"Ask Marsha H."

CEO of Your Life: How to Prepare for Success and Happiness

I often think of the line in the movie “Forrest Gump”: “Mama always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” While it’s true that each day brings an element of the unknown, we can choose how we live our lives and how we prepare for the life we want. It starts with becoming the CEO of your life — being self-aware and taking care of yourself mentally, physically, spiritually and financially. It means…read more…

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CEO- TNJ_Spring_2016 

Are You Ready For A Breakthrough?

If you are feeling stuck or unfulfilled, it may be time for you to put together a plan that will help you break through the barriers that are holding you back.

I have heard many say that they do not set goals or make resolutions. They give a variety of reasons for not doing so only to have the same wishes on their “to do someday” list year after year.

I believe that the process of setting goals is made far more difficult than it needs to be and that excuses for not making them only satisfy the person who makes the excuses.

Setting goals, in my opinion, not only prepares you for success, but it guides you to the place that you envision as your ultimate destination. It is like looking at a roadmap, deciding where you want to go and then determining the route that you want to take.  It sets you on a path and helps you determine when you are getting off track. It is your choice whether you want to take the direct or the scenic route.   However, the strategy for getting started is the same:

  • Determine where you are now
  • Decide where you want to go
  • Plan for when you want to get there

Make a Plan and Write it Down

Goal Planning Worksheet

Identifying where you want to go and what you want to achieve sounds simple but my experience shows that many people get stuck at this first step.

Think Big. The quote, “start with the end in mind” is appropriate here.

If your vision is limited, your life will be limited to your vision.   Most people only set goals based on what they think they can accomplish rather than what they are really capable of doing.   Thinking big requires dreaming, visualizing, and stepping out of your comfort zone to tap into your true potential.  Think about what you are able to do and what you are willing to do.  Then break big goals down into small actionable steps. Pay attention to your limiting beliefs and negative self –talk which is often a cause of self –sabotage. Fear, frustration and limiting beliefs can keep you from identifying and setting goals that will move you forward.

Do a personal assessment

Conduct a self-audit. Recognize who you want to be and why, rather than what you want to do. Compare the person you are now to the person you will be when you accomplish your goals.  Examine your circumstances.  What do you need to do or to get in order to move forward?  What are the obstacles that have been holding you back?  Be honest. Starting with inaccurate information will lead to inaccurate decisions about what needs to be done and inaccurate timeframes to achieve results.

Create a supportive environment

Identify or create a support network.   Make a list of people and things that can help you move forward.    Those not in harmony with your goals should be removed or kept to a minimum.   Let’s be clear here –  things that take up your time but do not fit in with what you are trying to accomplish should be purged.    Ask yourself if the relationships you have are serving you well.  If not, stop sharing your valuable time and information with naysayers.   Instead, surround yourself with positive people who inspire you and that you can learn from.  Your personal growth will result from the people you hang out with. Look for others who are successfully doing what you want to do. I once heard a quote that says “It’s hard to soar with eagles when you are surrounded by turkeys”.

Make a commitment to yourself

This is where your big goals are divided into small manageable steps that take you closer to your big goal.  I suggest that you write down 1 -3 things that you will do each day/week and refer back to the list in order to stay on track and stay.  Developing due dates helps you to hold yourself accountable, helps you to identify what has taken you off track and encourages you to celebrate accomplishments.  Seeing yourself moving forward will motivate you to continue taking positive steps.

The three obstacles that usually come into play here are Time, Money and Fear.

Time:   How much time can you honestly devote to your goal preparation each day/week?  Whether it is 10 minutes or 10 hours is up to you.  However it is imperative that you decide on the amount of time you will devote and then stick to that amount of time as a minimum.   Sometimes it may be as simple as writing a note or making a call, sometimes it is doing research or writing an article. You make the choice. There are 1,440 minutes in each day.  It is for you to decide how you will wisely spend them.

Money:  Review where you spend money now and what you are willing to give up or spend less on.  This can be as small as making coffee/tea rather than buying it or putting more in savings or your 401K each payday.  Every penny counts and growth does not come without some sacrifice.  Decide what you are willing to sacrifice to get and stay on track.

Fear:  It has been said that more people are afraid of success than of failure.  However, once you get emotionally attached to your goals in a positive way, opportunities being to appear.  Your emotions are the engine behind your thoughts.   A positive attitude leads to positive thinking which leads to positive results.  Rather than be fearful, be humbled by the chance to move forward and experience something new.

 Get started  

There is no better time than now to get started and focus on the things that are important to you. Having goals help you to identify what/when to say Yes or No and they help you be more selective in what and who you give your attention to.   Decide what you want, decide what you are willing to exchange for it, establish your priorities and then get to work.
Start doing what you need to do today so you won’t have to say “if only” tomorrow.

Click here for a Goal Planning Worksheet to get you started. 

Expand your vision.

Enlarge your dreams.

Elevate your expectations.

“Ask Marsha”: How To Work (And Succeed) Alongside A Younger Boss

Q: I’ve recently reentered the workforce and I’m being asked to report to someone many years my junior. What advice do you have for working (and succeeding) alongside a boss that is younger and less experienced than I am?

Be Open Minded
Your scenario is not uncommon these days. With the amount of people who have been downsized and the number of people who have retired, the workforce is becoming a younger one. People who are either still working or have returned to the workforce are experiencing a very different workplace. There is now up to four generations coexisting in the workplace and every generation thinks and works a little differently.

If you are now going to report to a younger boss, you first need to get your head around any preconceived notions you may have about this situation and think if these ideas are going to serve you well.

Being confronted with a younger boss may prompt thoughts of “Why not me?” or “What do they know?”

If you begin the relationship thinking “I have more experience and I will need to teach this younger person how to do their job,” you’re already setting a tone for a possible confrontation or an experience that will not be a positive one.

However, if you view the experience with an open mind, aware of the fact that you might learn something new and that you might be able to share your skills and experiences in a positive way, it becomes a good team effort and can work out better in the long run.

Try To View The Situation From Both Sides
If you’re an older person heading back into the workforce, put yourself in your younger or less experienced boss’ shoes. What preconceived notions are they going to have about an older person working for them? What are the things you have to do to demonstrate that their perceptions about you are not real? (Remember: They have fears, too.)

A younger person’s perception is likely to be that you think you know everything, that you will be reluctant to listen and learn, that you are not flexible, that you are not very proficient with technology and that you are not going to be energetic.

If you are older, don’t validate these perceptions. Shy away from talking about being tired, disliking social media and an unwillingness to change from how things have been done in the past. Instead show flexibility, discuss technology in an embracing way and try new ways of doing things.

The same rules apply to a younger person who hires someone who is older or who inherits a team that is more seasoned. It’s important to think through any preconceived notions you may have and then let employees know what your expectations are.

For multiple generations to successfully coexist in the workplace, it is imperative to understand some of the challenges that may exist and look for ways that you can eliminate or at least minimize them.

Communicate In Their Language
On a day to day basis, you may need to communication with people of difference ages. Part of the solution means not making assumptions. Too often, we assume that people want to communicate the same way we do. However, it is no surprise that different generations communicate differently.

While some prefer face to face, others prefer phone, email or texting. The best way to avoid communication problems in the workplace is to pay attention to the corporate culture and to ask those you need to communicate with about their preferences.
The goal is to learn the expectations of your boss and those you will need to work with.

When you are open and adaptable and can focus on and demonstrate the value that you bring rather than the age of your boss and colleagues, you will be viewed as an asset no matter what your age.

The bottom line is that even if your younger boss doesn’t have sufficient experience in your view, someone thought they brought value to the job and you will have a better work experience if you don’t let their age or years of experience get in the way of you doing the job you were hired to do. It’s a new day and there is always something that you can learn from others despite your age or theirs.

Remember that change is inevitable and this change may just be the kick in the butt that you need to get you out of a rut and learn something new. Rather than fight it, wrap your arms around it and enjoy the experience.

“Ask Marsha”: 5 Ways To Build Your Network In 2013

The beginning of the year seems like a good time to contact people who I might be interested in working with in the future. But how do I connect with them without coming across like I’m using them?

There is no bad time to connect with people who you want to build a relationship with, but contacting people only when you want a favor is definitely inappropriate and will send the message that you are a “user.”

Remember that networking is about building and maintaining a relationship, as well as sharing information.

Several suggestions I make to clients include:

SEND A NOTE

To rekindle a relationship, send a note to let a person know that you are thinking of them. Although no special reason is required to keep in touch, a congratulatory email, a thank-you note, a birthday or holiday wish or an article that may be of interest are good ways to build relationships.

If you’ve been listening, you know something of interest to share. If you cannot think of anything to share, do some research and start listening for clues that will help you learn of the interest of those you want to network with.

Emails and text messages are convenient ways to keep in touch; however, a hand written note or a personal phone call from time to time can, and usually will, set you apart.

Sending a note telling someone that you’re thinking of them, thanking them for their support, guidance or friendship will always be well received. If you know the person reasonably well, think about something they have told you about themselves that you can add to the note showing that you have been listening.

You might also include an article, a book or some other small token of interest. For example, if you know someone likes cooking, send an interesting recipe or a link to interesting cooking gadgets. This small token allows you to be a resource without asking for anything. Your note might just say, “I saw this recipe and thought of you and how much you enjoy cooking new dishes. I hope all is well. Let’s please keep in touch.”

REACH OUT TO PEOPLE YOU ADMIRE

You may have to step out of your comfort zone for this one, but you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by reaching out to those that you admire, whether personally or professionally.

Try connecting with someone who is successfully doing some of the things that you would like to do or something you want to learn more about. An example might be if you eventually want to start your own business or you would love to be better at social media, reach out to people who are doing these things well.

I suggest you have a few key questions prepared so that you are ready if the opportunity to speak with them presents itself.

Let the person know what you admire about them and why. You might be surprised at how much your positive words will be appreciated.

It should be noted that when sending email or social media messages, online etiquette is mandatory. There is nothing more annoying than getting a generic LinkedIn message (I call this the “lazy message”) from someone I don’t know asking me to be part of their network with no indication of how they know me or why we should connect.

START A MASTERMIND GROUP

The sharing of ideas with others who have something to offer is another great way to build a network.

A mastermind group allows participants to learn from one another. Participants may be of a different age group, race or gender and the group may be structured as formally or as informally as you like. Meetings can be in person or via phone and can be held as often as decided. This exchange of ideas allows for great networking relationships to be formed.

ATTEND EVENTS

Although technology makes it easy to stay in touch, it is also important for you to be visible. Therefore, don’t rule out attending traditional networking events where you can meet like-minded people. This means attending events that are not only within your work field but also events within your other areas of interest.

When attending an event outside of your work area but one that you know and care about, you’re more likely to be viewed as one-of-a-kind and better able to demonstrate your uniqueness.

NIX THE NETWORKING HANG-UPS

The biggest reservations people express about networking is that they are uneasy about contacting people because it feels like they’re asking for a favor.

My response is: Don’t ask for anything, share something instead. Make it a point to build relationships and then make a habit of following up.

The best time to develop your network is when you don’t need anything and now is a great time to start.

“Ask Marsha”: How To Jumpstart Your 2013 Goals

There are so many “success” strategies I read about to help my career, and they sometimes become overwhelming. What is the one thing that I can begin to do today in my plight to advance my career?

DOCUMENT YOUR SUCCESSES

In my book, The Little Black Book of Success, my co-authors and I suggest starting a Personal Leadership Notebook (PLN) to document your personal and professional accomplishments, and refer back to it as needed. Your PLN should include sections that are relevant to your personal and professional growth.

Many times we take our accomplishments for granted including the roles we hold in our communities, schools and churches with the assumption that our skills are not transferable to the workplace. Too often, we do not remember them or let others know about them, especially when we don’t believe they are work related. And it’s sometimes difficult to share our accomplishments without feeling like we are bragging.

In her book, Brag!, author Peggy Klaus suggests coming up with your own “brag bites,” which are snippets of impressive information about your best self, expressed in a brief, quotable manner. Start by writing down some of those things you are most proud of and keep track of the things you do well and enjoy, your goals and those areas you want to learn more about.

In addition to your “Accomplishments” section, I also suggest having a section in your PLN to track your networking — who you know, who you need to know and who needs to know you.

Now is a perfect time to refer to this “Networking” section and send a note or make a call to those you haven’t touched base with in a while. Remember those people who have helped you along the way, and be generous with expressing your thanks to them.

Another section that I personally have in my PLN is an “Ideas” section. I don’t know about you, but I come up with great ideas in unusual places but they can be lost if I don’t jot them down. Leave space to expand upon them later.

Without becoming too overwhelmed, tracking your successes in your PLN can act as a starting point for moving forward with purpose.

“Ask Marsha”: How To Handle Workplace Shakeups

The department I work in is constantly in flux, there has been quite a bit of turnover in the last year and positions have been shifted around. How do I move forward with my own career goals in such a tentative work environment?

MAKE A DECISION

The first thing is deciding what it is that you want. Do you want to be promoted within your current department/company? Are you looking only for more money or is your goal to take on additional responsibilities? Are you ready for the changes that you are looking for? Have you demonstrated that you can and will rise to the challenges of the new role? It’s a soul-searching time and conducting this self-audit can be difficult but imperative to your growth.

You may have been working hard, but hard work alone does not make you unique. Many of us grew up thinking that if we put our heads down and work hard, we would be recognized. However, there are other things that must be done to be recognized and if you are not strategic or have a plan that goes along with your hard work, you will get stumped every time. Putting your head down also means that you are missing things that are going on around you. Just working hard doing your job could mean that you are too tired to take those necessary steps to help you move ahead. If you are only working hard at your tasks with no time for other things, people may perceive you as one-dimensional. It is important to be viewed not only as a hard worker, but as an interesting person as well.

BE THE CHANGE YOU WANT TO SEE

As we all know, change is inevitable. But change does not have to be negative. It can be the gateway to incredible opportunities if you are well prepared.

The good news is that when a company is undergoing shifts, there is often an opportunity for you to take on additional assignments and show what you can do. Make those changes work in your favor. You just have to position yourself for the change rather than fight it.

All companies are undergoing some transition. But if you believe that your current work environment is just too much for you to handle, prepare before you leap. Think about the type of job, industry and work environment you work best in. Research companies you would like to work for and make efforts to connect with employees of those companies to learn more about the company culture and work environments. Chances are, these companies are also undergoing some change. Determine what the company values and how you can best demonstrate what you have to offer.

In your current company, you might try the same approach. What do you have to offer that would be of value during this time of change?

You can be angry and negative because of the changes or you can be flexible and show what you have to offer. Often times, your attitude will determine your altitude … it’s your choice.

Pay attention to who has been hired or promoted during this time of flux. Looking at what these employees have brought to the table (experience, attitude, relationships, etc.) will give you insight into what the company values.
The key to moving forward with your own career goals in any work environment is to be flexible, be strategic, know what you have to offer, and build relationships that will help you now and in the future.

“Ask Marsha”: How Do You Maintain Work-Life Balance?

How do you maintain work-life balance and are the trade offs repairable?

SET EXPECTATIONS

It depends on what balance means to you, because it’s not always going to be 50-50. It’s more tradeoff, and those tradeoffs don’t have to be long-term. Sometimes you’re going to be doing things for work that are going to prevent you from doing some of the family and life things that you’d like to do. Other times you’ll be able to say “I’m giving the family 100 percent.” It’s good to be able to decide, on a case-by-case basis, how you’re going to do that.

Part of work-life balance is setting expectations. First, you have to set your expectations: What are you trying to get? What are you trying to do? And how can you best go about doing it?

Once you decide what your expectations are, determine if you can live with [them] and the consequences.

If you decide “I’m not having kids for three years because I want to make partner,” is that going to make you happy? If not, then you may want to do something a little different, and that does not mean giving up partnership or not having kids.

And then set other people’s expectations. [Not doing so] may lead to some of the things that causes problems down the road. It causes you guilt, it causes them anxiety and then they don’t trust you.

Sometimes you’re going to be working on a project and you’re going to have to say to the family, “I’m not going to be home to cook dinner; I can’t go to the soccer game; I won’t be able to get home at 6 or 7 o’clock this week.” Or it may be with your spouse. [You might have to say], “I can’t cook after work; I’m just too exhausted, but on Fridays let’s have date night.” Or, “I know my easiest day is Tuesday, let’s do something special.”

But if that continues on a regular basis, and becomes the norm, that’s a problem.

NEGOTIATE WITH YOUR EMPLOYER

It depends on where you are. This is really one that requires finesse. As a receptionist, you’re not going to say, “I’m only going to work [this many] days a week and I’m leaving [at this time].” But as a vice president, you might say, “Once a week I’m leaving at five.”

However, nothing is cast in stone and staying late doesn’t necessarily mean you’re more productive. It goes back to how do you set yourself apart. Sometimes that means looking at where the gaps are, saying, “I do my job, but I also see some other things that I can do here that might be helpful and will help me stand out, and I can do those things and leave and five.” People have to look at ways that they can set themselves apart and not be judged by what other people do, but by what they bring to the table.

AVOID THESE WORK-LIFE BALANCE ROADBLOCKS

Competition is one — “They’re doing it, so I need to do it” — but the other thing is, it makes you more interesting when you’re not trying to do the same old thing. If you stay late everyday and work really hard because you want to be promoted … you miss the networking, you miss hanging out after work with colleagues, and I really see that as a barrier because they don’t get to know you for anything other than what you do. You think that you’re showing how dedicated you are and that you want to get ahead, but what you’re really showing is that you’re kind of one-sided.

I was working with a CEO of a very large organization and they were going to have some layoffs, they were going to outsource a department. They really weren’t sure which department, but they were looking at a lot of things and the department he decided [on] was the one who was always coming in and working extra hours. They thought they were showing dedication and tenacity and loyalty, but what they were really showing is that they couldn’t get their work done in time.

USE YOUR LEVERAGE

You can change at any time and especially if you’ve been good at what you do. You have more leverage than you think, if what you’re doing is of value. It’s so important to take the pulse of our organization and of ourselves to see if what we’re doing is still important. Is it important to us? Is it important to your organization? Is it important to your boss? Because just like your priorities shift, so do theirs.

You’re taking that pulse and then saying “I’m pulling some late hours, but that may not be the priority anymore. Let’s talk about how I can best help you and also try to get out of here at a decent time, so that I’m fresh to do what you need.” That way, you haven’t blamed him or her, you haven’t acted like a martyr and you’re also getting what you need.

As women, as people of color we need to better learn how to negotiate. Practice those things and keep in mind what’s in it for the person you’re talking to.

“Ask Marsha”: What To Do To Get A Better Salary And Be Recognized

I’m working for a company where I am undervalued and my hard work is not appreciated. I like what I’m doing, but I think I should be paid more for the work I do. What should I do to get a better salary and be recognized?

EVALUATE YOURSELF
Prior to asking for a raise, the first thing you want to do is evaluate for yourself, whether you feel that the work that you’re doing is either solving a problem or at least filling a void or a need.

Far too often, people feel like they want a raise because they’ve been working hard. Guess what? Everybody does that. Or everybody should be doing that. Similarly, people often feel like they deserve a raise because they’ve been at their company or in their job for a long time or longer than a colleague, and those days are over.

You need to really evaluate what you’re doing, what problem it solves, what you’ve brought in — if you can quantify that, if you can put some metrics around it, that’s wonderful. You need to be able to say “I want a raise because I’ve been able to bring in this much money for the organization or I’ve saved this much money for the organization.”

Part of what my co-authors and I talk about in “The Little Black Book of Success” is keeping a personal leadership notebook where you document all the things that you’ve been doing over the course of the year or the time that you want to be evaluated for. What accomplishments have you had? If you can’t identify accomplishments, it makes it harder to go in and ask for a raise. Far too often, we go into the boss for an evaluation and you can’t remember what you did, but you want your boss to remember all the wonderful things you’ve done. Oftetimes, you have to show them.

You should also let people be able to visualize you doing that higher job if you’re asking for a promotion. Sometimes that means actually doing it, showing that you can do it, and that you can do it well. You can’t say “I’m not doing that job. They don’t pay me enough for that job,” and then want a raise.

There’s nothing wrong with taking your little book in with you and saying “I want to discuss the possibility of making more money. Let me tell you why.” And you should practice that before you ever go into that room to have that conversation.

Practice it in the mirror so that your body language is right, so that you’re going in with confidence, you’re going in with real numbers, facts, figures and accomplishments. Then talk about how they see it as well, because oftentimes we’re working, doing things that keep us real busy, but nobody cares or they don’t evaluate it being worth what you think it’s worth.

GIVE IT SOME TIME
The amount of time it takes to make a case for a promotion really varies based on two things. One, is the culture of your organization. If you know your company only gives raises once a year and it’s in January and everybody gets a performance evaluation in November, you want to be ready in November. Or maybe you’re not ready because you haven’t collected enough data. That might mean mentioning it and then letting them know that you’d love to come back and talk about some accomplisments in February.

It really depends. There’s no given timeframe, but you can’t say “I’ve been doing it for three weeks.”

DON’T MAKE A CASE BASED ON WHERE OTHERS ARE
Getting comparable data is fine, but if you can’t demonstrate that you’re doing it and worth it, then saying “That person makes this much; I want to make this much,” doesn’t usually cut it. It usually pisses people off and makes them feel like you’re holding them hostage because you’ve gotten a bit of information that was supposed to be confidential. It also doesn’t demonstrate you as being a real good team player.

Instead, it is far more strategic and mature to say “People who do this job (rather than so and so) from my research, usually make within this range and I believe I’m being paid at the low end of this range. I think I’m doing work at a much higher level … and I’d like to be paid comparably.”

If you don’t get what you want (maybe they’ve said, “We can’t do that now” or “It’s not in the budget”) then you say “Well what is it that I can do? I feel like I’m giving it my all. I’m trying to do things for the company, department or team. What is it that I need to show you that will make you reconsider?”

People tend not to ask that question. They think no means no. No never means no. It means ask differently.

Also remember that you’ll always have an advantage when you can tell whoever you’re talking to what’s in it for them.

BE REALISTIC ABOUT YOUR REQUEST
Anytime you’re in a position of negotiation, you should be thinking of three things: This is what I really want; this is what I’ll accept; and this is a deal breaker and I’m going to do something about it.

You’re making $70,000, you really want to make $100,000, you’ll settle for $85,000. A $2,000 raise really means that you need to do something else, and something else might mean negotiating further or going and looking for another job. Decide all of that before you walk in the room.


Managing Your Brand

Managing your brand is an important part of your success. Are you doing all that you can to promote and protect it?

Organizations are familiar with developing their brand and they know that hiring professionals to develop and protect their brand is crucial.  But what about your ‘brand’? How are you perceived?  Do you know what thoughts or images come to mind when the discussion is about you?

Brands, whether those of organizations or of individuals, have never been more vulnerable than they are today.

With the internet facilitating and encouraging non stop critiques of how organizations are run and social media encouraging discussions that reveal opinions with little or no filter, perceptions and reputations, right or wrong are formed.

More and more, judgments are being formed not only by what you say and do but by what is said and done by those that you associate with.

Your “friends”, “fans” and “followers” help form an opinion about your interest, your values and your judgment.

As a career/life coach, I encourage clients to be strategic about managing their brand. I suggest to organizations that I work with to monitor how they are viewed as an employer and I encourage individual clients to ask for feedback on how they are perceived from friends, family and colleagues, paying careful attention to adjectives used in the description.

It is important to ensure that your actions reinforce and enhance how you want to be viewed. Are you doing all that you can to develop, promote and protect how you are perceived?  If not, it’s not too late to put a plan into action.  Let me know if I can be of help.

www.stepwiseassociates.com

Do You radiate success?

Do You Radiate Success?

Your image is your most powerful communication tool.  It informs the world who you are and who you want to be. Your image should reflect your highest level of achievement, experience and style. When you cultivate your image deliberately and strategically you will be surprised at how doors will open before you.

A good way to start is by taking a good look at those characteristics that make you who you are…”Your Brand”.

Do you know how you are perceived?  What do people think of when they think of you?

Does your appearance, the way you carry yourself, the way you speak to and about others demonstrate your values and your mindset?

Do you demonstrate self confidence?  Are you a happy, self assured person?

If not, you may want to make some changes.  But you must know that transformation does not happen unless you are open to some self reflection and possibly purging of old habits, behaviors.

Spend some time thinking about what you enjoy and do well.  Ask people to give you some positive feedback.  Ask them for words they would use to describe you.  If you do not like what you hear, determine what changes you need to make.

Who are the people that bring you joy?  How can you spend more time with them?

Who are the people who zap your energy and bring out the worse in you? How can you purge these relationships?

It all begins when you make the choice to make the change.  It is never too late.

“One important key to success is self confidence.  The important key to self confidence is preparation” – Arthur Ashe

What do you need to do to Prepare for Your Success?