Key Point: I am saddened when I hear that people put up working for a lousy boss and/or company because of the feeling that it’s a necessity they’re “stuck with.” Of course most of us need a job. But that doesn’t mean it has to be the job you’re in. Putting up with a crummy situation is particularly common when the economy is weak and employment is tough to get. The fact is, if you have the right attributes to match good skills, you are a very valuable resource and are worth a lot. The more skill and experience you get the more valuable you are. You actually appreciate in value. The attributes that I believe in of course are self-accountability, respect and abundance. When these values are connected to high levels of job competence and experience, you become an “A” player and you have the right and personal responsibility to find a great employer and boss. You deserve it.
What should you look for in an employer? First of all, the vision, purpose and mission of the organization must be clear and worthwhile. It should be meaningful to you. If you don’t believe in what the organization does, and where it’s going, how can you work there in an authentic way? If the company is for profit, the business model should be understandable and sound. You should be confident it provides value people want to pay for in the long run. If not for profit, know where the sustainable funding comes from. Working for any company that is always worried about having enough cash just sucks. People behave poorly under the stress of going from hand to mouth. If this is the case… Get out! Great companies are also deeply committed to investing in your ability to develop and appreciate giving you autonomy when connected with accountability. Superb organizations are more interested in results and the value you provide.
What should you look for in a boss? If the company passes the above sustainability “mustard,” then you deserve a great boss. How do you know you have one? They are clear about expectations, deeply care about your improvement, respect you as a whole person (not just the worker person), ask for your input, give you sincere recognition, and make pay and benefits mostly a non-issue. They expect and model excellence, are clear about what they stand for and believe in, make and meet commitments consistently. They are emotionally intelligent and inspirational. You want to work for them. They show that they care about you in genuine ways. They are not perfect, and make mistakes but are authentic and humble in their humanness. You trust them. If they have to make tough decisions, they’re fair. If they are in it for themselves, abusive, blaming, moody, unpredictable, and take all the credit for all that’s good but never shoulder the problems… Get out! Here is one test: When was the last time they genuinely asked you how you were doing? Offered to help? Showed you how much they care about YOU? Do they know anything about you as a whole person? If the answer is rarely or never… Get out! Or, get a new boss.
- First of all, assess whether you are that “A” player. This is a combination of having a growth mindset, excellent functional competence and living the Character Triangle. If you feel like you are less than an “A” player… Create a plan to become one. What do you need to do?
- Rate your employer and boss according to the above. You deserve BOTH… A great organization AND boss! If you fall short in either… Develop a plan to get the best in both. You deserve it!
- Do not talk yourself into believing that you should work in a lousy environment to ” get experience,” or until the economy improves. You can get experience in a great environment too. And “A” Players are always in demand in any economy. Being an “A” player is like being a piece of real estate with a great view; it’s always marketable. You’re worth it. Have the courage to become an “A” player, working for an “A” company, with an “A” boss!
“A” all around in the Triangle,
Key Point: We make decisions about others very quickly. We have to be cautious about doing that because the meaning of respect, one of the tenants of The Character Triangle, is to “look again.” It is a powerful definition that encourages us to really observe and listen without judging hastily. However when I meet with others, I must admit that I do listen very carefully to the words and phrases used. Their language gives me a glimpse into what I think they really believe. Let me share a few of what I call “trigger words.”
“I.” People who define their success exclusively in the context of “I” make me wary. Most highly evolved and effective leaders describe their accomplishments in sincerely humble ways. They know that success is most often a result of many hands. Sharing that view does not diminish their contribution. It does however highlight the self-awareness required to understand that many people and fortunate conditions are necessary for great results. (The one time using “I” is appropriate is when leaders take the heat for something gone wrong).
“They.” Frankly, I detest the use of this pronoun in the context of blame. When I’m interviewing someone and they tell me the reason they want to work for me/us is because they are running away from “they,” I almost always conclude the discussion with a “no thank you.” This usually tells me that self-accountability is not fully resident in that person. I do not want to invest in teaching people to become self-accountable. I want them arriving demonstratively with self-accountability.
“Yeah, but…” When people use this phrase they might as well stop the conversation with me. My experience is that most often the word “yeah” is a big second fiddle to the word “but.” Resistance to exploring options with “ yes but-ers” is normally very high. People who lead with “yeah, but…” often have a closed versus growth mind-set. They spend their time thinking about why something won’t work versus finding ways to make things work.
“Should” and “Never”… Really? Why would I associate myself with “should” and “never?”
- Learn how to use precise words. Sometimes I think we have lost the importance of having an extensive vocabulary that provides us with the repertoire of using the most effective word to describe the feeling we want to accurately convey. I believe one has to READ great literature to expand our language catalogue. It’s not about huffiness it’s about the significance of clarity. Cable TV and abbreviated social media terms just don’t help very much.
- Watch words that tell you what people really believe in. Look for trigger words that determine whether the “feet and mouth” are really in sync. What are your trigger words?
- Be aware of the words you use that define and reinforce your beliefs. Language is powerful. You may want to believe you think a certain way but you give yourself “away” by what you say (and do, of course).
Say it and mean it in The Triangle,
Key Point: The indescribable hurt we feel from the horrific shooting at the Newtown, Conn. school this week is palpable. Sometimes “enough” really becomes “enough.” Americans, and to various degrees, the rest of the world, must have a crucial conversation about the devastating relationship between mental illness and assault weapons. We cannot close our eyes and hope “it” goes away. We know this is going to happen again and again if we do not allow ourselves to discuss the situation, with a meaningful path of action towards a more acceptable future state.
What can you and I do? What is in our control? At the most basic level, the one thing we can do is set an example by learning and practicing the skills required to participate in conversations when the stakes are high. We have the tools and knowledge, but it also means possessing the will and respect to be open to the possibility that it’s not just “my way or the highway.” We have to be open to the prospect of other views and paths suggesting a better way.
- Recognize your worldview is only one. We consciously or subconsciously filter what we see based on our deeply held beliefs. At best, this anchors us. At worst, it closes our minds to possibilities and promotes intellectual dishonesty. This kind of ignorance has contributed to much of our inhumanity. As an example, a movie like Spielberg’s Lincoln, gives us a window into how much we gave to change views on slavery.
- Commit yourself to learning and practicing how to manage crucial conversations. There are numerous very good models for doing this. Check this out as an example. This is not about how you can learn to convince another person that your view is right, it is about mutually finding a better way to a more desirable state.
- Learn how to apply this at home and work first. If we can all get better on a “local” level, perhaps we can increase our ability to effectively have crucial conversations on a broader scale. The alternative is to allow the unacceptable to repeat. If we allow that to happen, it’s because we do not have the will, focus and competence to change it for the best. And that is definitely living without character.
Inspired by little angels in The Triangle,
Key Point: Are you confident that you are running your own personal “show?” Or is your ego really the boss? Learn to put your higher self in charge.
I am not particularly good at putting things together. My brain just isn’t wired to see how mechanical, electrical or physical things naturally connect. When I drive by IKEA, my body trembles in fearful anticipation. I bought an audio system that needed to be assembled over the weekend. Of course it didn’t connect the first time and my response went to autopilot. The stimulus was the directions, the parts on the table and a failed first attempt. The autopilot response was to jump right out of the Triangle and to curse the “faulty equipment,” “lousy instructions,” and “incompetent sales person.” This is my ego trying to keep me “safe” and in control. But that is NOT the route to a spiritual, intelligent approach. The consequences of the “autopilot” in the example above are rather benign overall, but think of the potential results if we took a similar pattern when interacting with others we deeply care about and/or the people we work with. Here’s what I’m working on to put my “higher self” in charge instead of my overprotective, often unhelpful ego.
- Become more self-aware and understand the relationship between thought, emotion and action. Some thoughts create emotional reactions that often include anger, blame, fear and victimization. You have to learn how to short-circuit that egoist cycle.
- Here is the gift I promised! There is a space between the things that happen to us and our reactions. When we are running on autopilot, we are not aware of that space. As we become more aware there is a space, we can consciously expand it. The brilliant author of SQ 21, Cindy Wigglesworth, calls this inserting a “PAUSE.”
- Inserting a pause between stimulus and response will help you ask the question, “Who is in charge?” Is there a wiser way my higher self can handle this?
- Learning how to insert a pause takes self-awareness and practice. It is a gift you can give to yourself and the more your responses reflect your higher purpose, it will be a gift to others too.
Pause in the Triangle,
Key Point: Listening is more than just “hearing,” and a skill we’re in danger of losing in this world of digital distraction and big data overload. Stop: What do you hear right now?
By asking you what you are hearing, it causes your brain to take control of the sensory experience, and it makes you listen rather than just hear. According to scientists, that’s what happens when an event jumps out of the background enough to be perceived consciously rather than just being part of our auditory surroundings. The difference between the sense of hearing and the skill of listening is ATTENTION. How do we sharpen our attention skills so we don’t have to wait for the “big bang” noise to really listen?
When you actually pay attention to something you’re listening to, according to Seth Horowitz, an auditory neuroscientist at Brown University and the author of The Universal Sense: How Hearing Shapes the Mind…
“A separate ‘top-down’ pathway comes into play. Here, the signals are conveyed through a dorsal pathway in your cortex, part of the brain that does more computation, which lets you actively focus on what you’re hearing and tune out sights and sounds that aren’t as immediately important.”
Unless our hearing is impaired, it happens naturally and easily. But listening and attention are more challenging. Especially with all the additional distractions and work we put our brain through with all the BIG NOISE around us. But listening tunes our brain to the patterns of our environment faster than any other sense, and paying attention to the non-visual parts of our world feeds into everything that helps us grow our intellectual, emotional and physical capabilities. Really paying attention and listening is a huge part of the RESPECT value I talk about. In my case, when I’m in a stuck or deteriorating relationship, it is often related to me not listening as well as I might. I’m just not in the moment, present, and paying attention! The reverse is often also true; I connect with others much more and on a deeper level when I listen.
- Horowitz suggests that we can train our skills doing things like listening to different music, carefully capturing emotions attached to the harmonics in the voice of people we work with and significant others. Like everything else worth developing: Practice, practice, practice!
- Please just put the darn smartphone down, look the other person in the eye, and listen. Pay attention. If you still have the smartphone or iPad in your hands, you are likely more interested in waiting for the person to stop talking than really listening.
- Think about being at a cocktail party, when someone glazes over your shoulder for somebody “more interesting.” That’s kinda what it feels like when we aren’t paying attention and not listening.
- Remember that the best things to say during conversation will naturally come out of really listening, not loading your mouth up and waiting for the other person to stop talking.
Attention in The Triangle,