Quick and Dirty Tips: Your rap sheet of shows and movies you've directed includes notable episodes and films such as #BlackAF, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, The Office, Malcolm in the Middle, and He Said, She Said. Can you share a few highlights and memorable moments? Would you say any of these movies or films was a gamechanger for your career?
Ken Kwapis: My very first feature film, Sesame Street Presents: Follow That Bird, is the story of Big Bird’s journey of self-discovery. Imagining he’d be happier living with his own kind, Bird decamps for a small town in the Midwest, where he moves in with a foster bird family. He soon realizes how much he misses Sesame Street, where a diverse group of all kinds—humans, monsters, grouches—live in harmony. It’s a message that’s as vital now as it was in 1985, when I directed the film. Why was this film a gamechanger for me? I connected to Big Bird’s emotional journey on a very personal level; in retrospect, I now see that it took an eight-foot bird to teach me that my job as a director was to become a student of human nature.
QDT: How does your directing style change between movies and TVs and the type of show/movie you're working on (rom-com, comedy, etc)? Do you have to adapt to the genre?
KK: Whether directing comedy or drama, I try to find the humanity in any given scene. Put a different way, when I direct comedic material I look for ways to ground the scene in reality. And when I'm working on a dramatic piece, I look for humor to leaven the drama. There’s always humor hiding in the drama, waiting for a good director to discover.
Working in Hollywood, the biggest lesson I’ve learned is that you need to measure success on your own terms, not Hollywood’s.
QDT: What content (books, movies, essays, etc.) should college-aged and young adults be consuming if they want to work in film or media?
KK: There are so many ways to answer this question. Let me focus on filmmakers who are noteworthy for their understanding of the human condition. I urge you to get acquainted with directors who have a talent for putting truthful human behavior on the screen. There are many to choose from, but you could do a lot worse than luxuriating in the works of William Wyler, John Cassavetes, Yasujiro Ozu, Ernst Lubtisch, Mike Leigh, Max Ophuls, and Akira Kurosawa.
QDT: What has been the most important piece of advice you've ever received or the most important lesson you've learned?
KK: Working in Hollywood, the biggest lesson I’ve learned is that you need to measure success on your own terms, not Hollywood’s. You can’t control the outcome of your efforts. You can’t control how many people buy a ticket at the box office. You can’t control what the critics say. What you can control is the process of making a film or television show, and my personal yardstick for success is whether or not I improve the process from project to project.
QDT: Do you have any advice for aspiring directors, writers, actors, or anyone who wants to work in the film industry?
KK: The most important thing to remember is that passion wins the day every time. I can’t tell you how to get your foot in the door, but once you do, the key is to impress upon prospective employers that you are passionate about a given project—be it a prestigious feature film or a commercial for dental floss. Passion wins the day.…
If the interviewer isn't willing to cut you some slack, pay attention to that vibe! I mean, is a workplace that can't roll with real-world challenges graciously really where you want to be?
In the absence of body language, you’ve got only your voice, so check in with the interviewer.
Focus on being fully present.
Every company wants to know: Are you resilient?
We continue to live in unprecedented times—there's no playbook. We’re living and working differently than ever before, and we’re breaking some eggs as we go.
Whether it’s making a Zoom faux pas, accidentally bringing a political view into the workplace, or missing a deadline because you were distracted by homeschooling your kids during your workday, there's a whole lot of “I’m sorry” happening around us.
But the thing about apologies is that if they’re not done right, they can backfire. An “I’m sorry” that feels disingenuous or patronizing may leave the other person feeling resentful, mistrustful, or uninterested in working with you again.
So next time the moment arises—because it will—how can you deliver an apology that feels genuine?
For their book, When Sorry Isn't Enough, Gary Chapman and Jennifer Thomas researched the many ways in which we apologize. They discovered the five apology languages that are effective when it's time to step up and own a mistake.
So let’s talk about each and how you can make them work for you.
When you realize you’ve done a thing that you just feel bad about, and "I feel bad about this" is the gist of what you want to say, this is the apology language you need.
Something as simple as “I’m sorry X happened” can achieve your goal.
When might you need this one? Imagine you’re hosting a Zoom call. One of your colleagues asks a question, and you dismiss it flippantly and move on.
Not unforgivable. But upon reflection, you feel bad that their question got passed over. Give them a call and put Language Number One to work. Offer a simple apology:
I realize you asked an important question during our call, and I’m sorry it didn’t receive the attention it deserved.
Be specific about what you’re sorry for, and then end your sentence. No "I'm sorry, but ...". When you qualify your apology with a "but," you effectively cancel out the apology.
This second language may be seen as an extension of the first.
Let’s hang with the same situation. A Zoom meeting, a question posed, you moved on.
And now, upon further reflection, you realize that you not only regret what happened, but that you had a particular responsibility in it. You were running that meeting, and you had the power to pause and address your colleague’s question. You chose to plow ahead.
So, maybe take some responsibility. What might that one sound like?
I realize you asked an important question during our call, and it didn’t receive the attention it deserved. I should have paused the conversation to acknowledge your question. I'm sorry I didn't do that.
When the offense feels small—and that’s a subjective judgment—often, taking responsibility will be enough as long as that ownership is genuine.
Avoid shifting the weight of the offense back onto the other person by saying some version of, "I'm sorry you felt that way." That's deflection. And it's just not cool.
The third apology language is the one that pushes you from feeling regretful and responsible to knowing you need to make things right.
Let’s imagine a different scenario. A friend reaches out to let you know she’s applied for a job in your company. She has an interview scheduled and she’s asked if you’d be willing to put in a good word for her with the hiring leader. You know her work, and you say, “I’d be delighted to do that!”
She calls you again next week to say she’s just had her interview and it went ... OK. When she asks if you managed to put in that good word, you realize you totally dropped the ball.
You know you owe her an apology. But that may not feel like enough. The stakes are high and you want to make things right.
This is your moment to show off your Apology Language #3 skills. You might say:
I am so sorry. I promised I would do that and I dropped the ball. I know how important this opportunity is for you. I’m going to speak to the hiring leader this afternoon—you have my word.
Putting in your recommendation for your friend after the interview has already happened may not be exactly the thing you promised. But if it leaves both you and your friend satisfied that all is right with the world, then you’ve made your apology work.
This brand of apology is about not only being sorry but taking accountability for preventing the same mistake from happening in the future. It’s about taking ownership and committing to behavior change.
In this case, let’s imagine you lead a customer service team for your company. A customer had a not-so-hot experience with one of your representatives and sent a complaint email to a customer service inbox. An inbox you’re supposed to check daily, but boy have you been busy!
A couple of days later, that same customer, having heard nothing from you, tweets something ugly about their experience with your company. And your boss is fuming.
You dropped the ball. You need to own it. But more importantly, you need to leave your boss feeling confident that this will never happen again.
Your apology might sound something like this.
I am so sorry this happened. I got overwhelmed and didn’t make time to check that inbox. But that’s no excuse—I could have asked for help. I take responsibility for this customer’s experience. And starting today I’ve put a twice-daily reminder on my calendar to check that inbox. And if I’m too busy to do it, I’ll ask someone on my team to check. This way, every customer concern or complaint will be seen in hours, not days.
I don’t know about you, but I’d feel pretty good hearing that apology. You’ve owned it and you’ve convinced me that you broke just one egg and it won’t become a dozen.
You’ve said what you came to say. The wounded party has given you the gift of their attention.
But now there’s something more you need from them—forgiveness. This part requires a level of vulnerability that can be hard to access because your request for forgiveness doesn’t require the other person's gift of it.
They may say no. They may need to think about it. They may say “We’ll see how things go over time.”
For some people, an apology won’t feel genuine until you’ve asked their forgiveness. So you may need to go out on a limb and ask, even knowing you may not receive it.
Before I close the conversation on the five apology languages, I’d like to add my own note of caution. Apologies are important when they’re warranted—when you’ve done something wrong or let someone down.
But for many people—and more commonly for women than men—apologizing is something we do too often in moments that don’t warrant an “I’m sorry.”
Here are a few examples:
Please don't apologize for situations like these. Instead, say:
You have the right to ask questions and set boundaries. I will never stop reminding you of that. Sorry, not sorry.…
When the COVID lockdowns started, most business owners probably didn't think much about the efficiency of their remote working solutions as long as they were able to keep the lights on. As we head into 2021, we can see that remote working is going to become a permanent feature of our business lives. With more than half of employees reporting frustrations with their remote work solutions, now is a good time to think about getting the best software and apps in to help your team stay productive.
Remember, too, that many of your people will find working at home a very lonely experience and so things like video conferencing can help alleviate the mental health impact of a lockdown.
Let's look at some of the products that are available to help you stay in touch and remain effective no matter what 2021 throws at you!
One of the things that many people have reported is difficulty in keeping motivated and understanding what needs to happen and when.
When you're in an office, it's easy to simply lean across the desk and ask what is going on. But what happens when your team is all working remotely?
Using Kanban boards like Trello and Asana allows you to posts jobs, tasks, and subtasks and then allocate them to individual staff members or team so that everyone knows where they are and what still needs doing.
Remote access software can have some real benefits for users across the organisation and doesn’t need to be confined to your IT helpdesk.
Modern remote working can give users a virtual desktop, which is the same wherever they log on. A Virtual Private Network (VPN) can also increase security.
Remote access software can also include functionality that enables video conferencing, chat functions, shared word processing, and file sharing, along with resources for troubleshooting in a pinch.
If you’d like to find out more about what it can do for you, check the best options in this excellent remote access software review by Neil Patel.
Many companies rely upon having drives readily available to all staff, and when you're all working in the same office, this is a simple matter. But when your team is spread out, then you need to think about organizing remote storage.
Google Drive and Dropbox are probably the most well-known offerings, but there are many more. They all provide you with the ability to have shared drives that are accessible based on your own organization’s security protocol.
Remote storage is a very competitive area, so prices have dropped over the last few years. So in many cases, you are better off subscribing to a best-in-class cloud storage solution (especially if it includes remote access desktops as above) rather than upgrading your on-premise servers.
For many businesses, this is one area where they just had to get a solution in place quickly so everyone could carry on working. But it really is worth choosing a business-class video conferencing system.
Having a better system makes life easier for your staff, but it also portrays a professional image to your customers and suppliers.
Free systems are great, but they will always come with limitations. Zoom, for instance, limits calls to 45 minutes on its free version. Other free solutions reduce video quality.
With paid solutions, the cost for a group subscription is often very reasonable when compared to the cost of losing even one customer.
When you can just pass files and papers across a desk, life is easy. But if you're miles away from your co-workers, contractors, and customers, how can you possibly collaborate effectively?
Many of the really good systems bundle in storage, video conferencing, Kanban boards and collaboration tools that help your teams act like teams rather than a collection of dispersed individuals.
Obviously, the big player here is Microsoft. But you can get excellent results with apps like Zoho Connect, Winio, and Wire. If you only really want chat capability, then look at Slack.
What works for some people may not work for you and your company. But the good news is that pretty much every system mentioned here has some form of free trial.
The best advice is to take the developers up on their offer and test these solutions out. Get feedback from your employees and take into account how easy the apps are to use, the support available, and of course, the annual cost.
Don’t be swayed by attractive-sounding initial reductions. If the system is good, you’ll be using it for a long time. It is much more important to get the right features for you rather than buying something that isn't well-suited to the task because the developer was offering a half-price sale.
My first job out of college was with a recruiting firm run by three women who had nearly a hundred combined years of experience in the workforce. They taught me everything I needed to know about how to read resumes, including the warning signs to look for. A gap in employment was, according to them, the kiss of death.
Today, a hot minute and three U.S. presidents later, I truly believe that wisdom is as outdated as my prom dress. It was fine in the moment, but the moment has passed.
Each of us is complex and unique, and our personal stories should reflect that.
The rules of employment history have changed, and the story you craft about your timeline is yours. Whether your employment gap happened because of a layoff, becoming a caregiver, taking a sabbatical, exploring entrepreneurship, or even just a mental health break, let's talk about how you can own that gap in a way that will want a prospective employer wanting more of you!
As poet Walt Whitman said, “I am large. I contain multitudes.” Each of us is complex and unique, and our personal stories should reflect that. There are no right or wrong plot points as long as each point is truthful.
When capturing your history (employment and otherwise) on your resume, be honest and transparent. There's no need to flag a gap in employment in bold print, but neither should you try to hide it.
Our journeys are complex and diverse. The trend toward inclusion will only grow in 2021. And beyond diversity in terms of race and gender, I believe companies are ready to lean into a diversity of experiences in the workforce. Companies must look beyond the traditional one-directional career path, and search for talent whose life experience reflects that of their customers.
Beyond diversity in terms of race and gender, I believe companies are ready to lean into a diversity of experiences in the workforce.
So don’t be ashamed of revealing your lived experiences, from caregiving to travel to taking time to pursue a passion. Transparency upfront will help you begin the conversation with a prospective employer on the right foot.
Maybe you opted out of the workforce for a year to care for a child or parent or to travel the world. Or perhaps you were laid off in an economic downturn. Whatever your reason and whatever the cause, you were still a person living in the world during this time. Your experience may not have been “work experience,” but this is where life experience gets its time in the sun.
When I spent 2007 at home with my newborn daughter, there were days—many days—that left me feeling like my brain had turned to mush. Baby Beluga had become my theme song and I was spending days calculating ounces of milk digested and … processed. (Yes, I mean poops).
This is where life experience gets its time in the sun.
But as I started gearing up for a job search in 2008, I pushed myself to reflect on the gift of that year. Certainly, it was a privilege just to be with my infant daughter. But it had also given me some new skills and perspective.
Time management and prioritization become finely tuned when your baby’s naps are suddenly your only windows of productivity. I had become part of a new demographic—parents—which broadened my perspective not only on the world but on any company’s potential customer base.
Oh, and my ability to experience failure but keep on keeping on? That expanded immensely. I screwed up daily with sleep training and sign language and all the mothering things. But I also persisted because I had a new responsibility to manage.
These were some of my reflections. I challenge you to define your own.
Think expansively about how this time has added in any way to the multitudes you contain. It is now a part of your story to shape and own.
Maybe you were laid off during the pandemic. You’re not alone. And remember, you’re leading with transparency. You don’t have to pretend the layoff was some grand gift. You’re allowed to experience disappointment. But shift quickly into considering what you gained during the weeks or months of not being employed.
What have you spent time doing? Being with family? Caring for a loved one? Supporting a working partner? Have you taken any classes? Picked up a new certification? Learned to cook? Think expansively about how this time has added in any way to the multitudes you contain. It is now a part of your story to shape and own.
So now, armed with insight and reflection, it’s time to craft the story you will proudly tell any prospective employer. This is your chance to package yourself as the most irresistible product on the job market.
I’ve always loved the commencement address Steve Jobs delivered at Stanford back in 2005, during which he said:
You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward.
So, as you look back at the totality of your experience—work and life—what is the story you want to tell that makes you the most compelling candidate? How will you choose to connect the dots and help your potential employer see the complete picture?
In 2008, I showed up in interviews not as a new mom hoping desperately for anyone to give me a chance, but as a person with a broad perspective to offer. I still had my pre-baby skills and experiences, but now I could apply a keen ability to prioritize, to think critically about what should command my focus, to learn from failure, and to be successful without having control over a situation.
My conversations with hiring leaders painted this picture of me. I made sure to bring in examples of both work and parenting experience. It made me real and whole. And it ultimately won me a great job.
So, what’s the story you’ll tell? Maybe being laid off taught you that things can change on a dime, which has challenged and enhanced your agility. Maybe you used your time to take classes, brush up on skills, and add a certification.
Prepare examples of how these insights and added skills will deliver value for your next employer. How lucky they will be to have you!
I stand by the logic of everything I’ve said thus far. But there is so much more than logic at play here. There's ego and emotion and anxiety and lots of other messy human things. I’ve lived through, and overcome, all of that. Some days I’m still overcoming it.
Confidence is something that will grow over time. But don’t wait for it; cultivate it.
Are you wondering how I managed to show up with so much confidence after spending a year away from the corporate world? Then let me tell you my secret: It wasn’t confidence at all! It was all my fear and anxiety hidden behind a smile and a firm handshake. (Remember those?)
Confidence is something that will grow over time. But don’t wait for it; cultivate it. For now, if you’re struggling to access confidence, then just play the part. You’ll be amazed at how quickly the real thing will follow.
And there you have it. Yes, whole, complex, messy you. So practice your most confident smile, prepare your firm handshake, brush up your rÃ©sumÃ©, and get ready to pound the pavement.…
The future of work has been on our collective minds for some time.
Technically, you never arrive in the future. It’s always, by definition, ahead of you. Yet months into a global pandemic that has triggered major changes to how we work, many experts are saying the future of work is hurtling towards us.
I sat down with Vice President of People and Communities at Cisco Systems, Elaine Mason. Elaine is a well-read deep thinker on the subject of the future of work, and I invited her to share her own research-based reflections on the changes we’ve seen so far, and what may still be to come.
And no matter what your job, career stage, or aspiration, Elaine shared plenty of tangible advice you can put to work today to prepare for your future professional success.
We focused our conversation on four trends that have been particularly relevant in 2020. These were:
As I write this piece in my dining room—while my kids homeschool in their bedrooms—I’m aware that working virtually has become the norm for many across the globe.
Prior to the pandemic, company philosophies on remote work were all over the map. Some organizations have worked virtually for years. Many others resisted the trend.
The world of work has probably fundamentally changed.
But as Elaine describes the current state of virtual work, “With the rare exceptions of lab work, manufacturing, healthcare, [and other frontline professions] the majority of us are now [commuting]... seven feet from our beds to our offices.”
“The world of work has probably fundamentally changed,” she says.
Companies that had previously been cynical of virtual work have been forced to acknowledge that things are getting done. In many cases, executives report higher levels of productivity than ever.
But Elaine warns that studies on productivity are not yet conclusive. Some show productivity is up. Others, however, contend that work time is up, but actual productivity is down. The jury remains out.
So what’s next in the world of virtual work and productivity?
Elaine predicts that virtual work is here to stay ... sort of. The way we use the traditional office will likely shift.
"Workspaces will be used more like community service centers," she said. "What you're [likely] to see is those large campuses for a lot of organizations... will probably shrink, and the use of that space will be more event-based or point-in-time-based."
Workspaces will be used more like community service centers ... and the use of that space will be more event-based or point-in-time-based.
In other words, there will be an office to go to, but it won’t necessarily be everyone’s default. You’ll go if and when a project or occasion calls for an in-person working session.
The good news? “If you're a new Yorker,” she offers, “that's been dying to live in Wyoming, this [may be] your chance.”
As Elaine points out, the measurement of virtual productivity is messy. Many companies measure by the amount of time employees spend on screens. By that measure, productivity is going up. But so is burnout.
Wearable technologies (think augmented and virtual reality) will allow companies to better measure how employees engage with their work.
In the future, she explains, we will begin to see a shift toward wearable technologies (think augmented and virtual reality) that will allow companies to better measure how employees engage with their work beyond staring at screens.
We’ll see a more complex definition of productivity grounded in actual outcomes versus just minutes online.
HOW YOU CAN PREPARE
While the pandemic has challenged companies to figure out remote work on the fly, social justice happenings have pushed Diversity and Inclusion to the forefront of corporate priorities.
Progressive organizations are weaving Diversity and Inclusion into the fabric of their business strategies.
Elain says, "Companies are focusing on the triple bottom line: People, Profit, Planet... putting social justice into how they operate.”
So what does this look like in practice?
According to Elaine, companies are moving away from having standalone diversity strategies and departments. Progressive organizations are weaving Diversity and Inclusion into the fabric of their business strategies.
Employee Resource Groups (ERG’s) are a great example of this trend. ERG’s are voluntary, employee-led groups within organizations that aim to foster a diverse, inclusive workplace. Each group typically includes participants who share a characteristic such as gender identification or ethnicity.
Employee Resource Groups are no longer just there to serve participants—they are informing company investment decisions.
At Cisco, Elaine says, the executive leadership team has started meeting quarterly with ERG’s to understand their experiences and incorporate their ideas into business decisions. These ERG’s, in other words, are no longer just there to serve participants—they are informing company investment decisions.
ERG recommendations are helping to shape product development and positioning and marketing strategy, all of which contribute to top and bottom lines.
Organizations like Twitter are beginning to compensate ERG leaders—historically these have been volunteer roles—in recognition of their strategic value.
HOW YOU CAN PREPARE
“Gig is having fits and starts,” Elaine said. She described the tension that many American workers face between desiring the independence of gig work but also relying on the healthcare and benefits provided by full-time employment.
Job insecurity will continue to push people to consider going out on their own, while the need for employer-provided health insurance will challenge that choice.
And she believes that tension will keep the gig economy in the US in fits-and-starts mode. Job insecurity will continue to push people to consider going out on their own, while the need for employer-provided health insurance will challenge that choice.
HOW YOU CAN PREPARE
Recent years have revealed a good deal of pendulum swinging when it comes to how much structure and hierarchy is best.
“There was a real trend in the last decade,” Elaine explained “of breaking down structures [and] silos.” She described how online shoe-retailer Zappos experimented with the Holocracy—a means of giving decision authority to groups and teams rather than individuals. (Spoiler: they’ve since moved away from this un-structure.)
Companies, in Elaine’s opinion, are working to determine the ideal balance of hierarchy and freedom. And the previous trends we discussed are having a big impact on that decision.
Everyone is trying to design for agility and resilience, two of today’s buzziest words.
So while some companies are leaning toward structure and hierarchy while others lean away, the common thread she sees is that everyone is trying to design for agility and resilience, two of today’s buzziest words.
There’s nothing like a global pandemic to remind a company that it needs to be ready for absolutely anything. As organizations assess how they’re organized, they’re asking questions like “How fast can we recover? What contingencies do we have in place? What plan Bs and plan Cs do we have?”
Elaine doesn’t know exactly what structure the organization of the future will take on. But she does offer some actionable wisdom.
HOW YOU CAN PREPARE
For Elaine, she measures her own progression through three lenses that you too might consider:
And there you have it. No one, not even the great Elaine Mason, can predict the future. But there are some actions you can take that will be sure to serve you, no matter what the years ahead might look like.…
New financial advisors need something to help them stand out. Consequently, the AAMS does just that. Designed for newcomers to the financial advice business, the AAMS trains advisors to identify investment opportunities as well as help clients with other financial … Continue reading →
The post Accredited Asset Management Specialist (AAMS) appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.…
While each person’s experience in 2020 has been unique, I bet many of you lived through some version of the following:
One day you were in an office, shaking hands, having in-person meetings, and serving a known set of customer needs. And the next day, your home was your office, Zoom was your conference room, handshakes were lethal, and customer needs were being completely reinvented.
Change has become our everything. Get ready to be stretched.
Prior to 2020, you could still get by as a great performer at work even if you were a little resistant to change. But now? Not so much. Change has become our everything. And if it’s not something you naturally lean into, then the time has come to fix it. Stat.
So if you’re someone whose default has been 'I don’t want to learn this new system, process, or way of engaging with customers…', then get ready to be stretched. If you want your career to continue to soar, you’re going to need to be able to roll with change.
If you find it hard to get comfortable with change, you're not alone.
When my kids were babies, getting them to try new foods was an experience. After they spit spoon after spoon of strained peas or carrots back into my face, I talked to my pediatrician. I learned it would take seven to eight experiences with a new food before my baby would begin to like it, or at least stop spitting it at me.
In our work lives, we’re not always offered a grace period of seven to eight exposures to a new idea.
This is due to the mere-exposure effect. While we may like or appreciate some things out of the gate (hello, chocolate fudge sundaes), our natural inclination is often to resist anything that feels different. But more exposure equals more comfort. We're wired to prefer the familiar and comfortable.
But in our work lives, we’re not always offered a grace period of seven to eight exposures to a new idea before we have to adopt it.
So let’s talk about actions you can take to open your mind and expand your comfort zone with change.
Sometimes “a change is coming” can sound like “the sky is falling.” But usually, the blue abyss above stays put. So let’s start by putting change into perspective.
Before you panic, check the sky. Is it still there? Phew! You’re OK.
Your boss just told you that you’ll be reporting to a new team. Or you’re switching to a new people-management system, or you’ll be managing a new product or account. Before you panic, check the sky. Is it still there? Phew! You’re OK.
Start by asking yourself what's really changing and what’s staying the same. You may have a new boss or new relationships to manage, but your day-to-day responsibilities aren’t shifting.
You may have a new system to learn, but the data it’s tracking, the reporting it offers—how different will they really be? Your skills will carry over.
So start by putting some boundaries around the change. This should help you take a deep breath. Now, let’s charge ahead!
When my kids—the spitters of pureed peas and carrots—began remote schooling this year, the change was all kinds of unwelcome. They missed friends. Their new homeroom teacher (yours truly) was highly unqualified. Everything felt messed up.
But I asked them to spend a few minutes finding and focusing on the bright spots. Because every change has bits of sparkle.
Focusing on bright spots helps open your mind, readying it for the change ahead.
They came up with extra sleep (don’t we all need it?!), jammies all day, and breakfast and lunch in bed. (Yes, we've let go of the reins a bit here at my house.)
Maybe for you, it’s the opportunity to add fluency in a new system to your resume, or to build your reputation with a new leader, team, or customer base. What’s something you can get excited about?
Big or small, focusing on bright spots helps open your mind, readying it for the change ahead.
Do focus on the upside. But not at the expense of acknowledging and preparing for the challenges. Don’t put your head in the sand.
If this triggers mild concern or anxiety, don’t push that down. Give it space. Address it.
We resist change for a reason. There will be growing pains. Transitioning to a new system does provide you with new opportunities. But there will also be a learning curve. It will take time, focus, and effort. You’ll be pushed out of your comfort zone. If this triggers mild concern or anxiety, don’t push that down. Give it space. Address it.
Part of gaining comfort with change is giving yourself a chance to master it. The only way to master change is to resolve and repair pain points. We can’t resolve what we can’t see, so give yourself the space to list out every single thing, big or small, that scares or challenges you.
RELATED: Why Negative Emotions Aren't All Bad
What might live on your list?
Part of what makes change feel scary is the sense of losing control.
According to the Harvard Business Review:
Many employees have had to abruptly accept fundamental changes to their work routines. And these changes have been stressful… because [they have] stripped people of their autonomy… [which] is detrimental for employee performance and well-being.
In other words, it’s normal to crave a sense of autonomy, of control. So here is where you focus on what you can control, and you make it happen.
Look at your sources of anxiety or discomfort. Identify tangible actions you can take to close the gap or minimize the pain of change.
When I left the world of full-time employment to start my own business, I was terrified of managing that change, even though I’d been the one to initiate it. But as a taker of my own medicine, I followed this very process. And when I arrived at this step, I identified a series of actions in my control.
Here’s a sampling of what I came up with
You get the idea. I was stepping into the unknown. But by identifying a series of actions designed to get me incrementally closer to known, I was re-establishing a sense of autonomy and control.
Maybe you have to learn a new system and you’re afraid it will be complicated. What steps can you take to close the gap? What can you control?
I reflect on the days of smushed peas and carrots. Mostly, it was gross. But once in a blue moon, a baby would accidentally swallow a mouthful. And I was nothing but jazz hands.
Turns out, my jazz-hands-enthusiasm was accidental genius because now, baby associated mush with entertaining Mommy gymnastics. For her it became fun. And over time she downed more mush.
And really, that’s kind of your goal.
When you have your first positive experience with that new system, even if it was an accident, make a note of it. When your first client lights up at the description of that new product feature, capture that.
These winning moments add up over time. And suddenly one day you realize: Hey, these smashed peas and carrots are kinda delish! Who knew?…
. If you’ve been to the pharmacy lately, you may have found yourself wondering how much pharmacists make. Being a pharmacist, at least at the retail level, involves a lot of standing, long shifts and dealing with customers. In other … Continue reading →
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New Year's resolutions. According to Inc. Magazine, 60% of us make them. But many of us know that when it comes to actually keeping New Year's resolutions, the odds aren't exactly in our favor. Research shows that, despite our best intentions, only 8% of us accomplish those annual goals we set for ourselves.
If you're anything like me, 2020 has left you hungrier than ever for fresh starts and clean slates.
What keeps us coming back every year? Well, as PsychCentral tells us, it’s partly tradition (we are creatures of habit!) and partly the allure of a fresh start, a clean slate. And let’s be honest, if you're anything like me, 2020 has left you hungrier than ever for fresh starts and clean slates.
That fresh start can apply to your professional life just as easily as it applies to dropping a few pounds, quitting your Starbucks habit, or taking up hot yoga. So, let's talk about some strategies to help you set career resolutions and, most importantly, actually keep them.
Every year I hear people say “My New Year’s resolution is to lose 20 pounds.” But technically speaking, that’s not a resolution, it’s a goal. It’s an outcome that you either do or don’t achieve.
A New Year's resolution is “a promise that you make to yourself to start doing something good or stop doing something bad on the first day of the year” according to the Cambridge English Dictionary.
Two things I love most about resolutions are that I have a chance to win every day, and I have complete control over my success.
A goal might be to achieve a revenue target, land an interview with someone you admire, or strike up a coveted partnership.
A resolution defines the experience you want to have. It’s about the how not the what. When I think of resolutions, I think of habits that will bring out the best version of myself—something like a promise to plan my day the night before so I'm ready to jump in fresh first thing in the morning.
The two things I love most about resolutions are that I have a chance to win every day, and I have complete control over my success.
Resolutions begin with an honest look at the year closing behind you. For me, 2020 has had some highs, but on balance, it wasn’t my cutest. There’s a lot I’d love to change next year. And my resolutions focus on a few key areas that live within my locus of control.
There is no shame or blame here; there is only space for reflection.
So where am I choosing to focus? For me, there are three distinct experiences I had this year that I plan not to repeat in the one upcoming.
Overwhelm. That not-so-adorable feeling that the world is sitting on my shoulders—that my clients’ success and my kids’ education and my aging parents’ welfare are all relying on me. Can’t do it again next year.
Reacting from a place of fear. Holding my breath, taking on more work than I know I should because what if the economy doesn’t bounce back? Will not repeat this one in ’21.
Loneliness. Hi, I’m Rachel, and I’m an extrovert! (Here's where all you fellow extroverts respond with, "Hi, Rachel!") If travel and face-to-face meetings won’t be an option for a beat, then I’ve got to be intentional about finding ways to bring more connection into my life.
These three experiences put a damper on my 2020. Note there is no shame or blame here; there is only space for reflection.
Be thoughtful about what aspects of the year felt heavy for you and commit to changing your experience next year.
Maybe your experience of 2020 was grounded in anxiety, or you’ve felt job-insecurity, or maybe just boredom. There are no wrong answers, so be thoughtful about what aspects of the year felt heavy for you and commit to changing your experience next year.
Ask yourself: If these are the experiences I don’t want to have again, what would it feel like to be on the other side?
Here’s what I came up with.
Shedding overwhelm would mean having a clear plan of attack each day. Rather than scrambling and juggling, I’d have a set of daily priorities ensuring clients, kids, mental health, and all significant constituents have what they need from me. The most critical things get done each day, and if nothing else gets done, I’ve still won.
Not feeling reactive and fearful? That will mean a shift in mindset from “What if the market doesn’t need what I offer?” to “How am I evolving my products and solutions to meet the changing needs of the market?”
And finally (sigh ...) the loneliness. I talked about this in a quick video on my Modern Mentor page on LinkedIn. I miss the energy I take, the creativity I see triggered by moments of collaboration and brainstorming. It’s that very sense of ideas building on ideas that I want to recreate in 2021.
Now it’s your turn. What would your “better” look like in 2021?
If you’re job-insecure, maybe "better" means adding skills or certifications to your resume. If it’s anxiety you're wrestling with, maybe your “better” includes more self-care and relaxation.
The only wrong answers here are the ones that don’t resonate with you. You’re less likely to stick with a resolution that isn’t personally meaningful.
The words “sustainable” and “practices” are key here.
“Lose 20 pounds” doesn’t qualify as a resolution because it’s an outcome you can’t fully control. What you can control are the habits designed to get you there, like eating better or exercising. And if exercising every day feels unsustainable, then shoot for twice a week to start. Make it an easy win for yourself!
I’ll take the three experiences I want to have and translate those into habits and practices I can control.
So how does this translate into the professional realm? I’ll take the three experiences I want to have and translate those into habits and practices I can control. Here’s my working list.
In 2021 I will:
Choose my One Thing
I'll begin each day by identifying the one thing I need to achieve in service of:
Once I get all that done, whatever else I do that day is gravy.
Make weekly client connections
I will schedule one call per week with a past or current client for the sole purpose of listening. I won't be there to sell or help, but just to hear what’s on their minds, and what needs they've anticipated for the near future. This will allow me to be more planful and proactive in designing my offerings.
Set up virtual office hours
I will host bi-weekly office hours. I’ll share a Zoom link with a dozen of my friends and colleagues and invite people to pop in … or not. No agenda, no one in charge, just an open space for sharing ideas, challenges, and even some occasional gossip.
Pay attention to the fact that all of these resolutions are within my control. I’m not waiting for circumstances to change, and I’m not holding myself accountable to an outcome, I'm just committing to doing these things.
And finally, the fun part. Each resolution gets a page of its own in my Bullet Journal, which means lots of colorful checks and boxes! I keep track of how many days or weeks per month I stick with my resolutions. I set small goals for myself, and I give myself little rewards for hitting milestones. My reward might be an afternoon off, an extra hour of Netflix (do not tell the kids!), or an outdoor, socially distanced coffee with a friend. Celebration is so important. It motivates me to repeat the habit and have a better experience.
So there you have my secrets to setting and keeping my resolutions. I would be so grateful if you’d share yours with me on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn. I’d be delighted to be your accountability buddy!…