awareness

Keep Your Passion Front and Center

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When I served as a panelist for OCA’s Professional Leadership Summit: What’s Passion Got to Do with It?, I didn’t realize how much I would get out of the experience. It forced me to reflect about my own career and how I’ve stayed in tune with what I’m passionate about over the years. I also benefited tremendously from hearing the other panelists’ stories.

So, I have three tips I’d like to share to help you keep your passion front and center:

1. Set aside time to re-energize and reflect.

As I have analyzed my career path, I realized that every three to four years I have taken some kind of big break—a leave of absence or sabbatical—to help me get perspective and clarity about what’s next for me. During that time, rather than obsessing about my career, I always focused on doing what I really enjoy (e.g., hiking, biking, international travel, etc.), to infuse positive energy into my life and give me the perspective I need to move forward.

I recognize that not everyone can take big chunks of time off. So, the next best thing is to make sure that you set aside time on a regular basis to reenergize and reflect. If you haven’t read it already, there’s a great HBR article, Manage Your Energy Not Your Time, that will help you determine how to recharge on a day-to-day basis.

As for reflection time, even as little as fifteen to twenty minutes, periodically, can really help. I know that one size does not fit all, so figure out how often you should set aside time to stay in tune with your passion and priorities. When you do take the time, ask yourself the following questions:

What do I enjoy most about what I do? What do I like the least? What am I tolerating (i.e., what is weighing me down)? What one step can I take to get more out of what I’m doing today? What one step can I take to move towards more of what I want?

I know that there are so many questions you could ask yourself, but these will get you started.

2. Surround yourself with the right people.

Energy, both positive and negative, is contagious. Surrounding yourself with people who can give you the support you need (whatever “support” looks like for you) and who get excited about the possibilities for you, can make a huge difference. Naysayers certainly have their value (e.g., they can help you think through potential risks) but they can also zap your energy, especially when you are trying to make a big, difficult change.

So take a look at who you interact with regularly or go to for advice, and think about the type of energy you get from each of them. You may realize that you need to make some shifts.

3. Make sure others understand your passion and skills.

Finally, always keep the pulse on what you are known for—your personal brand. If you don’t know what it is today, you don’t really know whether it’s hurting or helping you. So, clarify what your brand is and what you want it to be.

Remember that when that perfect opportunity comes along, you want the key influencers and decision makers to think of you. If there is a big disconnect between what that perfect job entails, and what others consider your skills and passion, you probably won’t get the job. So, set aside even five minutes each week to ensure that the right people understand the value you bring. I present on this topic all the time, so trust me when I say that you can do it tastefully and in a way that serves you and your company.

Let me end this article with a Call to Action. Determine one step you’ll take to keep your passion front and center. Remember that small steps can lead to big results.

What’s Your Impact?

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Every day we engage with people from all walks of life in our professional and personal lives. Each interaction results in an exchange of energy, information, and ideas—positive and negative. Through the following three questions, I challenge you today to think about the impact you have on others.

What kind of energy are you giving off?

First, are you the kind of person who brings a conversation to a halt with your “healthy dose of realism” that others might call pessimism, or are you someone that people receive positive energy from? As you go through your day, notice how people respond to you by observing their body language, tone and actions. Recognize that some of their reactions may be more about them than you, but others may be directly related to what you are saying and doing. By paying attention more closely, you may notice some important patterns.

How do you impact results?

Next, ask yourself how the company or others benefit from your involvement or participation, whether you’re participating in a meeting or on a conference call. What do you typically contribute? Are you the person that “hangs back” or dives right in with your ideas? How much do you focus on moving things forward versus staying below the radar or just trying to wade through? Even if you’re “showing up” to participate, are you actually adding value?

What do others take from your behavior?

To bring the last point home, I want to share something from a meeting I was facilitating with an executive women’s group last week. We talked about how leaders are always in an “invisible spotlight.” In other words, people are constantly watching them, noticing what they are doing and drawing their own conclusions.

So, whether you realize it or not, you are sending indirect messages with everything you do. What are yours? Is it that you’re overwhelmed and need to be managed carefully or you might make life miserable for everyone? Or are you that unwavering leader that can provide direction and guidance consistently no matter what is going on? Recognize that small actions can add up to big messages when you put them all together.

Remember that you have an impact on everyone you interact with, but you do have a choice about what kind of impact you want have. So be intentional and purposeful about it and make sure that what you do reinforces your leadership brand and aligns with your values.

So, what one small step will you take this week to have the type of impact that’s important to you and your team?

What Seeing Things in Black and White Can Do for You

I realized that I received five journals as gifts this year from various conferences at which I have spoken and events that I have attended. Seeing that stack of journals reminded me about the power of writing things down. It seems like such a simple thing - so simple that many underestimate its value.  So, as you wrap up the year and begin thinking about the next, take time to write down these three things:

1. Your goals

Writing down your goals has tremendous power. Once you put them on paper, you will find yourself applying more scrutiny to them, refining them, and thinking about how you will achieve them. Often that step to get the goals out of your head and onto a sheet of paper is the most important one in making that commitment to achieving them.

What are your top 3 goals for the next six months or year? Be specific.

2. How you define success

People tell me all the time that they expect to be past a certain point by now, whether they are talking about their careers, a particular project, or something related to their personal lives.  “Come on, shouldn’t I be there by now?!”

When I dig deeper, I usually find that they haven’t defined where “there” is.  In other words, they don’t really know what success looks like. So, of course they never get “there.” And even if they did get “there,” would they know it?

In situations like this, most people don’t realize that their definition of success may have become a moving target tied more to their feelings in that moment rather than their progress against clear measures of success.

So, what is your definition of success for the next six months or year? How will you know when you have achieved it?

3. Your accomplishments

I find that high performers usually underestimate or overlook their successes, quickly moving to the next thing on their lists without taking the time to notice or celebrate what they have actually accomplished.

Having a list of your achievements handy will not only help you recognize your achievements, but also arm you with the information you need to regularly provide “strategic snapshots” of your performance to key stakeholders.

What are the three accomplishments you are most proud of from this year? Who will you share them with? How will you track your accomplishments next year so that you can keep them front and center?

I hope this week’s article has gotten your wheels turning. I urge you to look at your calendar, and find some time to answer the questions I posed. Remember that you don’t have to do it in one big chunk of time. Just do it in a way that works for you