Category: Professional Development

What’s Important To You In 2018?

A shiny new year is upon us, ripe with possibilities and opportunities to make changes. Most of us spend at least some time reflecting on the events of the previous year and what we can do to make improvements over the next 12 months. But too many of us are overwhelmed, disconnected, and feel like we’re going through the motions without a lot of purpose. It can be challenging to figure out what’s truly important in life and even more challenging to make an action plan for change.

If you’re determined to live a more purposeful life in 2018, now may be the time for a “life audit.” It’s a chance to be honest with yourself, think about what’s really important to you right now, and organize your life a little more. So, grab a pen, a pack of post-it notes, and block off an hour or two of time. Here’s how to get started:

  1. Write down every goal, hope, and life necessity on a different post-it note (for example: ‘look for a new job’, ‘move to a different city’, ‘start a family’)
  2. Organize the notes by category as themes start to emerge (for example: career, family, hobbies)
  3. Organize by time (for example: how long it will take to check-off each note)

You may want to set a goal for the number of post-it notes you fill out. Maybe it’s 100 in one hour or more over the course of a weekend. It’s not a revolutionary system, but the point is that you’re thinking about yourself, your future, and how to reach your goals. If you feel like you’re at a loss getting started, here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • What life do I want now? How about in 5, 10, 25 years?
  • What makes me feel satisfied at work?
  • What areas of my life could be improved?
  • What’s my motivation?
  • What do I believe in?
  • What do I consider essential?
  • When do I feel the most successful? The most energized?
  • How am I using my gifts and talents to help others?
  • What is my purpose?
  • What do I want to leave behind?

The great thing about writing all of this down on post-it notes is that you can hang them on a wall in your office (or wherever you’d like) and look at them everyday. You can move them around into an organizational system that works for you, perhaps by weekly, short term, long term, and lifetime goals.

A New Year is the ideal time to look at long term goals, what’s working, what’s not, and where there’s room for improvement. And we can help you every step of the way! Please call Leah M. Joppy and Associates at 301-670-0051 or email us at leah@lmja.com to discuss your organization’s 2018 goals.

Finding Fulfillment Outside The Office

We’ve all watched a show or read an article where someone has an epiphany about their priorities and life direction, quits their job, moves to an island, and starts a new life running a bar or giving surfing lessons. Sounds appealing, right? For the rest of us, the mortgage, family obligations, and day-to-day responsibilities makes this type of dream impossible. You may feel like you have no way out or that you will never find happiness because of your career. You’re really good at what you do, but there’s no fulfillment. However, there are ways you can create purpose and fulfillment outside of the office. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Create it yourself: Whatever it is you want to do, make time for it! Join a class for beginners or a club with people who share a similar passion. You may even notice your attitude at work changes because you aren’t putting pressure on your job to satisfy every aspect of your life.
  • Make time: Work takes the majority of our time, but not all. Take control of your weekends and evenings again and cut what isn’t absolutely necessary. Make fulfilling activities a priority!
  • Give Back: Using your gifts and talents to help others can be one of the most fulfilling things you’ll ever do. Whether it’s mentoring or volunteering, sharing your talent may be the biggest gift you give in 2018.

Productivity in the office begins with fulfilled employees who understand the importance of a work and personal life balance. A New Year is the ideal time to lay the groundwork! Please call Leah M. Joppy and Associates at 301-670-0051 or email us at leah@lmja.com to discuss your organization’s 2018 goals.

Worrying More? Enjoying Life Less?

With all the advancements in our world today, life should be a breeze, right? After all, we can have dinner delivered to our door, order anything with a click of a button, and even bring up movies and television shows whenever we’d like. We seem to have so much these days, both in terms of material possessions and conveniences. Then, why are we more worried and stressed than ever? And what are some signs that we’re headed down the path of too much worry in our life?

According to the 2016 “Worry Less Report” conducted by Liberty Mutual Insurance, 38% of people worry every day, mainly in the early morning or late evening. For some, worry can help inspire problem solving. But for many others, it can be paralyzing, hinder productivity, and produce feelings of helplessness. Chronic worrying can erode our ability to function well at home and at work. Here are a few signs that worrying is becoming a problem and steps you can take to help:

  1. You’re always thinking about future “threats”: When you start to interpret everything as a potential problem and constantly look for potential threats, worrying becomes a default pattern in life.
    The Remedy: Try to separate emotion from what’s actually happening and don’t confuse feeling anxious with actual worry. Ask yourself: is this a worst-case scenario or am I catastrophizing?
  2. You can’t sleep: Poor sleep creates a vicious cycle of poor emotional functioning – which ultimately leads to more stress and worry.
    The Remedy: Remember that sleep in not expendable. Turn your room into a restful haven away from the stressors or life, including technology! You might even want to try moving your bedtime up 60 minutes.
  3. You can’t seem to “shake it off”: No one enjoys confrontation or an unpleasant encounter. But worry starts when you continue to relive it in your mind, wondering what you could’ve done differently, and second-guessing your response.
    The Remedy: If you’re trapped in replay mode, get up and move. A change of scenery can help you return to your desk refreshed and able to make better decisions. Once you’ve hit your reset button, ask yourself: Was the situation as bad as I thought and is it worth getting this upset about? Often the answer is “no”.

Sometimes it can feel like it’s impossible to break the worrying cycle and find your way back to what’s really important in life. For more help, read our article on Tips For Dealing With Worry – How to Stay Focused and On Task. If you’re interested in engaging your organization in Professional and/or Personal Development to discuss how to decrease worry and increase productivity in the workplace, call Leah M. Joppy & Associates at 301-670-0051 or email us at leah@lmja.com. We’re ready to help!

Tips For Dealing With Worry – How To Stay Focused and On Task

Will Rogers once said, “Worrying is like paying on a debt that may never come due.” We all know that chronic worrying can get in the way of what’s really important both in our work and home lives. It can impact our productivity, health, and happiness. But once the cycle starts, it’s often difficult to break the pattern and get back on task. Here are a few tips to help you prioritize, clear your mind, and stay focused:

  • Stop trying to do a million things at once (multi-tasking!) and tackle one task at a time.
  • Specifically block out time in your day to spend on a project and set a timer to hold yourself accountable for that time.
  • Turn off your phone and computer and get some exercise – preferably outside in the fresh air! Make the most of workday breaks to refresh and recharge.
  • Use technology to your advantage by trying options like Cold Turkey, Freedom, and Self Control. They block out the Internet to keep you off social media and other distractions.
  • Try a yoga or meditation class. There are online apps such as Headspace and Calm that help promote mindfulness if you want to try meditation in the comfort of home.
  • Find better ways to streamline your communication and break free from the endless chain of message. Ask yourself how the conversation would be most effective – email, on the phone, or in person?
  • Make sure to set reasonable standards for yourself and others. The pursuit of perfection can lead to increased worry and paralyze productivity.

Interested in stopping the cycle of worry and get back to a happier, more productive work life? Please call Leah M. Joppy and Associates at 301-670-0051 or email us at leah@lmja.com to discuss your organization’s needs.

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.