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Overcoming the Barriers to Your Success

August 29th, 2014

By: Karen Colligan

In this crazy world where we are so busy trying to get things done (due yesterday!) and, frankly, a tad stressed by the mostly bad news assaulting our eyes and ears via the media, it’s rare that we get a chance to sit down and assess where we are in our career and our life. I mean, does that even cross your mind these days? Well, let it. Take a deep breath, grab an ice tea, a cup of coffee, a glass of wine or whatever your fancy, find a quiet spot, and just think for a bit. Are you where you want to be, and if not, why not?

When we are able take time to do a self-assessment, we often attribute the “why nots” to external reasons – not enough or the right kind of education or training, lack of opportunities, too much competition, family or other responsibilities preventing us from daring to dream. But if we get really honest with ourselves, often the biggest hurdle to our success is inside, not outside. It’s those internal barriers, or as I like to call them “show stoppers” that plague our ability to get to where we want to be.

So here’s an exercise for you. Look at the abbreviated list of “show stoppers” below. Add any that you know about yourself. (Be brutally honest!). Pick 3 that you think have gotten in the way of your achieving the career and/or life you want.

o I have difficulty managing time
o I have difficulty selling myself
o I tend to be resistant to new ideas/people
o I’m easily distracted
o I have a fear of change
o I have a fear of failure
o I’m a perfectionist
o I’m not good at follow-through
o I can be controlling
o I have difficulty setting priorities
o I’m afraid my age will hold me back
o I have a fear of financial insecurity
o I tend to take a negative view of things
o I have difficulty making decisions
o I’m often disorganized
o I lack self-confidence
o I tend to act first, think later
o I procrastinate

Now rank the 3 you selected from 1 to 3, with 1 being the show stopper you most want to reduce. Recognizing your show stoppers is the first step. Now make a plan, including “strategy to overcome” and “by when” date. Enlist a close friend, colleague or loved one to keep you honest and on track.

And remember, don’t stop believin’.

For more tips on achieving the career you want, check out my no-nonsense plan for finding the work you want. The Get Real Guide to Your Career.

Till next time,

Career planning, Learning, Life, The Get Real Guide to Your Career

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Avoiding that Difficult Conversation? Don’t!

August 11th, 2014

By: Karen Colligan

If you’ve got a difficult conversation brewing and you keep putting it off, you are not alone.  According to a survey conducted by VitalSmarts, who studies this sort of thing, 70% of employees are currently facing (and avoiding) a difficult conversation with their boss, coworker or direct report.  Topics of these conversations range from performance issues to bad behavior to conflicting ideas to communication issues to “I’m leaving” notices. What I find really stunning is that 25% of survey respondents said they have put off having a difficult conversation for more than a year.  Really? Well, my friends, unlike wine, bad news and difficult conversations do NOT improve with age. So stop stalling and just Plan, Prepare and Proceed.

Plan. The longer you wait the harder the conversation will be. You may think that the issue will eventually go away – and it may – but a similar issue is likely to arise at some point and you will regret not dealing effectively with the first one.  Decide whom you need to talk to and get some time on the calendar with them. Schedule a meeting place that is private and without distractions, and schedule it at a “lower-stress” time of day.

Prepare. Think about the following:  What is your goal with the conversation? What are the facts of the situation you want to discuss? What has been the impact? What questions can you ask to gain their perspective? Spend some time thinking about how the other person communicates and what they might need from you to be receptive. Do they need a lot of facts and details, or are they more of a “bottom line” communicator? Consider this in your approach. Focus on structuring your conversation so you start by creating a safe environment and then work toward a mutual solution.

Proceed. As Stephen Covey would say, “begin with the end in mind.” Clarify why you are having the conversation and establish a mutual purpose. You may find that they’ve anticipated this conversation and are relieved it’s finally happening. Maintain respect throughout. Ask for their perspective and find points where you can agree. If things get heated, take a break and then go back to your intent and desire for a mutually acceptable outcome.  There may not be one, and you need to be prepared for that. You may just need to agree to disagree. But by initiating the conversation, being clear about your intent, the facts, and your desire for a positive outcome, you will at least be opening the door for a more positive outcome in the future.

Certainly beats letting all stuff fester. And the next difficult conversation may not be quite so difficult.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” - Martin Luther King, Jr.

Till next time,


Communication, conflict resolution