No development budget? Internal career mobility is still within your reach

According to Gallup, as many as 87% of employees say that professional development is important to them. Today’s flat organizational structures provide limited opportunities for professional development in the form of a promotion. So, companies have turned to other ways to foster professional grow.

Many organizations now focus on “internal career mobility,” which is defined as a company’s efforts to provide career opportunities laterally throughout the company.

Although some companies actively promote internal mobility through formal programs, it’s not a given. But that’s not a problem for the resourceful manager. As Smartbrief contributor and career development expert Julie Winkle-Giulioni points out, creating internal career mobility is really a matter of creating opportunities for your team members. And that’s something all leaders have at their disposal. Even with zero professional development budget dollars.

Here’s how it’s being done in the real world.

Reframe the discussion on “growth”

Many employees still equate professional “growth” with a promotion. Leaders need to reframe that conversation, not only because a focus on promotion limits employees’ opportunities, but also because growth comes in many forms.

Chad Koetje, a national accounts manager for a technology firm, has held several leadership positions in his 20-year career. Koetje has found that “employees (especially those new to the workforce) are so concerned with advancement. They tend to underestimate the value that lateral mobility provides.”

Koetje coaches young, ambitious team members by pointing to senior leaders in the organization who have held a variety of similar-level positions. This helps employees realize how a well-rounded set of experiences is a legitimate way to advance in one’s career.

“[Younger employees] tend to focus more on the job title than the value of the experience they will gain,” Koetje says, so he views his role as helping them see the longer horizon and benefits they’ll experience by trying out lateral job opportunities.

See the opportunity in daily activities

The best developmental opportunities are often the most mundane, and might be met with indifference or even disdain. But if you can help your team see that everyday activities like leading meetings, making presentations and managing projects do indeed strengthen their skill set, you’ll have abundant opportunities to develop them professionally.

Staci Miller is an EHS professional with over 20 years of managerial experience. She constantly looks for ways to delegate responsibilities to her team members. Miller’s favorite methods include assigning a team member to organize a brief team-building activity during multi-day offsite meetings and asking members of her team to attend meetings in her stead when her attendance isn’t mandatory.

“I choose meetings that provide visibility to senior management. If my attendance is a must, then I still allow for development by deferring questions during the meeting to allow my team members to demonstrate their expertise,” explains Miller.

Get clear on their goals, and then find ways to grow them in those areas

Here’s an example from an employee’s point of view: Emily Hazelbach is an early-career learning and development professional who works for a global manufacturer of health and beauty care products. Hazelbach’s team leader has a strong commitment to team development.

“Each year, my boss meets with us one-to-one to discover information on how we work, what we are passionate about, and what focus areas we want to pursue for the year,” says Hazelbach.

Armed with that information, Hazelbach’s team leader keeps an eye out for developmental opportunities, based on that employee’s focus areas. As a result of this year’s career planning, Hazelbach is designing the training for a product launch, which will sharpen her facilitation and instructional design skills.

“I really appreciate the extra effort my boss has taken to help me develop professionally by providing opportunities to grow in the areas I am passionate about” reports Hazelbach.

You can offer internal career mobility to your team members even without a substantial professional development budget. All it requires is a bit of creative thinking on your part about what what constitutes “development.” From there, internal career mobility will naturally flow, one opportunity at a time.
 

Jennifer V. Miller is a freelance writer and leadership development consultant. She helps business professionals lead themselves and others towards greater career success. Join her Facebook community The People Equation and sign up for her free tip sheet: “Why is it So Hard to Shut Up? 18 Ways to THINK before you Speak.”

If you enjoyed this article, join SmartBrief’s e-mail list for our daily newsletter on building your career. We also have more than 200 industry-focused newsletters, all free to sign up.

No development budget? Internal career mobility is still within your reach

According to Gallup, as many as 87% of employees say that professional development is important to them. Today’s flat organizational structures provide limited opportunities for professional development in the form of a promotion. So, companies have turned to other ways to foster professional grow.

Many organizations now focus on “internal career mobility,” which is defined as a company’s efforts to provide career opportunities laterally throughout the company.

Although some companies actively promote internal mobility through formal programs, it’s not a given. But that’s not a problem for the resourceful manager. As Smartbrief contributor and career development expert Julie Winkle-Giulioni points out, creating internal career mobility is really a matter of creating opportunities for your team members. And that’s something all leaders have at their disposal. Even with zero professional development budget dollars.

Here’s how it’s being done in the real world.

Reframe the discussion on “growth”

Many employees still equate professional “growth” with a promotion. Leaders need to reframe that conversation, not only because a focus on promotion limits employees’ opportunities, but also because growth comes in many forms.

Chad Koetje, a national accounts manager for a technology firm, has held several leadership positions in his 20-year career. Koetje has found that “employees (especially those new to the workforce) are so concerned with advancement. They tend to underestimate the value that lateral mobility provides.”

Koetje coaches young, ambitious team members by pointing to senior leaders in the organization who have held a variety of similar-level positions. This helps employees realize how a well-rounded set of experiences is a legitimate way to advance in one’s career.

“[Younger employees] tend to focus more on the job title than the value of the experience they will gain,” Koetje says, so he views his role as helping them see the longer horizon and benefits they’ll experience by trying out lateral job opportunities.

See the opportunity in daily activities

The best developmental opportunities are often the most mundane, and might be met with indifference or even disdain. But if you can help your team see that everyday activities like leading meetings, making presentations and managing projects do indeed strengthen their skill set, you’ll have abundant opportunities to develop them professionally.

Staci Miller is an EHS professional with over 20 years of managerial experience. She constantly looks for ways to delegate responsibilities to her team members. Miller’s favorite methods include assigning a team member to organize a brief team-building activity during multi-day offsite meetings and asking members of her team to attend meetings in her stead when her attendance isn’t mandatory.

“I choose meetings that provide visibility to senior management. If my attendance is a must, then I still allow for development by deferring questions during the meeting to allow my team members to demonstrate their expertise,” explains Miller.

Get clear on their goals, and then find ways to grow them in those areas

Here’s an example from an employee’s point of view: Emily Hazelbach is an early-career learning and development professional who works for a global manufacturer of health and beauty care products. Hazelbach’s team leader has a strong commitment to team development.

“Each year, my boss meets with us one-to-one to discover information on how we work, what we are passionate about, and what focus areas we want to pursue for the year,” says Hazelbach.

Armed with that information, Hazelbach’s team leader keeps an eye out for developmental opportunities, based on that employee’s focus areas. As a result of this year’s career planning, Hazelbach is designing the training for a product launch, which will sharpen her facilitation and instructional design skills.

“I really appreciate the extra effort my boss has taken to help me develop professionally by providing opportunities to grow in the areas I am passionate about” reports Hazelbach.

You can offer internal career mobility to your team members even without a substantial professional development budget. All it requires is a bit of creative thinking on your part about what what constitutes “development.” From there, internal career mobility will naturally flow, one opportunity at a time.
 

Jennifer V. Miller is a freelance writer and leadership development consultant. She helps business professionals lead themselves and others towards greater career success. Join her Facebook community The People Equation and sign up for her free tip sheet: “Why is it So Hard to Shut Up? 18 Ways to THINK before you Speak.”

If you enjoyed this article, join SmartBrief’s e-mail list for our daily newsletter on building your career. We also have more than 200 industry-focused newsletters, all free to sign up.

Coaching a CEO

Good CEOs surround themselves with straight talkers, it can be helpful to bring in a person who is completely outside the organization. We call them coaches.

While a good deal of coaching involves an exploration of the inner self, it is my experience that many CEOs pretty much know themselves. So coaching focuses on what the CEO can do to help his team succeed.

Toward that end, here are three good questions I like to use.

  1. What are you doing today that will bring about a better future? We live in transactional times that demand transformational thinking. In other words, we act day to day but we must be thinking long-term.
  2. What are you doing to develop your people? The CEO sits atop the organization. She’s made it, yes, but now comes the hard part. What is she doing to bring out the best in her people? Is she coaching them?
  3. What makes you happy? Coaching does get personal. Being CEO is a 24/7 responsibility. It becomes a lifestyle where time is never your own. The pace can take a toll.

Coaching engagements, unlike marriages, are things of temporary convenience. Coaches help individuals think and act for the long term but do not expect to be there when the future arrives -- for better or for worse.

John Baldoni is an internationally recognized leadership educator and executive coach. In 2017, Trust Across America named him a Top Thought Leader in Trust for the fourth consecutive year. Global Gurus ranked Baldoni No. 22 on its list of top 30 global experts, a list he has been on since 2007. In 2014, Inc.com named him to its list of top 50 leadership experts. He is the author of more than a dozen books, including his newest, “MOXIE: The Secret to Bold and Gutsy Leadership.”

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How to sell your solutions

Your boss delegated an important project to you. Flattered to be trusted with the assignment, you also have grave concerns because of other priorities and limited resources. What do you do?

  1. Smile insincerely as you mumble obscenities under your breath.
  2. Lament that your manager doesn’t have a clue about what it takes to do your job.
  3. Dive in, and hope for the best.
  4. Complain to your co-workers in the lunchroom.
  5. Implement Proactive Problem Solving -- a tried and true technique for selling your solutions to a problem affecting your sanity.

Please choose option E.

In the early 1940s the military developed the Completed Staff Work Doctrine, a seven-step theory to prevent rank-and-file personnel from burdening their chief by putting more work on his already busy desk. Stephen R. Covey devoted a chapter on CSW in his "Principle-Centered Leadership." In both cases, the doctrine was positioned to help managers be more effective delegators but left staff members feeling imposed. That’s why I developed Proactive Problem Solving, a four-step process based on CSW designed to sell your solution to a problem that’s driving you crazy.

Step 1: State a compelling problem or issue with potential impact

Before you can sell a solution to a problem, you need to convince your manager (or decision maker) there’s a problem worth solving. In 30 seconds or less, state the problem or issue with the impact its having on you, others and the organization. For example:

I need to discuss a potential issue with the new project I was assigned. The current timeline affects resources and schedules of two other important projects, and could potentially sacrifice the quality of the new project.

Step 2: Provide alternatives

Succinctly provide three alternative solutions with the advantages and disadvantages of each. For example:

After researching alternatives and discussing the issues with people involved with all three projects, I have three viable options. I need your input (insight, opinion, judgement, expertise) to determine the best course of action.

  1. We bring Abby in from the sales department to cover project management tasks two days a week until all three projects are completed. The advantage is that we can make the deadlines on the two current projects and be close on the new project without affecting their quality. The disadvantage is that the time required bringing Abby up to speed means pushing the new project back by two weeks, and there are costs associated, which I have outlined here.
  2. We stay on track for the two current projects and shift the timeline for the new project back one month. The advantage is that the two current projects will not be negatively affected and, from what I’ve learned, the month delay wouldn’t be too disruptive to other plans. The disadvantage is that moving the deadline would require getting approval from the leadership team.
  3. The team members for all three projects share resources and work overtime to get them done. The advantage is that everything would get accomplished. The disadvantage is that pushing people this hard over the next two to three months will impact the quality of the work. Burning them out means we’ll pay the price down the road, and, of course, covering the overtime costs, which I’ve estimated here.

Step 3: Present the alternative you recommend, with your rationale

Now, sell your solution. For example:

I recommend the second alternative because there are no additional costs or resources. We wouldn’t be risking people’s health or the quality of the projects. The stakeholders I spoke to think the implications for moving the current project back a month would be negligible and getting approval from the leadership team would not be a problem given your influence power.

Step 4: Ask for feedback and/or agreement for action

For example:

I am open to your feedback, insights, and ideas. I need your input before moving forward.

Why it works

Before you relegate Proactive Problem Solving to the status of “sounds good, but probably won’t work in the real world,” you should know there are good reasons for why it works.

  • The best person to solve a problem is the person with the problem. You probably know more about the issue than anyone else.
  • Presenting three alternatives proves you’ve done your due diligence and builds trust for your recommendation.
  • The four-step process provides your manager with choices, fosters a sense of collaboration and engenders a desire to be part of the solution.
  • If your recommendation is not agreed to, you benefit from learning information or implications you weren’t aware of before your presentation.
  • Being proactive at work relieves stress and improves your well-being beyond the workplace.

Sarah was a participant in one of my workshops. Several weeks later, she called to thank me. Her brother was about to quit an otherwise great job over an issue similar to the example described above. Sarah convinced her brother to try Proactive Problem Solving instead. Not only did he get what he needed for the project, but also a raise and promotion. Through the process, his manager realized how valuable Sarah’s brother was to the organization.

If you are frustrated that no one else is solving a problem affecting you or your performance, use Proactive Problem Solving. Or when you have an idea worth fighting for, sell your idea using the four steps in Proactive Problem Solving. Go beyond problem spotting to problem solving. Then, go beyond problem solving to selling your solution. You get what you need, but everyone benefits.

 

Susan Fowler is the co-author of the newly revised "Self Leadership and The One Minute Manager" with Ken Blanchard and Laurence Hawkins, and lead developer of The Ken Blanchard Companies’ Self Leadership product line. She is also the author of the bestseller "Why Motivating People Doesn’t Work… and What Does." Fowler is a senior consulting partner at The Ken Blanchard Cos. and a professor in the Master of Science in Executive Leadership Program at the University of San Diego.

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4 Powerful Strategies for Relaunching Your Career in 2018

When you start to feel like your career is becoming stale or stagnant, it`s time to push the reset button.

3 great career tips you’ll never hear

The career advice we receive changes as we age. As children, we’re encouraged to dream big about the things we want to accomplish in life. We grow up thinking we’ll do what we love.

As we become adults, the message starts to focus on how we can be successful. We begin to look at the subjects in which we excel in school. Grades become the measuring stick of our future. Most of all, we’re told to be practical, find a good job, and stay there.

Those messages muddle our thinking when we seek out career advice. We look for ways to be successful rather than pursue the things we love. Too often, success is where we stop on our journey to what we truly want to do in life.

It takes mental toughness to say, “I want to create my own path” because it may not be where you found success. You may need to move out of your comfort zone to escape the mediocrity that has been aided and abetted by your success.

Success and self-improvement can happen at the same time, but they are not the same thing. If our quest for success is not in alignment with what matters most to us, we’ll be left empty and disappointed in the end.

Success is a competitive game. It triggers a breathless sprint to be the happiest, the richest, the sexiest, the most admired—you get the picture. This is the feedback loop from hell because today’s success story is always replaced by tomorrow’s newer, better thing.

The Stoics would say that being a good person, doing what matters most to you, and doing the right thing are the important things in life.

It’s OK if you don’t find the cure for cancer or write the great American novel. What is important is choosing what matters most to you in life. And, what does not matter.

As successful leaders, entrepreneurs, and business owners, you’ve treated your career as a business. A business becomes prosperous when it has a clear vision for itself in the marketplace. Goals come later, after the vision is defined.

The same goes for you. In the absence of a vision for your life, goals are nothing more than a long to-do list.

The three best career advice tips you will never hear are simple, but very important if you want a career built around what is important to you.

They are:

1. Sit down with a friend

This is a clarifying exercise I did while in seminary. We turned to the person next to us and asked, “What do you want?” We asked the question and waited for the answer. Then we asked it again and again -- 15 times.

At first, the answers were predictable: “I want a new car, I want a bigger house, I want to make more money, etc.”\

After the mind is cleared of the superfluous stuff, deeper isses start to come out. “I want to be loved, I want to serve God, I want to help people tap into their inner strength.”

Tip: The key is asking the same question 15 times to dig beneath the surface to uncover what matters most to you. Everyone’s answers will be different, and the person to whom you are talking doesn’t even need to be a friend, but it does need to be someone you trust.

2. Remember the crossroads

We have all been forced to make choices. Many of them had little impact on the direction of our life. Some, however, were big ones -- crossroads choices -- that moved us in a new direction. For example, in my second year at college, I had to choose my major. My heart told me to pursue a degree in history, but my head told me that a degree in business management would be more marketable.

After I retired from the FBI, I knew I wanted to go back to school. I found myself revisiting the same question; again, I decided not to pursue the history degree and enrolled at San Francisco Theological Seminary. Any doubt I had about whether history would ever be more than a hobby was now firmly decided -- it would not.

Tip: Concentrate on one period of your life at a time. Go back to a particular period in your life and identify a crossroad event. Write up three paragraphs describing the crossroad event as best you can. Focus on the key factors that influenced your decision

Would those same factors influence your decision today?

3. Embrace your history

Do not fear the future; instead, read the past.

Don’t live in the past, but it’s a great place to visit. Looking back, for most people, is usually a mixed bag. There are bright moments, but there are also shadows. To truly understand ourselves, however, we need to delve into both the light and the shadow.

Life is hard. Pain is inevitable. Growth is optional.

It does no good to make excuses or blame others for your situation. Successful people do not see themselves as a victim -- ever! Instead, they recognize that their situation may not be perfect right now but they also know they have the power to change it.

Tip: One of the most important tools an investigator uses is surveillance. FBI agents place the targets of their investigation under surveillance. It allows agents to gain an understanding of the target’s habits, routines and contacts.

Place yourself under surveillance. Go back in your history and identify an inflection point—actions, people, ideas, or events that moved your life in a new direction.

How did you change during that period? How did it contribute to what you are today? To assist with this, recall the following:

  • Key people
  • Activities that demanded time and attention
  • Important ideas
  • The nature of your inner life: dreams for your life, longings, and emotions
  • The nature of your health: exercise, sports, and illness
  • Creative impulses that shaped you
  • External events that shaped you

If you don’t grow, everything becomes a repetition of the past. As leader of your life, decide which behaviors served you well enough that you want to repeat. Conversely, identify the behaviors and reactions that you don’t want to repeat so you can let go of what doesn’t work for you.

 

LaRae Quy was an FBI undercover and counterintelligence agent for 24 years. She exposed foreign spies and recruited them to work for the U.S. government. As an FBI agent, she developed the mental toughness to survive in environments of risk, uncertainty, and deception. Quy is the author of “Secrets of a Strong Mind” and “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths.” If you’d like to find out if you are mentally tough, get her free 45-question Mental Toughness Assessment. Follow her on Twitter.

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4 ways to avoid burnout at work

Most of you will experience a period of work burnout at some point in your professional careers.

The temptation is always there to do more, be more, achieve more. You might feel the pressure from those above you or from yourself and your own desire to succeed. Time and effort, however, can reach a point of diminishing returns. You can work harder and harder and accomplish less and less. This can lead to frustration and an even more frantic desire to put in more hours to try to “catch up.”

This cycle rarely leads to satisfaction, or quality output. Before you get to that point, check out these tips for ways you can combat burnout and maintain your balance and productivity.

Say No

It may seem obvious, but one of the first tactics is to learn is how to say no. This may mean adjusting your perspective on what "no" means. If you’re someone who always wants to help out and who wants to please, it can be difficult to turn down a request or to pass on a piece of work. Consider it from a different angle, however. Saying no means you are committing to the best quality for the tasks you already have, and maintaining your own balance, so you can stay on top of your game for the long haul.

Saying yes to everything makes no room for the tasks you really want and need; the tasks that will challenge you, expand your skillset or raise your profile in the organization. Remember that saying no to being overloaded is healthy for both you and your company.

Make space in your calendar

If you want to avoid that sense of being overburdened and overallocated, don’t forget to make room in your calendar for your own tasks, whether work or personal. It’s easy to let your day fill up with meetings and drop-by chats. Be sure to set aside the hours you need to accomplish your tasks, preferably with the door closed, the email notifications turned off and the other distractions set aside.

Set yourself up for success by prioritizing time to concentrate, and don’t forget to include downtime, too. Make sure you book regular lunch time -- even if it’s just a few minutes -- away from your desk. Take breaks and walk around, and tend to your personal life too. Achieving balance is not a luxury; it’s a necessity to ensure that you’re working your best. While it may seem self-indulgent to set a task down and just go home (or go on vacation!), it really isn’t -- everyone benefits when you take time to relax, recharge and return to work refreshed.

Don’t pretend things are OK

Many of us can fall into the trap of thinking we’re feeling overwhelmed and burnt out because we lack motivation. We can tell ourselves we’ll wait to tackle some things when we’re finally inspired (leaving them to pile up and weigh us down) or we chastise ourselves for feeling low and struggle on ahead anyway, usually accomplishing little.

Instead, consider this: it’s OK to be frustrated. Take a step back, acknowledge that you’re overwhelmed, and then make a plan to do the work anyway. Instead of just putting your head down and grinding away, break your project or task down into smaller, more manageable chunks. Do them one by one, and allow yourself to celebrate the small victories as you progress.

The work will be the same and you’ll be just as busy, but the feeling will be different, and you’ll actually make more headway overall.

Stop trying to be perfect

It seems counterintuitive that flawlessness would be the enemy, but trying to control and fine-tune every aspect of your work will just burden you with needless stress, with little added value. Instead of striving for perfection, work to achieve excellence. Your goal should be great work, not picture-perfect minutiae.

Feeling burnt out is far from an uncommon sentiment. It’s easy to stretch ourselves too thin, whether from taking on too much or being over pressured by others in the organization. It’s one thing to have a busy and stressful week or month, but when the grind seems unrelenting, it has a negative effect on both ourselves and the quality of our work.

Avoid getting to the point of desperation and despair by creating strategies to stay balanced and still provide quality output. Make your own plans, develop positive habits and stick to them! Everyone benefits when you avoid burnout.

 

Joel Garfinkle is an executive leadership coach who has worked with many newly promoted leaders who need to combat burnout. He has written seven books, including "Time Management Mastery: Stress-free productivity in the 7 key areas of life." More than 10,000 people subscribe to his Fulfillment@Work newsletter. If you sign up, you’ll receive the free e-book 41 Proven Strategies to Get Promoted Now!

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Increasing your leadership potential

Leadership is a behavior, not a position or a title. While some executives exhibit remarkable leadership behaviors, others simply become good managers, never fully realizing their capacity for leadership. The latter will likely have the skill and determination to operate a program and possibly even oversee an organization. It is the former, however, who will successfully guide an organization toward unlocking its true potential.

A key leadership behavior revolves around building strong relationships with others. To some, relationship-building is viewed as soft, emotional or irrelevant to an organization’s success. In my experience, however, it is the leader who brings out the best in others who guides organizations to a higher level of success. This is the leader who makes people feel important, and who is attentive to the voices, concerns and actions of others. This is the leader who knows that strong relationships rest on trust and respect.

The good news is that behaviors can be learned. Learn to be a leader-like relationship builder by doing the following:

  1. Establish your credibility. Whenever you consistently make decisions that benefit others you work with or that benefit your organization, you earn people’s trust and respect.
  2. Lead through informal authority. Formal titles and positions are shallow sources of authority. Respect, trust and admiration are stronger, more durable currency. Win hearts through sincerity, passion and vision.
  3. Talk with people at all levels. Tell them about your plans and hopes for the organization and how they can participate in its success. People will watch how you treat others and how you communicate with them.
  4. Live by the Golden Rule. As an old saying goes, “People may not remember what you said or what you did, but they will always remember how you made them feel.” Treat people the way you would want to be treated by them.
  5. Listen to people and hear what they say. How do you feel when you know that a person you’re taking to is listening to you? You feel great, so return the favor. Ask people what they think of an issue and then really consider what they have to say.
  6. Deliver on your promises. It is crucial that you keep the promises you make to people. On the other hand, if you can no longer keep a commitment that you made, own up to it and let them know why. They may not like your decision, but explaining your reasons lets them know you have integrity.
  7. Be seen. Don’t hide behind a desk and communicate by emails or tweets. Effective leaders take time out from their desk-bound responsibilities and connect to people. If your colleagues see you, they will feel connected to you and you will get the best from them.
  8. Make the tough decisions. People need to know that there is a leader steering the ship. They need to know that when a tough decision must be made, someone will make it. It is not the leader’s job to make everyone comfortable or popular, but your actions must reflect your core values.
  9. Be a decision-maker, not a procrastinator. Have you ever worked with someone who just couldn’t make a decision? Do you remember how frustrating it was? It is a blessing to others when a leader can make decisions in an appropriate and timely manner.
  10. Be fair and flexible. People are going to make mistakes, particularly if you empower them and encourage them to take risks. Before you reprimand someone who has made a mistake, ask yourself if it would be better to give the person a second chance. Sometimes, people will achieve more if they know you are there for them. Like a child playing on the monkey bars, they will trust that you are there to catch them if they fall.

It may take some practice, but by learning to build trust and respect among your colleagues, you will dramatically increase your leadership potential. Your influence and positive impact will increase, leading your colleagues and organization to greater levels of success and achievement.

 

Dennis C. Miller is the managing director of The Nonprofit Search Group and a nationally recognized strategic leadership coach with more than 35 years of experience working with nonprofit board leadership and chief executives across the country. Dennis is a sought-after motivational speaker, retreat facilitator and successful author. His new book is “A Guide to Recruiting Your Next CEO: The Executive Search Handbook for Nonprofit Boards."

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Are you taking a workplace lonely?

For millions of people worldwide, the act of taking selfies has become an integral part of the social media experience. Selfies are internationally pervasive and evoke strong reactions from those that encounter them.

In a hysterical clip about selfies, comedian Sebastian Maniscalco hits hard on selfie-takers. In his words, the act of taking a selfie should be called “taking a lonely.”

“Do you know how alone you got to be,” he asks, “that you can't find anybody to take a photo?”

As funny as Maniscalco’s rant is, there is a deep element of scientific truth in it. For many, selfie taking is, in fact, the product of being alone. "Not only do individuals who become obsessed with taking selfies tend to feel that their personal lives and psychological well-being are damaged, but they may feel that relationship qualities with others are also impaired," said lead researcher Peerayuth Charoensukmongkol.

Those researchers also found that a most people studied spent the majority of their spare time online in some fashion.

(Such people also use selfies to control their image. In the words of Dr. Charoensukmongkol, “Taking selfies allows individuals to control what other people see in the photos, it is not surprising that those who exhibit these narcissistic characteristics tend to like selfies because it helps them achieve this personal goal.”)

While we often think of loneliness as something that afflicts people when in “social mode” (becoming socially acquainted, making friends, deepening relationships, etc.), the truth is that it plays a significant role in the workplace as well.

Workplace loneliness is often measured by how many people surround and interact with you while at work. Some argue that the loneliest professionals in the world are those who toil in isolation, with limited opportunity for interpersonal communication. These include writers, poets and scientific researchers working in remote outposts.

Yet there are others who weigh loneliness not by the frequency of their interactions with others but rather by the quality of such exchanges. Therapists, for example, often feel lonely, despite the many deep conversations that they have on an average day. Because they tend to spend so much of their time listening and giving to others, they do not benefit from the balanced conversations and idea exchanges that meet their social needs.

The same could be said for teachers. I once read a book that posited that classroom teaching was the world’s loneliest position. The author argued that teachers were required to go into independent classrooms each day and spend many hours alone with students -- hardly a satisfying set of social partners. They often had little time to chat with peers and even less time engaging in meaningful learning and problem-solving activities with colleagues.

As a former classroom teacher, I know that it can feel lonely at times to occupy your day communicating with others who are not your peers and cannot relate to your experiences and passions. Still, I suggest that the loneliest job may very well be that of a leader, whether it’s the leader of the free world, a school principal or a CEO. 

Lonely
Jeremy Cai/Unsplash

Most employees have others in the workplace that they can turn to for advice, feedback and/or companionship. They can ask questions on how to get things done and work through tough times with their peers without unreasonable concern that they will be unnecessarily or unfavorably judged (or worse). They can share a joke in the office, fill their March Madness brackets, and comfortably discuss what’s going on in their personal lives. They can also “hang” with their associates after work, as a natural extension of their time together in the office.

Leaders, on the other hand, have fewer people to turn to when things get tough. Who in the organization, after all, has had to sign off on the types of decisions that they must make each day? It can certainly be difficult to confide in and bare their souls to direct reports. And those who sit above them in the corporate or organizational food chain (such as the chairman of the board) are also not the ones to whom they want to display weakness or vulnerability.

Furthermore, it can be awkward and inappropriate for bosses to try to chum up with their co-workers. Sure, there’s nothing wrong with occasional out-of-work interaction. May times it can be both fun and healthy and offer all parties the chance to see each other in a different light. But at the end of the day, the boss is the boss, and that still spells social isolation for the guy calling the shots.  

For these reasons, I strongly advocate leader participation in peer learning and advisory groups. Not only do such settings provide leaders with meaningful learning opportunities to strengthen their skills and augment their toolkits, but they also offer havens for leaders to open up to people who can relate to their struggles and provide concrete suggestions, if not solutions. Oftentimes, these business convenings develop into social relationships that add balance to the lives of these execs.

Leaders should also make time to attend classes and trainings with members of their executive team and board of directors. Learning together and sharing ideas in a relatively neutral setting can open up pathways towards deeper bonding that may not otherwise occur. 

Of course, there are other ways to reduce feelings of loneliness, such as by having a strong network of family and friends to turn to outside the office. Hiring a coach or therapist can also help fill a social void (besides for the other benefits that they offer), as can networking events, dinner parties, social clubs, religious congregations and volunteering in the community.

In the words of Dorothy Day, “We have all known the long loneliness, and we have found that the answer is community.”

Collect inspirational quotes for when you need them. Read thought-provoking books about leadership as well as personal accounts of triumph and success. Many authors possess the gift of connecting with their words and building community through the printed or digital page.

Lastly, learn to distinguish between loneliness and solitude. Paul Tillich once said, “Loneliness expresses the pain of being alone and solitude expresses the glory of being alone.”

Being alone is only a problem when we need others to fill the void of silence. Leaders who can dig deep within themselves for insight and self-encouragement will find the isolated time of solitude to be the most clarifying, purifying and rewarding time in their busy, hectic schedules.

 

Naphtali Hoff, PsyD, (@impactfulcoach) became an executive coach and organizational consultant following a career as an educator and school administrator. Check out his new leadership book, "Becoming the New Boss." Read his blog.

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From career mobility to opportunity mobility

Career mobility is defined as the movement of employees across levels, positions and even industries. In the past, it was a yardstick by which people measured their progress and success. And it was also a tool for incenting employees and calibrating the value of their contributions to the organization.

Today, however, rather than being a helpful feature within the talent management landscape, issues related to career mobility frequently immobilize organizations and undermine optimal engagement and results. Nearly three out of four Americans report being less than satisfied with the career development they receive.

Much of the disappointment boils down to a common complaint: “I’m stuck – ready for something new – but without a promotion or other move available to me.”

It’s hard to argue with this complaint because employees are frequently right. Given downsizing, delaying of middle management, automation and other evolving workplace factors, many organizations report that promotional opportunities are slim or non-existent.

Businesses that used to engage in job rotations find that they’re running leaner than ever before and can’t always accommodate such programs today. And specialization in some fields can make lateral moves challenging if not impossible.

Given these seemingly inhospitable factors, it could be easy to declare career development dead. But nothing could be further from the truth. The very complexity and challenges that might put the brakes on career mobility underscore the need for development and point to new career-enhancing possibilities for anyone willing to update his or her career development mindset.

Opportunity mobility is the new career mobility

While changing roles and moving among levels and positions might be structurally limited, moving among projects, task forces, stretch assignments and the like is inherently unlimited. Or, more precisely, it’s limited only by the imagination and commitment of employees and leaders.

In today’s environment, career success can no longer be defined by movement but perhaps by mastery. Progress doesn’t need to come in the form of a new title but perhaps evolving talent. Advancement isn’t about landing in a box on an organizational chart but rather landing a new experience that expands capacity.

Opportunity mobility boils down to identifying activities designed to address an employee’s interests, passions, gaps and/or aspirations.  It’s based upon ongoing dialogue and an ever-unfolding understanding of what matters most to the individual and the organization.

And, it takes the form of inviting into the envelope of an employee’s existing role agreed-up challenges and activities that provide the desired stretch, engagement and growth. In this way, everyone can develop and expand their portfolios of skills and accomplishments – whether a move is available or not.

While curating opportunities and experience can enrich one’s current position, those activities also improve one’s skills, networks, and abilities so that should future career moves present themselves, employees are more prepared and more likely to succeed in different roles. In this way, developmental opportunities are truly mobile and portable, serving people today and into the future.

So, it’s time to change our thinking – and our language – by putting a focus squarely upon what we can develop and mobilize: people and the nearly unlimited opportunities available to help them grow.

 

Julie Winkle Giulioni is the author of “Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go: Career Conversations Employees Want,” with Bev Kaye. Giulioni has spent the past 25 years improving performance through learning. She consults with organizations to develop and deploy innovative instructional designs and training worldwide. You can learn more about her consulting, speaking and blog atJulieWinkleGiulioni.com.

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