7 Ways to Thrive Before, During and After You Hear The “F” Word! They didn’t say the “F” word, but it sure felt like it! Yes, the dreaded “F” word: F-I-R-E-D. “Your position has been outsourced, down-sided, eliminated, restructured.” But no matter what the PC vernacular of the day happens to be, the bottom line is you’ve been fired. You are no longer needed. Your services are no longer considered of value. Ouch!
I think this was the first time I had an out-of-body experience. It was certainly the first time it had ever happened to me. I knew the drill because I had been through this procedure several times before, the difference being now I was sitting on the opposite side of the table – the receiving end. I can now say that neither side is particularly enjoyable.
The ceremonial circumstances typically begin with a mysterious email to attend a mysterious meeting. You walk in and by the looks of everyone’s faces in the room, you get the feeling like you are about to attend a wake – your own. And then, without meeting your eyes, someone reads a carefully-scripted statement from a piece of paper that was prepared by some hotshot lawyer. And boom. It’s done. And with all the dignity, strength and self-respect you can muster, you thank them for the opportunity to have been engaged in their employ and walk away.
Truth be told, for me, I had expected it. After a couple of years of new management and changing tides, I could see the proverbial writing on the wall. Months before the end, I had actually begun taking my personal effects – things like family pictures – home from the office. Energetically, I felt the time was near.
I had been through the emotional ups and downs and I was ready. I could have high-tailed it out of there before this imminent day, but for several reasons I didn’t. Staying wasn’t an easy decision to make because eventually the day-to-day had become an intolerable game of whack-a-mole (and guess who was the mole?)! When you see things shifting around you and suddenly you seem to be “left out” of key decisions and the new rules of engagement don’t include you, it kicks up the dust that eventually lands in your eyes and stings like a b**ch. Each day felt like I was losing a little bit more of myself. Until I remembered. I was NOT my job. I was more than that.
My survival – and eventual thriving – through this time was due to five strategies that I used. I’m not saying it was a bed of roses, but when I applied them, the roses had measurably fewer thorns. And I wish I could say I had handled the situation perfectly. But as Maya Angelou says, “when you know better, you do better.”
These strategies I share are not meant to necessarily change an outcome for you, but rather to support and empower you to take charge of your feelings at a time when you may be feeling vulnerable and anything but “in charge.” And this may actually change an outcome.
1. Say What? If it looks and sounds like a duck, it is a duck! For heaven’s sake DON’T start thinking you are paranoid. If you are “sensitive” like I am, you can empathically “feel” the actual changes before they occur. This is a gift! If you begin to doubt your judgment, and your gut, you will inevitably begin to distrust the one person that you must trust now more than ever -- yourself. If you need some perspective, talk to someone OUTSIDE the company, like a coach or therapist who can be an unbiased sounding board. Trust what you are feeling.
2. Decide. It’s your choice. Do you stay and weather the storm? Or do you begin your search for another job? Either way, you are going to need some really good coping skills and be steadfast in whatever decision you make. And then, decide again. If you stay and you continually feel like a sitting duck, this will eat away at your self-worth and self-power. Hold on to both of those and decide to be uber-loving to yourself each and every day. Don't underestimate the power of self-care. How I did this was making sure I had great music at my desk, fresh flowers, affirmations and reminders that this situation did not define “who” I was. If you do decide to look for another job, keeping your energy and stamina up will be key to representing your best self during interviews.
3. Get out! Get out of your office at least once a day…even if you have nowhere to go! I would typically eat my lunch at my desk every day (thankfully, I’ve learned a whole lot more about self-care!). Then as things began to become more difficult, there was a real need for me to shore up my energy in order to get through the rest of the day. Get out. Take a break. Do something to re-energize your spirit; read, walk, listen to music (I highly recommend Pharrell Williams’s song Happy!), be in nature, find someplace outside the office to meditate (your car will do) – even if it is only for 10 minutes.
4. Tap. Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) or Tapping can offer immediate relief in stressful situations. Walking into an environment day-to-day that no longer feels welcoming eventually becomes toxic causing chronic stress in your body. This is the root of disease and unhappiness. Here is an “emergency” tactic that you can use any time, and any place, for support.
This picture above shows the karate chop point and it is located on either hand. Use 4 fingers from the other hand to tap on this whole side of the hand. Keep doing this until you begin to feel calmer and your breathing slows down and becomes more regular. I can’t tell you the numerous times I did this with my hands hiding in my lap or under a conference room table! For more information on how you can get tapping support, visit my website: www.paulagrosario.com.
5. 3-Minutes. Take three minutes to breathe. If you are feeling like you just HAVE TO fire off an email or say something to someone who really pissed you off, give it 3 minutes before you do! Take three minutes to breathe. That’s it. Often times that is all that’s needed to rattle the cage of your “thinking brain” (“wake up for strategy and self-preservation!”) and systematically shut down your “emotional brain” (“bye-bye fear, upset and anger!”). The whole idea is to create some space and distance between you and the emotionally-charged situation. Close your eyes and breathe slowly and deeply. If you still feel heated after this and are tempted to give someone a piece of your mind, add the tapping to this and begin the 3 minutes of breathing again.
6. Get up! (O.k., so this is similar to get out!) If you can’t physically leave the office, getting up from your desk can do a world of good! Sit in a conference room, find a work-related reason to visit someone else’s office, move your chair on the other side of your desk and sit there (yeah, I know, it may look weird but it helps!). You want to change the way you are seeing things. When we feel small, ignored or devalued, sitting hunched over a desk reinforces these feelings. This sitting position tightens your muscles, restricts your lungs and causes lethargy. The idea here is to feel empowered – moving around – even putting your arms out to the side and on your hips will shift your energy and perspective on how things look at that moment.
7. The Gift! Find the gift. Even in the most seemingly upsetting of situations, there is always a gift waiting for us. If you take the time to seek the gift, you will likely spend less time ruminating about what may come and who said what to whom. The gift is often something we need to learn and grow from personally. Perhaps the gift is to help you find your true calling which may not be in your current job or career. Or maybe the gift is to learn how to let go and move on when a situation no longer serves you. Or to learn how to speak up and stand in your power. Only you will know what that gift is and when you have found it!
Hard Ice Cream vs. Soft Serve
What’s your preference? I’m a “both” kind of gal. Sometimes I like hard ice cream because some flavors have little bits of surprises (my favorite is peppermint stick) and sometimes I like soft serve because it is smooth and creamy. So why in the world am I talking about ice cream?
Well, in a New York Times interview, Lazlo Bock, senior vice president of people operations at Google, discussed the types of attributes they value most and are critical for success in the future.
And it reminded me of ice cream!
Comparatively speaking, an employee – or future employee’s – work experience would be considered their “hard skills”. Things like what their degree and GPA and what they are trained to do all fall into the hard ice cream category. According to Lazlo, these, once thought of as indicators of success, are truly not indicators at all and that “part of the challenge with leadership is that it’s very driven by gut instinct in most cases…” This is both a good thing and not. I wholeheartedly agree that instincts and intuition are truly what separate the connected leaders from the my-way-or-the-highway type of leader.
Enter the “soft skills” (or soft serve ice cream). These are things like attitude, decision making ability, likeability, resourcefulness and flexibility. The type of things that are difficult to ascertain from a static resume or even a traditional interview scenario.
When I first started working, to say I was young and inexperienced would have been an understatement. But learn I did and my boss at the time became my life-long mentor. She was strong AND she had soft skills before they were even called that. I learned by observing her. By seeing how she treated others, how she responded to certain situations and how she valued what was unique in each individual. She made quick and mindful decisions with confidence. And even when she didn’t have the answer, there was just something about her that made you trust that she would figure it out. She was soft skills personified.
In the interview process, Lazlo suggests more of a behavioral interview approach, asking questions that open up the candidate to talk about an actual situation, rather than a contrived “what would you do” scenarios. For instance, ask someone to describe a time when they needed to maneuver a difficult situation. The riches that come out of this type of question will enable you to see into the person’s thought-process, as well as what they deem to be difficult. You can really drill down and learn much more about a person and their ability to lead and thrive in a pressured situation by allowing them to speak of from their personal experiences.
Google values leaders who show consistency and fairness with their people. Not just because it’s a nice thing to do but because it sets others up for success. When someone knows consistent parameters it actually creates a sense of freedom. With freedom comes creativity. With creativity comes innovation. With innovation comes…….well, you get the picture!
And what is the number one attribute that Google predicts will be the most sought after in the near future? Adaptability. Companies need leaders and their teams to be able to morph. The ability to shift gears and re-invent yourself according to the changing needs of business is the SPARK you need for success.
So how do you develop soft skills in others? Many progressive companies are seriously investing in programs, workshops and coaching to help can guide them in this endeavor. Companies like IBM, Motorola, J.P. Morgan, Chase, and Hewlett Packard make leadership development a priority. And according to Fast Company, companies that have spent a mere $680 per employee in coaching, to enhance their “softer side”, improved total stockholder return by 6% per year.
Now that is a double dose of soft serve!
5 Morning Habits to SPARK Your Success!
How you spend your morning can set off a trajectory for how your day unfolds! And while you can't control outside events, you CAN take steps to prepare yourself for anything. If you aspire to be a SPARK leader – someone who ignites the SPARK in others – self-awareness and taking steps that support your best and highest self are imperative.
Having a morning ritual is important for many reasons. Just like opening the cover of a book to begin another chapter, morning ritual creates a framework for the events of the day. A morning ritual builds the practice of mindfulness and focus – which more and more studies are revealing are key ingredients to amp performance and productivity. And the good news is that a ritual can take as little as five minutes in case you are wondering if you need to set your alarm two hours earlier than usual. Trust me, I'm a huge believer in getting enough Z's!
What makes a ritual different from another “to do” on your list is that it is:
- isn’t meant to “accomplish” anything (other than being present)
- has a definitive beginning to mark this time as “special”
- has a definitive ending
To create a beginning or “start” to your ritual you may want to light a candle, ring a bell, close your eyes and breathe deeply and slowly. Create a space – a corner of a room, out in nature – or anywhere you will feel centered and not be disturbed. Wherever you choose, designate this as your ritual space that is not used for anything else. End your ritual by reversing the beginning process (i.e., blow out the candle, ring a bell, etc.) Here are some ritual ideas: meditate, visualize, breathing exercises, sing, chant, inspirational reading, tapping or EFT. I often use a deck of inspirational cards and randomly choose one to set the tone for the day! http://www.paulagrosario.com/store/p3/Zen_of_Stress_Soul_Intention_and_Inspired_Action_Card_Deck.html
Getting a jump on the day can make all the difference. Allow extra time for the unplanned events like traffic, delayed trains or an extra, long line at the coffee shop. When I was commuting to the city on a daily basis, I gave myself a 15 minute head start in the morning and it actually made a huge difference in driving time.
Doing this helps keep your energy from becoming frenetic right off the bat. There’s nothing worse than running into the office with just a couple of minutes to spare and already feeling like you can’t catch up! Personally, I had found that quiet time at my desk before co-workers arrived, created a space between me and whatever issues would occur during the day so my thought process and responses were better thought out.
Try a digital diet! Most of us are inclined to check the cell phone, iPad or laptop in the same motion as grabbing the toothbrush or plugging in the coffee maker. We’re in a rush to get the latest news and check our email inboxes. So why is it smart to resist and delay the email fix first thing in the morning? Studies have shown it can increase your energy, positive outlook and boost productivity. There’s even a book dedicated to this concept, Never Check Email In The Morning, by Julie Morgenstern.
Now I know this is a tough one. It’s like the monkey on your back that keeps jumping up and down nagging at you that your inbox is about to explode if you don’t check it NOW! So as far as the primate, practicing mindfulness will help with that. And for waiting to check email, start small. Try delaying email checking until you get to the office – so no checking at home or on your commute.
Do this for a couple of days and then add a 30- minute delay AFTER you get to the office. To help with this, before you leave the office the night before, leave a check list or tasks to accomplish on your desk for you to do in the morning. This can help delay the urgent feeling of having to get to email. After a couple of more days, add an additional 30 minutes to that. I understand you have a lot of responsibility and you need to have your finger on the pulse, but let’s be honest, Rome won’t burn to the ground if you don’t check email till 10 a.m.! Good luck….it will be worth it!
When was the last time you scheduled a playdate with yourself? SPARK leaders schedule themselves into their calendars. And they do it several times a day! Pushing through a day with no breaks, back-to-back meetings and no lunch is a quick path to BURNOUT.
And, it won’t make your more productive or necessarily prove that you are dedicated. Being dedicated to you (not your job) is the best way to climb the ladder because you will be operating at your best and highest self. It’s easier to put your time into the calendar if you look at it month by month. By creating your calendar a month or two in advance, you are already accounted for and you just need to plot meetings AROUND your time. A simple way of doing this is to put in a 15 minute break every two hours and be sure to take a lunch break.
During these times, get up from your desk, walk around, drink lots of water and go out and smell fresh air if you can. Try to leave a 20 – 30 minute gap between other scheduled meetings. This “between time” can be used for some “you” time and to catch up on those emails you were dying to answer!
If you are a leader (of course you are!) or aspiring to a leadership position within a company or even being a business owner, it’s obvious that how you engage with others is crucial to success. Make others aware of your plan. Invite them to be involved. Engage staff in a challenge or brainstorm of the most creative ways to ramp up their energy, productivity and fun. Create a way to acknowledge and celebrate everyone’s SPARK success!
Paula G. Rosario
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