What Getting Defensive Means

The other day I was having lunch with a friend who is looking for a job and as I said something she started getting defensive. To be honest, it took me by surprise.

24398770_sI did not back down about what I was saying. I told her – “This is what I see, this is the behavior that is being shown to me.” I gave her specific examples of how I came to my conclusion.

She was not listening to what I had to say, instead she started to talk very fast about how it not what she meant and I was not interpreting it correctly.

What she failed to understand is that what I see or perceive is based on how she says things or behaves. She has the power to change how I or someone else might see her.

So what do you do when you are getting defensive – when someone says something that you don’t like?

The first step is to explore if what the person is saying has a kernel of truth – after all – why would you get defensive? If someone speaks the truth – whether it is positive or negative, there is no reason to get defensive. You might get mad, but then again, why not own it?

The second step is to be curious about what someone is saying. Seek to understand why they feel the way they do and not trying to shut down the dialogue.

Is the person sharing their observations being well-intentioned? If so, listen deeply to what they have to say and try to figure out how you might be able to affect some changes, if that is important to you.

Finally, realize if one person thinks this way, there are likely other people in your life who may think the same way. Consider reaching out to them and ask them what they think. When you open up the conversation yourself, you are already in the mindset to receive feedback.

So the next time you feel yourself getting defensive – stop, listen and learn.

Setting your Intention in the New Year

Have you set your resolution for the New Year? If not, consider setting your intention instead.

As I set a resolution, I am resolved to making it happen and to be honest, especially if it is a lofty goal, I fail at some point in the year. When I fail, I get discouraged….sometimes I pull myself back up and start again and other times I fall off the wagon completely.

Setting your intention provides some leeway or forgiveness. It says that you intend to do something. You are not perfect. It’s a statement that you are continuing to work on improving your situation….no matter how tough it may be.

I set intentions every day. It is a practice that I picked up in my coach training a few years ago. Each morning we would set an intention for the day. Your intention could be the same or change depending on what you wanted to focus that day.  At the end of the day we would share our golden nugget – a personal learning ah ha that gave us new perspective.

The framework of setting an intention and then reflecting and on how you grew on a daily basis reinforces what is working – a strong signal that you are moving forward in your life. It doesn’t matter is your step forward is in inches or by leaps and bounds. Every positive step is step in the right direction.

So if you dread New Year’s resolutions think about setting your intention…it could be for the year or carve it out day by day.

Simplifying Life

30 Runnymede RoadI am in that painful process of simplifying life. The last time I did it was about seven years ago when I downsized and moved into a smaller – yet very comfortable house. This time, I am selling my house and moving to a new state. Some may think…are you really simplifying life by doing that? It sounds like a lot of work.

What I learned the last time I simplified life is it can be very painful going down this road. It requires you to re-examine every part your life and making many decisions on whether or not to keep something or to let it go. It may sound simple, but is not.

It is common to make those same decisions more than once – to revisit the item you thought you wanted to keep and ask,

  • Do I really need this?
  • When is the last time I used it?
  • Will I miss it if I give it up?
  • What is the impact of letting it go in my life?
  • Am I holding it for the memory or just because?

The Secret Weapon

Even though I believe I have become ruthless in my quest, I know there are things I gloss over or believe I cannot get rid of. To help me, I enlisted a close friend. That’s the secret weapon.

We are going through every room in the house and she is my quality control check. She keeps me on task, I know the reason she is here is to help me and I have given her permission to challenge my decisions.

Giving someone the power to challenge you as you go through simplifying life is critical. It eliminates fighting because you gave them the power and approval to challenge you.

It is important that she does not have any vested interested in what I keep or give away and that she only wants what is best for me. She understands my goals – move only what I really love or need and shed the rest.

The same process is useful if you are simplifying other areas in your life: finances, activities, commitments, and even friends. A friend once told me she fired all her friends (except for me – probably because I was long distance); she needed new ones.

After Simplifying Life

After I got through my last simplifying life initiative and the dust settled, I felt relieved that the extra stuff in my life that was gone. I was tired and satisfied. I did not miss the things that I had shed. I surrounded myself with the things that I loved. My home was still my home with less clutter and stuff. I am looking forward to that same feeling.

Pattern: Comparing yourself to others

One of my clients likes to compare what he is doing to what other people are doing. Sometimes, the pattern of comparing yourself to others is productive and other times it becomes divisive in what you are trying to accomplish.

For example, when he is job hunting, he wants to know why he has not found a job as quickly as someone else he knows.  After all, it only took them two weeks to find a job and a month later he doesn’t have one.

It’s a pattern with him. He’s competitive to the point of not being forgiving. The pattern is so strong, he fails to realize and celebrate what he is doing right. He forgets that his path or journey may be very different from the person he is comparing himself to. Here are a few of things we talked about:

 Your skills, training and experiences will be different.

Just because someone is going for the same jobs as you are or worked for the same company you do, it does not mean that both of you bring the same level or combination of skills, abilities and experiences to the next position. No two people are alike.

Your relationships will be different.

You’ve heard it before and I will say it again, people find jobs through the people they know. You will have different relationships than the other person. Even if you know the same people, the relationship will be different. People like to help people they like, know and trust.

You may have a different agenda.

The other person may be looking for a job, you may be creating a career or entering into a new phase of life. Some people don’t care if they stay with a company for short time; other people want to find a company that they can stay with for their entire career. Your goals will be different and that drives how you conduct your job search process. Those kinds of steps take longer because you will be pickier.

Look at the big picture, not just one step.

If you are focusing in one activity – they got the job in less than two weeks, you may be losing the sight of they also left that job within the first six months because it was not a good fit. Making good choices is more important that landing quickly. Too many people take the first thing that comes along and subsequently find they are going through the process all over again.

Comparing yourself to others is defeating.

If comparing yourself to others is defeating and does not inspire you, stop doing it. Set your own standards and measure yourself on how you are doing with your goals. Remember to reward yourself along the way.

New Behaviors: The Difficulty of Making Changes

As I was cleaning out the year-end files, I ran across something my father sent me over 15 years ago. The message still rings true – new behaviors are hard to adopt.

So, if you have set your sights on making some changes in the coming year, recognize what patterns may fall into that make it easy for you to continue with the old behavior. Think about how you can break those patterns so that your new behaviors have a chance to take hold.

I hope you enjoy:

Felix the Flying Frog

A Parable about Schedules, Cycle Times and Shaping New Behaviors

Once upon a time, there lived a man named Clarence who had a pet frog named Felix. Clarence lived a modestly comfortable existence on what he earned working at the Wal-Mart, but he always dreamed of being rich. “Felix!” he said one day, hit by sudden inspiration, “We’re going to be rich! I’m going to teach you to fly!”

6530941_sFelix, of course, was terrified at the prospect. “I can’t fly, you twit! I’m a frog, not a canary!”

Clarence, disappointed at the initial response, told Felix: “That negative attitude of yours could be a real problem. We’re going to remain poor, and it will be your fault.”

So Felix and Clarence began their work on flying.

On the first day of the “flying lessons,” Clarence could barely control his excitement (and Felix could barely control his bladder). Clarence explained that their apartment building had 15 floors, and each day Felix would jump out of a window, starting with the first floor and eventually getting to the top floor. After each jump, they would analyze how well he flew, isolate the most effective flying techniques, and implement the improved process for the next flight. By the time they reached the top floor, Felix would surely be able to fly.

Felix pleaded for his life, but his pleas fell on deaf ears. “He just doesn’t understand how important this is,” thought Clarence. “He can’t see the big picture.”

So, with that, Clarence opened the window and threw Felix out. He landed with a thud.

The next day, poised for his second flying lesson, Felix again begged not to be thrown out of the window. Clarence told Felix about how one must always expect resistance when introducing new, innovative plans.

With that, he threw Felix out the window. THUD!

Now this is not to say that Felix wasn’t trying his best. On the fifth day, he flapped his legs madly in a vain attempt at flying. On the sixth day, he tied a small red cape around his neck and tried to think “Superman” thoughts. It didn’t help.

By the seventh day, Felix, accepting his fate, no longer begged for mercy. He simply looked at Clarence and said, “You know you’re killing me, don’t you?”

Clarence pointed out that Felix’s performance so far had been less than exemplary, failing to meet any of the milestone goals he had set for him.

With that, Felix said quietly, “Shut up and open the window,” and he leaped out, taking careful aim at the large jagged rock by the corner of the building.

Felix went to that great lily pad in the sky.

Clarence was extremely upset, as his project had failed to meet a single objective that he had set out to accomplish. Felix had not only failed to fly, he hadn’t even learned to steer his fall as he dropped like a sack of cement, nor had he heeded Clarence’s advice to “Fall smarter, not harder.”

The only thing left for Clarence to do was to analyze the process and try to determine where it had gone wrong. After much thought, Clarence smiled and said…

“Next time, I’m getting a smarter frog!”

Top Posts on Elephants at Work for 2013

Each year, I recap the top search terms, top posts for the year and all time on Elephants at Work. Why? It tells me a lot about the trends of what’s important to you. If career search, losing your job, loving your job or boss is important, it tells me what to focus on for the coming year.

The terms you use to are direct clues about what’s important and what you are struggling with. Often those terms help me figure out what to write because I understand the trends. Here are the top twenty terms for this year:

  1. the five dysfunctions of a team
  2. inflated ego
  3. career progression
  4. examples of tenacity
  5. reducing turnover
  6. ways to recognize employees
  7. how to deal with a bully boss
  8. norman schwarzkopf leadership
  9. trip to abilene
  10. how to reduce turnover  213
  11. cliques at work
  12. when someone hurts you
  13. engineer career path
  14. elephants at work
  15. example of tenacity
  16. termination paperwork
  17. list of assessments
  18. anger in the workplace
  19. wimpy boss
  20. thanking a boss

I also find it interesting to see what the top 12 posts were for the year. The first two posts about being fired or terminated bring in the top readership each year. In fact, one of them was cited in a legal case where I was contacted to be an expert witness.

  1. Do I have to sign my termination or separation agreement?
  2. Interviewing or Job Applications: What do I say if I was fired?
  3. Do you ask your boss to be a job reference?
  4. Company or boss demands unethical behavior
  5. How to Evaluate Career Progression within a Company
  6. The HBDI Question Series: Part 1
  7. Norman Schwartzkopf’s 14 Rules on Leadership
  8. Best Approach to Thanking the Boss
  9. The Best Rejection Letter I Have Received: A Great Feedback Example
  10. HBDI Question Series: Part 2
  11. 11 Things to do or expect when contesting your unemployment claim denial
  12. Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument Question Series: Part 3

Finally, I like to see how Elephants at Work is evolving over time, so a glimpse at the top all time posts gives me insight into the long-term trends. The top two posts have secured their spots by being read over three times more than any other post.

  1. Do I have to sign my termination or separation agreement?
  2. Interviewing or Job Applications: What do I say if I was fired?
  3. Company or boss demands unethical behavior
  4. Norman Schwartzkopf’s 14 Rules on Leadership
  5. Best Approach to Thanking the Boss
  6. Do you ask your boss to be a job reference?
  7. How to Evaluate Career Progression within a Company
  8. The HBDI Question Series: Part 1
  9. Critical thinking skills – Important, potentially life changing
  10. Twenty Ways to Recognize Your Employees
  11. Tenacity – More Than A Leadership Quality
  12. 10 Keys for Reducing Turnover

I hope you join us for another year at Elephants at Work. I welcome comments and drop me a line if you have something interesting to share.

A Time to Reflect and Celebrate

Man looking up at skyIt’s almost the end of 2013 and it’s time to reflect and celebrate what you have accomplished this year. If you were industrious enough to write your year goals, pull them out and see how you did. Don’t beat yourself up if you did not make every goal on the list. Concentrate on if you made any progress against those goals.  Progress is an opportunity for celebration – no matter how small the step.

When I look at some of my goals for the last year, there are a few that were knocked out of the park and some that….well they will have to fall into next year or I will decide that goal is no longer important to me.

I had personal and professional goals this year that were intertwined. I decided to make a personal investment in myself and the business by becoming certified as a professional coach, even though I have been working in the field for many years.

The pathway to doing becoming certified is not a straight line – it involves extensive training, mentoring and testing. While my goal was to be certified this year, the timeline has slipped into early 2014 because of the additional work I am doing to prepare for it.

As I reflect on my goal, I realize that the timeline was not my measurement stick, it was the personal and professional growth through experiencing the training and subsequent coaching that was important. The certification will come as a byproduct and is not the end product.

As you reflect on your progress with each goal, think about these questions and how they might help you shape your future outcomes:

  • What effort did it take to do it or make progress?
  • What trade-offs did you make to make it work?
  • What trade-offs you were not willing to make?
  • Has your goal changed or morphed into something unexpected?
  • Is your goal still relevant?
  • Are you holding on to getting to the finish line over having a goal that adds value to your life?
  • What could be possible if…
  • What stops you from making progress?
  • How to you make changes in your thinking or approach to get where you want?
  • Are you working on the right things?

As you work through this list, think about celebrating your wins and how you might bring your 2014 goals into sharper focus.