Take a break from the news

Q: I can’t tear myself away from the constant stream of news alerts. Frankly, it’s throwing me off my game. How do I cope?

A: You are not alone! The whole country—indeed the world—is on the receiving end of the torrent of news that is being characterized as unprecedented, unpredictable and unavoidably disruptive. And, note that the aforementioned adjectives are not a complete description of what seems to be a new reality—a dystopian world that we have to make sense of each day.

“Tweeting” has added more velocity to the news and the content of the tweets causes us to zig and zag. Our internal clocks, social rhythm and capacity to make sense of the news cycle are out of sync. And as a result, many of us are, like you, thrown off our game. How do you cope? The answer is simple—take a break from the news instead of being jerked around by news alerts.

Also, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Why are you watching and listening to the news? Note: Don’t be fooled by this simple question. When you answer the question you may discover how you can “disrupt” or “leverage” the current narrative.
  • Are you emotionally intelligent? Are you able to listen and not be “triggered”? If the answer is “no,” recognize that you are giving away your power by allowing yourself to be carried along in emotional currents.
  • What steps and actions will you take to expand your emotional intelligence?

Recommendation:  take a break read a book and expand your perspective.  Now, enjoy the cartoon below. 


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C-Suite Mindset: Bloom Where You Are Planted

By Priscilla H. Douglas

C-Suite  Advisor: Yvonne Jackson former chair of the board, Spelman College
“I believe in the law of attraction. If you are clear about your goals and where you are headed you will build support systems that inform and nourish you. The support systems allow you to stay connected. When I think about my early career, I see that I owe my success to the fact that I have always worked harder and more strategically than the people around me.

When I was an executive recruiter at Avon, I was responsible for the technical area—engineers, metallurgical engineers. I remember going to the VP of the area—it was a bold move—and saying, “You have five people working for you and they are all requesting people. I want to get everyone in the room to see if there are differences.” To my surprise, the VP said, “I will get them in the room.” That move signaled the beginning of a relationship that remains strong to this day. It was a routine job that I approached strategically. Some people may have even viewed it as not important, but I valued what I was doing and I valued the people who worked around me.

I treated what I was doing as the ultimate—the most important work that I could be doing. I never denigrated the work I was doing or its contribution to the enterprise. Of course I had aspirations, but every time I got promoted I was surprised because I was always focused on what I was doing.

I always did the best at what I was doing. My advice to you  bloom where you are planted”.

FROM GETTING THERE STAYING THERE Chapter 1 “Do I have the right stuff”

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A Crisis in the USA Brand?

Q: My global clients won’t openly discuss the US political situation and I don’t either.  However, US politics are the elephant in the room.  Our brand strength rests on “truth, beauty and the American way” and now it seems much harder to close deals. Without being political, how can I address their concerns?

A:  It is difficult to tiptoe around the elephant in the room; I have always noticed that attempts to do so are not successful.  Why?   When you avoid a subject, your behavior changes—the same way your behavior changes when you have a bad hand in poker. And, unfortunately your changed behavior is amplified—more noticeable—if a subject that was once OK to discuss is now off limits.  So, if all of your previous meetings with your international clients began with news about the United States, including politics, now is not the time to change your behavior.

You don’t have to worry about being political if you stick to the facts about what happening in the USA and if you keep your emotions and opinions in check.  Take a business case approach and consider the following:

  • What is the possible business impact of USA politics on your client?
  • What are the market dynamics? Trade issues? Policy changes?
  • Will it affect the flow of goods and services?
  • Will changing immigration polices be an issue?

Check the strength and relevancy of your relationship and offering:

  • What are the brand attributes at the core of your product or service?
  • Is the USA “brand” still appropriate for your client?
  • Are the characteristics of the brand relevant to the ways In which you interact with your international client?
  • Is your product or service out of sync with your client’s needs?

Continue to be attuned to the dynamics of our political situation and ensure that the integrity of your brand remains true and is executed in a way that celebrates the “American way.” When you do that, no politics are needed.

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 What makes you unique?

Arthur and Gwen are both viewed as smart and hard working. However, hard work is not enough to get to the next level. In fact, “He’s a hard  worker” becomes a catch-all phrase that can obscure the unique skill, talent,  and approach that differentiate you work from your peers.  To uncover what  makes you unique consider the following:

1. What is your reputation?

2 Who seeks your advice and input? Why?

3 How do your friends, peers, co-workers describe you?

4 Why did your manager hire you?

5 How do you feel when people recognize your talent and skill?

Notice that I am not asking you what you think about yourself. I’m suggesting  you take an “outside-in” view in order to discover what others think  is your value. And don’t ignore the feedback from your spouse or significant  other. They have the opportunity “24×7” to observe your strengths and  unique capabilities.

For example, Linda’s expertise in sickle cell anemia has caused her to  be sought out by the National Institutes of Health. She is leading a national  study and will present a report to the American Medical Association next  year. However, when she was asked to take a leadership role at her hospital,  she wondered, “Why me?” That is the wrong question! It is more useful to  see yourself from the other person’s point of view. Linda’s division head sees  her as a recognized expert in quality improvement; the National Institutes of   Health see her as a thought leader and innovator; her colleagues view her as  passionate and patient-centric, and her brother considers her to be a “Rock  of Gibraltar” and the heart of the family.

The gap in perception is between Linda and Linda, not among her wide circle of advisors.  If you overlook or downplay the characteristics that make you unique you will miss an important lever of your success.

From Chapter 1:  Do I Have the Right Stuff

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Laid off or getting fired?

Q:  My boss wants to see me in her office at the end of this week and I am thinking the worse:  laid off or fired!

A:  There is a big difference between being laid off and being fired.  There can be a long list of reasons why your organization would consider lay-offs—restructuring, resizing, market downturn, cost cutting, and, increasingly, because of technological changes.  Usually the office grapevine is abuzz with gossip that a lay-off will soon be announced.  Here is what you need to be asking yourself between now and the end of the week:

  • What are the competitive pressures on your organization? How is your leadership responding?  What is the status of your group or department?
  • Is your resume current?
  • If you leave, will it be on “good terms”? Will the organization give you references?
  • What is your “plan B”?

Being fired can be a shocking and upsetting experience. At the same time, getting fired is the last step of a long process that is always accompanied by a breakdown in relationships and sometimes in trust.  So, if you think that you are being called into the office to be fired, these questions come to mind:

  • Have you received a warning?
  • Are you on a performance plan? If yes,
  • Did you adhere to the performance plan? Yes/no?
  • Did you improve your communications with your boss and peers? Yes/no
  • Have you been interviewing for a new position? Note—I hope so.

The good news is that being laid off or being fired are two events for which you can prepare.  Don’t ignore the signals, the gossip and your own intuition. And, don’t be a victim and act like it’s “their” fault.  Now is the time to up your game and move on.

When one door closes it time to open a new one.  Good luck!


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Let us celebrate “We the People”

Today it is important to remember that “WE” are the people– a fact easily obscured  by I, me and selfies.  Our values as Americans–liberty, justice, freedom, tolerance and inclusiveness–are expressed and lived as “we the people”.

We are not a selfish people; we care for each other as evidenced by the off duty fireman pulling a husband and wife from their crashed plane on the Santa Ana Highway.

John Meffert, an off-duty fire captain from Avalon on Catalina Island, who was driving down the freeway when the plane crashed. The 17-year veteran got out of his car and pulled the two occupants from the burning wreckage.

Or the thousands of Facebook friends who respond with kindness when a  mom  ask for help to make her sons birthday special.  We give and give.  It is the American way.

As we gather with friends and family in our community to celebrate our independence let us  not forget that our individual actions and inaction have a collective effect.  Today
choose to be kind, civil, compassionate and generous.  Our challenge is to walk the talk and remember that “we are the people”.

Happy Fourth of July.

Boston Pops



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Should I go along to get along?

Q:  I attended a client event with my boss and was taken aback by the over-the-top antics.  I thought—is this really happening? When we returned, my boss said, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.”  I thought—Vegas, no! The Godfather movie, yes. What should I do?

A:  Some might recommend that you go along to get along, or chalk up this client event to experience. If the behavior was consistent with your moral compass, you might be able to follow this path.  However, it seems that this situation set off two alarms for you:  the “antics” at the event, and your manager’s request to remain silent about them.

  • Were the actions or behavior unethical? Contrary to your corporate policy?  If yes, you  are obligated to act based on the employee agreement you signed when you joined the firm.
  • Did you witness sexual harassment? Bullying? Racial or ethnic slurs? If yes, you have a responsibility to act based on your organization’s values and people management policies.
  • Was the behavior merely careless, clueless, juvenile? If so, can you avoid participating in future, but “leave it in Vegas”?
  • Do you think that this was a one-off situation or is it a pattern of behavior?

Now, consider the relationship that you have with your manager, because your actions in this regard will be shaped more by your values and integrity than by organizational guidelines:

  • Is the relationship close, friendly and informal, or distant, aloof and formal (old school)?
  • If it’s friendly, have you ignored or overlooked previous off-color remarks or behavior by your manager in the office? That is, have you gone along to get along in the past?
  • Is it possible that your manager thinks that you would OK with the “antics”?

Finally, the answer to these questions might be difficult to own up to especially if the answer is yes, it might be the result of the decision that you made:  “going along to get along.”

As for me, going along is not the way that I “roll”.

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Stop working under the radar

Let’s look at the temptation to overachieve. Many people believe that they have to work twice as hard as anyone else in order to be recognized and promoted over members of the dominant group. There can even be an “I’ll  show them” attitude driving their overachievement. But overachieving can  backfire. Here’s what happened to Tony:

I always thought that my boss would be fair and when the time came  all my hard work would pay off. I get in at 8:30AM and I don’t leave  until 9:00 p.m. I come in at least one day on the weekends. They all  know that I do and frankly, it’s the only way the work gets done. I  know that my boss appreciates it.  Now I see one guy is losing his job and the other is being promoted and I really thought that I would get that job because I have  been doing a component of it functionally. I have never been the one  to push but I am really hurt that he didn’t give it to me.

You might think that quietly putting in long hours, working under the  radar and not complaining would be the characteristics of a solid professional,  but these practices have both positive and negative outcomes. The benefits  are obvious—you develop a reputation for being a dependable and detail oriented  person who will get the job done. Your boss values you because in  a pinch she can give you a tricky assignment and you will move heaven and  earth and deliver with no complaints.

But here’s the downside: as I always advise, you should look at every  assignment carefully. When you take on an extra task without considering in  advance how this project will provide either increased visibility or allow you  to deepen or expand your professional experience, then you have wasted a  big opportunity.

If you accept extra work as “no big deal,” without asking to have anything taken off your plate, you risk sabotaging your own efforts by shortchanging other work. Remember; as you move into senior levels you can’t expect your hard work to automatically pay off. It’s up to you to approach the challenge strategically and seek out opportunities that will showcase your abilities and catapult you for the next level.

Now is the time to stop working under the radar.

From Getting There Staying There: By Priscilla H. Douglas 

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Stuck due to training cutbacks

StuckQ:   I am stuck.  Due to cutbacks, corporate sponsored training has gone out the window.  Now what?

A:  It’s great if your company offers training—believe me, I am envious of the classroom courses that I see offered at GOOGLE HQ.  However, most organizations have reduced traditional training—seminars and classroom training—in favor of online learning, town hall briefings or product launches.

So, you are not stuck: you are responsible for your own professional development.  You always have been!   The good news is that you can learn at your own pace and you can venture far from your company-offered courses to the mountain of “free” learning on line.

Now, what do you want to learn?

  • Do you have a gap in your hard or soft skills? If you want to improve hard skills—cyber security, program management, procurement, etc.—go to Kahn Academy—it’s free, online, and convenient.
  • Is there a specific skill area you need to develop based on feedback from your manager? If yes, what advice or direction did your manager provide to close the gap?
  • What certifications will add to your credibility, value, advancement or business acumen?

Your manager will probably applaud you for taking the initiative to grow professionally, so make certain that you can link the skills you are developing to your job.  Think—what is the value that I now add?

  • How am I putting my new skills, knowledge and behavior to use? Develop your own metrics and observable outcomes.

Take the initiative and invest in your ongoing growth and development. Don’t miss the opportunity to shine with your manager.  Your actions will distinguish you from your On line learningpeers and can propel you to the select professional development opportunities that are afforded to senior leaders, high potentials or future leaders.  You aren’t stuck if you are moving.   The world isn’t static—continue to grow as you go.

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Move laterally to move up?

Move_laterallyQ: If I accept the lateral move, my colleagues will see it as a step back not a step forward.  Am I making a mistake?

A:  You are only making a mistake if the offer is not moving you toward your career goal.  A lateral move can be a great way to get new experiences, have more visibility and expand your portfolio of clients, products, and services. Before considering how your colleagues feel, be secure in your decision by answering the following critical questions:

  • What are the specific skills, knowledge, and competencies that this opportunity will provide?
  • Will this opportunity take you off the promotion track or enhance your promotability?
  • Will you be better positioned for the future?
  • Will this lateral position move you toward your goal?

The answers to these questions are essential to effectively steer your career and avoid getting derailed.

Now, for your colleagues:  Develop a compelling elevator pitch that succinctly communicates the benefit of this lateral move and the excitement, passion, and energy that underlie your decision.  Don’t skip this step!  You are moving laterally and will soon move up—keep friends informed and always nurture your network.

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