life – not just work. You haven’t finished until you have written at least 15 things that are making you miserable. In the next column, write down what’s at the root of each misery. Then, in the final and third column, write down the solutions that you can put into play. Consider what you can change NOW about yourself and the way you do things, while you stay in place.

Until you have a strategy for making each those changes, and you have accomplished ten out of the fifteen: you can’t jump jobs, move out of town or leave your lover.

Big decisions are best made when you can see things clearly. Leaving might be the best thing you ever do, but only if you are leaving having learned how to be the best you can be.

Do you wonder about leaving? Send me a quick brief about why, and I’ll send you some guidance. Email: [email protected]. Subject line: Leaving

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Why Cheating is the Secret to Success

Wednesday, January 8th, 2014

CheatingSquareA whole lot of people are making resolutions right now, and not one of those goals is: “I will master the art of cheating.” Yet the truth is, all high achievers are expert at cheating, because cheating is the secret to success.

When you shadow leading entrepreneurs, CEOs of Global 2000 companies, world class athletes, master mechanics, and prolific inventors: you see them cheat constantly. That is, they spare themselves any extra work, when less will do.

They spare themselves the stress of winning popularity contests, unless the prize is big enough. They often ask forgiveness rather than permission, because it’s faster that way.

This doesn’t mean they cheat on their taxes, partners or exams.

Psychologist Albert Ellis calls their systems “elegant.” They are free of unnecessary psychological or physical strain, as it relates to the process of getting things done. Their actions are streamlined, and wherever possible, they have ritualized what works best into a set of procedures or criteria.

They avoid revisiting old drama, feeling stuck, and negativity.

They constantly listen to their own insights, rather than the opinions or judgments thrown their way. They’re not addicted to positive regard and they’re not deterred by unconstructive criticism.

Consistently high achievers look like they are cheating, because they work faster and produce more and better outcomes. That’s because they observe and measure themselves at the same time they take action, which takes incredible stillness of the mind while the body is at work.

Surfers, extreme downhill mountain bikers, and other successful athletes have this mind-body synchronization down pat. That’s why when we watch them perform feats beyond what most of us believe is possible, we often say: “he cheated death.”

In fact, these elite athletes make corrections in flight, because they are so deeply in flow they somehow bend the rules of physics a bit. After staying in control of a bad trip, you might hear them say, “I cheated the landing.” They may pull up short or come down with their equipment and body in a less than picture perfect pose, but they continue to devour the course, get big air or tail whip with as much speed as a body can bear (and then some).

Successful people in business do the same kind of cheating. They avoid perfection, they go even when they don’t know all the right answers and they don’t strike poses.

Do you need help with your resolutions? Do they need to be more adventurous or less conventional? Whether it’s your weight, career or relationship, let me mentor you. Send me your top three resolutions and I’ll give you some guidance. Email: [email protected]. Subject line: Resolutions.

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How Do You React to Pressure?

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

UnderStressPhotoSquareIf you are interviewing for a job, you are probably going to get the “stress” question at some point.The simple truth is this. If you can’t work under pressure, you won’t get the job. If it comes up in a job or promotion interview, there’s a reason you’re asked this question.

Consider that the recruiter is doing you a kindness by telling you if a job is stressful. It’s useful to prepare by developing a story, rather than a series of pronouncements about how great you are under pressure. You’ll need to formulate a story (or two) that shows how much experience you have working or managing under difficult conditions.

If you’re not ready for the question? You’ll feel anxious just attempting to answer it. So, be prepared.

TIP: The most profound way to respond to this question is to thank the recruiter for asking it. Then, preempt their next question. The predictable follow-up is “give me an example.” Jump on it unprompted, to showcase just how stress proof you are (if you are).

Here’s an example of a great response.

Recruiter: “How do you function under stressful conditions?”

YOU: “Thank you for asking. I’d like to share an example with you.  Just two weeks ago, a client of our firm called with a really urgent problem. She had given us the wrong date for her upcoming trade show. The show was actually a month earlier than she previously communicated. I reassured her that we would have some materials for her without a doubt, and that I’d see what changes needed to be made in order to meet her new deadline.  I called it a “new” deadline – to make sure she didn’t feel embarrassed. Also, I made sure I didn’t over promise what we could deliver. Then, I immediately began calling colleagues and vendors to make changes in the project management schedule. Turns out I needed to change the complexity of some of the communication pieces or have her pay rush charges. But all the vendors were pretty good about helping out. When I gave her the choice, the client chose to pay more to get everything done perfectly. So, I put in some extra hours each day and worked through one weekend to get it done. Sure it was stressful but I was really proud to make the event perfect – as if nothing had gone wrong.Plus, we actually made a bit more profit on the job.”

Do you see how the example showed that you handled stress well – without seeming false or self-serving?

The other quality you showcase in this answer is that you didn’t give away the extra work for free. You gave the client a choice to pay more – and that means you understand that making revenue is a business goal. You were also respectful to the client and to your vendors. How good is that for your personal brand?

Stories create memories about you; proclamations don’t. Your personal brand is built by knowing who you are and being able to tell stories that showcase these qualities.

Even if you don’t have a story that directly relates to work or this job in particular, certainly you have a story about managing something under pressure. Your story could be a research report with a tight deadline from a professor or a volunteer event where someone wasn’t able to handle their responsibility but you pitched in to make it happen.

I’d love to hear your stress story – and how you aced it. And, I’ll provide you with some feedback that should enhance your personal brand. Email me at [email protected].  Subject line: Stress

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Did You Get What You Wanted?

Wednesday, December 29th, 2010

girl-with-presentsSuccessful personal brands spend much time exploring their psyches and behaviors to arrive at a position that will be enduring, profitable, and satisfying. After all, your brand must be authentic, easy to communicate, and welcome in the tribes you select to lead or at least be among. A personal brand must embrace who you are now, the origins of your life you want to bring forward in your career, and give you stretch goals so you have a destination to keep you moving forward.

Your qualities and values matter

It is not so easy to identify qualities that will last a lifetime.  But it’s worth the time to agonize over; because it’s your qualities and values that matter wherever you go. We career coaches now talk about your having 5 to 15 careers, which is sometimes comforting – let’s say you hate your current job – or daunting – perhaps you fear your knowledge, approach or skill set will become outdated.

I counsel my coaching clients to think of themselves as fractions, not integers. You are not just a consultant or employee. You may be both, or even more fractions of your whole working day or life. You may be writer, blogger, web series star, media pundit, seminar leader, industry opinion maker, and oh the list goes on. Just like you would diversify an investment portfolio, you must diversify the ways you make your fortune.

Your brain may now be screaming: I can’t do all that at once. I’m not a dollar that can be broken into several coins; I’m a person with only so much time. Stop hurling birds using a catapult at a nest of explosives, or whatever games you play on your so-called smart phone. Convince your brain you want to get ahead, not kill time or birds.

On the journey of your life, the one thing for sure you will take with you is: you. You will lose jobs, outlive pets, and undoubtedly some of your loved ones, survive friends becoming enemies, and you may even go to war against the one you love now. In life and work, loss is going to come your way, on the way to your making gains. It’s who you are that matters through it all, because that’s the basis of who you can become. And that outcome should be good for you, in every way.

Consider what qualities will sustain you. What are you going to look back and say, it’s because I was (fill in the blank) that I was able to (fill in the blank). Actually, I was able to do (fill in 15 blanks).

Sure with personal brands, you need to get attention, ignite emotional connections and remain indelible in the minds of your tribe in order to leverage your brand for life. The brand you sell to others shouldn’t be one you have to sell to yourself. It should be yourself. Then, just add a hefty dose of resourcefulness and resilience, a nose for opportunity and a desire to work hard, and smart.

Getting what you want isn’t just reserved for Christmas. Although, I do hope Santa, or the bearer of gifts in your culture, was good to you this year.

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Narcissism: The New Normal

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010 provides an email plug-in that flags sentences with words or phrases that may convey unintended emotion or tone, then helps you re-write them. I was kidding about that when weeks ago I introduced you to It’s an opt-in service that requires users of Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube or Tumblr, to go through a series of online co-ordination tests before allowing access those services.

True email screening

Well, now email screening of your screaming is no joke. ToneCheck is here and employers are happy to see it. Not only does it stop hate, anger, sarcasm, rudeness and other negative comments from making their way from your screen onto servers elsewhere – it also embargoes the overly happy, ebullient messages you might send. After all, who wants you to document your appreciation for a vendor that pulled out the stops and produced a miracle for your company, if 90 days later you’re trying to find a way not to pay the bill?

Of course, the world won’t be completely whitewashed. For now you can still get a giggle when you pull up, which allows you to read or report some of the dumb smart phone SMS messages you or someone else has thumbed.

Watch your mouth

Funny as these digital bloopers are to read, what you are saying and sending is no joke. Twice this week, I had to send messages to people I work with, telling them to delete among other things: the f-word and a comment that was meant to express disappointment about the Dream Act, with the unfortunate choice of words: “bomb them.” As we know from the Tribune Company’s innovation officer – who sent around pornography as part of a “frat house” mentality, poor judgment is an equal opportunity parasite on the careers of us all. That’s also something I called to your attention a few weeks back. It may explain why the Tribune is in bankruptcy, too much free time for the top executives.

If I’m calling these folks out on it, you can only imagine how many people are quietly disgusted with the ugly verbiage and the people throwing it around. But, it’s going to get worse. We’ve entered the new normal of narcissism, where the world and media is all about you and largely from you. After all, you tag yourself on your pictures, you make comments on them, and you go up on Facebook largely to see what’s been said about you or to you.

Enough about me – what do you think about me?

Narcissism has just been removed from the official list of personality disorders that therapists can treat (and insurers reimburse). Apparently, we’ve outgrown our concern about narcissism, which is on the spectrum to sociopathy. It’s no longer an aberration, because so many of us have it as a “quality.” This now pervasive quality previously was a serious psychiatric condition that we know is destructive to relationships with family, work, community, and society. Now, it’s okay! Who needs empathy anyway? It just gets in the way of increasing the value of shares.

We are in for a firehose of hedonism that inevitably will destroy what could have been called polite society. But, as long as we are hanging on to that fallacy, we can stick ToneCheck on your email, to give you a second chance to rephrase that angry missive – or overly affectionate one – that you are creating on company time.

Casual dress, professional behavior

I blame the demise of civilization not on the Internet, but on casual Fridays. A zillion years ago, I remember arriving at the office of my attorney on the first casual Friday I encountered. There was a sign on the reception desk: “Our dress is casual but our behavior is professional.” I silently added: “And, your fees are astronomical.” Then my attorney appeared with his middle-aged gut, wearing a polo shirt and jeans. He still charged me $550 an hour, with no discount for not showing up in a pressed dress shirt, silk tie, tailored pants and suit jacket. It was a long case and I suspect he saved enough on clothes and dry cleaning to retire early.

Personal brands: do you really want to be doing what seemingly everyone else is doing? Do you want to be identified with swear words, casually throw around hate language, tell us how “sick” your new bike is, and where you went with your “ho?” Do you want your so-called friends to be posting trash on your threads so your employer, prospective employer or client can see it? And, no your privacy settings don’t protect you.

Consider where you can or can’t go with the language you speak. And, I don’t mean it’s time to learn something new like Mandarin, Arabic, Spanish, or French. Let your first language be your best language.

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