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Make It Happen
Career Management and Work-Life Balance

January 2005 number 5

Whether you are actively looking to change your job, have just left, or are merely exploring the possibility, this newsletter can help. It is a supplement to Leaving the Mother Ship, and is designed to share additional suggestions and ideas. Please forward it on to others who you think may benefit!

Editor's note: We are trying to reach a far broader audience. Please forward this issue to all of your friends and colleagues, and encourage them to subscribe. This is a no-spam, no-cost newsletter; we can only grow with your help.

1) New Year's Resolutions that work
2) Attitude, not Aptitude, determine your Altitude
3) 2004 Editorial Index
4) Product News: Workbook and Coaching Credits
5) Ask Randall (I hate my unbearable job, I was just told I will be let go.)
6) Reader Feedback
7) Career Tutorials and Career Management Action Course
8) Keep Make It Happen Alive

1) New Year's Resolutions that work

Do you know the busiest time of the year for fitness clubs and their ilk? In January, millions of people make a resolution to lose weight, tone up, slim down, and generally become healthier. Others make resolutions to buy a house, fix their house, save more, spend more, quit their job, find a job, and generally take care of those things that didn't quite get done over the last 12 months.

What so many of these resolution makers have in common with each other is that most of their resolutions will remain just that: resolutions. After several years, many people don't even bother with resolutions, as they know it is pointless to make a promise that they know won't be kept.

As someone who doesn't believe in quitting before you start, surely if it is imporant enough to make a New Year's Resolution, isn't it important enough to actually follow through with it? While each person is unique, here are some ideas that can help:

Set realistic resolutions: Particularly if you haven't had great success with your resolutions in the past, setting realistic expectations are critical. Unrealistic ones are bound to be broken.

Don't eat the watermelon in one bite : Instead of a large, difficult resolution, break it into small, bite-sized chunks. For example, if you have a goal of losing weight, resolve to lose five pounds, not 25. Once you've achieved that New Year's resolution, you can always do an "April Resolution" to lose some more.

Use the carrot approach: Don't just make a resolution, but also reward yourself for keeping it. Instead of "Go to the gymn each week", why not "Go to the gymn each week, and after three months, reward myself by buying a new suit." Another benefit: whenever you wear that suit, you'll remember how you earned it.

Personal Balance Sheet Action Planner: For those who have purchased the Workbook or have attended our pre-workshop career management tutorial, you are already very familiar with the Personal Balance Sheet Action Planner. This planner is an excellent tool to use to capture your commitments, as it puts each commitment into the context of also achieving specific work-life balance goals.

Here is a New Year's resolution that everyone should make: take control over your career. You can do it by yourself, or you can use any of the resources that we make available: the book, workbook, private coaching, the free tutorial, and the Career Management Action Course. Whatever you decide to do, take it seriously: set realistic resolutions, don't eat the watermelon in one bite, use the carrot approach, and use the Personal Balance Sheet Action Planner.

2) Attitude, not Aptitude, determine your Altitude

Many years ago, one of my mentors was describing his approach: you catch more flies with honey than vinegar. As a more junior manager, much of my effort was persuading others to take up my ideas and either approve them (my managers) or run with them (my staff). I saw this expression as a way to manage my immediate priorities.

With some experience, I now recognize that this expression is more profound, and it relates directly to how attitude affects your longer term success. Look around you at your friends, workmates, and family; which ones do you enjoy being around, and which ones do you not? Think about the reason why you prefer being with some rather than others: for most people, it boils down to whether their experience is generally positive, or negative. And underlying this experience is others' attitudes.

Strangely, attitude is like energy. When someone comes into the room with positive energy, wonderful things happen: people become motivated. People are more creative. And people are more cooperative. And when someone comes into the room with negative energy, like a black hole, they are able to suck motivation, creativity and cooperation away. Think about a happy event like a wedding, and how easily one person can ruin the day. Or how a few heartfelt words at a funeral can have a tremendous impact on everyone around them. While these two examples are pretty much at the extremes, there are plenty of others that can be found in our everyday worklives.

While it is relatively easy to find examples of others' positive or negative attitudes around us, how do other people think of us? What impact are we having when we come into a room. Is it positive, negative, or neutral? Of course, your attitude will likely be different based on the circumstances you are in at any given time; what we are talking about here is whether you are on balance negative or positive -- and how to move yourself "up" a few points in any given situation.

A more positive attitude pays dividends in virtually every sphere of your life, since it affects how you deal with others. Is your attitude Negative, Positive, or Neutral? How about those around you?

Negative Attitude Positive Attitude Neutral Attitude
I must constantly check and verify the poor quality of my colleagues' work. I empower my workmates to do the best they can, and they repay me with their support. They don't need me to stick my nose into their business.
The vast majority of the ideas that my team comes up with are stupid. My team has excellent brainstorming sessions: we usually come up with at least two or three great ideas . I'll let others do the talking.
As the senior manager, others come to me with their problems because they can't figure it out themselves. Others usually seek me out for advice and mentoring. I'm a good listener.
Not fair - why can't I do that? (whine and compain) Let's make it happen! It wasn't important anyway.
The glass is half empty . The glass is half full. If you think about it, both mean the same thing.

While there is likely no argument about the benefits of a positive attitude, and problems with a negative one, what about a neutral attitude? A person with a neutral mindset neither adds, nor subtracts from the situation. Like a boat that is cast adrift, it is directionless, going wherever the prevailing wind sends it. While this mindset avoids conflict, it adds nothing - to you, or those around you. If you find yourself slipping into this category, don't delude yourself into thinking that your "quiet confidence" helps - it doesn't. By keeping a neutral attitude, you are depriving your colleagues of your unique perspective, and you are losing the opportunity to inspire others to greatness. These are the attributes of leaders; to become one, you can't lead your worklife if you are stuck in neutral.

Those with a negative attitude often justify it by saying that they are responsible for "bringing everyone down to earth", "doing the reality check", or perhaps "maintaining our history". All of these things (and others) can be done just as easily with a positive attitude.

As managers, we know that it is easier to lead those with a more positive attitude. It follows that we would be easier to manage too, if we had a more positive attitude. What else does this imply? Easier to manage means easier to promote, easier to hire, and easier to buy from. Think about the last time you interviewed a job candidate; recall how easy was it to identify the "dead wood" and those with a questionable attitude?

With a positive attitude, others will buy into your ideas more easily - and also better accept your criticism. By improving your attitude, your effectiveness (and your happiness) can be improved dramatically, both on your current Mother Ship, and your next one.

Most successful managers acknowledge that continuous improvement - learning to do things better - has played an important role in their success. This is true whether it be in the area of financial management, sales, negotiation, medical diagnosis, or whatever your usual day tasks are. Think about it: there is no reason why you cannot make improvements in your attitude in the same way. The question is, how?

Recognize your own negative habits. Over the years, they become habitual, and instinctive. Is it possible that you have "slipped" into some negative habits?

Kill the sarcasm. Even if you think it is your own brand of "dry" humor, no one knows exactly what a sarcastic person is thinking. To avoid being stung, they will either participate less, or use sarcasm themselves - exacerbating the problem.

No Whine zone. If you catch yourself complaining, whining, or gossiping about anything, ask yourself why you are doing so. At best, you are wasting your time and others'. Instead of complaining about something, become an example and fix the problem yourself.

Don't say "no", say "how". Whenever someone comes up with an idea that you think is particularly unworkable (or just plain dumb), don't pour cold water on the idea. Instead, use your experience to speak up and suggest how it could be done. Either the original idea, or your subsequent amendment, might be just the spark for someone else's idea.

Body language. More than words, your body language often tells what you truly are thinking. If you have ever been in a job interview when the other person is inattentive, likely the clue came from their body language. Try smiling more, and frowning less. Like your grade school teacher used to remind you: sit up straight, and actively listen when people are talking to you.

Start now. Particularly if you see yourself leaving the Mother Ship at some point, why not start changing your attitude now? There are many very obvious benefits, including better interview results, better motivated staff, and a happier work experience for yourself. Of even greater benefit is that when you do finally land in a new job, you will start right away with a reputation that is positive and can-do.

Ask others for help. Ask a few of your closest friends to give you a private signal if a negative attitude begins to show itself. Once you have gained your confidence with this group, expand your "helpers" to include a few trusted workmates as well. All of these people have a built-in incentive to help you, as they will be a primary beneficiary of your improved attitude.

Review your non-work activities. Non-work activities can have a big impact on your at-work attitude. Deterioriating personal relationships, stresses from children, lack of exercise, the amount of sleep, and poor nutrition are but a few of the non-work activities that directly affect our attitude outside the office. It is very tough (and for most of us, impossible) to keep these stressors out of the office. The result: negative attitude. The Personal Balance Sheet (and the Personal Balance Sheet Action Planner) are great ways to begin addressing the problem.

Will a positive attitude help you to reach your altitude? Absolutely.

3) 2004 Editorial Index

If you've missed any of our 2004 issues, they are all available at http://www.LeavingTheMotherShip.com/news. Here are the various topics covered, and the issue that they appear in. See something that a friend might find interesting? Send it along!

4) PRODUCT NEWS: WORKBOOKS AND COACHING CREDITS

Workbook: A number of people have commented that Leaving the Mother Ship is exceptionally useful, but it would be easier if all of the forms, templates, and other resources were readily available. As well, there have been a number of practical ideas that didn't make it into the Book, but did make it into the Workbook. The workbook might make the difference between your success and failure -- the extra material and forms will certainly save you time.

Features:

  • 14 Worksheets, organizers, guides, and resources
  • Resume Organizer includes how to build your mini-bio and elevator pitch.
  • Filling in the Gaps worksheet provides a prioritized checklist of all action plan activities, in one place.
  • Business Plan Organizer provides details as to what you should do after the plan is complete.

The Workbook is not sold through stores: it is only available at our seminars or online at the following URL: http://www.leavingthemothership.com/store/index_wb.html

Coaching Credits: Access to an unbiased, independent source of career and business counseling. Coaching provides you an experienced mentor who has only one interest in mind: yours. Randall provides personalized coaching for a limited number of clients each month. Each coaching session is 30 minutes long, and can cover any number of relevant topics, including:

  • Mentorship on situational issues (examples: severance, reduced work schedule, conflicts of interest.)
  • Leaving the Mother Ship: Prioritization and Planning.
  • Playing Devil's advocate to your plans.
  • How to identify and mitigate risks during change.
  • Negotiating strategy: severance, job offers, suppliers.
  • Job search strategy.
  • Interview role-playing.
  • Resume review.
  • Entrepreneurial issues: managing growth, finding partners.
  • Business Plan review.
  • New business start-up coaching.
  • Creative Brainstorming.
  • Completely open agenda: You ask, Randall answers.

Go to http://www.LeavingTheMotherShip.com/coaching for more details.

5) ASK RANDALL

I hate my job so much, it is unbearable. I don't know what to do. Can you suggest something?

Perhaps a particular event or a recent change has helped you realize that you have stayed in the position too long? If it is so unbearable, then you do really have to do something about it! This is one of the key messages within Leaving the Mother Ship and the Workbook; they are both chock-a-block full of specific ideas that you can start working on immediately.

One of the key concepts in the book is called Filling in the Gaps. The idea is that between today and the day you actually leave, you should spend time preparing yourself to be successful in your next position. Some of the preparation is mechanical: an updated resume, for example. Other preparation might include educating yourself in a particular industry, learning a new skill, earning a certification, or improving your contact network. Once again, specific instructions are in the book.

Two other ideas that might help:

1) Don't bring your grief home with you: Your friends and family can be your strongest supporters. If you take out your day job problems on them, eventually they will be alienated - and you will not get the support you need.

2) Look for the small wins: What other activities outside of work can provide the fulfillment you don't get during the day? These small wins (playing with your children, going to the gymn, volunteering, etc) are something that you can look forward to all day. Hint: Look at your Personal Balance Sheet for ideas.

I've worked at one company for about 12 years, and I've just been told that I will be let go. How do I know that my package is reasonable?

There are many factors that determine whether your package is reasonable or not. For example, are you part of a collective bargaining unit? Do you have an employment contract? Are you being let go for cause? What is the statutory law in your jurisdiction? What have the courts recently held? What is the state of the economy? How hard would it be for you to find a similar job? Are there any unpaid commissions, accrued vacations, expenses, or any other monies owing between the parties?

There are many, many other factors that influence what is a reasonable severence package, which is why it is critical that you get professional legal advice before accepting any package offered. But until you do get that advice, here are some basic guidelines:

Don't sign anything on the spot. It is an emotional time, and it is reasonable for you to say that you need to take the severance offer home to review. Then call an attorney that specializes in employment law, and get their feedback.

Don't burn your bridges. Despite the animus that might exist right now, you never know when you will meet up with your current manager and colleagues again. At the very least, a departure on good terms will make it easier for you to use them as a reference down the road.

Try to determine others' packages. Look beyond your company to others in your industry? Have others in similar roles been let go recently? If so, then try and contact them, and ask them if they would share the outline of their settlement. If the person has a public profile, then their package may even be part of the public record.

Calculate your total compensation. A severence package usually is calculated upon a base salary, yet your total compensation usually includes a number of components, including commissions, bonuses, benefits, unvested stock options, pension contributions and use of a car, phone, or computer. List the items that apply to you, and determine their value. Your attorney will find this useful, but so will you: it will help with your personal planning.

Remember you're on your own time (and dime) now. As soon as you are notified of an impending package (or any type of layoff for that matter), you need to put your own priorities first - not the the company's. This means different things to different people, but here are some general thoughts:

  • Defer any large financial commitments, and tighten your budget.
  • Update your resume
  • Immediately begin the Networking exercise (Chapter 11)
  • Start the job search!
  • Confide in your family and friends.
  • DO NOT decide to "borrow" office supplies or any other company property!
  • Do not use your work email or computer for anything personal.
  • Read the section on "Filling in the gaps" very carefully - what can you do between now and your last day?

Even if your last day might not be for several weeks, every hour of prep work brings you one hour closer to your next job.

6) READER FEEDBACK

We need your feedback! How have you used the ideas from Make It Happen and Leaving the Mother Ship? Do you have any tips that others would find useful? Let us know your favorite article, and why. And what topics would you like covered in future editions? Let us know at feedback@LeavingTheMotherShip.com.

7) CAREER TUTORIALS AND CAREER MANAGEMENT ACTION COURSE

Career Tutorials: These are two hour, no-cost sessions designed to kickstart the career planning process for those serious about making a change for the better in their life. The evening is highly interactive: people learn more from "doing" things than just passively listening. The focus of the evening is career planning in the context of Work-life balance. Participants leave the tutorial with notes, along with a copy of the Personal Balance Sheet Action Planner. Note: this tutorial is a pre-requisite for the Career Action Management Course.

The dates (and registration information) for the tutorials are always available on the www.LeavingTheMotherShip.com home page. The Tutorials are scheduled on either Tuesday or Thursday evenings starting at 6:30pm sharp. If you liked the book, take the next step and sign-up for the tutorial!

Career Management Action Course: This seven-module course uses an innovative combination of self-paced exercises, private review sessions with the instructor, and an interactive workshop to help drive real change. Course objectives include:

  • To focus your personal career objectives.
  • To define both mid-term career planning and short-term job direction.
  • To identify barriers that prevent you from achieving your goals, and design a plan to address them.
  • To provide practical answers for specific-to-you career challenges. (eg addressing manager feedback, deciding when to change tracks, understanding the role of education, etc.)
  • To start developing a pro-active support network: friends, family, workmates, coursemates, and your manager.
  • To provide a framework for career decision-making in the context of an appropriate work-life balance.
  • To develop more focus, direction and the drive to get things done.

Course details are available at www.leavingthemothership.com/keynotes/index.html#3, or by emailing workshop@LeavingTheMotherShip.com. The workshop by itself can also be delivered to employees as part of a company-sponsored career-planning or outplacement initiative.

8) KEEP MAKE IT HAPPEN ALIVE

Make It Happen is a free newsletter, supported by you! To keep this newsletter coming, we rely on book sales, speaking fees, and seminar attendance. If you know anyone who would benefit from our message, please let them know. Thanks!

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Copyright 2005 Knowledge to Action Press and Randall Craig. All rights reserved.

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