Category: Professional Development

Finding and Doing What Makes You Happy

You’ve probably heard the Confucius quote, “if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.” It sounds like a tall order, particularly when you feel a lack of passion and enthusiasm for your job. Of course, work isn’t the only thing that influences happiness, but it is where you spend the majority of your time. Can it really make you happy? Many factors come into play, such as the way you’re managed, how much you like your co-workers, and your role within an organization. But work that also matches your interests and maintains your motivation is much more likely to keep you absorbed and content. Not exactly a surprise! Then why does it feel so elusive?

What Are The Characteristics Of A Fulfilling Career?

When it comes to career fulfillment, there’s a combination of factors that come into play. For starters, you have to believe in what you’re doing and it has to matter to you. Your work needs to have a purpose and positive impact – not necessarily on the entire world, but perhaps just one person. You shouldn’t have to sacrifice your life for the work you do. “Work-life balance” is a popular term these days, but it certainly means different things to different people. Autonomy and freedom are also important. If you think you have to be somewhere for X amount of time just to put in “face time,” that usually leads to dissatisfaction. And last but not least, it’s important to get compensated for the work you do, so you don’t feel like you’re struggling to make ends meet.

Which Jobs Would Make You Happiest?

Studies abound about job satisfaction and occupations that rank high and low on the happiness scale. But whatever the averages say, you are probably going to be happiest in a job for which you are better suited. Consider personal factors and start by asking yourself the following five questions. They may seem simple, but when you really sit down and map out the answers, you may discover something you never thought about previously:

  1. What am I good at? And is there a job where I can do it?
  2. What do I like to do? And is there a job which involves that activity?
  3. When have I felt happiest? Is there a job that replicates that situation?
  4. Which jobs am I qualified for based on past experience?
  5. Which jobs meet the criteria above and provide enough income?

Feeling “stuck” in your current job? Read our article on Tips For Dealing With A Work Slump. If you’re interested in engaging your organization in Professional and/or Personal Development to increase job satisfaction, call Leah M. Joppy & Associates at 301-670-0051 or email us at leah@lmja.com. We’d love to discuss your objectives!

Self-Awareness In Career Development

Learn from experience. There’s nothing wrong with failure. There’s nothing wrong in recognizing your strengths and weaknesses. How often do you hear people 50 or older say that they wish they had the wisdom they have now, when they were in their twenties. When we are aware of ourselves, we are most likely aware of others. And that ability to know how people will react is critical to good leadership. We can maximize the potential of our teams if we are able to reduce conflict, use competitive advantage and drive organizational effectiveness.

Take time to know who you are. Objectively, can you identify your strengths and weaknesses? It’s essential for a company to perform its own SWOT – identifying Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. Performing your own personal SWOT is essential for identifying your self-awareness. Think about your trigger points – what sets you off and completely derails any other thoughts? How do you deal with criticism? And on the other hand, what inspires you?

STOP normal behaviors. If you’ve always “taken the bull by its horns” and barreled forward – without regard to the team or to other suggestions, put on the brakes. Instead, look around. Seek information from others who will be part of the development of the plan going forward. Indeed, surrender control and seek cooperation. The end result can be a more collaborative effort – one that is far more likely to succeed and one that you are more likely to enjoy.

Don’t wait. More often than not, individuals tend to think about self-awareness during periods of transition. During a career change, personal crisis or family emergencies, we often experience the need to re-evaluate our lives. But in truth, it’s important to be sensitive of our own changes, and the environment around us, even when life seems to be running smoothly. These ongoing assessments of ourselves help us become more fluid and flexible as our career and environment change.

Collect data. To develop an accurate self-assessment, we must collect data. We have to answer questions about our own personal qualities. Create a list for yourself that includes:

  1. Interests – both career-wise and personal.
  2. Values – make a list of what’s important to you, both in your career and in your personal life.
  3. Talents – objectively list your talents, not just hard skills learned through education, but soft skills learned through experience.
  4. Abilities – these are different from talents in that these are usually innate. You have natural abilities that make you suitable to different jobs and relationships.
  5. Lifestyle preferences – these are different for all of us. Some prefer to live in the suburbs; others would rather live in the city. What are your preferences?

Taking the time for self-exploration is key to adding value and control in your own life – regardless of age or organizational environment.

Personal development, including self-assessment and self-esteem, is an attainable goal for any organization. These skills are particularly important in today’s workplace as organizations demand flexible work environments. Leah M. Joppy and Associates offers various seminars on Personal Development. Please give us a call at (301) 670-0051 or email us at leah@lmja.com to discuss the needs of your organization.

What Are the Barriers to Self-Assessment?

As noted in our previous article on Self-Awareness In Career Development, building self-awareness involves collecting data on your values, skills, talents and other personal qualities. Because environments are continually changing and issues may be complex, self-assessments may be inaccurate if certain problems exist. Here are some categories of problems that should be considered in every self-assessment.

  1. Too Much, or Too Little Data. Too much or too little information leads to a distorted self-awareness. This is especially true when data is collected during a time of transition.
  2. The Threat of Anxiety. Because we are collecting information on ourselves, an anxious person may perceive the results as a threat to self-esteem. When this happens, an individual will focus on their anxious feelings, rather than the data itself.
  3. Self-esteem. Individuals with low self-esteem tend to interpret data that is consistent with their low self-esteem. When thinking more about their own self-image rather than an accurate assessment of self, inaccuracies are bound to happen.

Because self-assessments can serves as guides for career actions, if one of the barriers exist above, individuals may make hasty career decisions or neglect to change their behaviors as needed. In that case, an outside observer should be consulted before determining the accuracy of the self-assessment.

Need help with creating personal or career development goals? Both are the keys to a successful Individual Development Plan. Please give us a call at (301) 670-0051 or email us at leah@lmja.com to discuss the needs of your organization.

Traits Of Our Best Leaders

We listed the strengths that are most often sought in the leaders of an organization in our article “Do You Have The Right Leaders?” But leadership is more than skills and intellect. Leaders also must have the right traits to lead effectively. Here is our list of the most effective qualities in a leader.

  1. Leaders must inspire action. If inspired, we find ways to clear roadblocks.
  2. Leaders must be optimistic. Lift up our spirits and we’ll work even harder.
  3. Leaders must have integrity. If we believe our leader is fair, we have faith in him or her and move forward confidently.
  4. Leaders must be supportive. If we feel supported, we are more apt to take risks and seek challenges.
  5. Leaders must be confident. A confident leader inspires us to accomplish more.

Are there other traits that you think are important for a leader? Send us an email at leadership@lmja.com and tell us why the trait is important to you. We’ll add it to the list!

It’s My Co-workers Fault!

Your co-workers may have their own habits and preferences. Sometimes these work habits will clash with yours. In this article, we give tips on how to make it work for all.

I once had an assistant that worked hard to get 90% of the project done, but couldn’t seem to wrap it up. It was frustrating. A project could end up on the to-do list for months, when really, it would only take an hour to put it to bed! I finally figured out the problem. She insisted on doing things her way.

How we work is personal. Some of us create to-do lists religiously. Others work on what’s urgent and forget the rest. A lengthy meeting where the project strategy is presented in detail is perfect for some workers, whereas others would prefer to read a long memo. A CEO might be the big thinker – willing to publish his/her ideas to the company – expecting others to figure out the details. We are all different. Figuring out the best way to work with others can significantly increase your chance for success.

Making changes for the benefit of the team. How we work may depend on our age, culture, experience and geographic location. But at work, we’re all on the same team. The success of that team may depend on how we work with each other and what changes we make in consideration of others. Here are some tips for working with people who have developed habits that are different from yours.

  1. Build a common understanding, trust and commitment. Easier said than done, right? To build a common purpose, it’s imperative that we consider what is important to people, what is below the each person’s surface (what you cannot see), and the inner layers of values and beliefs. As a team, when we create common ground rules we help build trust and commitment in our purpose.
  2. Instead of lamenting our differences, focus on the strengths everyone brings to the table. The truth is, the more opinions, and the more variety of ideas around the table, the more likely we will be more creative and innovative in the solutions we develop.
  3. Celebrate collaboration. If you always have a habit of wanting to do things on your own, think differently. While independence is good in some situations, generally people who are team players experience more success at work.
  4. Listen, and be empathetic. Being respectful builds trust. Knowing how you work, and understanding how others work, strengthens the communication among all team members.

As for my assistant mentioned in the beginning of this article, she insisted on closing the loops in projects through email. It was her preferred method of communication. But many of the people she needed to communicate with were either very busy, or travelled frequently. By adjusting her habit and putting aside an hour to either walk to each office (we were all in the same building), or talk to them on the phone, solved the problem. A simple changed proved successful.

Why Do We Work So Differently?

If you type “successful work habits” in any search engine, you’ll find numerous articles on what habits we should develop if we want to be successful. So why can’t everyone just understand and foster those habits? It’s not quite so easy. There are some habits ingrained in our personalities because of various factors. Consider the following:

  • Age. How old we are dictates subtle differences in work habits. Consider the following. 60% of people 55 years old and older prefer to meet face to face. Of those 24 – 35 years of age, only 35% prefer to meet in person. When asked if they should be promoted every 2-3 years if they’re doing a good job, 43% of those 55 and older agreed, while 61% of 25-34 year old agreed.
  • Culture. Values and beliefs are part of our national culture. Some people may not even be aware of these values and beliefs until challenged by others. Different values lead to different behavior. It’s important to learn these differences in order to work with people from other cultures.
  • Experience. The more experience we have, the more problems we’ve encountered. We believe we know what works, and what doesn’t work. Those with less experience however, are willing to try new ideas. Sometimes we clash over those ideas.
  • Geographic location. Sometimes our culture and our location work together to influence our work habits. You can even see the difference in the continental U.S. Very often Californians are at work early in the morning – as early as 6 a.m. They work with colleagues on the east coast who are sending email and conducting meetings on our side of the country. Consequently, they’re gone from the office by 3 pm their time.

Considering all of the complexities of a team, if we can create some common ground rules for everyone, we can help building trust and commitment.

A Toxic Workplace

It’s a hot topic these days. From the problems at Uber to the damage experienced at a major network, hearing a story of a dysfunctional workplace seems like part of the daily news feed. Indeed, if you sit down with colleagues, almost everyone can tell a story about a bad boss or misplaced priorities in the workplace.

The trick here is knowing how to filter through all of the information you are hearing, or witnessing, and deciding whether the environment is stressful, not the expected norm, or definitely toxic.

We’ve outlined key problems that are often seen in toxic workplaces.

  1. Major Communication Problems. This is sort of like the “who’s on first” syndrome. When you are in an environment where communication problems are rampant, working together to further the good of the company or organization is extremely difficult. It may start with the director, who may not be communicating properly with his/her supervisors. The next thing you know, supervisors are communicating different stories to their employees. It can even extend to customers, who are given misleading information. It’s also possible that a toxic organization has NO communication – so employees find out about major decisions after they’ve been implemented.
  2. Leaders Who Only Agree. I once had a boss who really only wanted to hear people agree with her. Any effort at disagreement, or giving another side to an argument, was considered treason. The result was that employees simply shrugged their shoulders when asked to do something. It became easier to comply rather than to face getting fired!
  3. Employees Who Don’t Care. If employees feel the need to survive, rather than fight, they become apathetic. There is absolutely no interest in setting the record straight or providing another opinion. Instead, employees trudge forward, holding a blind eye and deaf ear to anything that is going on.
  4. Inconsistent Policies. In this case, depending on who you ask, you get different answers. Companies or organizations who do not have consistent policies often experience chaos – employees decide to do whatever they want!
  5. Narcissistic Leaders. These types of leaders consider themselves better, brighter and privileged. Rules don’t apply to them. Witness how many leaders you know from history who have made stupid decisions that ruined their careers.

The solution? So what’s our point with this article? It may be that some places are just plain toxic – they were created that way and continue to run that way. But in most cases, a dysfunctional workplace happens over time. It is entirely possible to change the atmosphere of an environment that is leaning toward toxicity. But in most cases, it takes an outside resource to change an environment.

That’s where Leah M. Joppy & Associates can help. We have seminars on diversity, workplace performance and leadership. We can help build trust and integrity within an organization. Give us a call today and let’s discuss your needs.

How Can You Work In A Dysfunctional Environment?

Navigating a toxic workplace takes a strategy! Whether your organization is becoming dysfunctional, or you started a new job and found yourself in an uncomfortable environment, there are things you can do to cope with the situation.

  1. Focus on what you do. Don’t get involved with the gossip. Don’t take sides. Instead, look at your job as independently as possible and do your best.
  2. Find friends you can trust. No matter what the situation, it helps to discuss problems. And if you are all doing your best for the organization, you can hold each other accountable for the work being done.
  3. Stay away from your toxic co-workers. Set yourself apart from the problem. Even if you act as an advocate to someone who is part of the problem, you become part of it yourself. Have the conviction to keep your distance.
  4. Work in a vacuum. While this is the opposite of what we really should be doing, if you tune out the problematic behaviors surrounding you, you are better off.
  5. Be part of the solution, not the problem. Set an example for those around you and excel in your job.
  6. Make a decision. If all else fails, if you’ve tried to change the environment and you don’t see any progress, you may have to change jobs. It’s not something we want to do, but sometimes, for our own health, it’s a decision we have to make.

The Intriguing Habits of Highly Successful People

It’s a question we get asked all the time. . . “What system do you use to stay organized and productive?” When we’re organized and work is flowing freely, we feel in control. But we all have times when things are happening so rapidly that keeping up with it all leaves us feeling a little lost. Friends are quick to give us their tips. . .

  • “I don’t look at email until I leave work. . .”
  • “I organize first, then turn on my computer.”
  • “I only use a paper system. . .working electronically doesn’t work for me.”

While we appreciate the free advice, often their tips just don’t work for us. So this month, we decided to-do some research and find out how the most successful people organize their days. When Monday arrives, what’s the first thing they do? And what are their weekends like – are they stuck to their electronic devices? What we uncovered was a little surprising. We hope these ideas will help you develop a system that will lead to more success.

First things first. Before you dive head on into work, consider what is important to you. If work-life balance is important, determine what you can do to help achieve that balance and set a goal. For some of the successful people we researched, that meant walking to work – not only to clear their heads of clutter, but also to get some exercise. For others, the morning ritual meant doing something for themselves first, before anything else. Whether that means listening to music, reading for half an hour or getting to the gym, setting their own goals and following through on them resulted in a feeling of control. Having achieved their first goal of the day, successful people were also in the right mood to tackle work.

Planning their week. Clearly, successful people view Monday morning as a fresh start to an exciting work week. They believe that planning their routine helps to set the right tone for the rest of the week. Their habits reveal an organized work ethic. Here are some of those habits:

  1. Getting up early is key – 5 a.m. is not unusual.
  2. Surprisingly, a number of successful people believe in walking their dogs first, which they believe helps their stress levels and improves their health.
  3. Breakfast is their fuel – they don’t skip it but instead realize that it’s a vital part of their day.
  4. Successful people understand the need for exercise and usually, that means getting it done in the morning.
  5. Email organization is top priority. Most successful people only respond to critical emails and delete or file other messages.
  6. Successful people also keep informed – reading the news on their phone or taking the newspaper on the train – is key to their understanding of what’s going on in the world.

Long term planning. Interestingly enough, besides taking care of their own health, both physically and mentally, most successful people spend approximately an hour a day pursuing long-term goals. On a day-to-day basis, it’s easy to get caught up in the tasks at hand, but successful people realize that long-term planning is ultimately how they will make their mark on this world. For many of these successful people, they’ve achieved the status they have today because they learned how to handle distractions and they make sure to take the time to dream.

Ending their day. Successful people often recharge after dinner, and after spending time with their families. From 8:30 to 10:30, they are often on the phone, reading papers or organizing the next day. And before going to bed, most take the time to dial it down. That might mean reading a book, getting off electronic devices, turning off the phone or taking a late night walk. That need to evaluate the day and relax before bedtime is important to getting a good night’s sleep.

Unexpected Habits of Successful People. As I did the research for this article, I was reminded of the importance of focus. While you and I may block out an hour or two of our day, most successful people think of their time in minutes, rather than hours. I sometimes brag that when I am the busiest, I’m also the most organized! And so you can see why focusing on minutes, rather than hours, keeps these successful people on their toes.

Another interesting observation about focus – most successful people really don’t believe in multi-tasking. Instead, they focus on one particular thing at a time. And finally, rather than using to do lists, successful people use their calendars to schedule everything. In this way, small, inconsequential tasks that are often found on to-do lists, never make it to their calendars. Their focus is on critical needs.

We can all learn from these successful people. Over the next month, join us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and learn how other people organize their workday. And if your organization or team needs a refreshment course on organizational development, personal development, project management or professional development, give Leah M. Joppy & Associates a call at 301-670-0051. We can help plan your next training session.

Becoming a Better Employee

Help people good better best achievementMost of the talk is about being a better manager. But what about our own contributions as employees? Seriously thinking about our work persona and making changes may also make you more indispensable. Here are some ideas for becoming a better employee.

  1. Show Emotional Intelligence. We live in ever-changing environments. Stress levels can be high. But the ability to manage the highs and lows at work is an increasingly important skill. If your coping mechanism keeps you from getting defensive or emotional, you probably work more effectively is tough situations. Cooperation is high among those with emotional intelligence, which makes them more valuable in the workplace.
  2. Plan for your own development. You may work for an organization that includes a formal development process, but if not, plan your own. The goal here is to bring out your fullest potential – you have to WANT to improve for it to happen. And when you discover what really matters to you, you’ll foster real change. Understanding what you can work on and how to improve it is important. When you actively seek out new skills, you are recognized as someone willing to take the initiative. More than likely, you’ll be given more responsibility.
  3. Connect. Connect. Connect. The more connections you have in the workplace, the more opportunities present themselves. Connecting with people often means admitting to what you don’t know. As you connect with more people, you can learn exponentially. Be patient. Give people a chance to get to know you, and trust you. And give as much as you can.
  4. Say Thank You. The most innovative managers are those who recognize the work of others. Why? Because they encourage innovation and productivity. Recognition doesn’t have to be expensive, or hard. It may mean giving a spot award to someone who has made a concerted effort to launch an initiative. If a team deserves recognition, consider something that may not be the norm for your workplace – wearing blue jeans for one week, for example. You can also consider recognizing anniversaries – perhaps a lunch outing or an unexpected coffee and bagel.
  5. Plan your goals, and strive to implement them. Work with your manager to plan your goals. And then make sure you review these goals daily. Try printing them out and posting them at your desk. Being proactive about progress and challenges will make you a better employee.
  6. Manage your time more constructively. Think about the day’s activities. What usually pulls you away from your important work? Whatever it is, minimize the time you spend on that activity. If it’s email, try checking your email just twice a day. If it’s finding files, develop a system that’s easier to remember.
  7. Make things easier for your boss. The idea here is to be more concise. Can you send emails that get to the point quicker? Leave out all the details that are unimportant and get to the point immediately. Can you give regular updates on a project rather than wait to be asked? Be honest. Your manager will trust you more. Ask questions. If you admit what you don’t know, you are more likely to build respect. And in many cases, your manager can point you to someone who may have the answer.
  8. Deal with conflict proactively. The cardinal rule is to first find out what’s causing the conflict. It may just be a stressful time in the workplace. Or it could be an overload of emotions. Talk it out. Suggest a compromise. See our tips in the next article.

You probably have ideas of your own on how you can be a better employee. This may in fact, be a good discussion to have with your manager. Be open to new ideas. You manager will come away realizing that you are on the job to be more productive. You benefit. Your organization benefits. It’s a win-win.

Follow me on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn this month. I’ll provide more information on how to be a better employee! Share your ideas with me!