Look for the good.

Do you believe that you live in a friendly or hostile universe? Albert Einstein asserted that this is the most important decision you can make, and we agree. 

This basic belief frames our perspective, our reactions, our behaviors, and drives the emotions we feel every day.

A pessimistic person believes they live in a hostile world where they are surrounded by adversaries.  They begin with a negative mindset and focus on the downsides of people and situations.  Disappointments send a pessimist into a downward spiral, even a depression.

An optimistic person believes that they are surrounded by essentially friendly and well-intentioned people, and seeks to find the best outcome and greatest good from the circumstances around them. An optimist perceives setbacks as meaningful and uses these situations as an opportunity to grow.

In the workplace – and at home – there will always be challenges and imperfections. It is easy to let them eclipse all that is good.  If you allow this to happen, you transmit a steady stream of negative messages and emit negative energy, which has a significant impact on those around you – never mind your own health and wellbeing!

Optimism can be learned.  Begin by challenging yourself to find meaning and purpose in every situation – especially the difficult ones.  Resolve to have a more balanced perspective, taking stock of the positives as well as the negatives.  Remind yourself to express your appreciation for the things that are going right.

Today, look for the good around you, and wake up the optimist inside! 

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Don’t sweat the small stuff.

This motto is as relevant to our work life as it is to our personal life.  It’s so easy to get caught up in inconsequential details and meaningless drama that have no bearing on the big picture.  Before we know it, days, weeks and months have passed and we’re tired, stressed, and no closer to our endgame.

As a leader, being able to keep perspective - deciphering big stuff from small stuff and then letting go of the small stuff - is essential.  Sometimes this comes down to delegation; having someone else manage the minute details.  Other times, it comes down to a choice about whether or not you are going to invest precious energy in “small stuff” – petty power struggles, trying to prove you’re right, complaining about deadlines or bureaucracy or the challenge du jour.

What are some strategies to help keep perspective?

Remind yourself that you work to live.  Keep a visible list of your personal priorities and goals and take stock regularly to see how you’re doing.  Remember that you are in this job by choice. Commit to making every day count, and acknowledge your daily accomplishments.  Give yourself permission to say no.  Make peace with chaos.  Learn to deal with negative people and resist feeding into their drama. Recognize when you are telling yourself a negative story, and stop the downward spiral.  Let go of battles that cannot be won.  Commit to taking the high road and being the bigger person.  View challenges as bumps in the road, not roadblocks.  Stop beating yourself up when you make a mistake.  Make allowances for incompetence. (Face it, incompetent people are all around you; build that reality into your expectations.) Accept that at any given time, someone will be mad at you. Most importantly, remind yourself that you are in charge of how you react to things; you are in charge of your life!

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Up-Level Your Image.

A wise executive once said, “dress for the job you want, not the job you have.”

The idea of dressing for success is as old as most boardrooms, but still, we often forget the power of curating an image that helps move us toward our goals.  Your appearance can affect how your co-workers treat you, how your team views you, and how your boss and others in the senior ranks perceive you.   

Don’t let your image get in the way of your next promotion.  Avoid anything that can be described as "too.” Too short, too tight, too revealing, too old, too frumpy and too flashy are all styles to avoid if you're hoping to advance to the next level.  As a general rule of thumb, think polished.  Classic.  Tailored.  Slightly understated.

Also, be mindful of your office/organization culture.  Workers whose style of dress doesn't quite fit can be seen as less serious or effective than their better-dressed peers, and can be passed over when it's time for a promotion. 

What about your hair, face and other grooming choices? Even the classiest suit can't dress up an unkempt, unruly, frumpy or too-young hairstyle, glaring roots, chewed-down nails, visible tattoos and unusual piercings, excessive facial hair or overdone makeup. Your image includes the whole package, so assess your grooming style and see if fits your career aspirations.  Remember, you serve as the face of the organization, and managers will be looking for someone who has “the look.”

Time is in short supply these days.  People draw conclusions about us based on snippets, soundbites and quick visual impressions.  What kind of an impression are you making?  

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Own your stuff.

We all know that making mistakes and having shortcomings are part of being human.  No one can escape these realities.  Yet, these things can help us grow and strengthen – if we are willing to own, acknowledge and work on them.

What does it mean to own your stuff?  It means that you understand that the buck stops with you; that you are responsible and accountable for your behaviors, your decisions and the energy/attitude you project.  It is the ultimate sign of self-awareness, maturity and humility when you step up and take responsibility (publicly and privately) for your stuff.  It’s too easy to point the finger at others, rationalize your actions and otherwise avoid having the conversations that actually matter.

When people move into leadership positions, they often feel that they need to be infallible; that to err or to have shortcomings is somehow not allowed.  It is quite the opposite.  Great leaders openly admit when they have made a mistake, and show how they learned and grew through it.  They show how they pull in others with key strengths to complement theirs and fill gaps where the leader may not be as strong. This modeling of productive behavior builds credibility, and it will inspire others to do the same.  The leader who fears, and ultimately hides or casts blame for their mistakes, undermines trust and sends a message that this kind of behavior is acceptable – or even expected.

Demonstrating humility and accountability for your actions and choices is a powerful way to earn and maintain trust. 

Today, ask yourself, am I really owning my stuff?

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Give honest feedback to others. (Please!)

Okay, we’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: honest feedback is a gift, and a leader’s absolute responsibility. 

None of us is perfect.  We all have things we need to work on.  A leader’s job is to help people continue to grow and maximize their potential, which includes helping them recognize their unique developmental opportunities.  As obvious as this sounds, it is astonishing how many leaders stop short of having these all-important conversations.  Instead, many focus exclusively on the positive (because that’s the easier conversation) and paint an incomplete picture of reality.

Here’s the thing. When we avoid straight-talk about the “other stuff,” the behavior continues and our frustration festers until it gets so maddening (or so counterproductive) that we blow up or it becomes a “performance crisis.”  Meanwhile, the person is completely unaware of the issue and is blindsided by the intensity of the feedback when it finally arrives.  That’s not fair.

In leadership – as in life – we do a disservice to others by not speaking our truth.

When handled well, these honest conversations can be incredibly impactful for a person, opening their eyes to areas where they can be even more effective and giving them something tangible to work on.  These moments can also deepen your relationship as you demonstrate your care and commitment to their continued success.

Today, ask yourself if there is someone you’ve been avoiding giving feedback to, and why.  If you’re intimidated because you aren’t sure how to deliver the message without harming the relationship, seek the advice of a colleague, coach, HR professional or one of the many books and articles available to help, such as Crucial Conversations. 

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