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Wishbonedreams Turns Two!

WordPress kindly reminded me that my blog turned two last month. Last year I was so excited and so aware when my blog turned one, that I did a whole reflective post and stats on my first year which you can read here.

This year, I was thinking it would be fun to reflect on my very first blog post, which you can find here¬†Four Girls, a Road Trip & Camping. Two years ago myself and three girlfriends (the same three I was in Italy with), decided to road trip up to Oregon and go camping. And not some like comfy camping – I mean don’t get me wrong we had bathrooms and showers – but we also did good old tent camping. It was a lot of fun, but in reflecting on the post I realize how much my blog has changed. I’m still trying to figure out what the niche is – is this blog a travel blog? Not really. I travel, and occasionally share it on the blog, but that’s not it’s main focus. Is my blog about beauty products and outfits? At times I focus on those things, but not all the time. Is my blog about women empowerment and inspiration? Sometimes! The point here is that I still haven’t determined what this blog is supposed to be like, but people seem to enjoy it so I just write about whatever it is I’m feeling.

When I think back on the time I wrote my first blog, I had just changed jobs and was no longer doing executive communications. I was worried that my need to write wouldn’t be satisfied after removing that part of my daily work, so the blog was something to fill that void. It has definitely done it’s job! So much has changed since then! I am no longer working in that position, or at that company for that matter. I have traveled so much more since then – Italy, Mexico, all over the U.S. – and my relationships during that time have evolved, or gone away all together – both good things if you ask me ūüôā But what I’ve realized the most and appreciate the most is everyone who reads this little blog, and though I don’t always know how people are feeling about it, occasionally I’ll see someone I haven’t seen in a while and they’ll tell me how much they love reading my blog, and that is the reason I keep doing it! I enjoy it, it’s a way for me to express my feelings or share my experiences, but ultimately I love hearing that people enjoy it. For me, that’s the point.

I’m keeping this one short and sweet because really this is to say THANKS to the people who take the time read my little blog when it posts. Life gets hard sometimes and doing this makes me happy, and so I hope that reading it makes you all happy and relieves a little bit of the madness that life provides.

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How to Pack for a Work Trip Like a Pro

When I took my new job I knew that there would be some travel involved. What I didn’t realize was just how much travel. Since the end of March I have traveled to Austin, Orlando, Chicago, New Orleans and San Diego – five different cities and four different states (I live in California), all within a four week period. That’s a lot right? As you can imagine, I had to figure out the best way to pack for these trips, because not only am I out on the exhibit floor but there are always activities during the evening at these things as well. With that said, I had to take to my list-making skills and really plan out what I was going to wear and when.

I gave up on the idea of only taking a carry-on. It’s not worth the stress of trying to put a week’s worth of clothes into a tiny bag, so eliminating that right off the bat was very helpful. I realize that many people only ever want to take a carry-on and by all means I feel that way a lot of the time, but for work it just made more sense to take a bigger bag. Anyway, I figured I would list here the process I use for packing. I realize other people probably have a more efficient way of doing this, but this really keeps me organized.

  1. I scroll through my Pinterest account for outfit inspiration. I used to do this the night before work every day (before I was working from home), and would frequently find cute outfits that I could put together just from looking at some of my style boards on Pinterest.
  2. I make a list of the outfit that I’ve been inspired by.
  3. Then I make a packing list that will include all of the pieces that I am planning to pull, in addition to things like underwear and pajamas.
  4. Pull the pieces from my closet and try them on. This is important…there have been times where I have packed something that I was certain would look great on, only to find out at the hotel that I was very, very wrong. So, now I always try it on first before I pack it.
  5. Take a photo of it once it’s on. Sometimes once I’ve tried it on and packed it, I get to the hotel and think, ‘what the heck did I pack this to go with?’ So, to avoid that, I will take a photo of the outfit I tried on so that I can reference it once I’m in the hotel.
  6. Shoes! Be strategic with shoes. Try to pack a shoe that will go with more than one of your outfits.
  7. Jackets – I try my best to wear the one jacket I’ll want on my trip, one the airplane – that way it takes up less room in my bag.
  8. Throw some dryer sheets in with your clothes! It will keep them smelling fresh. Isn’t that the oddest thing? I pack clean clothes, pull them out after half a day of travel and boom, they don’t smell clean!
  9. I always, always unpack completely once I’m in the hotel room. I used to not do this…I would literally live out of my suitcase and not unpack anything, but now that I’m traveling more for work it’s essential to unpack especially for those pieces that will get wrinkled during travel in your suitcase.
  10. Roll you clothes. I’m sure most people already do this, as I’ve been doing it myself for sometime – especially when I packed 10 days work of clothes for an Italy trip into an international sized carry-on.

That’s my list! I hope you find it helpful. I do have some new ideas though that I’m going to try out for one of my next trips for sure. For example, I keep seeing things about packing cubes. It’s supposed to keep things compact and organized – definitely something I’m going to look into purchasing. I also read that packing your socks and undergarments in a small reusable cloth bag helps with organization as well. Given that we use reusable bags for everything I’m definitely looking forward to trying that. Especially because I’m notorious for throwing all of my dirty clothes in the dry cleaning bag and separating them from my leftover clean clothes when I travel home. And another thing…I have yet to find a suitcase that I just love, so that is definitely on my list for future purchase, so if anyone has recommendations let me know!

Until next time folks!

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Working from home: 10 ways to stay productive AND focused

A little over three months ago I started a new job which also includes working from home. I do have a local office about thirty minutes away from me, so if I do need to be present for something it’s not an inconvenience. I have to preface all of this by saying that I came from a previous work environment where it was often frowned upon to work from home. I will say that it was getting better (allowed one day per week to work remote – to enhance that work-life-balance stuff that everyone talks about, but no one really has), so I had a taste of what it can be like to work from home.

So, when the opportunity was given to me to expand my career, make more money, and work from home I was all too willing to explore it. I mentioned in a previous blog post that I did not make that decision lightly, and I stand by that, but the things that ultimately factored into making the decision I listed above. One of those big factors was a huge adjustment for me: working from home.

When I tell people I work from home their eyes light up and I usually get, “that’s so awesome,” “you’re so lucky!” but I also get the occasional, “isn’t it hard working from home?” “how do you stay focused?” Bottom line is this…it was an adjustment, and my boss at the time was worried that I would get lonely. She had previously worked at the same place I had been working and knew what the culture was like there, but I strangely found myself really happy – at first. I can be very social, but I can also be very, very introverted. It comes and goes. I have found though that working from home can contribute in both a negative and positive way when it comes to my state of mind and how I’m feeling.

The first couple of weeks on the new job I had to go into the office – I wasn’t quite set up for working in the system (IT stuff), so it was good to get to know some people so that when I am in the office I have someone to say hi to and chat with. But after that I was 100% working from home. Now that I’ve been doing it for a little over three months I thought I would put together some tips on how to stay productive while working from home, these are also tips on how I keep a positive state of mind while working from home:

  1. Act like you’re still getting up to go to work – I still set my alarm for 6:30 am. Also, it helps to get a jump start on the day because most of the folks I work with are on the east coast, and in some cases in Germany. Do I get fully showered and dressed at 6:30 am? No, but I do get my cup of coffee, launch the computer and start looking at what my day is going to be.
  2. Separate your work space from your living space – I learned this the hard way. My mom was painting my desk for me (she’s super crafty like that) so there was a delay in getting that space totally set up, which was fine because I was really just trying to get myself acclimated to the new world I had just embarked upon. However, I realized that working from the couch is a terrible idea. Imagine sitting on the couch and working for eight plus hours, then continuing to sit on the couch to watch TV in the evening? It was fine at first, but I realized quickly that having a separate working space from your living space is essential.
  3. Create a schedule/routine for YOU that works for YOU – Do you normally go to the gym like I do? I realized I now had the flexibility to squeeze the gym into the middle of my day. Not only does that break up my day, but it also gets something I dread leaving till the end of the day out of the way. It also gets me up and out of my desk chair. Which leads me to number 4…
  4. Take breaks – this may seem like a no-brainer, but here’s the thing…when you’re working at home you just crank things out. I’ve had days where I didn’t leave my chair for hours, which is not good! So, breaks for me consist of walking the dog, going to the gym, making my lunch and eating it not at my desk, folding my laundry and putting it away, even cleaning the bathroom! Seems ridiculous I know, but it gets you away from your desk to take a break, and in some cases mark a chore off of your list!
  5. Don’t stay in your pajamas all day – While some days this sounds like the BEST, believe me it’s not. Always get yourself out of your pajamas. I mentioned above that I start my morning in my PJ’s, but I don’t stay like that all day. I will often take my morning calls and then get ready for the day – even if that means putting on gym clothes for later – the bottom line is that you get yourself out of your pajamas! Sometimes I will get fully ready – makeup and hair without the intention of going anywhere, just to feel like I’m put together and not a total bum.
  6. Try to work no more than an eight hour day – I know I wrote “try,” and I did this because it’s not always that easy. For example, I took a couple of days off a week or two ago, I paid for it when I returned as I had two ten hour days that week. But it happens…and if it isn’t necessary then DON’T DO IT. Don’t put in the extra two hours every day just because. Would you do the same if you were commuting to an office every day? Probably not. Would you do it if you had deadlines etc.? Probably. Don’t change how much you would or wouldn’t work simply because you’re working from home and it is always accessible and right there at your finger tips.
  7. Keep your desk and general work area clean and organized – I try to clean up a bit every day when I’ve wrapped things up. It can be difficult at times, but if I don’t get to it, but the weekend I will definitely clean things up and get things organized for a good start to the following week.
  8. Make time for people – I have found myself cancelling plans because I get into this weird anti-social funk, which I believe is a result of working from home. Make yourself go and be social. Some weeks I’m dying to visit with friends, and others I’m introverting big time. Either way, try to make time for those people, it will give you a boost of energy and feeling of purpose outside of the house and your work space.
  9. Set daily goals – I did this even when I wasn’t working from home. I have this huge planner that I write my lists in (YES, I write my lists – I don’t keep them typed somewhere). I take great satisfaction in marking something off of my list. But, in all seriousness, if you kept lists or sticky notes everywhere in your work cubicle, do the same at home, it will help you feel comfortable and organized.
  10. Be grateful you get to work from home – don’t forget that working from home is a privilege – it really is! I commuted via train for ten years before getting the opportunity to work from home, and sat in a cubicle for the same amount of time. Don’t forget to be grateful for it, even if it feels like a challenge at times.

There you have it! These are just my tips with a mere three months in, but I think they are helpful. I’m sure they will change and I’m sure in another three to six months I’ll have more to add to this list, but these ten things I have found helpful in the early stages of working from home. Does anyone else work from home and have tips and or tricks to add that I didn’t list here? I would love to hear them!

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Book Review Part Two: The Confidence Effect by Grace Killelea

This is part two of my book review of Grace Killelea’s “The Confidence Effect.” If yo haven’t read part one, definitely take some time to read through it. Where we left off was discussing Killelea’s 4Rs of Success. This second installment will discuss her take on understanding and mastering relationships and how important that is to the Confidence Effect.

We will start with relationships. According to Killelea, the first tool in moving from competence to confidence involves understanding and mastering the power of relationships. This is often an area people think they should navigate alone, but according to Killelea, the fact is that powerful relationships can greatly enhance and accelerate our ladder to success. I know that I keep saying I love the message Killelea is trying to convey, but folks…it’s so true! We often think that the work place is no place for relationships (and I’m not referring to romantic relationships), but legitimate connections with the people you work with. Killelea considers this “the power of relationships.” Our relationships are connected to our networking abilities, which she considers one of the “secret ingredients” to becoming confident to the core.

Many women form fun, lasting, and friendly relationships at work that don’t necessarily contribute to their growth as potential leaders but do promote their physical and emotional well-being. This is healthy and good. It enhances our experience at work. I most definitely can relate to this, and at times to a fault. I have a number of very special relationships I have made at a number of my previous places of work, and while they didn’t all necessarily benefit me in terms of promotion etc., they gave me an emotional sense of worth at work, which at times can be very lacking when it comes to your day-to-day activities and deadlines.¬† According to Killelea, these powerful relationships come in many different forms:

  • The team member who supports, challenges, nurtures, and enlightens you
  • The manager who drives you to excel
  • The peer who supports, encourages, and aids your desire for personal and professional growth
  • The mentor who continually questions and challenges your choices, often with a positive result
  • The people you trust who tell you the truth
  • The leader who inspires you
  • The powerful allies and sponsors who can open doors and provide you with opportunities

I have always been brought up to kill people with kindness…no matter what. I have even been criticized at work for being, “too nice.” But, you know what? People have nice things to say about me. I haven’t been labeled unapproachable or someone who always says “no.” That is extremely important to me, because it better reflects exactly who I am outside of work. Here is one of the main reasons why, because you never know – peers become managers, managers become leaders, and team members get promoted, shifted, downsized, or move on to different organizations or companies. According to Killelea, the larger and more powerful your network, the more dynamic, changing and powerful you become as you grow along with it. And, consequently, the fewer relationships you’ve fostered in and out of the workplace, the fewer resources you’ll be able to draw on in times of need.

The next topic is something I personally experience and believe is so important: mentors, sponsors, advocates, and champions. It’s important to note here that these are not one in the same, but indeed have different roles they play in your life. EVP and COO of Cox Communications, Jill Campbell, insists on the matter of mentors versus sponsors, “People talk a lot about having mentors. I think that’s important. But I think it’s equally important that you have a sponsor. Women tend to think that their work is going to get them there, but they’ve got to figure out somebody in the organization that is going to take notice of them and who says, ‘Wait a minute! What about Jean?'” According to Killelea, identify advocates and develop an authentic relationship with them. The key here for me is the word “authentic.” Don’t choose someone to be your sponsor because he or she is a director or a VP and can help you climb the latter. In actuality, that person probably won’t want to give you five minutes because 1. they are generally very busy people and 2. they will pick up on how un-authentic or authentic you truly are.

I have someone who began as an advocate for me while he was a director, and my boss, and who eventually became my mentor as he moved into a higher leadership level of VP. We established an authentic relationship that to this day means very much to me, and while he advocated and helped me move through my career, once he stepped into a busier and more demanding role he became my mentor and someone I could come to with work-related issues or tough decisions I knew I was going to have to make. He is that person who will ALWAYS give it to me straight. I came to him one day very upset because I had gotten some feedback that I felt was completely erroneous. He put it into perspective for me. While he didn’t agree that the feedback I received was 100% accurate, he did want me to think about it in a way of, “what if a tiny bit of it was true?” Then what? While I was surprised by it, I also understood what he was trying to do. Everyone needs someone like that in their professional life.

Killelea says that advocates are at tables that you are not, and they can open doors for you. They can speak on your behalf, and really fight a battle for you or get in front of you, when you would never have the opportunity or you don’t know the opportunities that exist. An example I have of the importance of an advocate was during a scary time where layoffs were happening. I lost all of my team during that layoff. Only two of us were left standing, and we were reorganized onto other teams. I was also brand new to that team (only about 3 months) so I felt even more vulnerable to losing my job than most. When I realized I was OK and I was staying I had to leave the office to get some air. I had never, and have yet to experience this since, but literally it felt like the air had been sucked out of the room. On my way out of the office to go for a walk around the block, I ran into that person I described above. He asked me if I was OK. I told him yes, but that I had lost all of my team and had been moved to a new team. He told me that when he saw the plan for layoffs the first thing he asked was if “Nikki was going to be OK.” He told me that if I had been on the layoff list he would have figured out a place for me on his team. That meant more to me than anything…especially given the day I had been having. That is an advocate (BTW he was still at the director level – remember, I mentioned that he moved from advocate to mentor for me over time).

Simply put by Killelea, relationships strengthen your network, and in turn, your network strengthens your organizational brand. Remember, all of your workplace behavior reflects on your brand. The stronger your brand, the stronger your confidence level – real and perceived. Killelea says to think of your brand as as the unwritten – but undeniable – “echo” that remains after you leave the room. So, ask yourself:

  • What is left behind for people to remember?
  • What is the impression that remains long after you’re gone?
  • How did you treat people?
  • What did you say?
  • How did you say it?
  • Whom did you say it to?
  • How was it received?

For women especially, how you treat people and how proficient you are in your current role is what really helps determine how strong – or weak – your personal brands may be. Killelea explains that a good place to start building those relationships is also through LinkedIn, which has become such an important platform to have as updated in real time as possible. Killelea also points out that many times women think they’re networking when, in fact, they’re not – so Killelea has a basic definition: IPO: Information, Power and Opportunity.

Information – Networking is first and foremost an information gathering – and giving exercise. If you’re socializing, great, but don’t call it networking. If you come away from a social, business, or marketing event and know nothing more than you did when you arrived, then you’re not networking. Collecting a handful of business cards is not networking.

Power – Power comes from knowledge, which is why all three of the IPO components are so vitally important to your networking activities.

Opportunity – too many women all think that opportunity will magically waltz into their cubicles and whisk them away to the corner office. They believe the world is “fair,” they will be promoted. Fact is, opportunity is waiting to be discovered around every corner, in every new relationship, and at every meeting.

Killelea says that one of the many misconceptions about networking is that it requires a stern, stiff, and well-rehearsed elevator speech with which to introduce or “sell” yourself. When in fact, IPO – information, power and opportunity – is the fuel that jump starts new information and cements new relationships. Be genuine and your authentic self and the rest will follow when it comes to networking, plus you’ll be more comfortable and not feel like you’re selling a version of yourself to someone.

Another section of the book I found useful was about delegation. Working hard is not the answer. For too many women, working hard seems to be the answer to everything, as if by doing everything, all at once, by ourselves, we can prove we’re worthy of that promotion, raise, or corner office. According to Killelea, in having this perspective we may overlook those team and subordinate relationships that can help us achieve more with less. Learning to delegate allows you the space and the time to lift your head among the crush of work to build your brand and network.

Something that strikes me, and I often see happen, and as Killelea points out, as we move into more senior roles, the work should become less tactical (operational) and more strategic (high-level leadership). This is true and all find and good unless you delegate and then quickly step in to micromanage. This happens I think frequently and unconsciously with women, however we have got to let the reins go! A good delegator, does just, delegates, and then if it looks like it’s going south and the person needs some help, then it’s time to step in and help right the situation. Help is the key word there, not yank it from that persons hands and take it over to fix it yourself. Fail fast, but give your team the chance to do it first. According to Killelea, true delegation relies on trust: trusting team members to do the job to your standards even when you’re not there to micromanage them every step of the way.

I could go on and on about how great this book is, but then you wouldn’t have to go read it yourself, so I’ll wrap things up. As I mentioned in my first installment of this review, I had picked the book up at a time where I don’t think I was in the right head space to receive it. I think that books such as Killelea’s really have to come to you at the right time, but I hope that just by reading this blog post you have a good taste of what the book has for you. It helped me think introspectively, as well as take a look at and examine how I may come off to others. I was able to take inventory of where I am now, how I got here and the people who helped me along the way. I encourage you to do yourself a favor and read it for yourself (and take notes), it’s well worth the time!

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Book Review Part One: The Confidence Effect by Grace Killelea

A little over a year ago my former company’s employee resource group brought Grace Killelea to the office to speak with a group of employees during a lunch and learn. She was coming to talk to us about her book, “The Confidence Effect” –¬†Every Woman’s Guide to the Attitude That Attracts Success.¬†I have to say that she was very motivating and I thought her message was important and spot on, however I don’t think the message was appropriate for me at the time. I was going through a rough spot at work – I had a couple of curve balls thrown my way at the time that were really stretching me as a professional and was helping me frame where I thought I needed to go next in my career. In all honesty, when I grabbed her book on my way out of the session with her, I tried to read it on the way home on the train that night and just couldn’t open my mind enough to absorb it. So, I shelved it and thought I would get back to it eventually.

Well, fast forward to about a month ago. I decided to pick it up, and wouldn’t you know…many things about my professional life had changed. I was in a different role – same company, but I was also in the process of interviewing with a new company for a position that would grow my experience exponentially. So, when I picked up the book to finally read it, while I had a lot going on (more than when I tried to pick it up the first time), my head space was somewhere very different.

I have enjoyed reading the book so much, and again found myself actively reading Killelea’s book, highlighting up a storm! So, similarly to how I reviewed All the Single Ladies, I will review the Confidence Effect by Grace Killelea – and have broken it into separate blog posts. Essentially, what¬†The Confidence Effect¬†aims to do is, “shatter this “good girl” conditioning, and provide the practical tools you need to showcase your qualities and skills – without being cocky or annoying. Instead, you’ll draw from your core of competence to build a professional brand that attracts attention, resources, and promotions.”

Killelea starts the book by discussing the idea of moving from competence to confidence. I think this is so important. As women we may have more competence than any other person in the room, but do you have the confidence that is just as important? According to Killelea, “In order to be truly confident, it’s critical to understand the delicate relationship between competence and confidence as they apply to your workplace brand as well as your leadership potential.” She emphasizes that both are equally important, but for too long women have relied on competence rather than confidence to show off their kills. This is important to think about because, similarly to my previous book review I did, we find ourselves at a point in time when there are more women in the workforce than ever, yet we remain woefully underrepresented in leadership positions at the top, or for that matter even NEAR the top. To reinforce this, according to the Center for American Progress, “Women…hold almost 52 percent of all professional-level jobs…and since 2002, have outnumbered men in earning undergraduate business degrees. And yet, women have not moved up to positions of prominence and power in America at anywhere near the rate that they have based on their representation and early success in higher education and in the entry-level workforce.” This should not be news to any of you, and I have to say I have been fortunate enough to have strong, powerful women leaders that I have reported to or who have run the company or organization I was working in, but still we see this under representation year after year.

According to Killelea, what she has discovered along her own personal journey to authenticity, leadership, and career satisfaction is that competence is absolutely critical to success. You must be good at what you do. You must exceed expectations. I couldn’t agree with this more. If you can show someone you are competent and capable of doing a good job, that is the one thing that could end up mattering more to your boss than anything else. However, according to Killelea, competence is only half the equation. You need to combine it with confidence to truly crack the code.

So, what is confidence in this case? The definition is different to many people, but one of the best definitions Killelea shares is one that Katty Kay and Claire Shipman, authors of the book¬†Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance – What Women Should Know¬†(Harper-Business, 2014), provide a definition of confidence. “Confidence is not, as we once believed, just feeling good about yourself,” they write, “If women simply needed a few words of reassurance, they’d have commandeered the corner office a long time ago. Perhaps the clearest and most useful definition of confidence we came across was the one supplied by Richard Petty, a Psychology professor at Ohio State University, who has spent decades focused on the subject. ‘Confidence’ he told us, ‘is the stuff that turns thoughts into action.'”

So what does it mean to possess the Confidence Effect? I mean, it is the title of Killelea’s book after all. According to Killelea, it means confidence to the core – the place where we’re the most powerful, the most authentic, the most self-reliant, and the most connected to our skills and abilities. This is striking, because as she says, it is the place where you are the most powerful. I love this. Of course possessing the confidence effect is the place where you are the most powerful – when you are confident in your convictions and who you are there is no stopping you. It also means you are the most authentic (love this). Authenticity is so very important and in my experience it is the one characteristic¬† you can detect in someone immediately, which I also believe connects directly to whether you can trust someone.

Killelea developed the Confidence Effect over more than 30 years of experience working with women and found that we often question our own competence, feel like we are under a microscope, and perhaps even feel unable to meet the demands of leadership positions. I feel like this is equivalent to the way some of us look at ourselves in the mirror – criticizing and not confident about your hair, weight, skin etc. It’s unnecessary and can become completely debilitating in some ways. As a result, according to Killelea, we miss out on building the relationships and workplace brand that can put us where we want to go and give us the confidence we need to take risks, believe in ourselves and perform to our potential. However, confidence is not enough. You also have to have gravitas.

According to Killelea, gravitas is the presence we feel deep down inside. Without an air of gravitas – which is the sense of weight and “grit” deep in our guts – it’s hard to feel the confidence we need to lead: to lead ourselves, our teams, our divisions, and ultimately, our organizations. It lends an air of credibility – of gravity – to our actions. It adds weight, depth, and character to our personalities, and it allows us to temper our emotions with data, analysis, and proven delivered results. So, according to Killelea, if women are not showing up confidently, proudly, and ready and willing to lead, if we’re not raising our hands or stepping forward with that grit and power behind us, then typically, the organization overlooks us and promotes men. You might ask why, and hopefully this doesn’t offend any of my male readers – but it also shouldn’t come as any surprise – men tend to exhibit those traits even if they’re not as competent. Men just generally show up, stand out, raise their hands, take charge – even take command – regardless of whether they possess the skills such leadership positions demand.

How many of you have seen this? The male counterpart who enters the company as an analyst, and within a year is promoted to senior analyst, a year from that supervisor, then maybe a year or two from that to manager etc.? We’ve all seen it. But, was he actually qualified for it? In some cases no. He just made sure to always add something to the meeting, especially if there was a member of leadership in attendance, he raises his hand and asks questions – whether a good question or not, he still asked it – and¬† is always finding something to talk to your VP or Director about in the kitchen. This person may not even produce that much work but everyone knows him, thinks he is engaged because he always asks questions and takes the time to interact in the hallway. That guy gets promoted over the woman who keeps her head down and works ten hours a day, but isn’t known by name or face because she doesn’t ask questions or engage during meetings. I have to admit, I am at times guilty of this. I’m an observer by nature and I will never say something just to say something. I would rather have all of the information before I raise my hand or ask a question. It’s what makes me, me. BUT, occasionally you have to step out of that to be noticed.

To help with this hesitation that I know I’m not alone in possessing, is from Ines Temple, President and CEO of Lee Hecht Harrison, Peru, shares, “I learned some mantras years ago that I repeat to myself when I’m in certain situations. They are, ‘I am strong, I am able, and I am calm.'” This is spot on. Anything you can say to yourself or do that will reset or derail the negative train of thought or the hesitation of not feeling worthy enough is a must. Find a mantra, or borrow Ines’ and reset that train of thought.

According to Killelea, success is about striking the right balance between competence and confidence, and confidence alone won’t cut it. Bravado, bluster and popularity alone won’t get you where you want to go. So, remember that guy I mentioned earlier? He might begin climbing the ladder, but he won’t make it to the top. Those supremely confident men and women who, despite their gravitas, simply don’t execute. They don’t deliver, they don’t delegate, and most importantly they don’t meet deadlines. They use emotions rather than facts and logic and as a result, they are incompetent.

So, how do you “show up, stand out and take charge?” Killelea has the 4 Rs of success for this:

  1. Relationships: We can’t go it alone, nor should we try. Relationships are at the center of The Confidence Effect because they allow us to network in a way that accelerates both our personal and career growth.
  2. Reputation: How you perceive yourself has a huge influence on how others perceive you. Reputations, like respect are earned. The book shows you how to let what’s inside out so that you can show more of your true authentic self at work – and everyplace else.
  3. Results: If we are to believe in ourselves and allow others to believe in us, we must deliver results. Confidence is like a mirror we hold up to reflect our accomplishments; the more we deliver, the more confidence we have.
  4. Resilience: Finally, we must have the big picture in mind to weather the storms, rise to the challenges, and avoid the potholes and outright roadblocks that are part and parcel of our ultimate journey to success.

I want to break these down a tiny little bit because I agree with them so much. For example, relationships – this is so true. We really can’t do it alone because the ability to create and maintain relationships is at the heart of success. People who I have made good relationships and connections with, whether I consciously did or not, have proven to be beneficial in my career. If someone enjoys you and feels like they have a good connection with you, they will remember that forever and you will be the first person they think of when they need to fill a position or need a thought leader on a topic that maybe you know a lot about.

Reputation – isn’t this everything? Someone’s career can end because of a bad reputation, or in some cases not even start! Killelea says how you perceive yourself has a huge influence on how others perceive you. This is so true! If you respect yourself enough to be proud of who you are and what you do – i.e. your reputation – then that will radiate to your coworkers and leaders as well.

Results – I think this is important. I recently wrote a blog post for work on a topic that while I had a lot of notes on, I hadn’t quite become an expert on. But, my VP believed that I could write that blog post, she provided me feedback, and ultimately I was able to deliver a great result because she believed that I could deliver it. This meant everything to my confidence and my ability to jump feet first into a topic or project that I might not know EVERYTHING about.

Resilience – This is the part where you have to have the big picture in mind. If you can understand clearly what the end result of something is, you can get through the fire drills and roadblocks that might try to derail you. I think this is my biggest takeaway because sometimes we really can get bogged down in what we are trying to accomplish in the moment, and the things in the way of that, as opposed to looking at the big picture and realizing that despite the roadblocks you are still making progress toward the ultimate goal. This will help you rise to the challenge and ultimately succeed.

I hope you’ve enjoyed part one. The next installation will be about understanding and mastering relationships and how important that is to the confidence effect.

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Adulting: Leaving Behind a Place I’ve Called Home for Almost Eight Years

I am a very loyal person. I’m a loyal customer, friend, sibling, daughter, spouse (to someone eventually hah!), and employee, so making a decision to go, to break up, to do something different, go somewhere different is often an anxiety riddled thing for me.

I was presented with an opportunity that I really couldn’t turn a blind eye to. Someone I had worked with some years back reached out because there was an opening on his team. He said I was the first person he thought of and wanted to chat with me about the role, if I was interested. Now, I had been pretty actively toying with the idea of looking for a new position externally, but nothing was really moving in that direction for me – quite frankly folks, it is very competitive and cut throat out there these days – so, I thought “sure, might as well hear what the position is all about.” I have to admit, I wasn’t sold on it at first. I was really having a hard time understanding from our conversation what the role entailed, and I was coming to the conclusion that this would definitely be a growth role for me because, while I am fully capable of learning and doing the job, I also didn’t have some of what they were looking for on my resume.

So, feeling like I was probably not going to be that great of a fit, but still having a little part of my intuition telling me to at least talk to the hiring manager, I said sure – give my info to your boss, I would love to speak with her. Boy am I glad that I did! She really broke down the role for me, explained how the team worked, and outlined expectations for the role. Not to mention we just had a fantastic conversation. She too worked at my company for a number of years and we had many people in common. She told me that she likes to hire people that her current staff know well and have worked with in the past, and that she definitely wanted to have me come in for an in-person interview. She warned me she was moving fast, so the in-person was set up for the following week.

This all fell during the holidays, which are generally pretty quiet for me work-wise, so I was able to take advantage of some of the time I already planned off, to take the phone calls and have an in-person interview. It all seemed to fall into place almost too easily. Generally, in person interviews have me so anxious and nervous. I actually compare it to the build-up I feel before running a race – it’s like 2-4 hours of your life, you can do it. It may sound ridiculous, but it works for me, and applies just the same to psyching yourself up for a job interview.

Anyway, the in-person interview went really well, 3 hours total – 3 people, 1 hour each, and then I was on my way. Within a week I had a phone call from the hiring manager with what I think was seeking reassurance that I was indeed interested in the position, and if they were to make me an offer that was desirable and in my pay range (which I had previously given them), that I would accept. Another week later and I had a verbal offer, and a formal offer followed less than 24 hours later. Like I said, she wanted to move quickly, and quickly we were moving.

My anxiety was a mess leading up to waiting for an offer, then subsided for about 2.2 seconds and catapulted back up upon accepting because, now I’ve got to tell some of my best friends, and mentors that I’m leaving. I explained this to someone by comparing it to breaking up with someone who literally does not see it coming at all. The shock of a lifetime.

Making this decision was not easy for me. I will often put my feelings aside for someone else’s happiness, I will also often times sacrifice things for the better of a relationship, friendship or family, so making this decision felt oddly out of my comfort zone. I was about to say, “I’m going to do this for me. For the advancement of my career, for my savings and future investments…for me. Not for anyone else.” I ultimately accepted the offer and then promptly told my boss that I was giving him my two week notice. That was the whole “breaking up with someone who doesn’t see it coming thing.” He didn’t see it coming…poor guy. But he understood the offer I was getting and that it was a really amazing opportunity.

I have to say, everyone has been excited for me, sad – but also very excited for me. I’m letting go of a lot my daily routine: coffee every morning at about 9 a.m. with my co-worker, lunch a couple times a week with my group of buddies, the occasional check-in with my mentors, and the happy hours and vent sessions over bottles of wine that have come to be part of me and my social life. That is all going to be changing. I’m not just leaving the company I’ve been with for almost 8 years, but I’m leaving some of the greatest people I’ve ever met, I’m leaving San Francisco – which is with both enthusiasm and a bit of sadness – my commute in is absolutely awful on the train every morning. I’m trading in going into an office every day for working from home about 90% of the time. It’s going to be a VERY big change for me, but one I think is necessary, because as I have thought about making this big move and change, I realized that it’s been a very long time since I have really shaken up my life – for better or for worse. I’ve generally stayed in my bubble of friends, travel with the same people, go out with the same people – which don’t get me wrong is totally fine, but I would say I haven’t shaken life up in about 5 years so it’s definitely time.

I accepted a position at a different company on their digital grid marketing team. As some of you know, I have been in the energy industry for about 8 years, so in terms of jumping into a new industry, I at least won’t have that learning curve. But, this new role will really round out my experience and take me into the marketing field where I can be challenged and learn new things. I’ll be managing social media marketing and events management for the team. All things I know I am capable of doing and excited to embark on.

I had to realize that in both relationships and work, we can grow so complacent and not even realize it sometimes, so taking this leap is huge. It’s massively scary but also really exciting. I will miss everyone from my company, and many of those people I will see even after I leave – I have made some seriously awesome friends for life which is a priceless thing and something I will always be thankful for.

So, my words to you and words that I am borrowing from one of my favorite retail owners (Evy’s Tree), “do scary things.” You only regret the chances you didn’t take, so cheers to just going for it and I’m excited to share the journey with all of you!

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How do you know when it’s time to walk away?

I think this question haunts everyone. How do you know when it’s time to walk away from something? And, it could be anything: a bad job, a relationship, friendship, project, literally ANYTHING. And, most importantly, how do you know when it’s OK and you aren’t just throwing in the towel early? That is what I wrestle with the most…am I NOT giving it a fair shot? Or, am I giving it TOO much of a fair shot?

I’m definitely guilty of letting a relationship last too long, letting a friendship cross boundaries too many times before I say something, and letting a job dictate my mental and emotional state. So, when I began thinking about this I decided to do a little research and see what else was out there about this topic, and am I the only one who struggles with the, “give it a better shot,” or “you’ve given it enough, time to walk away.” My little Google search resulted in a list of 17 things (I had a list of 20, but upon reviewing realized I was repeating some of them in just a different way – so, for the sake of making this list easier to digest, I eliminated them). I think these 17 things are little bits of information everyone should consider before making that big decision to throw in the towel and go a separate way.

17 things to consider when trying to make the decision to walk away:

  1. Think about the situation:
    1. What do I want to get out of this situation?
    2. What am I actually getting out of this situation?
    3. What am I investing into this/ what is this situation costing me?
    4. What will happen if I keep investing these things into this situation?
    5. What will happen if I stay? (best and worst case scenarios)
    6. What will happen if leave? (best and worst case scenarios) – I’m a big “list” person so this is literally the best place for me to start.
  2. Remember, walking away doesn’t make you weak: Walking away from something that doesn’t add value doesn’t make you weak – it actually is one of the bravest things you can do, and also means that you are decidedly a strong person. I am a very loyal person, and definitely almost to a fault. I’m also non confrontational and want everyone to always get along so, walking away can sometimes feel like I’m taking the easy way out. In reality, it’s harder to recognize it’s time to go, and then to actually do it – it makes you stronger.
  3. You’re probably the most attached: Often, the first person to walk away is the one who is most attached – true story! My five year relationship ended because I chose to walk away…and as a result I realized that I was more attached to the relationship than he was – he moved on quicker, and just in general seemed to mourn and move on fast than I did.
  4. Acceptance:¬†You’re able to accept that things aren’t going to workout how you wanted. Wow, this is the hardest realization, and usually the one that is the saddest. I’ve had friends who I thought would be in my wedding someday, or my kids would call him/her uncle/auntie so-and-so, and had to come to the realization that that probably wasn’t going to happen. It’s a really sad feeling, but also the quickest way to come to terms with it and move on.
  5. Before it gets worse:¬†You know to walk away before things get worse. Often this is the hardest decision to make because quite frankly, you generally can’t imagine it getting any worse…until it does. And, when it does – you gotta pack your shit and run!
  6. Your gut! If your gut, or intuition, or whatever it may be, tells you that something feels off, it probably is. Really folks, our instincts are our best bullshit detectors.
  7. Going with the flow:¬†Going through the motions instead of reaching the next level of the relationship, friendship or career. How many of us have found ourselves just going through the motions at work? You might be doing a great job and everyone is happy with your work performance, but it’s just easy, and almost takes no extra energy or thought so you just kinda stick with it? Yep, if you’re just going with the flow, you’re never going to get that promotion or find motivation to take that next step in your career, or the next step in your relationship.
  8. Loneliness:¬†You feel lonely, even while in that relationship or friendship, or feel unsatisfied despite working hard at that job. If you have someone who loves you, wants to spend time with you, but you’re still feeling lonely – you are not happy and nothing should come at the cost of your happiness. Leave!
  9. No respect:¬†I mean, this is for anything really. If there’s no respect, nothing else is really left. Walk away! And I would elaborate here, but everyone’s definition of “respect” is different so I’ll just let you interpret that in the way that works best for you.
  10. Desire for a change:¬†The want and need to walk away should come from the desire to change something, not out of fear. I don’t think you are making a confident and well thought out decision when you’re doing it out of fear.
  11. Convenience or desire?¬†Is the friendship, relationship or job more about convenience than desire? Are you staying in that relationship because you live together and have really good rent? Are you staying friends with that person because you’ve known them since you were 12 and have mutual friends so it just makes things easier? These aren’t good reasons to stay in that situation, though when trying to rationalize the choice to go, these will weigh heavily on your mind.
  12. Does the situation cause anxiety?¬†I don’t particularly like this one but it’s so true, and maybe that’s why I don’t like it much. But, if someone’s presence puts your anxiety level through the roof, but you spend time with them anyway because you feel obligated, it’s time to go!
  13. Priorities folks!¬†When you’re an option, not a priority. I, not so long ago, had someone who was trying very hard to get back into my life. I had a weak spot for him, cared about him a lot, and boy did he know the right things to say. My issue, and why we were no longer together, was that I was never a priority. Not ever, not once. So, while trying to get back into my good graces he promptly said, “I want to make this work, and I’ll start by putting you first and making you a priority.” Lasted a week folks…one week. But, I also knew it wouldn’t last long so I wasn’t as disappointed as I could have been. So, walking away was very easy.
  14. Are you still having fun?¬†When it’s more work than fun. If everything is a drain and you’re not finding anything even remotely entertaining or fun about your relationship, friendship or job, then it’s definitely time to go. Nothing is worth your happiness. Wait, haven’t I already said that once in this list?
  15. Is it abusive?¬†When abusive behaviors prevail – or continue. Look, I’m not one of those lucky people who can say that they’ve never been in an abusive relationship – or even friendship. It’s a little harder to identify in a friendship, but if your friend says mean things to you, it’s verbally abusive folks. However, it is often easier to identify abuse in your romantic relationships. But, it can take a while to come around to the reality of it all and actually decide to leave because of it. Inevitably what happens is the abuse becomes more and more frequent and more and more vicious. I wasn’t physically abused, but I was told some really awful things over and over, and they got increasingly hurtful until I worried it might get physical, upon which I left for good. But despite that, it was still one of the hardest decisions I’ve made (crazy, right?).
  16. The good old pros and cons list:¬†Do the cons outweigh the pros? I mentioned that I love lists, and the pros and cons list is no exception. I mean, it’s not going to give you a definitive yes or no about walking away, but it will give you some serious things to think about. When everything is laid out there in front of you it’s hard to hide from it.
  17. What’s the best way to walk away?¬†This is so important. You definitely don’t want to leave out of anger. Believe me, I know that in the moment there is nothing that would feel better than to do the most dramatic walk-out ever seen, but you will inevitably second guess yourself for a really long time. Did I get too worked up and just react? Did I not give myself time to think about it before I just flew off the handle? It’s just best to wait until you’re not so angry so that when you do walk out you are confident you are making the right decision. I even think that walking away sad instead of angry is better, because if you’re anything like me, once you’ve worked through the anger, you’ve probably moved into sadness, and eventually you’re moving into acceptance and ultimately moving on with your life.

I realized while writing this that I too still have relationships that I should be considering for this list, but ultimately you come to the decision in your own time. For some, you decide to end things confidently and swiftly, for others it takes time. For example, I give the benefit of the doubt and chance after chance, but when I’m done…I’m really done. There is no going back ever at any point once I’ve truly decided to walk away. Some folks may walk away and then years down the road decide to give that person a second chance. I don’t operate that way, and some may say that isn’t good either. But, whatever it is or how you’re feeling, I hope this list helps you realize that walking away is never easy, and can cause fear and anxiety because of the unknown, but know that it’s the bravest thing a person can do.

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The Closet Challenge: Weekend Roundup-Weeks 11 & 12

Hi all! Again – a little behind here. Things have been crazy busy – both in work and in my personal life. I¬† had a lot of traveling both for work and pleasure last month which is shared on my Instagram – so if you aren’t already following Wishbonedreams definitely check it out. There you can see my daily outfits posts, as well as any travel I’ve been up to.

My brother got married on Saturday, September 30. I was in the wedding so as you can imagine that was quite a busy time as well. Below are the outfits from the last couple of weeks as well as some of my travels ūüôā

Top photos are from my brother and sister-in-law’s wedding at Cerruti Cellars in Oakland, CA, Sqauw Valley Oktoberfest, the Madonna Inn and a selfie during a work roadshow in San Luis Obispo. Busy Busy!

Don’t mind the complete chaos of a mess in the background. On my major to-do list this week, now that I have a free weekend for the first time in 5 or 6 weeks! For the closet clutter part of this, I came across a couple of tops recently that I wore once, maybe twice at the most, probably a handful of years ago. Tried them on and immediately remembered why I never wear them. So, I caught myself hanging it back on the hanger and in the closet and thought to myself, what the heck am I doing? So, I took it off of the hanger, grabbed a bag and tossed it in the bag. I now have what I like to think of as an “active” donation bag. So, as I come across things that I don’t like to wear, don’t fit, or simply isn’t my style anymore, I can just toss it in the bag. So far, there are two blouses and two pairs of pants in the bag!

Anyway, I’m looking forward to a quieter October full of pumpkins spiced everything and hopefully cooler weather!

Happy decluttering!

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How do you know if you’re good at accepting change?

How do you know if you're good at atI’m changing things up with this blog post to talk about change, and how do you know if you’re good at accepting it? There’s been a lot of it in my life these days, and I have learned that the only thing constant in my work-life and personal life is change. This is a notion I’ve come to realize through not-so-easy practice and adoption.

Right out of college in 2008, I was able to score a job in San Francisco working for a legal publishing company. It was unfathomable that I was able to get a job in June of 2008 right as the “bubble” was bursting and all hell was breaking loose, but I did. It wasn’t a great paying job (I made more as a nanny in college), but I looked at it as a step in the right direction – everyone has that one job right out of college right? However, the two years I spent at the publishing company I saw very little turnover in staff. I think this was due in part to how bad the economy had gotten. So, when I left the publishing company I was under the false notion that people stayed at their jobs for a long time – I had always stayed with an employer for more than 2 or 3 years.

When I was made the offer at the utility I work for now the opportunity was above and beyond what I had ever imagined. My salary was doubled, the benefits were fantastic, I was a year into grad school at that point in my life, and they offered tuition reimbursement. I had stars in my eyes! When I told the publisher I had accepted this unbelievable offer and I was giving her my two weeks, I’ll never forget what she asked me, “Do you not like it here? Are you not happy?” It never occurred to me that she might think that was the only reason I was leaving. I told her honestly that I loved working there, but what this other company was offering me was impossible for her to counter – at this point it wasn’t just the benefits but it was also the opportunity to further my career. That seemed to make sense to her, but I left feeling like I had just broken up with someone – it seemed so personal.

As you can imagine, that only added to my notion of “people don’t just leave,” and “people stay when they’re happy,” and “seeing the same people every day for two years is normal.” Boy was I wrong and tad naive!

I would say a short month into my position at the utility, the person who on-boarded me and was essentially my lifeline was leaving the organization with the Director she was supporting, who was being promoted to VP. That was my very first experience with change. I felt like I handled that one fairly well – I made friends with others who I knew I could reach out to with questions, and I was starting to get the hang of things so it was OK.

I stayed on that team for two years and within those two years, I went from supporting 3 directors, to one and I saw the team turnover about 85 percent. Instead of embracing the changes, I worried and questioned whether it was the leadership, or the work etc., as opposed to wondering if that type of change was normal and to be expected.

Eventually it was my time to move on and everyone was really excited for me. This was a very welcomed change for I was the one initiating it. I’ve learned over the years, that the changes which impact you the most are the ones you can’t control at all. These past 12 months alone have been the most change I have ever experienced and also the most challenging year of my career.

  1. I left a position I had been in for 3 1/2 years. It was a change I was making, and in hindsight I realize I was scared to make it but went for it anyway. The following impactful things happened : I attended my first staff meeting on the new team to find out the person who hired me was no longer going to be my boss. Shock of my life! I decided to make the best of it and roll with the punches. It was a rough go at first but I managed to figure out how to make the best out of a less than ideal situation Рand still learn something.
  2. At almost my 1 year mark my entire company went through a major layoff – having to say goodbye to people I had worked with for many years was extremely hard.
  3. The manager whom I had worked so hard to establish a relationship with (and had finally established a decent one) announced she was retiring – this occurred about 2 weeks after the layoffs.
  4. Simultaneously I was in the process of interviewing for another position within the company – and I’m excited to say I accepted the position and will be embarking on yet another change – though at least I initiated this one!
  5. To top things off, while I’m transitioning my current work over to the person back filling for me, we found out our director and fearless leader would be leaving the company.

The changing tide was strong over these last 12 months. The strangest thing to come out of all of this is that I feel calm and I think I have finally come to terms with the fact that this is normal. Because I never thought I was good at dealing with change, I decided to look up some articles published and other thoughts around dealing with change (my sources are cited at the end of this post):

  1. Don’t stress out about stressing out – Our reaction to stress has a greater impact on our health and success than the stress itself. I learned this in two situations just this year. The first was my “freak out” moment when I realized my boss was not going to be my boss. My instinct was to call HR and rescind my acceptance – that was me stressing out about the stress that might come with having to establish another new connection with someone.
  2. Don’t expect stability –¬†Expect these changes as a part of your story, rather than a tragic thing that will ruin your life. I’ve had to practice not being shocked over this past year, but I think eventually you just come to expect that everything is always going to be changing.
  3. You’re prepared – Those who live in a constant state of readiness are unfazed by change and step easily into what’s next. They don’t victimize themselves by wishing for different circumstances. They capitalize on change by having the foresight to be prepared for what’s headed their way. Remember, success will depend on your ability and willingness to adapt, not on everything staying the same. Plus, don’t we all agree that when everything stays the same it eventually gets stale and boring?
  4. You can re-frame – Visionaries don’t see their situations as a challenge, they see them as an opportunity even if they aren’t sure what the opportunity will be. Though I had the rug pulled out from under me when I found out my boss was not going to be my boss, I had to re-frame what was happening. I kept telling myself that as bad as it may have seemed at the time, I would be learning and taking something away from my experience.
  5. You give yourself permission to fail –¬†Change means risk, which can be tough for the ego to handle if it’s been built upon a false premise that failure is or was never an option. I kept feeling like I made the wrong move 12 months ago, but I gave myself permission for it to be OK that I maybe didn’t make the most ideal career move. But quite frankly, we can’t always hit it out of the ball park.
  6. You move on from your mistakes with confidence – Do what you can to fix it, learn from the situation and how to do it better next time. Failure becomes a teachable moment that is a step toward self-growth, not their identity. Though I had a rough year, I’m leaving it with confidence because I took the curve balls thrown at me and tried my best to hit it out of the park (can you tell I’m a baseball fan!?)

I now find myself embarking on yet another change – of my doing – that I’m very excited about. I will be staying with my company, but leaving the organization I’ve called home for the past 4 1/2 years to join a team where I don’t know anyone, and become apart of an organization that I know nothing about. BUT, I’m excited, I’m embracing the change and I’m more optimistic about this move than I have been in a long time.

I will leave you all with this: every experience, no matter how bad it seems, holds within it a blessing of some kind – the goal is to find it. I hope that what I’ve shared today will inspire thought around how you deal with change, what you could be doing to deal with it better, or to simply reaffirm and encourage you to continue accepting change in the ways that work best for you.

Ciao!

Nikki

Sources:

Harvard Business Review: “How to get better at dealing with change” by nick Tasler – September 21, 2016

The Huffington Post: “Saying ‘yes’ to what’s next – 4 signs you are a master at handling change” by Cy Wakeman – April 26, 2015

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Losing Motivation: And understanding why

It’s been a month since my last blog entry. I’m embarrassed that it has been so long. I had such a good, dependable cadence going, and then I lost motivation. Of course what followed next was nagging at myself and creating an even bigger setback because I was falling further and further away from actually opening the laptop. But, what I really needed to do was ask myself why I was suddenly so unmotivated?

I’ve thought about this a lot the last few weeks – what triggered my non-motivation? I could only narrow it to one specific incident, and it happened at work. Isn’t it interesting? I took up blogging because I was lacking the opportunity to write in my new job, and yet that new job has impacted and derailed my ability to write for the past month? It all struck so suddenly – I have referred to it as being blind sided.

Some of my readers may know, but some of you may not – I have been struggling in my new job. Initially – say the first couple of months – I chalked my struggles up to learning new things, working with new people and different personalities, and just overall dealing with change. But as month 4 approached I was beginning to feel like I was barely keeping my head above water. I had gone from “OK, I’m learning new things, there’s some room here for me to feel uneasy and unsure,” to “Holy Mother of God – I think I’m going to cry in the middle of this meeting!” Now, if you asked any of my friends or family…I DO NOT cry at work. I have always followed the philosophy that while work is important, it’s not so important that it deserves an emotion from me such as crying. I would get up and walk around the block out of frustration before I would ever let myself have a good cry at work.

But then it happened. My face got really hot, my heart started racing, and I was booking it to the bathroom so that I could have the most unsatisfying cry I’ve ever experienced in my life. I needed to really let loose, but because I was at work I had this weird sob in the bathroom stall – so needless to say, that still left me feeling awful.

Generally my disposition is upbeat, happy and overall friendly. So when I was asked how things were going I tried to be upbeat and convey that everything was fine. This person knows me well from past work experiences, and called me on my BS immediately and set up time for us to chat. I expressed that I was feeling a lack of direction from my boss. I realized that I wasn’t actually being managed. I was floundering and it was scary. I had never been in a situation like this before. The conversation with my co-worker was really great and completely reset how I was feeling.

Fast forward a couple of months (like month 6), and I was starting to feel like things were no longer working so great, upon which there was some re-organization and a change in management for my team. With the changes, I was asked to meet with some folks for coffee to get a pulse check on how things are going, what I think we could do as a team to improve etc. Again, another very motivating encounter, and I was feeling really good.

This was a false sense of motivation because shortly after that coffee I got sucker punched. Actually, I have called it sucker punched in the gut and then immediately struck across the face (figuratively speaking of course). That’s what it felt like. I had been working from home one afternoon and had a call to discuss some deliverables. The call was great. I could tell that clearer direction was being given in regards to how the team should work, and where we should be concentrating our time and efforts. I was feeling like there might be some hope for this job and me after all!

Then, the conversation took a weird turn. I was told that there had been some talk about whether I was the right fit for the job, that maybe I’m in over my head, and that I didn’t know what I was doing…I will hold now for your stunned reaction. I was floored. I asked where this feedback had come from because I was surprised to hear something like that. The response was, “I heard it from a couple of people.”

Since this happened at the very end of our call, and I had another call immediately after, I had to cut it short. I hung up and proceeded to dial into my next call – with a consultant – not even someone on my team. I told her I was sorry for calling late and that I had been on a previous call. She asked me how the call went, and I lost it. I started crying. I started crying on a conference call with a consultant. I mean, who does that? Her response was very sweet, and she sounded shocked, and I was more than embarrassed, I was mortified. I gave her an idea as to what had me so upset, but really I hadn’t even had a chance to wrap my mind around what I had just been told. As you can imagine, that call ended fairly quickly.

Once I had a moment to think about things I realized that I couldn’t walk around the office the next day thinking that people had that kind of opinion about my experience and my capability to do the job. My company encourages speaking up/out about incidents and issues that are inappropriate. I realized that what I had experienced was inappropriate. I took inventory of what had gone wrong in that conversation:

1. I was given feedback on performance over the phone – that in itself is inappropriate

2. When I asked where such feedback came from I was given a very vague response, when the appropriate thing would have been to give me examples of when someone could have walked away with that opinion of me and how I could fix it

3. The feedback I was provided didn’t match the mid-year review I had just had the previous week, upon which I was successful and on target for the year

I decided that I needed to escalate the issue. This was hard for me to decide to do, which may seem silly initially, but I had never been in a situation like that, and it was very upsetting for me. What if I escalate this, and find out that people actually think that about my capability to do the job?! What if I’m told that I must have misunderstood the conversation? There were so many things running through my head. I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but I decided to escalate via email. I was nervous.

About 10 minutes after I sent the email my cell phone rang. I was impressed, I was expecting to receive a response via email. The information I had relayed was important enough for a phone call. Needless to say, what I had been told about my performance was not how the rest of the team was feeling and I was assured it would be addressed.

In the meantime, I reached out to the person who has been my mentor from the start (heck, he hired me!) and he always has the best advice. He told me to start looking for a new position, and in the meantime that I needed to work like a rock star even more to ensure that NO ONE would ever believe that something like that could be said about me. He then did what he does so well, and asked me what I was doing as an outlet to work through this. He can be very introspective, and wanted to take my thoughts off of this crappy thing that had clearly derailed me, and so he asked me how I’m coping with it. I told him I started a blog and then at that very moment, I realized that I hadn’t posted anything since the incident. It was an “ah-hah” moment. He made me realize that I was letting what had happened impact the good things that I was doing for myself. Not only had I been unmotivated to write, but I realized I wasn’t working out as regularly and overall had started feeling really down on myself.

Work is work. I have always had the ability to separate the two. This experience has tested me in many ways. It has tested my ability to speak up and stand up for myself. It has tested my confidence – I know that I’m not that person that was described to me on the phone. It has tested my ability to forgive – I still need to work with this person (closely) on a regular basis, and it tested my ability to take a look outside of my feelings (which BTW were haunting and never stopped) and identify why I was feeling the way I was. It made me realize how it was impacting me physically, mentally and emotionally, and what I needed to do to fix it.

Hence, why I’m sharing it with all of you. I went back and forth on this. Is it sharing too much? Some of my readers are co-workers, should I filter myself more? I decided no. I decided that I’m not the only one who has struggled with situations such as this and that sharing is always good and opens the opportunity to communicate and know that you aren’t alone.

So, in the meantime I write on. I kicked my motivational road block to the curb and I’m trying to keep calm through the work-storm I have found myself in. This too, shall pass.

 

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