Your Network Should Be a Community

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If you want to understand the difference between a network and a community, ask your Facebook friends to help paint your house. – Henry Minztberg

I have spent the last ten years working remotely. I have been fortunate. My interest in writing about work life has provided the opportunity to connect with a set of contributors that I only dreamed of. On the surface of things, you might think this solves every network-related issue that I would encounter. Yet, that would be a false assumption. When it comes time to hash out an idea, I often find myself in a quandary. Who might be willing to offer feedback? Who has the time?

Sadly, my living-large network begins to show signs of distress.

We’ve all heard the advice that a network is vital to work and career. Yet for most of us, the potential members of that network — and what they should bring is unclear. We all seem to have at the bare minimum, a loosely connected group of we might label as a “network”. That network may alert you to important developments in your line of work, events or even job opportunities relevant to your path. But, what if that network isn’t supplying what you need to grow and evolve as a contributor?

I believe the difference lies in the notion of a network vs. a community.

In the opening pages of Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell tells the story of a small town in Pennsylvania which on the face of things, had defied all medical odds. The presence of heart disease was nearly absent in its population under the age of 65 — something quite unusual — and no one was able to explain this peculiarity. Examining diet, exercise and genetics of Rosetans offered no clues. They smoked heavily and ingested a fat laden diet. Family members living in other areas did not enjoy the same health outcomes. What was going on?

The identified explanation was surprising, even shocking. However, in retrospect it is an element that should have been in the forefront all along. It was the protective environment — which influenced health and well being. It was the very culture of Roseto itself. The built community that supported its residents, that made all the difference.

Huh.

In light of this, you may need to re-evaluate that network, disassemble portions and include needed aspects of a community that will help you thrive.

You see a network — is not a community.

There are conditions that might alert you that your network is falling short.
Here are a just few:

  • Ideas are no longer central. There should be opportunities to not only learn new things, but the opportunity to present and evaluate your own ideas. If the latter element is missing, you are essentially standing still.
  • A lack of sensed commitment to your well-being. Social media might facilitate large career-focused networks. However, large networks do not guarantee a group of individuals that support you. While networks should be mutually beneficial, if the focus is exclusively “transactional”, an important quality is lost.
  • A safety net. Communities should offer a sense of psychologically safety. If safety isn’t present, it isn’t likely you’ll share the problems or challenges that make or break a career path.
  • A lack of honest feedback. None of us would find it easy to grow, without feedback or advice. Functioning in an echo chamber — with only our own thoughts and opinions — isn’t won’t suffice.
  • The belief criterion. It is imperative that you surround yourself with those that you feel truly feel believe in you. If you sense this is missing, consider altering your line-up. If not, you may hear their lack of confidence reflected in your own thoughts.

Look to your network to also serve as a community of advocates.

As human beings we need this.

It is not an unreasonable request.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist. She is a charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program. Her thoughts on work life have appeared in various outlets including Talent Zoo, Forbes, Quartz and The Huffington Post.

You Should Answer These Work Life Questions Before 2019

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There are as many work life journeys — as there are contributors. All paths can be fulfilling for the right person. However, feeling comfortable with our work lives essentially boils down to one enduring dynamic: what we invest (time, stress, emotional investment) vs. the outcomes (pay, recognition, joy, feelings of accomplishment, sense of community) that emerge.

It is the exchange that is vital. If there isn’t balance, we might begin to feel exhausted. Drained of motivation. Frustrated. Fast forward and become completely disengaged. The beginning of the end.

So, I’ll pose the following questions:

Is the exchange agreement of your work life working for you?

If not, what needs to shift to bring some measure of balance?

What would you like to see more of in your work life in 2019?

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist. She is a charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program. Her thoughts on work life have appeared in various outlets including Talent Zoo, Forbes, Quartz and The Huffington Post.

Managing a Team? Turn the Small Changes Into Small Wins

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I’m a huge fan of small wins when it comes to organizational change. (I believe Kotter is as well. Read his iconic article here). I’ve watched small wins reignite hope and forge forward progress.

I’m also a fan of Seth Godin. (If you know me well, this isn’t a much of a secret.) Not a professor of organization theory, or a psychologist — he has an uncanny ability to distill a semester’s worth of readings concerning organizational topics into a few profound paragraphs. I suspect he has an innate sense that allows him to fully understand human beings.

Here is an except from a recent blog post:

Chronic
The worst kind of problem is precisely the kind of problem we’re not spending time worrying about. It’s not the cataclysmic disaster, the urgent emergency or the five-alarm fire. No, the worst kinds of problems are chronic. They grow slowly over time and are more and more difficult to solve if we wait…Seth Godin

You see it is the small things — those micro-events that repeat over and over again — that define an organization. It is the small things that speak volumes about a brand, to clients, customers and employees. Conversely, it is the small things that can become chronic points of contention. They are the overlooked bad habits of your team or organization. The less than stellar experiences that leave your organization weakened.

It is also the small things that offer us a tremendous opportunity to build trust and devotion among our customers & clients. These seemingly small events, can offer the possibility of growth and connection. They allow an organization to build a more worthy foundation. A stronger future.

My opinion concerning the smalls things isn’t random. It developed after years of observing the repeated ineffectiveness of top-down organizational change efforts. There are clear reasons that 70% of transformation efforts fail. Deeply connecting people to change is one looming abyss that we must consider. Why should they invest — if they feel they aren’t a part of the solution?

The small things are not a detached, heavily engineered project that must be monitored, poked and prodded, to affect change. They are simple. They are owned by your team. Those that know the work.

These small things are a gift.

These small things — can become the small wins that matter.

The wins that drive positive change.

I challenge you (your team, your department) to identify 5 “small things” that would make a huge difference to your customers, your employees, your patients. Find a way to transact these opportunities into a re-imagined reality.

Build that new habit, which changes the entire game.

You see, the small things — really aren’t small at all.

Have you applied this technique? Share your experience with our community.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist. She is a charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program. Her thoughts on work life have appeared in various outlets including Talent Zoo, Forbes, Quartz and The Huffington Post.

Your Job is a Poor Fit: What to Do While You Wait For a Better Opportunity

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Photo by Hans-Peter Gauster on Unsplash

It is not uncommon to find ourselves in a role — or an organization — not adequately aligned with our  work life goals. Indeed, no role is perfect. However, what if it has become crystal clear that the fit just doesn’t seem to be there? (More about 6 signs of a poor fit here.) We can’t simply pick up and leave — and in most cases no one would advise this. So, the looming question then becomes: What should you do while you wait for your next (and hopefully improved) opportunity?

Consider Jamie, an experienced professional who has re-entered the workforce after a few years on the sidelines. The organization she recently joined is not aligned with the experience amassed in her core sector and she is feels incredibly challenged to keep up with the daunting learning curve. She realized that this first step back into full-time work wasn’t going to be perfect a fit. However, the on-going daily stress is challenging her resolve to stick things out for the longer haul. She knows this step is crucial, but feels she is quickly fading.

Of course, a poor fit isn’t reserved for seasoned professionals.

Jessica, a recent university graduate, entered the world of work with high expectations concerning what she might accomplish in her first year on the job. Active in clubs and organizations related to both her training and intended path, she enjoyed a high level of both autonomy and respect. However, in the real world of work — she is faced with the challenge of proving herself once again. Her manager clearly isn’t open to new ideas from a less established employee and she is struggling to even gain meeting invites. Frustrated and dejected, she toys with the idea of moving on to greener pastures.

Both situations are common — and potentially devastating. Having a heart-to-heart with yourself is often number one on the agenda. Often you must embrace the fact that this happens to many and does eventually resolve. Learning from the situation can offer strategies going forward.

Jill Katz Founder & CHRO at Assemble HR Consulting, shares this advice: “You would be surprised how often people feel stuck in their own role”. Jill who has led HR for several brands, including Macy’s and Calvin Klein continues, ” As we move into a world where personal and professional goals are blending — it is more important to get in touch with what we want — how to get it and how to manage the interim. One critical strategy is to be highly candid with a direct supervisor during the interview process and every week thereafter, to ensure the communication is fluid and open. More than not, these frustrations correlate with this process not occurring.”

In most cases, a combination of strategies can help us move forward effectively.
Here are a few to consider:

  • Get real. Expectations can be a real bear to deal with, especially when you’ve over-extended an idealized vision of the near future. If you’ve realized that you miscalculated a role’s potential or there were promises made that couldn’t possibly be met, you may find that a “come to reality” discussion with yourself may be in order. Clarify what you can — and cannot — accomplish career-wise in this role and emphasize the positives. Look for “smalls wins” that will feed your workplace soul.
  • Chill & give it time. Being impetuous is not a great virtue within the broader context of a career plan. If you are new to a role or organization, for example, give things at least 3-4 months to establish. This allows time to gain an understanding about the ways things work and for your manager and colleagues to learn your strengths. A career is not like microwaveable popcorn — things take time. If you’ve been with an organization for a time, you know how things can change and things can resolve for the better.
  • Look for an inspiring project. Organization work on many fronts. Seek a project with an inspiring mission, that might help build your connection to the organization and those within it. Staying 100% engrossed in work you do not connect with, is a miserable experience.
  • Glean what you can. If you can’t move into the right role, make a commitment to learn something valuable. You could seek inspiring individuals that might contribute to your development. For example, there could be a colleague well-versed in a skill of knowledge realm, that would be advantageous to your career.
  • Take the time to focus on people. Jill point out that, “Regardless of the subject matter, building relationships will always help to drive a career forward. In moments of stand-still, maximize relationships, get to know others on a more human level by offering time and assistance. This will pay off in the end when new teams are formed and new opportunities become open in the future.” These formed bonds could carry you through a difficult impasse.
  • If all else fails, consider short-term “survival” goals. If you find yourself barely hanging on, setting shorter-term goals can help. If overwhelmed or have lost your patience, focus on getting through the week. Then the next week. Thinking longer-term may be counter-productive.

Being in a less than perfect role, doesn’t necessarily mean that you cannot continue to move forward. It simply means that you must change the lens — and utilize the time in front of you in ways that you may have not previously expected.

Of course, I hope that a better fit is right ahead of you.

Do you have a “poor fit” strategy? Share it with our community.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist. She is a charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program. Her thoughts on work life have appeared in various outlets including Talent Zoo, Forbes, Quartz and The Huffington Post.

We Don’t Always Respect Our Own Strengths. We Need to Change That.

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Photo by James Pond on Unsplash

 

Strengths have endured as a focal point of career growth. Whitney Johnson speaks of our unsung “super-powers”, that can drive both career disruption and growth. Massive training organizations, have arisen to discuss how we might find our strengths. Psychologists speak of how we can augment organizational agility by matching contributor strengths with the needs of a specific role.

We all agree that strengths matter — and that their identification is vital.

However, no amount of press, research, training or persuasion, can help us avoid the wasted energy and missed opportunities that occur because of one simple fact: As individuals, we may not always respect those strengths. The idea deeply resonates with us — however, truly adopting a strength mindset may not follow. (I would venture to say that our behaviors reflect this discrepancy.)

We tend to treat strength alignment, as if it were a luxury item — when in fact it essentially functions like water. A fundamental. A basic. A necessity.

We should attempt to normalize the notion of strengths and strength alignment. We might explore methods to bring them front and center, in our everyday work lives. Few things could sustain us career-wise, with as much power, as the opportunity to identify and apply our strengths. But, inevitably “noise” that presents while seeking to apply that “strength signal”. (For example, consider how we naturally give more weight to a failure or setback, than a success. This dynamic often distracts us from forming meaningful connections about our own performance.)

The bottom line is this: if we do not truly value strengths — we won’t begin the process of advocating for their use.

Weaving the notion of strengths into our conversations about work and work life, should become much more natural. There are opportunities that we often overlook. When have you freely shared with a team member: “You know, you have an incredible ability to do this — let’s be sure you have the opportunity to develop and apply this skill going forward.” Similarly, when is the last time you asked: “What do you see as my strengths? What am I missing that others might see in me? What do I complete decidedly well?” (Need a method to guide this process within your organization? Explore the Reflected Best Self Exercise — the RBS — here and here.)

Now, what happened next? What was done with that information? Did anything change going forward? After we gather the information, that knowledge needs to serve as a guiding force, helping us (and others) through our own career journey. A campaign — so to speak.

Aligning strengths with career won’t happen without a nudge in the right direction. We have to act as though we truly believe in its importance.

On some deep, foundational level, it is up to us to champion the mindset and lead that charge.

Do you utilize a technique that helps others follow their strengths and incorporate them into their work lives? Share it here.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist. She is a charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program. Her thoughts on work life have appeared in various outlets including Talent Zoo, Forbes, Quartz and The Huffington Post.

 

What Might Have Happened at Uber: Protecting Leaders From Hubris

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Photo by Pro Church Media on Unsplash

There is a well known Peter Drucker adage — “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”.

I do agree.

We’ve watched countless organizations suffer at the hands of their own culture. There are clear examples where the culture has morphed into such as incredibly difficult beast, that it leaves an organization at the brink of demise (think General Motors, News of the World, etc.) This week, we’ve learned in grave detail how Uber has seemingly turned a corner and driven directly into the muck — and at first glace we might place all blame on its culture.

However, we must recognize that culture is created by the leaders who shape that organization. Uber is no different. Those who have a hand in molding the mores, accepted practices, methods and mechanisms to support those practices. Leaders fail. They fail because they fall prey to the most human of mistakes. Mistakes of perspective that we have likely all made — but on a much grander scale that promises a widespread effect on countless individuals.

Culture can operate like a precarious game of dominoes. It is always a delicate game of balance. Once out of alignment, the entire game is halted. Ultimately, leaders have the responsibility to monitor that balance.

One element which affects this balance is hubris. A state when a leader passes into a “loss of objectivity zone” that can forever mark a company. Hubris is a disease of perspective — defined as “excessive pride or self confidence” — and the impact within an organization can be devastating.

I’ve written previously about why and how leaders fail. From Abercrombie to Wells Fargo to Volkswagen , the rise of leaders only seems to be matched by their cataclysmic demise. From falling prey to bias, to losing touch with customers — when looking back at the signs and symptoms, diagnosing a growing problem seems simple.

Hubris, you see — is a disease of perspective.

In a recent Atlantic article, Jerry Useem eloquently explores this damning by-product of leadership success. Borne of power and fueled by bias, hubris is an over-confidence that can only come from power that insulates. Research has captured the phenomenon, which is characterized by a lack of “mirroring” or empathy for others. They stop doing what likely helped them attain success. Power, it seems, can stop leaders from remaining effective.

But this question looms: How do we protect leaders from hubris?

I have my own ideas.

However, I would like to learn yours.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist. She is a charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program. Her thoughts on work life have appeared in various outlets including Talent Zoo, Forbes, Quartz and The Huffington Post.

The Everyday Guide to Workplace Confidence: Work Hard & Yes, Feel a Little Entitled

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Confidence. One very tough customer to master.

If you’ve ever stood tentatively in front of an audience — or felt like an impostor after being praised or promoted — I’d wager those nagging feelings were rooted in your level of confidence.

When you consider confidence in the workplace there are so many platitudes, but few offer honest guidance. How do you truly “believe” in yourself when faced with the career moments that matter most? The situations simply cannot be scaled by rehearsed advice. They cannot be met by memes or empty platitudes.

How do we truly build confidence? Well, I’ve stumbled upon one perspective that may hit a relevant nerve (it stopped me cold).

I don’t often find time for magazines. Yet, when I visit the hair salon, I leave my phone at home and unplug. I thumb through Glamour, Vogue, Allure and they all seem offer their own brand of career advice. One column in particular, shared at Glamour was authored by Mindy Kaling. Granted, she is not a traditional career writer as she’s an actress. However, she has managed to accomplish career-wise what few have in her industry, which I find noteworthy.

Here is her thoughtful (second) response to this question, originally posed by a nervous young girl at a speaking engagement, which she admittedly got all wrong the first time around:

“How did you build your confidence?” Her revised response was direct and unapologetic.It went something like this (I apologize for the choice of words, they were hers and would lose something with an edit).

Work very hard. Know your $hit. Show your $hit. Then feel entitled.

I agree 100% that confidence is rooted in mastery. In experiences. In owning what you bring to the table. Confidence comes from building feelings of self-efficacy in a wide range of situations. It requires challenge, a fair amount of balanced exploration and failure — mentorship, guidance and exposure.

True confidence includes the notion that we are not entitled to rewards, simply because we desire them. Rewards come with time and hard work.

  • Confidence comes from learning from those around you.
  • It requires patience and the belief that you can learn something from every person and every scenario.
  • It requires adequate feedback and reflection.
  • It is the deeper realization that you can handle the problems (and people) that stand before you.
  • Confidence is earned.

When you do practice your craft — confidence is your entitlement.

So try the following:

  • Seek broad experiences and “challenge assignments”.
  • Develop a deep knowledge of your industry and its current experts.
  • Push yourself. Get up when you fall. Alter your course. Rebound.
  • Find a mentor who helps you recognize and invest in your talent.
  • Be aware of the competencies you may require ahead of the “disruption curve“.
  • Continue to learn.
  • Grow.

And then, yes — feel entitled to some measure of success.

Through all this, I suspect that confidence arrives unannounced with little fanfare. It takes hold, then lives in your workplace soul — and cannot be measured by the sum of your individual experiences.

It’s more akin to letting a gorgeous, glistening wave roll over you.

Thanks Mindy.

That clears things up.

What are your thoughts about building confidence? Share them.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist, advisor and coach.