Have you heard of managing “in”?

We’ve heard of managing up, across and down (If you haven’t, here’s a nice philosophy describing each).  But what about managing “in”?

Working well with others requires us to understand others’ world view and make connections between our goals and theirs.  It requires us to communicate effectively and   engage productively – minimizing conflicts and leveraging strengths.  These are the fundamentals of managing up, down and across.

What if we applied those concepts more concertedly to ourselves?  For those of us who have endured work environments that have left us feeling worn down, keyed up and shot through, the concept of managing in may provide some relief.

There’s the science researcher with a nagging feeling that he’s not in the right job. The life coach who feels a little too coach-y.  The human resources executive who seems more suited to finance and operations.  The COO who can’t let go of the little stuff.  And the executive assistant who is diminished daily by disrespect.

In each of these cases, there’s friction.  Whether internal, external or both, each of these professionals are in conflict, stressed or bored and therefore not in a position to do their best – for the company, or themselves.

Managing in involves the following skills:

1. Objectively acknowledging your own world view: What circumstances are you facing right now? What’s working and what’s not?  Does it seem temporary or permanent? What expectations do you have that are not being met? What are you tolerating?  What’s in your way?  Giving voice to what you’re experiencing helps you gain perspective and think rationally about what’s missing and what should be preserved.

2. Making connections and getting aligned: What do you want? Are your own actions, behaviors and choices getting you closer to the goal? What other choices do you have?  Being clear about what you DO want as opposed to railing against what you DON’T want puts us in a more effective frame of mind for positive change.  Choices open the door to possibility – and often relief – allowing us to see a way through, over or around the brick wall (instead of banging our head against it).

3. Minimize internal conflicts: What are your typical “triggers”?  These can be things like being interrupted, disrespect, inconsistency, laziness, aggression and others.  Is your environment trigger happy? Are you adept at managing your reactions?  Do you end up compromise yourself or your values?  Do you know where the end of your rope is?  Understanding and managing the deeply rooted personal needs we have for things like respect, being understood, taking responsibility and the like, helps us choose better environments and gives us the courage to articulate our needs in any given situation.

4. Leverage strengths: When do you feel “on fire”, “absorbed”, “consumed” in an activity?  What do you most love to contribute to a project?  What are the natural strengths you possess?  These are qualities that your family, friends and colleagues remark on, the skills or abilities that you can’t help but put forth.  Whether it’s detail orientation, an insatiable curiosity, being a great listener or a penchant for competition – knowing and actively applying these talents brings out not only the best in ourselves but others as well.

These are the fundamentals of managing “in”.  Knowing who you are, where you are, where you want to go and what you can do about it.  In the new economy, where imagination, innovation, entrepreneurship, technological advancement and rapid fire constant change is the theme of the day, it is more important than ever to manage ourselves.  Indeed, at the end of the day, the only thing we’ve got a modicum of control over is ourselves.


Are your goals motivating or deflating?

Whether it’s a work related objective or a personal aspiration, our goals can provide great motivation at the outset. But soon we find our energy flagging. Why is that?
Based on recent developments in brain research and neuroscience, we have more answers but if you’re in a hurry to get back on track, here are three tips you can use right away:

1. The Why Behind the Why: Write down your goal and then take 10 minutes to write down all the benefits you will gain from achieving that goal. Often our goals represent larger, more impactful aspirations and getting in touch with those can provide added motivation for getting them done.

2. Constructive Venting: List three things that are draining your energy from achieving your goal. Take one of them and write down what you feel about that “drainer”: what expectations aren’t being met? What are you tolerating as a result of the drainer? What values are being compromised? Are you beating yourself up with “shoulds” or other guilt. Once you’ve finished unpacking your energy drained, ask yourself what you **really want**. Research shows that “venting” actually helps us transition from “stuck mode” to “solution mode”.

3. Options and Actions: Take 5 minutes to brainstorm all the options you have for breaking through what’s holding you back and for making progress toward your goal (write down every option you can think of – including things like changing or tossing out the goal). Show the list to a friend and have them make additional suggestions. Review the list and pick the ONE option that you have the most energy around and turn it into an action: what will you do, with whom, by when. Research shows that making specific movements forward – even if they are small movements – gives us more motivation to keep going.

This particular set of tips is being used successfully by HR professionals in employee relations conversations, by trainers in helping participants to assimilate new behaviors and by educators in tapping into student motivations.  They are just a sliver of the great value that comes from the Motivation Factor® Methodology – a comprehensive but terrifically practical framework for getting and staying motivated.  Learn more here!

Stretched thin? Thrive!

When we’re stretched thin at work we double down and try to muscle through.  We’re taught that a good work ethic means staying till it’s done, not complaining, skipping breaks and making it happen.  Unfortunately, when we do that, we may be making things worse.  Here are three tips for keeping yourself sane when the To Do list never ends:

1. Know the goal and agree on priorities: When time and resources are scarce consider scheduling more frequent check-ins with your manager and colleagues to review goals and fine tune the priority list.

2. Set expectations: “When do you need this done?” is a great question to ask when receiving a new task or project.  It helps you prioritize your work and can often reduce the anxiety of adding to the To Do list – especially when you find they don’t need it “yesterday”.   Likewise, when giving an assignment, include your expectations for deadlines.

3. Relax: More and more research shows that a quiet brain is a smarter brain.  The more stressed or harried we are, the less creative and insightful we can be.  So when you’re burning the midnight oil or working through lunch to solve a problem, you may actually be wasting time!   In fact, though it may not look productive, most revelations, insights and Aha!’s occur when we least expect them – while we’re driving, walking or taking a shower.  The shortcut to solving problems or hitting on that great idea?  Take a walk, take a nap, stare at the clouds.  Breaks throughout the day give your brain the needed rest to recharge and make those critical connections.

Human Resources and Learning Professionals:  What implications might this advice have on your strategy for productivity in the workplace?

No financial incentive? Stay motivated!

In a recent interview, I was asked how people can stay motivated when they can’t expect financial incentives from their organization.  Here are some additional ideas to consider:

Show Me The Money Meaning!

Cash may be king but finding meaning, personal contribution and wellbeing in your work can be an equally powerful motivator – potentially even more motivating than financial rewards.  If you’ve decided to work (or continue working) in a place that can’t hand out the bonus checks right now, here are four questions you can ask to get through cash strapped times:

1. Why work?  Beyond the paycheck, what do you get?  The answers will be different for everyone but that’s the point – to make it personal.    For instance, it may be that you get satisfaction from helping to make a difference in the world with your company’s product or service or building the necessary skills to progress in your career or the contribution you are making to your family by working at all.  Research shows that being aware of the ultimate purpose of your efforts can give you the pull you need to get through tough times.  Try posting a picture or a list in your workspace to remind you what you’re working for.

2. What do you do best? Take a moment right now to write down the three things you are naturally good at – the things that colleagues, friends and family seek you out for when they need help.  These are some of your inherent talents. Now consider how you feel when you are engaged in doing those things.  It feels good right?  Brain research shows that when we use our natural talents, we get a neuropsychological boost.  Actively applying these personal strengths in your work is like having your own personal motivation engine.

3. How’s my stress level?  Personal wellbeing is key to maintaining motivation over the long haul.  Running yourself ragged may give you short term results but comes with detrimental long term effects on motivation and performance.  Be sure to build stress-relievers into your days – even if it’s just standing to stretch or taking a short walk.

4. What’s the bottom line?  Be honest with yourself about whether your workplace is the place for you.  If you decide to push through this tough time, consider putting a date on the calendar – three, six or twelve months out.  Put the money issue on the shelf until then so that you can free up your mind to focus on the work.  When the date arrives, take stock of where you are and decide again.  If on the other hand, you are driven to distraction by the fact that you’re not paid enough, you may need to make a change.

For Human Resources professionals: Consider how you might guide employees through these tough times keeping the questions above in mind.

Hopes, Expectations and Accountability

Listening to a radio show today, the host asked “Do you think our hopes were too high when Barack Obama was elected?”

Yesterday, a high school student told his teacher “I hope to be a professional football player”.

Are our hopes too high?  Never.

Hope is unique to the human condition.   It is the sweet music calling from just around the corner that calls us forward and entices us to take the turn.

But what do we expect?

Ah.  Here is the problem.

Do we expect the music is being played by someone else? Placards of “Hope and Change” can only take us so far.

Do we expect that the music itself should carry us?  Unfortunately, the pro-ball team scout hasn’t received his engraved invitation to join us on the couch.

Indeed, the music of hope is just an echo.  It is first an echo of our own initial inkling.  It is then an echo of our own personal effort – should we choose to make it.  Only then can it grow louder and begin to carry us forward.

Are our hopes too high?  Always.  When we expect that others are responsible for making the music. When we abdicate responsibility for our own growth.  When we are blind to our part in the symphony.

We cannot expect our hopes to become reality without personal accountability.  Listen for the music. Pick up your instrument. Know the score. And play.

Is it the worst thing or the best thing?

Sometimes it’s hard to tell.  “Opposites attract”, they say.  “Being let go was the best thing that happened to me”, they say.

When you’re in it, it’s the worst.  With time and perspective (and perhaps counseling), well, it may still be the worst.  But with the right ingredients, it can indeed ultimately be the best.

When I met my husband, I was delighted by his carefree, devil-may-care spirit.  Twenty  years later (yes, I was a child bride) it was the very thing that drove me up the wall, across the ceiling, through the door and out of town (at least in my own mind).

I spent 15 years at a wonderful company where I learned and grew and developed in ways I could never have imagined.  Then, during a major consolidation, my job went away.

It’s really no fun when two “worst things” are happening at the same time.

I’m now happily married to a wonderful man and I have the most amazing job.  It’s the same guy.  It’s not the same job.

The right ingredients:

1. Give yourself time and space to envision what you truly want – no holds barred.

2. Understand that you – and only you – are responsible for your own happiness and success.

3. Use the resources that are available to you to sort out the garbage that is in your way of seeing what you want and what you need to do.  (this can be therapy, coaching, friends, self help books, meditation, floor hockey or many other activities you may never have considered).

4. Take action – any action – that moves you toward what you ultimately truly want.

5. Don’t think too far ahead.  You cannot conceive of, never mind plan for, the things that will happen down the line.  Take one step in the direction you’d like to go and deal with that next reality when you get there. Trust and move.

I have partnered with coaches, consultants and therapists who are trained in the art and science of moving people from stuck to solution.  Give me a shout if you’d like a referral.

What’s worked for you?




The Only Hurdle Is You

I was talking to my husband about my goals.  Telling him how I “think it’s working”, that “I’m pretty sure it’s going to work”.

He was encouraging in his good, consistent way.  “It IS working, Julie.”  “You ARE doing it.”

Then I told him that I had gotten some great feedback on a recent accomplishment.

And he said, with a note of desperation, “Julie! The only hurdle is you!”

So true.

My husband is an accidental Zen Master.


Wishing and hoping is not a good strategy

Wishing is for birthday cakes. Hoping is for scratch tickets.

There is the CEO who is exceedingly clear on what he needs his team to do differently and by when. The team is not.

There is the client who has been adamant that she’s not going to take it anymore. It’s been three years.

There is the sales person who is certain that things will uptick. Any time now.

Wishing and hoping are not good strategies for getting stuff done. Neither are they practical tools for making a difference.

What are you wishing and hoping for? That’s your goal. Write it down.

By when would you like to achieve that goal? That’s your deadline. Write it down.

What’s in your way of even wanting to THINK about getting started? These are your energy drainers. They are keeping you stuck. Get rid of them.

What will you ultimately gain when you’ve reached your goal? That’s your aspiration. Write that down too.

Now list all the options and resources you have to achieve your aspiration. Those are windows of opportunity. Pick one. Get it done.

Whether you are an HR leader influencing organizational change, a manager needing to boost performance or a business owner looking to grow, see those windows for what they are – wide open barn-door-sized opportunities to make a difference in your life and in the lives of others.

I work with business leaders who want to unlock intrinsic motivation for change and growth. Need a keynote? A management development program? A total team transformation? Let’s open some windows!

Accountable for your “bag”

Ever feel like you’re bent over backwards trying to get others to engage?  Whether the goal is innovation, quality, better performance or more positive attitudes, the situation is the same – we’re trying to inspire others to move to a better (more productive, more lucrative, more healthy…) place.

As managers, HR and OD professionals, coaches and consultants we are tasked with the responsibility for motivating others to change.

So…what ARE we doing wrong?

Well, you can check out these perspectives for a few of the answers (from picking up trash to helping too much) but if I – personally – were to pick just one thing? It would be “mismanaged accountability”.

  • Organizations are accountable for picking a strong market and committing to a clear direction
  • Leaders are accountable for navigating the business and the people through smooth and rough times along that chosen direction
  • Managers are accountable for understanding the goals, resourcing their teams and managing performance to support that direction
  • Employees are accountable for understanding their job and performing their best work for fair compensation
  • Educators are accountable for preparing students for the work contexts they will encounter
  • Students are accountable for exploring their possibilities and potential
I think if we were better at asking ourselves “Who’s holding what bag at the end of the day” and were honest about the answer and were courageous enough to say and do the things necessary to ensure that everyone was responsible for understanding and caring for and thinking creatively about their own bag, well…we’d all be more engaged.
It’s a big job – but we can do it.  At the very least we can influence it. By being clear about our goals, our roles, our responsibilities and our relationships.  By being honest enough and brave enough to push the boundaries for change, to be accountable for our part and to ask that others who choose to participate to be accountable for theirs.
Whether you agree or you have an entirely different answer – my hope is to provide both inspiration and very practical tools to support you in meeting your goals of motivation, engagement, productivity and good management.


Why do people REFUSE to MOVE?

Our success as change agents is predicated on our ability to meet resistance, shake its paw, and help it see a brighter way.  Understanding “threat response” is critical. 

After 20 years as a human resources, organizational development and management best practice expert, I felt I knew all the techniques for getting people engaged in their work, motivated toward their goals.  People told me I was uncommonly good at it and I had strong success in motivating individuals; turning around performance; building teams and repairing broken ones; and coaching managers and executives on the best ways to build engagement.

Of course no one can expect 100% success every time so I had come to believe that, simply, some people just refuse to be moved.

But I now know that’s not true.

Few people wake up in the morning and say “You know…I think I’ll be unreasonably obstinate today.  I’m going to refuse to acknowledge plain facts and resist any attempts by others to help me succeed.  Yeah…it’s going to be a great day!”

So why does it seem like so many people ACT that way in the face of change?  Well, recent developments in brain science and neuropsychology have given us much greater insight into the motivation behind our behavior.

You’ve heard the sayings: “I’ve got a lot on my mind”. “I was scared silly” or “I was so mad I couldn’t think straight”.  It turns out, those sayings are physiologically true.

We now know that:

1. Our working memory can only process so many things at once.  Once it’s reached its limit it is literally not able to take in or process more information.

Example: You’re driving home with work on your mind, you notice a knocking in the engine as you pull into the driveway.  Upon entering the house, you see the cat box needs to be cleaned and the kids haven’t finished their homework.  You then realize you need to get take out for dinner.  Do you remember where you left your car keys?

2. We can be cognitively crippled when our brain perceives a threat.  When we are scared or mad, our cognitive ability – our ability to think rationally, be creative, take in new information or even understand what someone is telling us – is compromised. Further, when we are in threat mode, our adrenaline is triggered and can cause us to behave in ways we might otherwise not.

Example: You’re presenting in a meeting to your peers and you keep getting interrupted.  People are second guessing your data and having side conversations while you try to maintain control of the room.  You finally get the meeting back on track when the conference room door opens behind you.  You let out an exasperated sigh, roll your eyes and shout “WHAT?” before you realize it’s the CEO stopping into to see your work. (Cringe)

What all this means is that a person may understand that they are being asked to change but be in some level of “threat response” and therefore be either unable to move forward effectively or, worse, be behaving in an unproductive way.

For those of us responsible for guiding individuals through change, it behooves us to understand this phenomenon and be prepared to facilitate through it.  Here are some tips:

1. Don’t underestimate the power of venting. Venting actually helps calm the brain’s threat response by giving voice to or acknowledging the perceived threat(s) and its impact on the individual.  Like a tea kettle, the key is to turn down the heat (provide some space and time) and let the steam out by venting until the pressure seems relieved.

2. There’s no need to debate the validity of the perceived threats.  If an individual perceives a threat – then the threat exists as far as his or her brain’s threat response system is concerned.  Acknowledge that it’s real for them and let them vent.  Don’t try to “fix” at this point.

3. Once the threats are acknowledged.  Ask what the individual would like instead. Success?  Confidence? Comfort?  Once the ideal end state for them personally is identified, work with them to generate some options for achieving that end state.  It could be letting go, being okay with failure, getting help, quitting – anything goes.  The idea here is to look to THEIR ideal future and generate choices for getting there.

Remember.  It is not possible to directly motivate someone else.  You can provide an environment conducive to being motivated and you can provide a framework for someone to use personally to get motivated.  But in the end it’s up to them.  And then it’s up to you to decide what the consequences are.