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Setting Boundaries: Saying “Yes” to Saying “No”

September 7th, 2017

By: Karen Colligan

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How many times in the last six months have you said “yes” to something you really didn’t want to do? Or allowed yourself to be burdened with meeting expectations that were unreasonable or out of your control? Or avoided saying something when a person or situation made you uncomfortable? Most of us have been in one or more of these situations at some point. We kick ourselves afterward for acquiescing, yet may rationalize it by the desire to be “seen as a team player,” or, not wanting to “hurt someone’s feelings.” Here’s the problem with this. We teach people how we want to be treated. And when we keep saying “yes” when we’re thinking “no” and don’t set and communicate our limits – our boundaries – people are going to keep asking us, and expecting us, to do things we don’t want to do, or to do more than originally agreed. (Can we say “scope creep?”) Eventually we become resentful. And when we finally draw the line, it may not be pretty. Better to set, communicate and maintain your personal boundaries up front. Here’s how.

Be self-aware. Knowing your boundaries starts with understanding your values and what’s important to you. If having personal downtime in the evening or family time on the weekend is important to you, then you would want to make it clear that you’re offline in the evenings and not working on weekends. Difficult, I know, in this always-connected work environment.  And, this environment was created by all of us who said “yes” to being always connected and working a ridiculous number of hours in the week (including weekends!)  It’s up to us to change it.

Set your boundaries. Decide what your boundaries are. Prioritize them. Write them down. Internalize them. Practice saying them in front of the mirror. Give yourself permission to have boundaries and acknowledge the benefits – more respect from others; more respect for yourself; less stress and anxiety and/or feelings of resentment; more free time; more time to focus on the projects you want to do, etc.

Communicate them. Be direct. If you don’t want your boss and co-workers contacting you at all hours, be specific about the times you’re available. On projects, manage others’ expectations up front with regard to what you’re capable of and the timeframe in which you can achieve it. Be very clear about scope, and the cost – in time, dollars or other work – when scope expands beyond that.

Learn to say no. Saying “no” is hard, especially when it’s to your leader, or to someone whose relationship you value. Yet as workplace communication consultant Diane Amundson says, “Good bosses appreciate employees who have the confidence to say no.” It’s all in how you frame it.

Challenge the stories that hold you back. Think about times in the past when you’ve said “yes” and later regretted it. Or allowed yourself to be taken advantage of. What held you back from being more direct? Fear of losing your job? Fear of disappointing the other person? Most people are unaware of how their actions impact us unless we tell them, and will appreciate being told what our limits are.

Be consistent. Once you’ve established and communicated your boundaries, work to maintain them. This will help educate others how to treat you, and will contribute to your well-being and peace of mind.

“I encourage people to remember that “No” is a complete sentence.” - Gavin de Becker

Till next time, Karen

Health, learning and development, Life, self-awareness, Work-life balance

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Leading to a Great Company Culture

April 24th, 2017

By: Karen Colligan

We hear a lot about the importance of company culture and its role in attracting, engaging and retaining employees. But what is company culture, and how do you go about creating a “best-place-to-work” caliber of culture when there’s so much other stuff to get done?

First of all, a great culture is more than fun after-work events, casual dress, and catchy slogans. It’s how employees, customers and the outside world perceive an organization based on its attitudes and behaviors. I can’t imagine that many of us perceive the skies to be as “friendly” after that paying customer was dragged from his seat recently on a United flight from Chicago to Louisville. If that’s how they treat customers, how do they treat their employees?

Culture is synonymous with behavior. And it stems from leadership behavior at all organizational levels.

To build a great culture, start by becoming really clear about who you are as a leader. I call this “developing your leadership mantra,” which I wrote about in a previous blog.

Once you’ve done this, the next steps are:
Be sure that everyone understands the Vision and Mission of the organization. Define them. Communicate them. Post them. Refer to them in employee meetings and other communications.

Establish and communicate clear Values. Model them with employees, customers, vendors, job candidates, everyone. Recognize employees who go above and beyond to model the values.

Ensure that expected leadership behaviors at all levels align with the Vision, Mission and Values. Coach leaders who do not meet these expectations.

Develop and communicate a clear and consistent definition of the culture. Make it easy to describe. Make it real. Test the definition with employees, with customers.

Recruit and hire great people who fit the culture. Use your tested definition in job postings and interviews. As part of your hiring process, determine what a “fit” is, and what it isn’t. Train hiring managers, and develop behavioral interview questions that will help determine fit.

Ask for feedback and adjust accordingly. Once you feel you’ve developed a great culture it’s easy to get complacent. But workplace cultures can shift – changes in leadership, business downturn, overly rapid growth, or external pressures, etc. Do a periodic check-up to ensure that all parts of your culture are healthy and if not, review, adjust and get back on track.

How would you currently rate your company culture? Here’s an idea: Interview a cross-section of your employees and see whether they all describe it the same. If not, go back to the steps above.

Till next time,

Karen

company culture, Engagement, Leadership

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Here’s to the Year of Possibilities!

January 11th, 2017

By: Karen Colligan

“Without leaps of imagination, or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning.” - Gloria Steinem

As the New Year begins, everyone is talking about losing weight, working out more, eating right, getting more sleep. I am exhausted just listening to the same blah…blah…blah every year. Why set yourself up for failure? Instead of those same old broken-by-February resolutions, how about this year you think about all that can be possible for you?

We wake up every morning and start our routine, and before we know it, it’s bedtime. Then suddenly it’s July and everyone is saying “can you believe it’s July already?” And then before you know it, it’s December, and everyone is running around saying Happy Holidays!! Give…me…strength!

Do at least one thing this year that will stretch your being…your thinking…your heart…your soul… Think about it. What will that be?

To figure it out, you have to slow down long enough for your mind catch up to you. My best dreaming and thinking comes when I run. I don’t use ear buds to hear music, and I don’t run with anyone. It’s just me and nature. I sometimes amaze myself at how smart I am when I run. I come up with ideas I would never come up with if I were at home or in my office. For me, running is my dream space. What is yours?

I’m declaring 2017 The Year of Possibilities. I encourage you to take some time and find your “dream space” whatever that might be – running, a walk in the park, a stroll on the beach, a comfy chair by the fire, etc. – and allow yourself to dream about possibilities.

Here are 5 tips to get you started.
1. Just DO IT already. How often have you said over the past few years – “I can’t do that now, it’s not the right time”? Well, if not now, when? Go on that vacation, learn a new language, or how to play an instrument (air guitar does not count). Read that book you’ve been meaning to read for years. Or just do nothing for an entire weekend!
2. Stop multi-tasking. How many studies do we need to read to be convinced that multi-tasking is nothing more than getting nothing done well? Besides, it is very disrespectful. And how are you going to see the possibilities if you are busy doing 3 things at once?
3. Pay attention to what’s around you. Do you ever get home from a day at the office and wonder, “how the heck did I get here?” Commuting can be stressful – by planes, trains or automobiles – and often we just tune out. Open your eyes and allow yourself to see things you miss when you’re just going through the motions.
4. Listen…really listen. What I’m talking about is listening to the signals all around you – what is this wonderful, crazy universe trying to tell you? I can promise you, it ain’t telling you to work more!
5. Dream Big. If you don’t dream for yourself, no one else will. You don’t want a “regret list,” you want a “possibility list.” Say what you want out loud. Tell your friends, family and partner. The more you say it, the more real it becomes.

Expand your thinking and believe in what is possible…

Here’s to a dreamy 2017!!!

Till next time,
Karen

Learning, Life, self-awareness, wellness

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Calling for Random Acts of Kindness

November 23rd, 2015

By: Karen Colligan

Kind-2In light of the events over the past month, I imagine many of you wake up wondering, “What is this world coming to?” I know I do. It would be so easy to just crawl under the covers with a good book and a powerful flashlight, and wait until the world gets better. But then, I’ve never been one to just wait around for things to change. I think we each have a responsibility to make the change we want to see in the world – even if we can only make it one small step at a time.

I’d like to suggest that, during this season of thanking and giving, we start the change by committing to a random act of kindness every day. It doesn’t have to be big. It can be a kind word, a smile, opening a door, helping someone across the street.

“Unexpected kindness is the most powerful, least costly, and most underrated agent of human change.” – Bob Kerrey

As much as it’s about the kind things you do and say, it’s about NOT doing and saying the unkind things that may sometimes fight to be heard. The rant against someone who thinks differently than you; the angry email to a co-worker who let you down; the horn or (admit it) hand gesture in response to a careless driver; the snarky, anonymous comment on an online article. Pack those away in a “venting box” in favor of a kinder world.

Tomorrow, instead of waking up wondering what the world is coming to, wake up and ask yourself, “How can I be kinder today?” Then commit to looking for opportunities to show someone you care. Here are some ideas.

• Do a chore or run an errand for an elderly neighbor.
• Let people merge in front of you – even when they’re rude about it.
• Call your Mom.
• Say “please” and “thank you.” Always.
• Volunteer at a food kitchen.
• Smile and say “hello” to everyone you pass on the street.
• Buy breakfast or lunch for a homeless person.
• Donate to a food bank.
• Give a blanket or some warm clothes to those in need.
• Help a stranger.

You probably will find lots of opportunities, big and small, this season to be kind. I’d love to hear about your random acts of kindness and how they made you feel.

“Never believe that a few caring people cannot change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever have.” – Margaret Mead

Till next time,
Karen

Gratitude, Kindness, Life, People

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Pause and Refresh: 3 Questions to Ponder for 2014

January 14th, 2014

By: Karen Colligan

As usual, January has begun with a frenzy of resolution writing (notice the crowds at the gym, the health food stores, the job boards) and goal setting. There are articles and advice galore on what you SHOULD be doing in 2014 – trends to watch for, wagons to climb aboard, old habits to cast away.

Well, I’ve got a differRevaent idea. Just stop, take a breath and pause for a minute. Think about the fact that you have a year-full of blank pages that you get to fill. It’s YOUR book. No one else’s. How will you write it? As Maria Shriver said in her commencement address at Annenberg College last year, use “The Power of the Pause.”

So…get yourself a cup of coffee or tea or whatever your favorite beverage is, put work and everything else on “pause” for a bit, and ask yourself these three questions:

1. What do I want to do this year that has nothing to do with work? Take that vacation you’ve been putting off? Attend more of your kids’ sports activities? Be a tourist in your own town?
2. If today were your last day on earth, what would you want to be remembered for? If the only thing you can come up with is work-related, go back to Question 1.
3. What makes you smile? And how will you write more of that into your book this year?

Last year, I lost a very dear friend way too early. It reminded me that life is fragile, and that you need to capture the moments – in experiences and relationships – in real time. Most of us spend so much time trying to rewrite the past or plan for the future that we miss the magical moments in the here and now.  We need to be living our lives and taking good care of ourselves. Every moment. Every day.

“It’s a brand new day. Live in the now, it will be gone before you know it.” – Rodger Halston

Till next time,

Karen

Life, People

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Taking InventoryStatistics show that a lot more of us are beginning to think about moving on - to a new job, a new company or even a totally new career.  Let me just say: Hold on a minute.
Before you begin your search for that next opportunity, set aside some time to TAKE INVENTORY. Get clear about who you are and what you want so YOU control your career rather than it controlling you. Think about what you bring to the table, what you like and don’t like, and what would be a fulfilling "next step."

Here are some areas to consider:
Skills. What are the skills and competencies that have helped you succeed in your career so far? Which of them are transferable skills that will help you contribute regardless of industry or position? Write them all down.
Values. What are the things you MUST have in a company, a position, a leader to be happy and do your best? What motivates you?
Natural talents. What are those innate abilities that keep coming up in compliments and performance reviews? “You’re a natural at…” Fill in the blank.
Interests. What do you like to do? Think large on this one. You never know when an interest you haven’t really focused on so far may lead to a new opportunity…
Job Satisfiers. Or, as I like to call them, “the good, the bad, and the ugly.” What are the factors that have made your past work situations rewarding (the good), boring or frustrating (the bad) or something you never want to repeat (the ugly)?
Barriers. Here’s where you really need to “get real.” What are those internal blocks that have kept you from being all you want to be? Write ‘em down. Recognizing them is the first step in eliminating them.
Key accomplishments. Think back over your career and other areas of your life. What have you done that made a difference for your team, your department, your company, your community?
Salary requirements. In today’s job market, this is often one of the first questions asked, so it’s good to start thinking about this early. Consider what your basic expectations are and then, when you’ve determined your target market, do some research to validate your expectations.
Completing these inventories will take some time. However, you will be amazed at how much you’ll learn about yourself, and how the resulting personal career snapshot will guide you to “what’s next.”
Want to know more about how to “Get Real” about your career? Check out our online guide.
Whatever you do, don’t stop believin’.
Till next time,
Karen

Career, Career planning, Job search, The Get Real Guide to Your Career

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