Mars Venus talks about Procrastination at the Job

Gossiping around the Water Cooler

Gossiping around the Water Cooler

We all have moments when we procrastinate at work. Mars Venus believes, we typically procrastinate when we are stressed out and need to re-energize; we’re a little anxious as we’re figuring out the day’s priorities; or we have a few minutes to kill say before a meeting, between a project and lunch, waiting to go home. We don’t really need to talk to our co-worker but it lightens the moment.  Procrastination and complacency are two blocks any of us can fall prey. One is much direr than the other; both can impede productivity, efficiency, creativity, and growth at work. Complacency, however, will take root can create a deadly infection to our success, and be the cause of our failure to meet our customer’s demands. When we are satisfied with our success, but are unaware of deficiencies or that we’ve fallen into this lull we stop growing.  Mars Venus often coaches corporations to effectively motivate employees for success.  Successful employees equates to successful businesses.

Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill was a politician and statesman during the Second World War who is considered to be one of the most influential people in British history. His words still inspire leaders today. One of my favorite quotes by Winston Churchill is:

Success is not final;

Failure is not fatal:

It is the courage to continue that counts.

As a Mars Venus Coach it is frustrating to see a client hack away at a goal on a 90-Day Plan stop, because they think they’re done. People seek out coaching to help end their procrastination. A good coach eases a client’s anxiety surrounding change to achieve a goal. As a Mars Venus Coach holds a client accountable to do what the client says he or she is going to do, clients typically achieve their goals faster than when they were on their own doing it whenever, when the mood strikes, or because they’ve run out of time. I’ve seen the complacent attitude crop up right after a milestone has been reached such as a promotion at work, a raise, or taking a course needed for professional development, and it’s often been  the kiss of death. It also begets the question, why were you working so hard in the first place?

Mars Venus looks to Winston Churchill when he said, “Success is not final.” When we become complacent that we’ve done well on a project, or we’ve attained a goal, our perspective and plan of attack must also change. If we focus on past accolades, guess where our professional career or our company’s vision remains? It will remain mired in the past. When we lack foresight and have no direction for attaining the next goal beyond the one we just completed, our deficiency is lack of planning, and what we get is stagnancy. Will others still want to seek you and your services out?

It’s no secret, we all fear failure.  But fear has never been fatal. When we make a mistake, the quicker we’re able to make it a learning point, the sooner we’re able to dust ourselves off, regroup, and move on. This is why Winston Churchill’s quote remains germane today, “it the courage to continue that counts.”

Mars Venus Coaching’s challenge to you is to always ask the question, “What’s next?” So in this next week your homework is to ask yourself, colleagues and customer’s “what’s next” on the agenda. And, be sure to ask for details and timelines to keep things moving forward. This line of probing will ensure freshness, creativity, and focus to achieve the next goal at work. There is always room for improvement, growth, and inspiration.

Lyndsay Katauskas, MEd

Mars Venus Coaching

Corporate Media Relations

When In Doubt, Mars Venus says Write it down

This is not a Calendar

This is not a Calendar

It’s amazing what a little organization can do to alleviate stress. Mars Venus teaches this is so many facets of life no matter what the application.

Many decades ago when I was much much younger, I didn’t know anything about organization.  Franklin Covey wasn’t in my vocabulary just yet and neither was Mars Venus.  What I did have was a boyfriend, and still to this very day a good friend, named David that noticed that sometimes I was stressed about my daily schedule. Naturally between college, work and a relationship, I was pretty busy.   He would often ask me what I had to do that day.  My eyes would kind of glaze over and I would glance through my imaginary calendar (We all have one, it’s written in thin air) and pull everything out of sequence.  “TADA!  There is it!  My schedule” I would say with pride.  David would look at me and tell me three simple little words that would change my life.  “Write it Down.”  He’d continue, “When everything is rolling around in your head, you waste time going from one point to another and you will always forget something.”   God Bless David.  Many years later I still hear your voice telling me “Write It Down.”  Kind of annoying really but I understand it more now than ever before.

Mars Venus Stresses (pardon the pun) the importance of organization as a tool to avoid stress.  Use a calendar, any calendar whether it is Franklin Covey®, Day Runner® or the frivolous chachkie you got from your insurance agent.  Every hour of every day should be plotted out in advance.  This will not only avoid over booking but it will avoid hurt feelings as well.  Just think of it.  You have an appointment written in your head, not a good place, and then a niece wants to spend time with you. Of course you say “yes” not thinking about your “head” schedule.  Now what do you do?  You Stress!   You have just put yourself in the situation where someone is going to be hurt. And you only have yourself to blame.  Business is business. If you miss an appointment, you lose a potential client plus any referrals.  That translates to dollars and cents and ultimately loss of income.   Your calendar is should not be floating around in air.

Once you have established a schedule, you should then take 15 minutes at the beginning of the week to review the week and 15 minutes every morning to review and prioritize your day.  This will refresh your memory as to what you have planned for that week thus eliminating the stress factor.

We have enough stress in our lives without adding to it by relying on our memory.  If you deal with your appointments and the more important items on your calendar you can work in the less important items in as the day progresses.  Some items may have to be moved to the next day but at least you know where you stand at every turn.  Just remember not to take on more than you can handle.  No one has super powers.  Allow yourself ample time in between appointments and/or errands.

Keeping in mind, there are only so many hours in a day.  You have to schedule the most important time every day.  That’s “Me” time.  It’s been a long day and you deserve it.

Dolores Baltierra

Mars Venus Coaching

 

 

 

Mars Venus on how to Hire Stellar Employees with the Four Hour Format

What helps employers find better employees?  Mars Venus realizes some employers may be utilizing monster, google searches, and checking out potential employees Facebook profiles to find better qualified candidates. Here’s a new way of hiring for your company that you may not have been aware of thus far, but is more time-efficient and cost-effective. Mars Venus explains, if you don’t change your hiring process system, then you’ll just get more of what you’ve already gotten. Here’s a proven recruiting and induction system on how to get the cream of the crop. The four hour format is based on the following four principles:

(1)    Attracting a large pool of applicants allows a greater likelihood to find the right person.

(2)    Utilizing multiple levels of screening, less time will be wasted on lengthy interviews with under-qualified applicants.

(3)    Observing a shortening list of applicants performing essentials of the position in real-time eliminates being surprised on the first day with an applicant’s actual vs. referenced performance.

(4)    Assessing a short list of applicants helps ensure you’re making an appropriate match.

If you hire a person on the first meeting, I guarantee you it will not be the same person in 2 weeks. You’re taking a risk. You really are calling on Lady Luck and the luck of the draw if you base your decision on the 1st interview. Typically, you show the best version of yourself when you first meet someone. How about after meeting someone for the fourth time? The 4 step process requires applicants to show up 4 times. Those able to follow through and are consistent in their demeanor are the ones who really want the job. You are not necessarily looking for the right or wrong person, the 4 hour format allows you to just get more of a feel for the person.

Mars Venus has devised a  4 hour format is designed to give 1 hour meetings over 4 times with 1 or 2 days in between.

Step 1

The first time you meet is in a group. (Don’t tell applicants beforehand that it is a group interview.) The first meeting let’s you see how they interact with other people as you identify their personality profile, and what the job entails. Near the end have an impromptu stand up session where applicants tell the group why they should be hired over everyone else. A typical group is about 8-10 applicants. Companies often require group work, and this meeting is designed to weed out people who do not like that environment, or are unable to work in a group.

Step 2

The next meeting one to two days later is  1-on-1 deeper, job expectations, what they’ll do with the pay, show up on time a second time, wear same professional clothing about 50%, 15 in room 10 to next step. Or only 1.

Step 3

Two to three days later do an on-site screening of your leads (test drive). This is where they meet the rest of the team 1 on 3. Mars Venus suggests at this time each of your team members can ask questions to assess if the applicant is qualified, and if the dynamics are there to work within your organization. Identify what 3 things are absolutely essential for this applicant to do well? Then test drive candidates to complete 2 to 4 hour trial of top 3 responsibilities/tasks of positions. De-brief on-site screening (test drive) with candidates. Include your existing team members in review of candidate performance.  At this meeting see again if the applicants are presenting themselves as the same person as on the first meeting. Do they consistently show up on time? Are they courteous? Are they still dressing professionally? Develop your short list of candidates (around 2-4).

Step 4

This is the actual final interview and hire. If the applicant has shown up all 4 times, if the applicant has been on time all 4 times, the applicant has been wearing professional clothing each time, they have been presenting themselves the same. Then the last man standing wants the job for the right reason. Use open-ended vs. close-ended questioning: “what have you…, how have you…” to uncover actual past experience pertaining to skill set and tasks required for your position. Use the same questions for all interviewees, then rate the response 1-5 and record comments. Rank short list according to preferences, then check references of top choice.  There are several websites offering pre-employment Test that will facilitate the process.  Then negotiate salary and make an offer by completing the hiring agreement/contract.

Mars Venus Believes if you follow this process to the letter and you will hire qualified employees that stand up to the test of time. Try this system if what you have been doing to hire candidates has not worked for you in the past. Close the door at step 1 if the applicant is not able to abide by your expectations.

Mars Venus on Gender Intelligent Communication

For anyone attending recent women’s business conferences or reading the latest articles devoted to the lack of women in the executive ranks, Mars Venus Coaching asks you to open your mind to the possibility of a quick, yet long-term fix to increase the status of women in the corporate world. There is an undercurrent of paranoia and frustration about why numbers are not equalizing among the sexes at the top of the leadership pyramid. These feelings of uneasiness are in response to being run ragged by constant low-grade stress. Whenever we ask people if they are familiar with the book Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus, there tends to be an instant lighting up of the eyes, and an intake of breath. This term coined by Dr. John Gray when he wrote his best-selling book of that title back in 1992 is now considered to be part of our society’s vernacular. Dr. John Gray has written many books relating to the Mars Venus dynamic (16 and counting). Instead of reading the research and literature, the following is a quick synopsis of why implementing this quick fix is imperative. It’s important not only for women to remain in and ascend the corporate ladder, but also to re-balance and give quality of life back to everyone in this fast-paced, high-tech world. The solution Mars Venus refers to is introducing gender intelligent communication into professional development training.

Our current expectations and assumption men and women are equal, and therefore must be treated the same is both an unrealistic expectation and an unexamined assumption. To address reality, the solution is to address the real issue, and that is the current state of men’s communication style being preferred, while disregarding how women communicate. The solution then is to teach how men and women communicate differently in workshops at work. Women are up against a brick wall when it comes to fitting into a culture that disregards their unique gender-based contributions of working and relating to others. The solution of teaching gender intelligent communication implements a culture shift at corporate to equally embrace and respect men and women’s unique gender contributions. Continuing to force women to assimilate to a male created work climate is unwise. Now we are armed with information regarding why and how it damages both our bodies (health and wellness wise) and our relationships (at work and at home).

The latest research shows how men and women’s interaction with stress is different in three ways. The first is how the chemicals in our brain respond differently to stress. The second way we’re different is we produce different stress-reducing hormones. Men reduce stress by producing testosterone, and women reduce stress by producing oxytocin. And the third is the way we reduce our stress. How we produce the stress-reducing hormone based on our gender, actually increases the other gender’s stress! The research is good to understand the why’s behind the way we behave, and more importantly why we communicate differently the way we do with one another; however, what is more germane to this discussion is the quickest way to balance men and women in the workplace. The easy answer is we do this through gender intelligent communication workshops.

The culture needs to change, and the quickest way is to train people in the ways men and women communicate differently. The first level of learning is awareness. The second level is putting it into practice. Previous solutions offered saved face. This “lip service” backfired with more misunderstanding and disgruntled employees. This solution does not promote women being promoted without hard work or merit. The companies which accept and respect women’s unique penchant for attention to detail while they incorporate everyone into the decision-making process at the same time as when they identify emotional consequences are the companies gaining recognition for success and increased quality of life for its employees and customers. This solution is not lip service, because it requires an immediate call to action to train people how to effectively communicate.

When the two different gender styles of communication are both given credit for their strengths and weaknesses, then the playing field is leveled, because our unique ways of relating to one another are understood, respected, and embraced. Changing the way we talk to one another, in essence, is the fundamental first step that has heretofore been missing. A culture shift occurs when we are able to open our hearts and minds to understand the other person’s way of communicating as being a slight variation in dialect. The modus operandi of male communication patterns or else is outdated. Running a balanced work world embracing both men and women’s unique contributions acknowledges everyone’s gifts. In turn this makes the workplace more productive and conducive to both new growth and change as the workforce assimilates cultural awareness. There will be equal numbers of men and women in and at the top in the corporate world once everyone is respected for their method of communicating. Lucky for us the by-product is lower stress levels for all. This goes a long way for our economic, health, and marriage crisis; which would be easier to handle if our relationships were open, honest, healthier, and a source of comfort both at work and at home.

Lyndsay Katauskas, MEd

Corporate Media Relations

Mars Venus Coaching

 

 

Inspiring vs. Motivating Employees

We have all worked with an employee who seems to be beating to their own drum. They are either out of step with the rest of the company’s climate, or completely off target. How many of us have tried to motivate this employee to get with the program? How many have written it off as not their problem? How many of us have tried to motivate this employee and failed spectacularly? Do we know the difference between motivating and inspiring others? And, did you know that what inspires a male, generally does not inspire a female? Mars Venus Coaching explains how men and women’s communication styles are different, but equal. When you understand these dynamics, then you are able to tap into and help people draw out their potential like never before, because you are speaking to their heart when you speak their same language at the same time you inspire them to greatness.

Let’s first address the difference between motivation and inspiration. When you attempt to motivate others, the motivation comes from outside an individual. Basically, you can motivate anyone to do small things faster. However, when you are externally driving a person to work more or faster, the effect lasts as long as the motivation lasts and is short-lived at best. As a leader in order to inspire an employee to greatness and to develop into their best self requires a little more time and patience as you focus on educating them to draw out their own conclusion. When you push-in or force someone to be something they are not, the result is short-lived. The etymology of the word education is derived from the Latin, educare, which means “bring up.” Educare is related to educere “bring out,” “bring forth what is within,” “bring out potential” and ducere “to lead.” Therefore, when you are in the act of educating someone in this sense, you are inspiring them to be the best they can be. This is the process to unlock intrinsic motivation for the person to keep excelling according to their own will.

Now that you understand the difference between motivating and inspiring an employee, let’s look at the different ways you would do this for a man verses a woman. The key lies in the “why,” and the way in which you find out a person’s why depends on their gender, because men and women are socially taught different ways to communicate their preferences. If you can identify why a person would want to motivate themselves to be more productive, then you are able to unlock this process of drawing out potential for them. Inspiration to increase their capabilities will then become internal.

A large majority of the challenges we experience across gender begin with the different ways the gender’s use language to communicate. The words we use (or don’t), and the meanings we attach to those words affect how we view each other. Sometimes we use exactly the same words but attach completely different meanings to them. The easiest way to remember the difference is the preference for men to use “I” and women to use “we” when speaking. Women’s communication style is from a point of inclusion, because they are socialized to be inclusive, i.e. maintain harmony; and consequently, women tend to use “we” when speaking. Men, however, are socialized for independence and tend to exclusively use “I” when speaking.

To Inspire Men:
Promote Yourself
Avoid Tag Endings
Be Direct and Concise
Make Acknowledgements Direct and Simple

To Inspire Women:
Build Rapport
Avoid Monopolizing the Conversation
Respect her Abilities
Involve, Do Not Lecture
Be Precise and Specific with Praise

Remember, the best way to help someone become self-motivated, and therefore inspired to bring forth their own potential is to tap into the “why” behind what they are doing. When we are cognizant of the different dialect men and women use, then we are able to communicate in a manner where the other person is comfortable. You can then focus on the underlying “why” reasons behind why people perform the way they do. When you are able to identify what you like, and praise what you would like to be repeated—you are coming from a place rewarding positive behavior. And, everyone likes to be told what they are good at, not what they could do better.

Mars Venus Explains the Man Cave

It's not a couch.  It's a MAN CAVE.

It’s not a couch. It’s a MAN CAVE

Couch time, A Right time for Men ?

We live in a world right now that is fast paced. The leaps technology makes in just a year are staggering, aren’t they? How many people have just one email anymore? How many people use their cell phones not only to talk, but to text, email, use GPS, surf the internet, listen to music, and schedule appointments? How many people were using Nooks or iPads last year in March verses this year? What about using Twitter, Linked In, and Facebook accounts? I first read Dr. John Gray’s best-selling relationship book, Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus back in 1992, when I was 11 years old. I understand men needing cave time backwards and forwards. Or so I thought until our recent family vacation began with a 15 hour trip (including 2 car rides and 3 flights/2 layovers) that quickly turned into an ultra-marathon 20 hour trip to include all the above with 3 delayed flights, high winds, and a snow storm to navigate through…and then the next day our toddler on our 6 year anniversary threw up on Mommy, and only Mommy, seven times! Remember I said I understood cave time? Turns out the more important factor is implementing this concept ESPECIALLY when the going gets tougher.

Did you know when men experience more stressors in their life, their body gives out little signals telling them to stop, sit down, relax, and do nothing? As women we scratch our heads, beat our chests, complain, yell, cajole, and constantly question why the first thing the guys in our life do when the pressure is building is to shift gears, disconnect, and go into a zone or nothing box where frankly women are not allowed. When women get more stressed out, we do the opposite of sitting, because our to-do list keeps growing, as our brain works even harder to make sure everyone and everything is taken care of. For women the most important thing we can do to reduce stress is to connect with others by talking things out and emoting. It’s how our bodies are designed to respond to stress!

When we interrupt a man during his cave time his stress level increases, because we are not giving him time to replenish his testosterone. When men tune out, want to listen in to their favorite sport’s team scores, fall asleep on the couch, or just plain sit down to sit and do nothing….it is their body’s physiological response to how a man’s body increases the stress-reducing hormone testosterone.

It is hard enough adjusting a toddler to time zone changes, on top of having food poisoning. Unwittingly I kept piling on demands. As we were negotiating gym schedules, fitting in time at the hot springs, time with grandma, and time with our friends vacationing with us—my husband jokingly said one of the things he most looks forward to on vacation is uninterrupted time to read. What this really translates to is uninterrupted time for my hubby to replenish his testosterone. When I’m attentive to his needs, then he is able to replenish his store of testosterone, and thereby reduce his stress. And believe me, after the first two days of travel and re-adjustment and non-stop go, this statement from him is priceless. He is the epitome of patience, so when he gave me this gem, the least I could do was ensure he got his reading time! If he is less stressed out, then he becomes more attentive to my needs. As the “nurturer” and “care-giver” in the family, I have to remind myself daily to make sure I do not interrupt my husband in his cave.

When I allow my husband to tinker in his cave, or do nothing he replenishes his stress-busting stores so he can help out at home and with the kids faster than if I jumped on him when I needed relief myself to begin replenishing my stress-reducing hormone, oxytocin.

It sounds counter-intuitive; however, it is inversely proportional to how much help I receive in growing our son, tending to running a family, and investing in our relationship. When I allow him this uninterrupted time to relax his muscles by sitting and reading, he is able to replenish his testosterone quicker, than if I interrupted or bugged him to help me out the second he walks in the door from work, or the second I begin to get overwhelmed about the stressors of traveling with a toddler, dealing with delayed flights, making sure reservations are not cancelled due to our delayed arrival at our destination, and uncertainties if our luggage will show up at the same time as we do! For some guys it may be watching a favorite TV show, surfing the internet, reading the newspaper, or tinkering on a hobby—or all the above…but, by allowing him this time to unwind and rest his muscles, I am actually investing in the longevity and well-being of our marriage. When I allow him to do this, and I make this time sacred for him, then he is able to rejuvenate, and give back to the needs I require to both reduce my stress, but more importantly receive his help—whether this is being a good provider, helping out around the house, or being heard when I need to talk out my day.

Lyndsay Katauskas, MEd

Mars Venus Coaching

Corporate Media Relations

 

One Easy Way To Reduce Workplace Stress And Enhance Productivity

One Easy Way To Reduce Workplace Stress And Enhance Productivity

Think Stress Free

Victor Lipman, Contributor Forbes 6/5/12

It’s always pleasant (if rare) to find a management tactic that works well and is also easy and even fun. Over the course of my career – both as an employee and a manager – the best way I found to reduce stress and improve productivity was simple: to exercise at midday.

Everyone has his or her own biorhythms, but I found and observed energy and concentration often flagging toward midday. And also noted considerably renewed energy and productivity following a lunchtime workout.

These aren’t simply my own idiosyncratic observations. Numerous studies link exercise to mood elevation and productivity enhancement, as well as more collaborative and tolerant behavior. The benefits of exercise are copiously well documented; the trick is effectively integrating a regular exercise program into a conservative or restrictive work environment.

What form of exercise works best? My answer’s simple: Whatever you like and can easily do in or near the workplace. For me it was usually a 3-mile run. All I needed was a change of clothes and a shower. Many I managed liked weightlifting, walking, aerobics classes, yoga, Spinning and so on. (Personal aside: The only form of exercise that was clearly not for me was Spinning. First, it looks wicked hard. Second, I exercised at least partly to take a break from people barking at me, so the last thing I wanted while taking a break from people barking at me was other people barking at me.)

Here are six common reasons why people can’t or don’t exercise at work, and ways to easily overcome them.
I don’t have time. Sure you do. It may take you 15 minutes longer than a normal lunch hour (maybe even 30 if you have to go a little farther to get to a facility), so work 15 (or 30) minutes later. Chances are in those extra 15 minutes you’ll be more energized and productive than if you hadn’t exercised in the first place.
My boss won’t let me. Tell him or her (nicely) to get with the program. Note info above – data shows exercise enhances productivity, reduces stress, and improves collaboration. Ask for a chance to demonstrate the results, and be sure to over-deliver when providing them.

We don’t have a Fitness Center. It’s great if your company has one, but no knockout if you don’t. Sometimes all you need is a shower. Or you can go to a nearby gym or club. Often your company can get a corporate discount, a trade that helps both teams.
I won’t have time to eat lunch. Nonsense. Eat lunch at your desk while working following your workout. I did it productively for decades. I ate a cheese sandwich or a peanut butter sandwich (fortunately I have a limitless capacity for monk-like culinary boredom), plus an apple or an orange. The main criterion for my lunch was that it could be prepared literally within one minute – no kidding – at about 9 p.m. the night before.

My hair will be a mess. Don’t be too hard enough on yourself. I’m sure your hair actually looks a lot better than you think it does. Note to employees: Of course you’ll use common sense here – no triathlon workouts right before Board presentations. Note to managers: Offer (as appropriate to your environment) flexibility of casual dress and appearance. Your employees will appreciate you for it and likely reward you with loyalty and diligence.

My CEO doesn’t believe in exercise in the workplace. Hey, this is 2012. I’m as old school and dinosaurish as they come and I’ve been exercising at work since the 1970s. Note to CEOs: You’ll gain in employee engagement. You’ll gain in recruiting. You may gain in reduced absenteeism and health care costs (though that’s usually harder to document). Plus, dedicated exercisers/athletes tend to be highly disciplined individuals and fine employees. It’ll make your company a cooler happier place.

One final thought: The ability to exercise at work is a benefit and privilege, so you can’t abuse it – all expected work still has to get done. Otherwise, any straight-thinking manager will – and should – pull the plug quickly. But it shouldn’t come to that. Well-managed exercise programs improve the quality of worklife for employees and management alike. And that’s the bottom line. I’d write more, but I’ve got to go for a run.

An Introvert’s Guide to Networking

ForbesWoman 11/28/2011 @ 11:33AM

Throughout college, I was the “shy girl.” I often wondered why it was hard for me to open up to strangers and attend social events after a long day at school. But I was so used to being labeled as “shy” that I never thought of changing it—it was just my identity.

Finally, at my first job, I took the Myers-Briggs personality test and a light bulb went off: I’m an introvert. I realized that there are many benefits of having my personality type—we introverts tend to be reflective and have close relationships, to name a couple—and I became proud of who I was.

But being an introvert makes some things difficult. It’s hard to be open and let strangers into your life. Small talk doesn’t come easy, and it’s hard work to establish rapport with new people. And that means things like attending networking events and meeting new people—crucial elements of the job search—can be pretty intimidating.

I’ve picked up a few tips and habits over the years that have helped me navigate the social side of my career. Do I get excited about being in a big room full of strangers to meet? Not so much. But it’s not so bad anymore, either. Here’s how I handle it:

1. Prepare
Before you head into your next social event, spend a few minutes thinking about what you want to learn from others. Have a few questions ready to ask new people, such as “How did you get started in your career?” or “What are you passionate about?” If being put on the spot makes you nervous, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with writing questions down and practicing ahead of time. Also think about what you want to share about yourself—you can’t rely on another person to carry the conversation for you!

2. Find a Conference Buddy
You don’t always have to go at it alone—having a buddy can make large events much less intimidating. So bring a colleague or friend to your next networking event or conference. If you do have to fly solo, try to reach out and make just one connection. That way, you’ll have someone to sit with during lunch breaks and someone to wave hello to and introduce to others. And you’ll probably be surprised at how much fun you’ll have!

3. Be That Person
Remember that most people in the room at any given networking event feel the same way you do: scared to death. So, instead of dwelling on how scary it is to start a conversation, think about how by doing so you’ll be helping other people feel more comfortable. Maybe that girl alone at the table doesn’t know anyone either and is just hoping that someone will come talk to her. Be that person! (“Have you been to this before?” is always a great opening line.)

4. Be Present
Once you do start a conversation, it can be tough to relax if you’re continuously worried about what to say next and what the other person is thinking. So try shifting the focus to your new acquaintance, instead. Ask lots of questions and practice your listening skills!

5. Smile
You don’t always have to initiate—but if you’re hiding against the wall with your arms crossed over your chest, you’re not giving off a very approachable vibe, either. So try to relax, smile, and look as warm and casual as you can—it’ll open the door for someone to walk up to you and start the conversation.

6. Challenge Yourself
This year, I took on a networking challenge—I met with four people I knew and four people I didn’t know every month. Through these connections, I’ve already gotten an interview and many referrals—not to mention my new found confidence and a clearer sense of direction in my career. Even if you don’t go this far, think about how you can challenge yourself to step out of your comfort zone just a little bit. It might have unexpected—and great—results.

This article was originally published at The Daily Muse and Forbes

10 Steps To Happiness At Work

Here’s a pop quiz for anyone who’s miserable at work. Which action has the biggest chance of improving your happiness? (A) Getting a promotion, (B) seeing your professional nemesis move to the Mongolia office, (C) focusing on the positive aspects of your job and trying to ignore the negative or (D) quitting in a fit of anger and landing your dream job elsewhere?

Sorry, says Srikumar Rao, the author of Happiness at Work. The answer is none of the above. To achieve greater happiness on the job, you don’t need your boss to stop calling you at night. You don’t need to make more money. You don’t need to follow your dream of being a sommelier, or running a B&B in Vermont.

“The exact attributes of what you are looking for do not exist in any job,” says Rao, who taught “Creativity and Personal Mastery,” one of the most sought after courses at Columbia Business School.

He believes that the single biggest obstacle to workplace happiness is the belief that we are prisoners of circumstance, powerless before the things that happen to us. To change your job, he says, you must change the way you think about it. “We create our own experience,” he insists. He relies heavily on Eastern spirituality and draws from many wisdom traditions. “The knowledge that we are responsible for living the life we have is our most powerful tool.”

Rather than encourage people to focus on “positive thinking,” Rao wants to banish the whole notion of good and bad events. “‘When life gives you a lemon, make lemonade’ assumes that you have been given a lemon and that a lemon is bad for you,” he says. “I’m saying, first of all, if you’ve been given a lemon, is that a bad thing? You can train yourself to say, ‘OK, this happened,’ rather than label it as bad.” If you think of events that occurred 10 years ago and seemed bad at the time, he says, you’ll realize that many of those events led to something positive. He recalls a former student who was fired from his job and received a healthy severance deal. Six months later the company ran into trouble and all the remaining staffers lost their jobs without receiving a dime. The fired employee actually came out ahead.

Rao believes that in order to be happy in the workplace, you need to move from personal ambition to “greater vision” ambition. “Personal ambition is ‘I want to be CEO,’” he says. “Greater vision ambition is, ‘I want to lead this company so that people want to work here.’” He says that ambition hinders happiness as long as people employ an “if/then” model: If I get the promotion, then I will be happy. Rao says that a healthier and happier perspective is to think “I have a grand vision and I will try my best to make it work. If I succeed, wonderful. If not, wonderful. My purpose is to give it the best I’ve got.’”

If happiness comes only from within, then how can you tell if you really are in a legitimately bad situation, as opposed just needing to reframe the way you look at it? Rao says it’s better to make a change from a positive place than from a point of anger. “You should make a change from the place of being grateful for your experience but ready to make a change and continue to grow.”

Even in corporate America, where so much of work is every man for him or herself, Rao advocates inhabiting an “other-centered universe.” If the nice guy gets passed over for a promotion, he still may succeed in less tangible ways or land an even better job down the road. “They may rise later in the shootout,” says Rao. “I’m challenging the assumption that you need to be a dog-eat-dog person to survive in a corporate environment.”

To achieve greater happiness at work, you don’t need your boss to stop calling you at night. You don’t need to make more money. You don’t need to follow your dream of being a sommelier, or running a B&B in Vermont. So says Srikumar Rao, the author of Happiness at Work. The biggest obstacle to happiness is simply your belief that you’re the prisoner of circumstance, powerless before the things that happen to you, he says. “We create our own experience,” he adds. Here are 10 steps to happiness at work, drawn from his recommendations.

Avoid “good” and “bad” labels

When something bad happens, don’t beat yourself up, says Rao. Instead, when you make an error, be aware of it without passing judgment. “Do what you have to do, but don’t surrender your calmness and sense of peace.”

Practice “extreme resilience”

Rao defines “extreme resilience” as the ability to recover fast from adversity. “You spend much time in needless, fruitless self-recrimination and blaming others,” he writes. “You go on pointless guilt trips and make excuses that you know are fatuous. If you’re resilient, you recover and go on to do great things.” (He also says that if you fully take his advice to avoid “bad thing” labels, you don’t have to practice resilience at all.)

Let go of grudges

Rao says that a key to being happy at work is to let go of grudges. “Consciously drop the past,” he writes. “It’s hard, but with practice you will get the hang of it.”

Don’t waste time being jealous

“When you’re jealous you’re saying that the universe is limited and there’s not enough success in it for me,” says Rao. “Instead, be happy, because whatever happened to him will happen to you in your current job or at another company.”

Find passion in you, not in your job

Sure, you can fantasize about a dream job that pays you well and allows you to do some kind of social good, work with brilliant and likable colleagues and still be home in time for dinner. But Rao warns against searching for that perfect position, or even believing that it exists. Instead, he advocates changing how you think about your current situation. For example, instead of thinking of yourself as a human resources manager at a bank, identify yourself as someone who helps other bank employees provide for their families, take advantage of their benefits and save for the future.

Picture yourself 10 years ago and 10 years from now

“Most problems that kept you awake ten years ago have disappeared,” says Rao. “Much of what troubles you today will also vanish. Realizing this truth will help you gain perspective.”

Banish the “if/then” model of happiness

Rao says that many of us rely on a flawed “if/then” model for happiness. If we become CEO, then we’ll be happy. If we make a six-figure salary, then we’ll be happy. “There is nothing that you have to get, do or be in order to be happy,” he writes.

Invest in the process, not the outcome

“Outcomes are totally beyond your control,” Rao writes. You’ll set yourself up for disappointment if you focus too much on what you hope to achieve rather than how you plan to get there.

Think about other people

Even in corporate America, where so much of work is every man for him or herself, Rao advocates inhabiting an “other-centered universe.” If the nice guy gets passed over for a promotion, he may still succeed in less tangible ways. “He may rise later in the shootout,” Rao says. “I’m challenging the assumption that you need to be a dog-eat-dog person to survive in a corporate environment.”

Swap multitasking for mindfulness

Rao thinks that multitasking gets in the way of happiness. “Multitasking simply means that you do many things badly and take much more time at it,” he writes. He recommends instead working on tasks for 20-minute intervals that you gradually increase to two-hour spans. Turn off any electronic gadgets that can be a distraction. He claims that with practice, you’ll be able to accomplish much more and with less effort.

Courageous Leaders Don’t Make Excuses…They Apologize

Erika Andersen, Contributor  Forbes 6/5/12

I’ve been thinking about the power of apology lately.  I’ve been noticing that the people for whom I have the most respect don’t hesitate to say “I was wrong,” or “I’m sorry I…”  On the other hand, the people I have the hardest time respecting seem constitutionally unable to take responsibility for their own mistakes.  Even when they try, it comes out sounding like “I may have been partly at fault, but…” or “It may seem that I was wrong, but…”  They just can’t do it.

Apologizing freely requires a good deal of courage.  It’s not comfortable for any of us to admit an error, or to acknowledge that something we’ve done has caused others harm or inconvenience. So when someone truly apologizes, we know he or she is putting honesty and honor above personal comfort or self-protection.  It’s inspiring, and it feels brave.

I just today read a great article here on Forbes about this very topic called Creative Leadership: Humility and Being Wrong.  The authors, Doug Guthrie and Sudhir Venkatesh, make a really clear and well-reasoned case for the positive power of admitting and apologizing for one’s mistakes.  At one point in the article, they note that:

“We are frequently taught that leaders, especially aspiring leaders, should hide weaknesses and mistakes. This view is flawed. It is not only good to admit you are wrong when you are; but also it can also be a powerful tool for leaders—actually increasing legitimacy and, when practiced regularly, can help to build a culture that actually increases solidarity, innovation, openness to change and many other positive features of organizational life.”

I couldn’t agree more. Followers look to see whether a leader is courageous before they’ll fully accept that person’s leadership.  If they see courage (and taking full responsibility for actions and admitting and apologizing for mistakes are two of the five key indicators of courage), it feels safe to ‘sign up.’ People need courageous leaders in order to feel there’s someone to make the tough calls and to take responsibility for them – they need to know that the buck truly does stop with the leader. With a courageous leader, people feel protected – not that they’re helpless, but they know the person in charge really has their back.

And courage begets courage: your followers are more likely to make their own tough decisions and to take responsibility for them when you model that behavior.  You have their backs – so they’re much more likely to have yours.

Because so many of us have a hard time apologizing, I thought it might be helpful to have an ‘apology primer.’  Here you go:

  • I’m sorry: this is the core of a genuine apology.  “I’m sorry.” or “I apologize.”  It’s the stake in the ground to communicate that you truly regret your behavior and wish you had acted differently. No apology is complete without this.
  • Stay in the first person:  Many, perhaps most, apologies run off the rails at this point, when the apologizer shifts into the second person, e.g., “I’m sorry….you didn’t understand me.” Or “I’m sorry….you feel that way.” Suddenly, you’re no longer apologizing for your actions; you’re telling the other person that you regret their actions or feelings.  A true apology sounds like, “I’m sorry I….” or “I’m sorry we…”
  • Don’t equivocate:  Once you said what you regret about your actions or words, don’t water it down with excuses.  That can blow the whole thing.  The former manager of my apartment building once said to me, “I’m sorry we haven’t gotten back to you about your security deposit, but you have to understand we’ve got hundreds of tenants.”  I definitely didn’t feel apologized to – in fact, I felt he was telling me I was being inconsiderate to hold him accountable!  Just let the apology stand on its own. “I’m sorry we haven’t gotten back to you about your security deposit.
  • Say how you’ll fix it.  This seals the deal.  If you genuinely regret your words or actions, you’ll to commit to changing. This needs to be simple, feasible and specific. “I’m sorry we haven’t gotten back to you about your security deposit. We’ll have an answer to you by this Friday.”
  • Do it. I know some people who don’t have a hard time apologizing, but seem to have a hard time following through on their apologies. If you apologize and say you’re going to behave differently, and then don’t – it’s actually worse than not having apologized in the first place. When you don’t follow through, people question not only your courage, but also your trustworthiness.

So there you have it.  Next time you’re clearly in the wrong, take deep breath, put aside your self-justification, your excuses, your blame, your defensiveness, and simply apologize. Being courageous in this way is generally scary in anticipation. But it feels great once you’ve done it….to you, and to those you lead.