6 tips for managing personal stress

“No matter how bad things are, you can always make things worse.” — Randy Pausch, "The Last Lecture"

One of the greatest challenges for professionals is to leave behind their personal challenges when they enter the workplace. We all have a job to do, but when there are struggles at home or with family, such as illness, financial pressures or familial discord, it can be really difficult to hunker down and focus enough to get work done.

For leaders, situations such as these can be even more of a challenge. Not only are they responsible for their own work, but they must see to it that their workforce remains productive as well. Furthermore, leaders oftentimes feel compelled to put on a show of control if not invincibility as part of their leadership persona. Allowing for weakness to show, they feel, can greatly diminish the leadership stature that they so deeply value.

(The irony of such thinking is that while, as David Dotlich points out, great leaders are praised for their successes, “paradoxically, what makes good leaders great are the trials and tribulations of failure … Leaders who have endured adversity are most likely to be the ones with the resilience and resolve to succeed.”)

What can leaders do at times of difficulty in their personal lives to stay focused on what needs to be done at work and be present, in body and mind, for their people? Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Label your emotion. The simple act of labeling our emotions reduces activity in the emotional brain and increases activity in the areas of the brain associated with focus and awareness. By labeling your emotions, you can better separate yourself from the experience and draft a clearer plan on how to handle it.
  2. Share what’s happening. Share your situation with a few close confidants who support you and can fill in for you as needed. Just knowing that others care about you can be extremely uplifting and can keep you going during difficult moments. Having people who can step in during your absence will help alleviate the burden and make sure that things move forward as needed.
  3. Increase your determination. Commit to working through your challenges and to not let them gain the upper hand. This determination will push you through the most challenging moments when you may otherwise be inclined to pull back. Keep a collection of inspirational quotes handy, such as:
    • “Permanence, perseverance and persistence in spite of all obstacles, discouragements and impossibilities: It is this that in all things distinguishes the strong soul from the weak.” (Thomas Carlyle)
    • “The obstacle is the path.” (Zen proverb)
  4. Find the silver lining. In almost every difficult situation, there are silver linings, including considering how many others may have it worse. For example, if you’re struggling with a defiant child who is making poor decisions, consider how much worse off others may be in terms of their condition and disconnect.
  5. Reflect on how others did it. Life is filled with stories of “failures” who endured challenges yet went on to achieve great successes. People such as Thomas Edison (failed repeatedly to invent the light bulb), President Franklin Roosevelt (crippled by polio), Charles Schwab and Richard Branson (struggled in school due to dyslexia) and Oprah Winfrey (domestic abuse) all overcome personal challenges to achieve greatness.
  6. Consider your impact. As much as you are struggling, you are still needed by others. Your leadership, guidance, direction and support are critical elements in your organization and folks need you to be, well, you. Use such thinking to push yourself forward.

 

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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7 signs you are growing

Ray Kroc  who opened the first franchised McDonald's and built the company into what it is today, is known for asking the question: "Are you green and growing or ripe and rotting?”

Most of us think we are growing, without really identifying the signs that indicate growth versus decay. Here are seven signs that you are still growing.

1. Your beliefs are still evolving

We all grow up with certain beliefs about religion, money, relationships and how the world works. In order to grow you have to be willing to challenge and even change some of your long-held beliefs. For example, think about the beliefs that must change for a front-line worker to elevate to supervision, or how the beliefs of a front-line supervisor must shift in order to become a senior leader.  As you grow and consider other possibilities, your foundation of belief also starts to change.

2. You can see different points of view

The more your desire to learn, the more curious you will be. The more curious you are, the more likely you are to consider other points of view. When you can see different viewpoints, you begin to understand that every person’s experience is unique because of their background,  experience and circumstances. You don’t necessarily have to buy into other points of view, but where your opinions were once more black and white, you come to understand the diverse ways people experience life and process information.  

3. You are willing to stop unproductive habits

Growth requires you to elevate your self-awareness so that you can identify your shortcomings and change your unproductive habits. Changing a bad habit is like going through rehab. You have to want your growth more than you want your addiction. The habit may be interrupting, using sarcasm as a defense mechanism, or the habit could be staying up too late or something more dangerous like drinking or gambling. A sign of growth is the willingness to stop habits (even the enjoyable ones) that stunt your growth.

4. You consciously build productive habits

Building a new habit requires you to do something uncomfortable enough times until the act becomes part of your routine. You know the habit has stuck when you no longer have to consciously think about it -- sort of like brushing your teeth. For example you might struggle to get up an hour earlier, but once you train yourself to wind down at a certain time, and you put routines into place, you no longer have to “decide” what time to go to bed or how many times to hit the snooze button.

5. You grow thicker skin

A great sign you have grown is when you are no longer so sensitive. The brash boss no longer intimidates you. You stand your ground. Instead of letting anger get the best of you, you take a breath, check perceptions and ask more questions. Instead of dreading difficult conversations you approach the as a necessary tool for authentic relationships.

6. You achieve more than you though possible

If you’ve achieved something that only a few years ago seemed impossible, you’ve grown. Maybe you wrote a book, reached the C-suite or you took your business to the next level. Looking back you can see that, a decade ago, you never dreamed you would have accomplished so much. Achievement is a sign of personal and professional growth.

7. Your definition of success changes

Your definition of success changes dramatically with each elevation. Remember when you thought success was keeping up with the Joneses? You needed possessions to feel successful. Or maybe you got your feelings of success from your education or your position. Eventually success is more about a state of being or about the kind of relationships you have built, or how many people you have mentored along the way. As you grow the way you define success changes.

Conclusion

There are obviously more than seven ways to grow. Growth happens through life experience, education and through our connections to other people. Perhaps the greatest avenue for growth is through the conscious decision to learn more and be more.

 

Marlene Chism is a consultant, international speaker and the author of "Stop Workplace Drama" (Wiley 2011) and "No-Drama Leadership" (Bibliomotion 2015). Visit her at MarleneChism.com and StopWorkplaceDrama.com, and connect via LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.

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How to bounce back from a failed salary negotiation

When everything goes as planned when asking for ask for a raise, you come out on top, ready to go home and celebrate. Unfortunately, that’s not always going to be the case.

Whatever your boss’ reasons -- your performance, the state of the company, the economy -- not every negotiation is going to end in success. So when you don’t achieve the results you hoped for, what next?

You’re going to need a game plan to help you bounce back. This is how you’ll get paid what you’re worth.

Plan your attitude

First and foremost, always be professional and positive. The failure may be stinging, but don’t let that sour you or your demeanor. The day after your unsuccessful negotiation is the first day in your updated performance portfolio -- you’ve got something to prove. You’re ready to dust yourself off and achieve better than ever results in your job. You may even want to mentally prepare by tackling your current position with “new job” vigor and set yourself an action plan. Let your manager know even if you don't agree with their decision, you do respect it. 

Plan your next steps

Following a failed negotiation, you need to move forward. This may mean accepting your current salary level and improving yourself to get a salary bonus or raise down the line. The key will be to focus on the future and not don't dwell on the past. What were your takeaways from your discussion? Do you need better performance? More professional development? Experience? Demonstrated results? Do you need to work on reputation and perception? Consider what the gaps are and make a plan on how you’re going to get there.

Plan your next negotiation

The number one mistake people make when negotiating a salary increase is not being fully prepared for the negotiation. Every negotiation starts with a business case on why you deserve an increase. Present the successes and results delivered since your last salary review that support a case for higher compensation. If possible, demonstrate the ties between your performance and the company’s successes or cost savings. If you’ve helped others succeed, make sure to point that out -- your value lies not only in your individual contributions but in your leadership and guidance. Do salary survey research beforehand, to better understand what the market value of your position truly is and to make sure your request is reasonable and specific.

There's no set magic time frame to revisit the topic. Instead, it depends on circumstances. Have you achieved new goals or taken on new responsibilities that warrant discussing a salary increase again? Has the company had an especially good quarter, to which you contributed? If so, go for it. If the situation has changed since the last time you talk, it could be time to open the discussions again.

Plan for future success

Don’t be afraid to ask what you can do to turn that "no" into a "yes." Put together an action plan with your manager, so you can get to the compensation level you want in the future. Your boss is not your adversary; make it clear you want to partner to find a workable solution for you both; ask what you need to do, and make a real roadmap on how you’re going to get there. Sometimes, this will require that you are given specific opportunities, in order to meet those expectations. Keep a close eye out for those chances and don’t be afraid to speak up and remind your manager of your plan when one comes along.

Any kind of setback can be disheartening, but don’t let it slow you down. Begin again with a new resolve to achieve (or exceed!) the goals you and your manager have set, then plan your next salary negotiation freshly prepared to highlight you value and your accomplishments.

 

Joel Garfinkle is the author of "Get Paid What You're Worth" and "Getting Ahead." Recently, he spent four months coaching a senior vice president on how to translate his value and overall impact into a successful request for 23% salary increase. He is recognized as one of the top 50 executive leadership coaches in the U.S., having worked with many of the world’s leading companies, including Oracle, Google, Amazon, Deloitte, The Ritz-Carlton, and Starbucks. Sign up to his Fulfillment@Work newsletter (10,000+ subscribes) and you’ll receive the free e-book “41 Proven Strategies to Get Promoted Now.”

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3 tips for discovering yourself

It is necessary to know what you are and what you can do. Sounds simple, but too often we don’t take the time – or, more precisely – make the time to understand our role.

In my coaching practice I work with executives to help them define their leadership selves. Here are three questions that can help you, too.

  • What do I do well? Consider your core competency -- what you do for your job. Then think about the skills you execute to complete your job duties. Beyond competency consider how you interact with people.
  • Where do I need help and why? Tough question, certainly. How well do you serve your team? Think about what you may be avoiding because you don’t want to do it, don’t like to do it, or feel incompetent in doing it?
  • How can I better serve my colleagues? Focus on what other people need from you. Are you fulfilling their needs? It doesn’t hurt, and in fact, it may be wise to check what you think you are with what others are receiving? Is there alignment?

These questions are thought-starters; they serve as a means to an end of discovering what you do best and how you can continue to do it.

 

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 John No. 22 on its list of top 30 global experts, a list he has been on since 2007. In 2014, Inc.com named John 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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Leadership traits taken from a career with the FBI

I loved being an FBI agent because there was a sense of meaning and purpose every time I walked into the office. The FBI’s mission is to protect the American people and uphold the Constitution of the United States. There was a sense of meaning and purpose every time I walked into the office.

I worked hard to solve complex problems. You might be imaging movies, gunbattles, and running down bad guys. In truth, a lot of what I did as an agent wasn’t all that different from many of the challenges you face as entrepreneurs, leaders, and business owners.

I was good with a gun, I admit, but most of my time was spent working with people who had different opinions and a conflict of interest. This created problems I couldn’t just shoot. Instead, they required people skills; I suspect many of you can relate.

Today's business world is volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. If you want to move your career or company forward, you have to know how to lead yourself and those around you.

The FBI does not hire new agents based on their skills. Instead, they hire by the traits and values exhibited by applicants and then train new agents with the skill sets they will need. If an agent has the right values, traits, and abilities, they can learn anything.

This is where most businesses have it backward. Instead of hiring people because of their traits and values, they hire skill sets and then try to backload the company’s culture and values.

If the goal of leadership is to empower people to make their own decisions, then here are seven FBI traits that will make you a better leader:

1. Confidence

Boosting confidence is the primary goal of the FBI Academy -- before they send agents out with a gun and badge.

As a new agent, there were days when my heart raced and my palms sweat just thinking about the new challenges that faced me. But I learned that success would not make me confident; rather, confidence in myself and my abilities would make me successful.

If you don’t believe in yourself, how can others believe in you? It took a bit of acting on my part in the beginning, but the more I acted confident, the more confident I became. Feedback from others was positive, which in turn, gave me more confidence!

Tip: Cultivate ways you can signal your confidence to others, especially using body language. When our brain receives a clear image of confidence and competence, it takes that good impression and makes a snap judgment. This allows the brain to move on to other issues.

2. Humility

A few years back, my squad was set to arrest a fugitive known to be armed and dangerous. Since I was the case agent, everyone assumed I would be the one to make the arrest. The fugitive was a big guy with broad shoulders and sure to resist arrest, but defensive tactics had never been my strong point.

It is humbling to admit to yourself, or others, that you are not the best person for the job. It’s OK to admit it and turn to another person more experienced or better prepared and ask for their help.

You may not need help in arresting a fugitive, but you may need to surround yourself with people who are more experienced or better prepared and ask for their help. The best leaders are confident enough to surround themselves with people who are smarter and more talented.

They are also humble enough to learn from these people because they understand they will get a better outcome as a result of their involvement. Such leaders are willing to listen to, but not be dominated by, the talent around them.

Tip: If you are the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.

3. Good values

For insiders, FBI also stands for "Fidelity, Bravery, and Integrity." These are the values that drive the organization.

Leadership is not a skill set; it is rooted in who we are and what matters to us. Our values are defined by what we are willing to struggle for when the chips are down. It’s doing the right thing and doing the best we can because that is who we are.

Ultimately, our values define our struggles. When we choose better values, we get better problems to solve. We need to be motivated by something more important and greater than our own happiness. If we are not driven to take our life to the next level by something more than our own selfish desires, we are the definition of a narcissist.

Tip: When you prioritize good values, it produces true confidence and genuine humility. Decisions are easier because the answer is always “do the right thing.”

4. Kindness

Not all FBI negotiations involve the barrel of a gun. The most successful agents find ways to get along with people, pure and simple. It is rare that an agent can dictate how a relationship is going to unfold.

In the movies, we hear lines like, “OK, this is what you’re going to do for me.” In reality, we need to look for what’s mutually beneficial if we’re looking to cut a deal or negotiate.

The best way to accomplish this is to find common ground, and this is accomplished by being sensitive to the needs of the other person. Bullying, extortion or browbeating rarely gets constructive results.

Tip: Mentally tough leaders who are kind know how to inspire their people in a way that, in turn, creates a commitment for their mission.

5. Tough

It may seem that kindness and toughness are contradictions, but they are actually very compatible. There are times when a leader needs to hold people accountable and draw a clear line that differentiates between acceptable and unacceptable behavior.

Great leaders don’t worry about being unpopular or making everyone happy. They’re always reminding themselves that their job is to improve the organization.

While rules and standards provide structure for people, tough leaders are not afraid to buck the system to get what they want. They know how to interpret the cultural norms of the office or company and are respectful, yet persistent, in presenting new ideas for projects.

It is the mixture of toughness and kindness that opens doors without alienating the standard-bearers who have calcified in their corner offices.

Tip: Successful leaders stumble and make mistakes as much as anyone, but they are tough enough to take control of their reputations and manage the ways they are perceived.

6. Listening skills

I didn’t know what to expect when the FBI sent me to a training course on hostage negotiation. As an unassuming man stood in front of the class and welcomed everyone in dulcet tones, I was looking around for the hardass who had talked down a terrorist in New York the week before. The man spoke politely, but I didn’t listen because I wanted to hear from the hostage negotiator!

Guess what? He was the hardass hostage negotiator. That week I learned the key to agreements, whether you are negotiating with a kidnapper or a client, is that they happen only when both sides are willing to listen.

When we listen, we get insight into how other people think, feel, and behave. It is counterproductive to be aggressive, pushy, and demanding. Instead, good listeners are likable and create an environment that feels both safe and comfortable. They are secure enough that they are not threatened by listening to someone who may have more talent or experience.

Tip:: It’s a good idea to repeat what you think you heard the other person say. It lets them know you really are listening and gives you an opportunity to let their words soak in.

7. Emotional intelligence

The FBI is not a touchy-feely organization; agents prefer terms like competence and persistence to explain their success. The words emotional intelligence rarely escape their lips. Yet face-to-face interviews remain the FBI’s top investigative technique.

Emotional intelligence is an ability to walk into a room and understand what others might be feeling, and through that insight, communicate to them in effective ways. Awareness and curiosity about their own emotions, as well as those of others, place leaders in a stronger position to not only recognize the negative ones but to anticipate how they could spin out of control.

Tip: Emotional intelligence allows us to build on relationships with others and then use those relationships to accomplish our goals.

“I actually have come to learn that the way to evaluate leaders is not from skills through abilities to values but to actually start the other way. If a leader has the right values and the right abilities, they can learn anything. If you hire and promote backwards and start with, ‘so what are their skills? What jobs have they had?’ you may miss the fact that they don't have the abilities you need and the values you need.” ~ James Comey, former FBI director, in 2016

 

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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Habits to get you to the next level

It can be difficult to really stand out, but with a little planning and a new mindset you can elevate yourself to be considered for the next leadership position. The side benefit is that while practicing these habits you build new leadership skills in the process. Here are five habits to elevate you to the next level:

  1. Ask for feedback
  2. Focus on the future
  3. Be a resource to others
  4. Keep emails to a singular focus
  5. Document your successes

Ask for feedback

Most bosses are not that great at giving performance feedback. If they were, there wouldn’t be any surprise firings, and you wouldn’t be doing more than your fair share to cover for the poor performer. Therefore to make sure your performance is as good as you think it is, ask your boss for feedback. Don’t catch your boss off guard or you won’t get the truth. Instead, ask for a 10-minute meeting for the purpose of evaluating your current project and the results you have so far. Send your boss an “agenda” ahead of time with three points:

  1. What am I doing well?
  2. Where do I need to grow?
  3. Suggestions.

Yes, you are the one doing all the work and setting the agenda, but your forward thinking will put you miles ahead of the other employees. And, if there’s anything you need to work on, you’ll know it before the “real” evaluation instead of afterwards. Finally, this skill will take you to the next level when you decide you want a leadership position.

Focus on the future

Sounds easy enough, but most of us are a broken record of the past. We talk about what someone should have done, what went wrong, what we don’t want, and who’s to blame. Master your communication. Instead of talking about what someone should have done, ask for what you need now. Instead of talking about what went wrong, talk about what you learned and how you envision the future if everything goes right. Instead of talking about what you fear, and what you don’t want, talk instead about what you desire and what you do want.

Example: Instead of saying, “I don’t want to argue,” say instead, “I want us to come to an agreement.” This skill takes practice, but will help you become a visionary leader instead of a micro-manager.

Be a resource to others

Instead of hording information, become the “go-to” person. This does not mean you do other people’s work for them. What it means is that you can guide others to the next step; share a tip on how to do the job more efficiently; or offer to mentor for a short period of time. You become a bridge to their success rather than a barrier.

To build this habit, you have to come from an abundance mentality and trust yourself to deal with consequences if someone takes your credit. You will also have to know how to set appropriate boundaries so that you are helping but not rescuing. 

Keep emails to a single focus

One reason people don’t respond to emails is because they have to work too hard to figure out what is being requested. Haven’t you ever gotten a long complex email and made a mental note to get to it later but out of sight became out of mind?

 Simple, short emails get results. Ask one question. Address one subject. Include your action item at the end of the email instead of at the beginning, and you make it easier for others to respond quickly.

Document your success

There are many ways to document your success. For example if you have asked for feedback from your supervisor, and you got better results, why not send your supervisor an email thanking him or her for their advice, while reporting the results. If you have helped a co-worker by being resourceful, follow up and ask how they used your advice.

Once again, you are taking credit and letting others subtly see your success without having to brag. In both examples you have created a paper trail.

Take the time to keep track of your successes using a simple word document as an electronic journal. It may seem cumbersome or time-consuming but the benefits outweigh the work. You can use these successes as “case studies” if you need to remind your supervisor of your superior performance.

 

Marlene Chism is a consultant, international speaker and the author of "Stop Workplace Drama" (Wiley, 2011) and "No-Drama Leadership" (Bibliomotion, 2015). Visit her website, and connect via Linked In, Facebook and Twitter.

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Learn-gevity: Enhancing your ability to learn, perform and succeed over time

“Wisdom is not a product of schooling but of the lifelong learning attempt to acquire it.” ~ Albert Einstein

Lifelong learning has long been understood to be a critical success factor. But today, it’s taken on even greater importance.

The pace of change continues to accelerate and the level of complexity, ambiguity and uncertainty means that what you knew yesterday may be irrelevant today. The half-life of technical skills continues to shrink. According to Josh Bersin, the half-life of a technical skill is just 2 years.

And lifespans continue to grow. In fact, it’s expected that 50% of millennials will live to 100 or older. Science confirms that learning throughout life has a profound effect on brain health.

As a result, building the sustainable capacity to continuously learn, grow and remain relevant has become a priority. It’s a differentiator for individuals and for the business. This concept, which I call Learn-gevity, may be the most fundamental core competency to be developed at all levels of the organization.

Remaining current and competitive today (and into the future) demands more than a casual interest or even a passionate commitment to learning throughout life. It demands new mindsets, habits, and ways of interacting with the world around us.

Consider the following actions to enhance your own learn-gevity.

Discover your discomfort zone

Learning occurs when we step beyond what’s known and comfortable. So pushing your personal limits to the point of heightened awareness and constructive stress (without stepping over the line to panic) offers a rich opportunity to arrive at new insights. But it also develops the confidence to continue pushing those personal limits.

Eschew expertise

For many, becoming an "expert" at anything can have a chilling effect on the ability to learn. Yet, no matter how much we know or how much we’ve achieved, it’s likely just a drop in the vast ocean of knowledge and experience still to be accessed.

Cultivate curiosity

Curiosity is a spirit, intention, and skill we can bring to our work, interactions with others and the world in general. It involves a genuine inquisitiveness, desire to understand, and willingness to step into a void with nothing more than questions and a receptive mind.

Abandon assumptions

Savvy individuals learn to spot trends and patterns. They connect dots quickly and effectively. In the process, they establish a set of operating principles and assumptions that drive their behavior. The upsides of this are obvious; but the downsides could compromise learn-gevity as we inadvertently shut down new sources of information that don’t fit our internal algorithms.

Stay social

Traditional learning models rooted in the educational system rely heavily on individual research and study. Learn-gevity, however, is based in large part on learning through and with others. Intentional connections offer a range of benefits, including the sharing of knowledge, insights, and experience.

Develop a discipline

A commitment to continuous learning requires (at least at first) a commitment to continuous attention. Build the learning habit by establishing personal rituals. Set aside and schedule specific times to seek out new perspectives or information. Allow for regular reflection. Over time, the effort will diminish as the habits take hold.

Illuminate the insignificant

While deliberate, scheduled efforts to learn are important, it’s equally important to recognize that learning frequently doesn’t occur on a schedule. Life offers a range of moment-by-moment opportunities to gain experience, tap wisdom, push boundaries and try new approaches. Learn-gevity means being open to and ready for these ad-hoc possibilities. It means mining the routine for richness.

Given the volume and velocity that characterize the contemporary workplace, it’s easy to push learning to the bottom of the to-do list. Yet, investing in learn-gevity today can help address current day-to-day pressures while building long-term, sustainable capacity that will contribute to future effectiveness and satisfaction -- at work and beyond.

 

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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