This time of the year, most businesses tend to power down a bit (not all mind you) and it give us time to plan for 2018. Bad idea.
A great post from Reddit — when I read something I like, I try to pass it on. The author focuses on talking to new people, but you can take his technique and apply it to almost any activity you find difficult to master. "So lately I've been having crises about not being able to socialize to the best of my ability."
About a month or two ago, I reached a breaking point — and now I've finally become desperate to want to do something about it. It's been really bothering me about how I'm not living life to the fullest, maximizing the amount of people I talk to, going on dates, etc. (for my anxiety is related to 'cold' approaching people). I've definitely improved socially over the last few years and can engage in conversations to a much greater extent (going to the gym and getting a job in retail loosened me up a bit); I would literally refuse to speak to anyone who wasn't my close friends and would be quite monosyllabic.
As much as I've improved, there's still much more progress to be made. After another mini crisis, I thought "screw it", and made a vow to speak to random people. Thought I'd start off small for now - I'd simply ask them for the time.
I got myself into a frame of mind where I'd literally force myself to ask the next stranger I see for the time, so I did. And it wasn't that bad. And then I did it with the next stranger, 30 seconds later. And again. After I did it I felt absolutely amazing, however small of a victory it may be, and it made me realise that even after doing something so trivial, we have some warped misconceptions of people and this makes us irrationally fear social encounters. Feel free to discredit what I'm about to say on the basis that I've approached a few people, but I don't think what I am saying is invalid.
I've created a list of "challenges" that I'm going to complete.
It's going to be really tough, but I've made a vow to (in this order):
- Ask 50 people for the time (in progress).
- Ask 30 people for directions.
- Go into 30 shops and speak to employees about random things related to the store and company etc.
- Smile at 20 women.
- Say something along the lines of "hey how's it going" or "good afternoon" to 30 people.
- Make conversation with 20 people.
- And then finally, talk to women and ask them for numbers and dates.
I've never realized how true the "social skills are like a muscle" analogy is.
It really felt like I'd been in the gym to lift weights, you get that confidence boost (i.e. the "high" you feel lifting weights), and this morning when I woke up, I realised how exhausting it would be to start again today and approach people again, much how like you need the drive to go to the gym.
It is really easy to tell yourself . . .
It is really easy to tell yourself "I don't need to approach people to get over my anxiety" or "I will eventually stop worrying about my fears in the future and will improve socially with age" and just not do it, when in reality, exposing yourself to the fear (gradually, of course, all-out exposure from my experience has made me worse) will SHOW your brain that there's nothing to be afraid of. Sure, it is true that people become better socially with age, but it doesn't solve the problem completely in some circumstances.
The stranger might be horrible to me.
Additionally, I don't think it's possible to use logic to get out of anxiety, or to convince yourself that there's nothing to be afraid of on a cognitive level, because your brain will still have the same response to a perceived threat unless you actually show it that there's nothing to fear by doing it. If you try to convince your way out of it, you're showing your brain a potential outcome instead of an actual outcome, the latter of which you will see by doing whatever frightens you.
A potential outcome relies on chance, e.g. "the stranger might be horrible to me", and this will lead your brain to go into panic mode again. You accept the potential outcome instead of being consumed by it, approach the person, and then the consequences turn into an actual outcome.
Lack of motivation is also a factor in facing your fears.
As I've said you might feel no need to talk to people (or do whatever is best for you socially) but it will help you out a lot. I don't want to sound like I'm some expert (I'm really not, take this post as you will) as I'm still early into the approaching game, but this is from what I've gathered after years of pre-improving my social skills (like getting over things that made me anxious previously, like ordering at a restaurant, group work in school and delivering presentations) and doing what I've just done now.
How badly do I want this?
To those who want to really get better from social anxiety or improve your social skills, ask yourself this: "how badly do I want this?" It's not a quick fix as I've realised and you will hurt like hell sometimes, but unfortunately you do have to make some effort if you want to improve. It's not something you like hearing, but it is the truth. As I've said it's very easy to delude yourself into thinking you don't need to approach people (or do whatever makes you scared) to improve, but you do.
One thing to remember is that you are all very capable of facing your fears, and that your anxiety to not do something is not as strong as you think it is. Hell, it's very hard and draining, but with an end goal in sight and a will to reach it, it is attainable.
No matter how much you may beat yourselves up.
Lastly, do not for a second think it makes you inferior for being socially anxious or feeling like you lack some social skills. You're awesome people, no matter how much you may beat yourselves up. I even fall into this trap and I have to snap myself out of it, whatever it takes.
I'm also convinced that a large portion of human beings consider themselves "socially awkward", for the lack of a better term, and crave social interactions.
People should approach one another all the time.
Being at University, people are mainly in their own social groups now and I've realised very few people approach one another while they're waiting outside for classes and very few people raise their hand to contribute in classes, out of fear I presume.
I simply refuse to believe that, in my circumstances at least, no one speaks to one another (including myself, I've only ever been approached once or twice at University for meeting friends/conversation, I've had to do most of the work to make friends) due to everyone hating one another; I genuinely believe that everyone (if not, most people) wants to initiate conversation, but are too afraid to do so. If only the world were simple (where this logic would be prevalent and would override anxiety completely), people would approach one another all the time, yet anxiety is so strong it stops us from being rational about it. And it sucks. A lot.
Keep doing whatever makes you awesome.
Feel free to join me on this endeavour, it's hard to say if I'll make it, but I'll give it my best shot. I'll leave you on one last note, which is basically a summary of what I've just said - ABANDON LOGIC AS YOUR MEANS OF FIGHTING THIS.
Use it loosely and to motivate, but don't make it your main weapon to fight anxiety or whatever as you will lose every time. You can read all you want about how humanity is on a small rock in a seemingly infinite cosmos where all of our problems will cease to exist upon death, about how that girl you want to talk to was born in the same way you were; through cell division, being cast into a meaningless world without choice, but that will not cure your anxiety forever. Even my advice won't cure you forever, I concede - but what WILL work, as I've started to realise, is giving anxiety the middle finger and motivating yourself (disciplining, rather) enough to improve socially.
Great rewards require great sacrifices, and I wish I'd seen this earlier. You are no exception.
I'm not pulling any punches here. Why? Because I think most people who are looking for a job need a dose of reality instead of 'good thoughts' and 'quick tricks'.
Here are Rich Gee's 10 Commandments Of Looking For A Job:
1. It's going to be HARD.
You will push yourself farther than you've ever pushed yourself before — into areas that are uncomfortable — networking, connecting, selling, negotiation, schmoozing, etc. Get used to it.
WHY? Most job-seekers are afraid of the process. They want the limo to pull up to their house and whisk them off to their next position. Guess what? It's NEVER going to happen.
2. You must work 30-40 hours a week on your search.
It's a job to find a job. Any less is just fooling around. You have to put serious time into your search — if you don't you will just prolong your unemployment — turning it from a 3-6 month process to a 12-18 month ordeal. I have my clients do a simple math equation: Take your yearly salary and divide it by 12. That is how much you are costing your family for each month unemployed. Stop focusing on your severance package — go out and find a job!
WHY? Clients that dive into their search and spend a reasonable amount of time (30-40 hours a week), get a job. It's that simple.
3. Stop the whining.
Okay, you lost your job — get on with life. Stop navel-gazing and blaming yourself.
WHY? I encounter a number of clients who are wounded and use their loss as an excuse to bypass the difficult actions of a job search. If you are so damaged, it's time for you to seek help with a therapist. If not, get off your ass and move on. You're an adult and you have bills to pay and mouths to feed. Stop the pity party.
I hate to be blunt here — but you're an adult with responsibilities — get out there and make things happen!
4. Don't focus on your résumé every 5 seconds.
Get it done, keep it concise and powerful (and well-written). If you need help — spend the money and have it written for you. You can modify it for certain positions, but don't obsess about what other people say.
WHY? People get so attached to their résumé. They ask every friend and recruiter for advice and guess what? They tell them it stinks and that they have to totally modify it. Get it done and get it out. Stop looking for distractions.
5. Get out and meet people.
If you stay in all day and surf the web, that's not looking for work. It's vacation. To find that perfect position, you must be visible and expose yourself to A LOT of people.
WHY? It's a very simple equation: If you meet new people, you will make new opportunities, you will connect with hiring managers, you will be introduced to hidden positions, you will be offered a job. On the other hand, if you don't meet new people, less opportunities, less hiring manager interaction, less position options, and less job offers. It's that simple.
Hit the library. Make friends with the librarians — they can help you find information on organizations, industries, and people not found on the web. And it's fun — they start rooting for you to find that next position AND it gets you out of the house. One suggestion — try the smaller local libraries — they tend to focus on the serious researcher and not have a 'get em in/get em out' attitude to the masses.
6. Make yourself extremely marketable.
Hit the gym everyday. Eat well. Get an up-to-date haircut. Get new glasses. Dress in style and dress up every day. Act as if you are going out on a first date — first impressions are SO important.
WHY? Be Your Best — you are selling a product . . . YOU. You have to polish it until it shines and catches the light. Any less and you might be passed over for a single errant, inconsequential reason that you could easily fix. Take a few dollars and improve your wardrobe, your body, and your look. You want to hit them hard when they first see you.
7. Study your industry and market.
Don't sit around and surf. Immerse yourself where you're looking for a job. Learn what has happened, what is happening, and begin to predict what will happen. So many job-seekers look for positions but neglect to fully understand what's happening in their industry. When you have a job, you live in a bubble. Take the time and seriously dive into what is happening out in the world. It will come in handy during interviews.
WHY? People forget that this time is for you to apply and work for a BETTER company.
8. Pick companies you would LOVE to work for.
I get so much grief for this one. When looking for a job, so many people give in and make themselves like a company/position rather than targeting organizations they would kill to work for.
WHY? It's easier to find open positions than to LOVE a company, target key individuals, and build your own position.
9. Learn how to interview, ask questions, and negotiate.
Don't wing it. You need to practice and get out there and interview. The more you hone your image, your patter, your answers, your body language, your questions, and your negotiation skills, the faster you will land that primo position.
WHY? So many applicants feel they can rely on their strengths and forget when they're in tense situations, their weaknesses start to show. You need to be 'buttoned-up', secure, and ready for anything a key interviewer throws your way.
10. Be Positive, Smile, and Watch Your Body Language.
This is a big one. Get up every day and start out by rewarding yourself with a motivation.
HOW? Work out, listen to music, do yoga, read, meditate . . . anything. You have to begin each day with a positive mindset. Too many job seekers hit the snooze alarm or get indexed into multiple family responsibilities (not that it's a bad thing) in the morning. Make sure you have time for yourself. Get up early (I get up at 4-4:30 every morning) and make time for yourself — stop staying up late and watching reruns of The Mentalist. Go to bed early (I hit my pillow at 9:30 PM) and get in some real sleep time.
Smile! Stop frowning at everything — remind yourself frequently to smile with people, on the phone, and in unexpected situations. You'll find it brings up the good juices within and you actually feel more positive.
Take an proactive stance on your body language. Walk 20% faster (catch any Bourne Identity movie - watch how Matt Damon walks) - it livens up your system and tells everyone you mean business. Lean forward when you speak and use your hands — it engages the listener and shows them you are passionate about what you do.
11. Surprise! Extra Credit.
Focus on four areas. What are they?
1. Job Boards/Company Sites - This is the easiest area to attack and the most frustrating area to encounter. There might be jobs here, but most of the time, it's a major time-suck for higher level positions. But don't discount it — do it — but don't hold yourself back — access all four areas.
2. Recruiters - Reach out to them, but don't expect a lot to happen. They are focused on obtaining the best employed candidates, poaching from the competition, and keeping their retainers healthy and growing. There might be a perfect alignment of your need and their deliverable, but it rarely happens. I'm not down on recruiting, just don't put all your eggs in this basket. And don't get frustrated when they don't return your calls — it's the nature of the beast.
3. Connecting/Networking - As I said before, a good bet is to reach out to strategic friends, family, and colleagues who might connect you to the right people. You need to move up the food chain and play tennis with the big boys and girls. Don't make all your stops with unemployed networking groups — you're trying to sell a car when everyone else in the room are selling cars too. You need to mix with accomplished, employed, and upwardly mobile people who GET IT. You've hit a road bump in your career (we all have), stop holding yourself back and reach for the gold ring.
4. Targeting - You need to pick the best companies that you would LOVE to work for (remember this?). Act like a private investigator — research what's going on, who's making headlines, where they're going, and who you need to target. Then build a dossier about that person — where they went to school, what do they do, where they worked, are they on social media, etc. Then go after them and introduce yourself to them. Now the hard part begins.
I know this has been a rough post to read — but my goal isn't to sugar-coat my coaching, but to tell the truth and get you to take action ASAP. Let me know if you found it useful.
I love Reddit. Many years ago, a retained recruiter hosted a huge 'AMA' (Ask Me Anything) post. They delivered great responses which were spot on. Here are some of the best (please disregard the grammar - I wanted to preserve the questions asked):
Sometimes we feel trapped at work. Doing the same thing day after day. Handling the same issues, the same malcontents and ultimately getting nowhere. What can you do to move forward?
When I work with teams, I have them perform a lot of teamwork, but I also refocus them on a series of simple exercises to help them grow their position.
I call it Change-Grow-Help. Simply, take a step back and look at what you do all day and think about what three things you can do to make it bigger, better, and more engaging.
What's one thing can I change in my day-to-day work to make it more streamlined, more efficient and effective?
Why CHANGE? Because we get stale. We end up doing things that are easy, familiar, and comfortable. To move forward, we need to mix it up and see where we can make subtle modifications to do things faster and better.
Examples - Kill a meeting, come in a bit earlier, delete that weekly report no one reads, meet with your boss for 5 minutes every morning, streamline your email, etc.
What's one thing can I do to grow me as an individual who can offer more, perform better, and make more-informed positions?
Why GROW? Because we should be always growing. The attitude of 'I know all I need to know" is a 20th Century behavior. You're going to be left behind VERY QUICKLY. What books, resources, classes can I access to grow myself?
Examples - Take a class, read a book, listen to a podcast/audiobook, meet new people, network, join a club, check out Toastmasters or Dale Carnegie, or (hire a coach).
What's one thing can I do to help my team, the department, or organization? How can I branch out and make a difference?
Why HELP? If you don't step out of your little cubicle hovel and start making a difference in other parts of the company, you'll stay an unknown and ultimately be forgotten, laid off, or fired.
Examples - Join a committee, start an organization, hold a learning lunch, advertise to your team and visit a conference, start a blood drive, etc.
Image: Royalty-Free License from Dollar Photo Club 2014.
I managed large teams for over 20 years in corporate and have been coaching C-Level clients for 14 more. During this time, I've probably run into every scenario a manager can experience. Here are my top 30 hacks to make you a better leader (in no special order): 1. Motivate people, don't command them. It's a lot harder, but you will like the results a lot more.
2. Identify your key employees and reward them so they know they're valued. Don't worry about losing poor talent.
3. Translate upper management's vague directives into things your team can understand and take action on.
4. Never bullshit your staff. If something requires secrecy for the good of the company, just be clear on 'I cannot discuss that’.
5. When things go well, don't tout yourself to upper management, tout your team. You'll get the credit as well.
6. Don't worry about losing poor talent. In addition, the best thing you can do for your best people is to get rid of the worst people.
7. Remove any obstacles in the way of them accomplishing their tasks.
8. Elevate the individual and team as a whole when someone does great work. Let them take the limelight.
9. When someone on my team screws up, be the responsible "buck stops here" person as the manager. Act as the umbrella to ensure the wrath of senior management does not rain down from above, and it's your responsibility to discipline them after you catch shit from on high. In addition to that, any discipline effort should be an opportunity to learn from mistakes. Help them to help themselves when they need to recover from a mistake.
10. Don’t be their friend. It's not worth it. You are no longer "One of the guys/girls" You can have fun, don't be a jerk, but you will never be one of them again. Don't try to be. Be cool, but not that cool, otherwise you will get walked on.
11. The more you make your employees feel like they're working with you, and not for you, the smoother the sailing. That being said, make sure boundaries are clear.
12. Make sure each area is covered in the case of a family emergency or vacations and have them matrix-train their co-workers in their respective responsibilities.
13. It's better to be a just, unkind manager than a kind, unjust one, in more ways than you can imagine.
14. Always remain calm. The way you react to and handle situations will have a profound and lasting effect on your staff.
15. Criticize in private, praise in public. Praise often, punish seldom.
16. Never promise something you cannot deliver on.
17. Learn everyone’s first names.
18. Figure out the intricacies of discipline and HR at your organization. Be careful how you treat different cultures and people with different (dis)abilities. A fellow supervisor hired a woman without really verifying her abilities and background. When it became apparent that she didn't know anything, and could not produce any useful code, the supervisor started the whole termination procedure: Tell the employee she's at risk of being fired, start a test period - she has to do this exact work by this date, etc. At the end, the supervisor told the employee she had failed and would be fired shortly. The employee cried and wailed. It turns out the supervisor had missed one of the steps in the termination procedure, so he had to start it AGAIN. Any serious disciplinary action has to be absolutely by-the-book. Get help and a buddy in HR.
19. Learn to listen. Especially to the new hires. And the quiet ones.
20. Be loyal to your employees and they will be ten times loyal right back.
21. Have a few bucks squirreled away so those that really, REALLY need it can get a lunch.
22. Don't go nuts when one rule is broken.
23. Command respect, do not demand respect.
24. Learn to delegate. It creates some frustration in the short term, but saves you huge amounts of time and makes people feel more important in the long term.
25. Be an advocate for your good workers.
26. Get everyone comfortable chairs. Trust me.
27. Create an environment that people want to work in. I find people work harder and are more motivated if they're happy. Don't micromanage, treat people with respect, and create a sense of joining a team rather than a top-down approach.
28. Always be fair. Everyone talks to each other and compares the slightest things whether you like it or not. If you have favorites or treat someone differently, eventually people will find out. This will definitely effect how they see you.
29. Create an open door policy. My favorite policy is that I never mind when people ask questions about the situation or what they need to do. I'd rather someone mess up rather than doing noting. Of course, I'd rather someone ask me questions so they can figure out how to do things on their own, effectively, and efficiently too. Similarly, this also helps with building respect, creating a sense of team, and having more motivated and happy people.
30. MOST IMPORTANT: Take care of your people and they'll take care of you.
You've got a business. It might be doing well — it might not be doing so well. If you hire a business coach, they tend to focus on a specific area of your business — your marketing, your financials, your staff, etc. They focus in on your 'pain point' because it's their specialty. If you go to an ear/nose/throat specialist, they will pinpoint your sickness within your ear, nose, or throat. But what you really need is someone who brings it all together. Who can help you view your entire business and help fix what really needs fixing.
That's what I do. The other day, I ran a cool program called Wordle, a free web program which takes a paragraph/page of writing and transforms it into a word cloud. I took a combination of my web bio and my business acceleration page and developed my first word cloud found at the top of this page.
What words immediately stand out?
I love what I do. I've been a coach for almost 14 years. As a FULL-TIME coach, I work with many businesses to help them figure out what their next steps will be. In fact, I just celebrated 10,000+ hours coaching — if you want to see what that means, click HERE.
I am a business coach. Not a 'life' coach, or a 'financial' coach, or a 'marketing' coach. I am a business/career coach who helps people with their business life. If you want a blankie to keep you warm, look elsewhere.
I am people- and client-oriented. I am not off running multi-marketing junkets — I coach people. Serious people. I spend time with my clients to ensure they succeed. Ask me about Lifeline calls — my clients love them.
I'm here to help. I worked in corporate for over 20 years and found my direct affect on impacting people in a positive way was diminishing. So I refocused it on directly helping people by coaching. I've been put on this earth to help as many people as I can.
Finally, I want to have fun with my clients. Too many things in life are boring and too serious — I want to make the process more fun.
In 2013, I will be highlighting many old and new companies who embrace 21st century progress and run their businesses differently from the old guard who are quickly dying off. My first is John Neeman Tools. They are a small crew of craftsmen from Latvia who use their heritage of craftsmanship handed down through many generations to design and create woodworking tools. Their process, their method and mission, keeps these traditions and crafts alive and well. In this high-tech age, their traditional craftsmanship is flourishing.
John Neeman Tools is founded by Jacob - a carpenter with love for traditional woodworking and his friend – a village bladesmith. This bond has created a premier company.
They use their hands to produce tools that will live on, to tell their story in the hands of the craftsmen after us. Each tool they make is born with energy and personality – a love and care that will be felt daily by each craftsman, a resonance from the heart of the tool.
Towering factories and belching chimneys are not their game. All of their tools are made in our small traditional workshops using equally traditional methods and techniques. Their focus is on uniqueness and quality, not quantity. They want to help people to remember how to use their hands, to relate their own human energy to their tools – to achieve the true joy of creating something from humble beginnings.
You can learn more about John Neeman Tools and their products here.
I didn't expect to write this post. But my last post, 5 Powerful Lessons From My Vacation, garnered so many comments with suggestions of other powerful lessons . . . I just had to do a Part Two!
I took 10 days off over the past week for a much needed vacation for me and my family. We made our way down to Maryland's eastern shore (to a family farm) and then made our way to visit Washington DC. Even though I was relaxing, I had a lot of time during our travels to think about what I learned during my vacation:
1. I disconnected from my practice.
I came back to 500+ emails — but I made sure prior to my vacation, to let all of my clients, colleagues and friends know I'd be gone and if they really needed to reach me, to call. No one called. The time away from email was energizing. Knowing every day that I could just get up and go for a swim, or a walk, or just sit and read gave me real clarity and focus.
It gave me the permission to clear out the cobwebs and focus on what really important — personally and professionally.
2. I watched people.
My disconnection allowed me to watch and engage people from all walks of life. It allowed me to see really bad service and really exceptional service during my time on the road. It
I walked around with a new sense of wonder — engaging people and asking them questions — how's your day going, what's it like to work here, do they ever see anyone famous, etc. It's amazing how animated people get when they someone takes a sincere interest in their life.
3. I built deeper connections with the people I love.
One of the most important things I did was to spend time with my family — my wife and two sons (ages 11 and 16). We had a lot of fun relaxing at the farm and then sightseeing in DC. My two favorites — seeing my 16 year old son act as tour guide while we were in DC (I was so proud) and my 11 year old son have so much fun cutting down bamboo at the farm (he is a dedicated Mythbusters fan and will tackle any project with aplomb).
In addition, I spent quality time with my life partner. She and I have known each other for over 33 years (married 22) and still learn new aspects of one another every day. This vacation grew us closer together.
4. I had time to learn.
I spent a portion of my time reading and enjoying books. I also engaged with my older brother, his wife and sons and learned a host of new things about the world around me. We didn't talk business — we talked more about the world and philosophy in general. When was the last time you did that?
5. I recharged my batteries.
Let me state — I was not 'powered-down' and in need of energy. I was okay — I was moving along just fine over the past eight months. But it's like hooking you up to a powerful energy source (as in The Avengers movie, during the fight between Iron Man and Thor - Thor hit Iron Man with a huge bolt of lightning - and suddenly, Iron Man's energy potential shot upwards of 400%).
It really got my mind working in higher gears and began to build up a reserve of energy to take me through the end of 2012. I am full of ideas and direction — stay tuned!
If you haven't gone on vacation — GO. You can afford the time away from work.
I really didn't mean that. To be honest, to be successful, one needs certain things to happen:
- You have to hustle. Move faster than your competition and get things done. Take action.
- You have to be smart. Not only intelligence, but knowledge and street smarts.
- You have to be lucky. Sometimes it comes from nowhere, but most of the time it presents itself from opportunities you developed.
But there are times when you need to be nimble, agile, and frankly, work smarter. How? Here goes:
Think of all the things you do during the day. The email, the meetings, the people, the stop-bys, the phone calls, the traveling, the commute . . . everything.
Now I want you to take each element and figure out how you can STREAMLINE it. Make it take less time but deliver the same (or increased) result. Let's try each one:
- Email - do you have to read EVERY email? Develop a system to read the important messages and toss the rest.
- Meetings - do you have to go to EVERY meeting? Eliminate one meeting per week - you don't really need to be there.
- People - who are the most important people to your career? Who wastes your time? Start spending more time with the important people.
- Stop-bys - it's nice to have an open-door policy but you have to have time for yourself. Close your door at certain times to get working.
- Phone calls - all calls should be five minutes or less. If it is more complex, you need to meet.
- Traveling - do you really need to go there? Can you video conference in? A conference call?
- Commute - sitting in the car for an hour a day is tiring. Can you listen to motivational CD's? Can you telecommute?
Think outside of the box — you want to work smarter — get the work done in less time without killing yourself.
Over the next few weeks, I will be focusing in on each of these areas - STAY TUNED!
Are you late all the time? What causes that? Are you a perfectionist. an idiot savant or an egomaniac? Let's find out.
I'm talking about fairness.