In times of crisis, don’t look to the past or the future for answers. That’s according to social psychologist and behavioral science expert Amy Cuddy. The Harvard University lecturer and author of Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challengesexplained in a virtual keynote to Inc. 5000 honorees this week that productivity-sapping emotions such as anxiety, dread, and distraction come from thinking too much about the past and future.
Staying present, Cuddy explains, can help you approach difficult situations with composure and find solutions with confidence. “It’s the power to bring yourself forward to express your most confident, competent, trustworthy, decent, awesome self in stressful situations,” Cuddy says. “It is the ability to control your own states, your own behaviors, and, to some extent, your own outcomes.”
Here are three of Cuddy’s tips for how to make the most of a bad situation.
View challenges as opportunities.
When presented with a challenge, Cuddy advises reframing the situation. If you feel nervous to approach someone, for example, think of them as a collaborator or an ally, rather than as a competitor. Changing viewpoints can make you feel more in control of coming up with a solution to your problems.
“When we feel powerful, it leads us to act,” Cuddy says. “When we feel powerless, we don’t act.”
Don’t fake it until you make it.
Faking it until you make it works in some situations, but not when it comes to relationships. The best relationships are built on trust and authenticity–not on overstating your abilities.
“Unfortunately, we often make the mistake in work situations of showing off our skills and our strengths before showing that we are trustworthy,” Cuddy says. “When we neglect that piece, this other piece–the strength, the competence, the skills–they just don’t matter, especially for leaders who really need to inspire people to do their best work.”
Avoid panicing at all costs.
When presented with something that makes you panic, Cuddy advises business owners to think of a time when you felt your best, whether it was finishing your first successful fundraising meeting, landing your biggest client, or even at a personal event such as a wedding. By contrasting the panic with a good feeling, it can help you reset your approach to the situation and feel more present.
“When we feel present, we’re not doubting who we are [and] we believe in ourselves,” Cuddy says. “And when we believe in ourselves, we believe in what we’re selling.”
A client (who I’ll call “Alex”) asked me to help him prepare to interview for a CEO role with a start-up. It was the first time he had interviewed for the C-level, and when we met, he was visibly agitated. I asked what was wrong, and he explained that he felt “paralyzed” by his fear of failing at the high-stakes meeting.
Digging deeper, I discovered that Alex’s concern about the quality of his performance stemmed from a “setback” he had experienced and internalized while working at his previous company. As I listened to him describe the situation, it became clear that the failure was related to his company and outside industry factors, rather than to any misstep on his part. Despite that fact, Alex could not shake the perception that he himself had not succeeded, even though there was nothing he could have logically done to anticipate or change this outcome.
People are quick to blame themselves for failure, and companies hedge against it even if they pay lip service to the noble concept of trial and error. What can you do if you, like Alex, want to face your fear of screwing up and push beyond it to success? Here are four steps you can take:
Redefine failure. Behind many fears is worry about doing something wrong, looking foolish, or not meeting expectations — in other words, fear of failure. By framing a situation you’re dreading differently before you attempt it, you may be able to avoid some stress and anxiety.
Let’s go back to Alex as an example of how to execute this. As he thought about his interview, he realized that his initial bar for failing the task — “not being hired for the position” — was perhaps too high given that he’d never been a CEO and had never previously tried for that top job. Even if his interview went flawlessly, other factors might influence the hiring committee’s decision — such as predetermined preferences on the part of board members.
In coaching Alex through this approach, I encouraged him to redefine how he would view his performance in the interview. Was there a way he might interpret it differently from the get-go and be more open to signs of success, even if they were small? Could he, for example, redefine failure as not being able to answer any of the questions posed or receiving specific negative feedback? Could he redefine success as being able to answer each question to the best of his ability and receiving no criticisms about how he interviewed?
As it turned out, Alex did advance to the second round and was complimented on his preparedness. Ultimately, he did not get the job. But because he had shifted his mindset and redefined what constituted failure and success, he was able to absorb the results of the experience more gracefully and with less angst than he had expected.
Set approach goals (not avoidance goals). Goals can be classified as approach goals or avoidance goals based on whether you are motivated by wanting to achieve a positive outcome or avoid an adverse one. Psychologists have found that creating approach goals, or positively reframing avoidance goals, is beneficial for well-being. When you’re dreading a tough task and expect it to be difficult and unpleasant, you may unconsciously set goals around what you don’t want to happen rather than what you do want.
Though nervous about the process, Alex’s desire to become a CEO was an approach goal because it focused on what he wanted to achieve in his career rather than what he hoped to avoid. Although he didn’t land the first CEO job he tried to get, he did not let that fact deter him from keeping that as his objective and getting back out there.
If Alex had instead become discouraged about the outcome of his first C-level interview and decided to actively avoid the pain of rejection by never vying for the top spot again, he would have shifted from approach to avoidance mode. While developing an avoidance goal is a common response to a perceived failure, it’s important to keep in mind the costs of doing so. Research has shown that employees who take on an avoidance focus become twice as mentally fatigued as their approach-focused colleagues.
Create a “fear list.” Author and investor Tim Ferriss recommends “fear-setting,” creating a checklist of what you are afraid to do and what you fear will happen if you do it. In his Ted Talk on the subject, he shares how doing this enabled him to tackle some of his hardest challenges, resulting in some of his biggest successes.
I asked Alex to make three lists: first, the worst-case scenarios if he bombed the interview; second, things he could do to prevent the failure; and third, in the event the flop occurred, what could he do to repair it. Next, I asked him to write down the benefits of the attempted effort and the cost of inaction. This exercise helped him realize that although he was anxious, walking away from the opportunity would be more harmful to his career in the long run.
Focus on learning. The chips aren’t always going to fall where you want them to — but if you understand that reality going in, you can be prepared to wring the most value out of the experience, no matter the outcome.
To return to Alex, he was able to recognize through the coaching process that being hyper-focused on his previous company’s flop — and overestimating his role in it — caused him to panic about the CEO interview. When he shifted gears to focus not on his potential for failure but on what he would learn from competing at a higher level than he had before, he stopped sweating that first attempt and was able to see it as a steppingstone on a longer journey to the CEO seat.
With that mindset, he quickly pivoted away from his disappointment at not getting the offer to quickly planning for the next opportunity to interview for a similar role at another company.
Remember: it’s when you feel comfortable that you should be fearful, because it’s a sign that you’re not stepping far enough out of your comfort zone to take steps that will help you rise and thrive. By rethinking your fears using the four steps above, you can come to see apprehension as a teacher and guide to help you achieve your most important goals.
It only takes one toxic worker to wreak havoc and negatively impact an entire workplace. Toxic coworkers not only make work dreadful and unpleasant, but they harm the productivity and morale of everyone around them. They create unnecessary drama, erode the culture, undermine the values of the company and destroy trust within the team.
According to a Fierce Inc.study, four out of five employees currently work or have worked with a potentially toxic coworker. Randstad conducted a study exploring why employees leave their workplace and found 58% have left or are considering leaving due to negativity, office politics and disrespectful behavior.
It’s easier said than done to not allow the toxicity of one person to affect your own work especially if you have to work closely with them. Working with a toxic coworker is a powerless and draining experience. Furthermore, it’s not always easy to identify a toxic coworker especially if you consider them to be a friend.
If you feel drained or negative after interacting with them, this could be a sign they’re toxic. Toxic behavior can manifest through words, body language, disrespecting boundaries, hoarding information, purposely undermining others, not following through on promises or commitments, insults and rumors, to name a few.
Here are three ways you can identify a toxic coworker and set healthy boundaries.
Employees with a victim mindset will always talk about how much they hate their job, their boss, their team or the company. There’s a difference between having a bad day and someone who revels in creating misery for others. Dan Bailey, president of WikiLawn Los Angeles Lawn Care, explained, “the more people they can get to share in their discontent, the better they feel.”
Despite being disengaged, toxic coworkers will make excuses for their performance when given constructive feedback with the belief that it’s a personal attack against them. Moreover, they hold grudges and never lose a chance to share how they’ve been wronged even if those situations have been rectified.
Those who are new to a company are prone to being swept up into the negativity as they’re eager to make friends and unaware of a toxic persons patterns. For this reason, it’s important to do pulse checks to see if this is a cultural thing or a person thing.
Here are some coping strategies to help you bounce back from a toxic encounter and stay mentally strong:
Surround yourself with uplifting coworkers who take responsibility and learn from their mistakes
Seek out your company’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP) or professional help to learn how to better manage the situation and have a safe space to talk about it
Talk to your HR department and keep the conversation based on facts rather than an individual’s personality. Be prepared to provide specific examples of incidents
Incorporate social activities you can look forward to after work
Practice gratitude and meditation
They Gossip More Than They Knowledge Share
Gossip is the root of many internal company problems. It breeds negativity and spreads quickly. Yasir Nawaz, digital content producer at Pure VPN, said, “toxic colleagues drain your energy and are a constant source of demotivation at work. The worst part is you may not realize you’re in the company of a toxic colleague until it’s too late.” He added, “there’s one sure-fire way to identify one; someone that constantly talks about others behind their backs.”
Melanie Musson, insurance specialist for Buy Auto Insurance asserted, “gossip doesn’t help build a stronger team; rather, it tears down teamwork. Chances are, if they gossip to you, they’re also gossiping about you.”
Another warning sign a colleague is toxic is if they refuse to share knowledge with you that prevents you from being able to do your job. As a victim of a former toxic coworker and boss, I know how detrimental their impact can be not only on my work and mental health, but also to the team and overall workplace. In my experience, my former coworker excluded me from meetings, team activities and withheld information that prevented me from being able to do my job well and used it against me.
Musson explained, “toxic people put themselves first. They really don’t care about others and use others’ misfortunes as a way to move forward at work. If a team member is struggling, the toxic coworker may take the opportunity to show how they excel in that same area.”
Eventually, I set a boundary with her where I started documenting every incident before confronting her. Then, I worked around her to find the information I needed and limited my interactions with her altogether. Be aware, setting healthy boundaries will often push toxic coworkers to react negatively. However, those who are the happiest and most productive are the ones who set healthy boundaries and those who aren’t used to having boundaries set with them are likely to take offense.
Here are boundaries you can set with a coworker that gossips:
Empathize and redirect them to focus on what’s working or to speak with their manager
Refuse to participate by excusing yourself from the conversation when they start gossiping
Focus on positive gossip that celebrates others instead of participating in negative gossip that hurts morale
Communicate your boundaries letting them know you don’t like to talk about office politics
Surround yourself with people who would rather share knowledge than spread gossip
Use key phrases such as “this sounds like a rumor and I don’t want to hear it”, “I’d rather engage in conversations that are positive and uplifting” or countering with “is that a fact or gossip?”
They Use Passive Aggressive Comments Rather Than Compliments
Matt Satell, CEO of Prime Mailboxes said, “toxic employees are often those who purposely undermine the capabilities of others so they can stay ahead of their competition.” They thrive on finding fault, negativity and holding people back.
Here are a few examples of passive-aggressive behaviors and comments:
Giving the silent treatment
Responding with sarcasm or disguised insults
Rejecting feedback and others perspectives
A cynical attitude
An air or superiority
Nich Chernets, CEO of Data for SEO said “in my experience, toxic people tend to complain a lot, even in the situations when everything is good. They’re looking for an audience that will constantly listen to their problems. In the long run, these people bring a lot of negativity to the work process and burden others with unnecessary things.” John Stevenson, marketing specialist at My GRE Exam Preparation added, “in turn, this creates an environment where other members of the team cannot work at full capacity because they’re too busy watching their backs.”
You can cultivate positivity through uplifting interactions with other colleagues, listening to motivating podcasts and finding the good in the work you do. It’s easy to lose motivation when a toxic coworker undermines your abilities and believes their role and contributions are more valuable than everyone else’s.
Here are some ways you can remind yourself of your hard work and contributions:
Keep a running document of your achievements and wins
Copy and paste recognitions from emails, client/manager reviews and Slack comments into the running document
I’m a Leadership Coach & Workplace Culture Consultant at Heidi Lynne Consulting helping individuals and organizations gain the confidence to become better leaders for themselves and their teams. As a consultant, I deliver and implement strategies to develop current talent and create impactful and engaging employee experiences. Companies hire me to to speak, coach, consult and train their teams and organizations of all sizes. I’ve gained a breadth of knowledge working internationally in Europe, America and Asia. I use my global expertise to provide virtual and in-person consulting and leadership coaching to the students at Babson College, Ivy League students and my global network. I’m a black belt in Six Sigma, former Society of Human Resources (SHRM) President and domestic violence mentor. Learn more at http://www.heidilynneco.com or get in touch at Heidi@heidilynneco.com
Toxic Coworkers | How to Deal with Toxic People at Work // Do you have a toxic coworker? Or even worse, several toxic workers. Nothing make a toxic work culture faster than having these difficult coworkers and having to deal with toxic coworkers every day. If you have toxic work colleagues, you need to know how to cope with toxic coworkers. You can disarm toxic people in the workplace, and while it won’t totally heal a toxic work environment, it can make your day to day in a toxic workplace slightly more tolerable. In this video I will show you how to deal with toxic coworkers – it’s six simple strategies that will disarm toxic person at work and help you survive until you can escape the toxic environment at work. I’d love to know which strategies you would implement or how you have dealt with toxic coworkers in the past. ****************** Stop settling for mediocrity, it’s time to glow up your career. Attend the free LIVE workshop on December 2nd at 12pm EST. glowupyourcareer.com ************* Think I might be the right Career Success Coach for you? Learn more & apply: capdecasolutions.com/coaching Accelerate your job search, get Hired in a Hurry hiredinahurry.com ****************** More videos to help deal with difficult coworkers and toxic workplaces: TOXIC WORK ENVIRONMENT: 14 Signs Your Workplace is Toxic (and How to Cope) https://youtu.be/GEJBaigzUcA COWORKERS ARE NOT YOUR FRIENDS https://youtu.be/XjhF3xQE1lM How to Work with People You Don’t Like https://youtu.be/x1S5EPX0Jik HOW TO HANDLE DIFFICULT COWORKERS | Dealing with difficult people at work https://youtu.be/R-nI-IpQYbo POSITIVE ATTITUDE AT WORK (HOW TO STAY POSITIVE AT WORK) https://youtu.be/wVKUB0-ZHvM ****************** SUCCESS HABITS & RESOURCES Join my private community, the Strive Squad (it’s free!) https://www.facebook.com/groups/striv… I’m all about productivity tools, great books, and sanity savers in general. Browse my favorites in my Amazon Store: https://www.amazon.com/shop/jenniferb… Get your bookworm on when you’re on the move. Audible is my OBSESSION, and it helps me read an extra 1-2 books per week. Get 30 days free: https://amzn.to/39d3U3W Try my 30 books in 30 days challenge, and make it easier with Kindle Unlimited (your first month is free!): https://amzn.to/3ftIBMB Being the best means you keep your knowledge up to date, for this I love Skillshare! Get a free trial: https://bit.ly/3l3oTbJ What Am I Wearing? I hate wearing the same thing twice and I love saving money, so 95% of my wardrobe is from Rent the Runway. Wanna try it (and save $30): https://bit.ly/3995mnT ****************** LET’S HANG! I post more content and videos on LinkedIn – follow me there https://linkedin.com/in/jenniferbrick Daily career glow-up videos on TikTok https://www.tiktok.com/@jenniferbrick… You can also follow me on: Instagram: http://instagram.com/capdeca Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ccJenniferbr… Twitter: https://twitter.com/jennifer_brick Sometimes I write stuff for Thrive Global https://thriveglobal.com/authors/jenn…
Last year I stumbled across an article about anxiety in men. It highlighted how it can surface in atypical symptoms such as anger. I learned to recognise and work on my own anxiety. It also lead me to recognise anxiety in others. Soon I realised this does not only affect other people but also organisations and processes. Let me introduce you to anxiety driven development.
We already have fear driven development
Fear and anxiety produce similar responses. Fear is based on a concrete threat. Whereas anxiety is fuzzier and more vague. Fear driven development is graspable which makes it easier to talk about it.
As an engineer it could look like this: You’re afraid of pushing your code because you could break the build. Or you shy away of touching a method because you fear shipping a bug.
If you are a product manager you might try to squeeze that extra feature into a release because you fear that you won’t be able to close a new customer otherwise.
Patterns of anxiety in product development
But anxiety runs deeper than this. Anxiety becomes more of an underlying current. Here are the most common anxiety driven development patterns I have observed,
Play not to lose
Your product is driven by the fear of losing. Losing market share, customers or ratings. You are driven to keep up with whatever the competition does. So you go out of your way to get every feature built that your competitors ship.
As a product manager you might push a feature request to the top of the backlog with every release announcements of your competitors. You can even call that agile because you’re adapting to change quickly, right? Unfortunately what you’re doing is destabilising your development flow and hinder the long term success of your product. You will always be at least one step behind, always trying to close the gap. This will choke all innovation because who has time to take additional risks when you’re barely keeping pace?
Play to win
Play to win instead. The treatment for this form of anxiety is to develop a strong unique selling proposition (USP). If you can differentiate yourself from your competition you will not be reeled into the fruitless thought pattern of playing not to lose. Do not try to differentiate yourself by price alone. This is a very weak USP, just waiting for the next competitor to undercut you, speeding up the race to the bottom. Also it creates almost no customer loyality.
All that glitters is not gold
If you’re anxious your business is falling behind but you can’t quite pinpoint why you will act in a continued state of emergency. You will chase quick wins. This might calm the the anxiety for a moment but it won’t last long. It’s possible to make a team stay late or rally the whole company behind you for an initiative. Once. But the more often you cry wolf the less likely it is you get the desired response. If your body is being continuously flooded with stress hormones it will render it incapable of responding to stressful situations adequately. The same goes for your organisation.
If you push your team every quarter to add a last minute feature for the opportunity of a featuring in a prominent partner store your team will anticipate this and instead already create buffers beforehand. The emergency response will create a fatigue which will appear in the form of demotivation, inflated estimates and non-commitment. All of this hurts the true output, fuelling your anxiety even more.
Steering the ship
To break out of such a vicious circle practice saying no. Take a step back and craft an inspiring, authentic vision. Let this vision influence an actionable strategy. You can then break your strategy down into a rolling wave plan with more details of the near future. This gives you clarity on the current work while not losing the bigger picture. Ultimately you will be less swayed to jump onto every potential quick win.
Permit A 38
Anxiety can make you feel out of control. What’s a natural response to this? You try everything to regain control. But that perceived control can in truth be an overly bureaucratic process which slows down your product development, once again feeding your anxiety.
How could that look like? You might be creating or working on tickets that resemble a full-blown requirements sheet, specified to the very last detail. At the same time every idea has to go through various stages of approval (until it’s rejected). This is extremely damaging for motivation.
Cutting the red tape
To get out of such anxiety driven behaviours you need trust. Trust your own market research and strategy. And most of all trust your team. Empower the team to be the experts to achieve the product’s vision and let them self organise.
Awareness is the first step
Anxiety is widespread and on the rise, not just during a pandemic. It would be naive to believe that this does not also affect your workplace. Anxiety driven product development is hard to crack because it sustains itself. Take a step back and reflect on what you’re doing to break out of this Catch-22. Once you recognise your destructive behaviours it is much easier to change them.
Agile is often thought of as a process when it’s really a mind-set (supported by processes, of course). Yes, it’s about testing and learning, and new ways of working, but at the heart of agile is the determination to provide the customer with something she or he wants or needs. That’s the point. Enshrining this principle across the business provides a consistent point of reference. But while almost every company will claim to be “customer first,” a closer look under the hood often reveals that internal efficiency or profit rather than customer need is the true driving force.
An agile mind-set starts from the premise that everyone is responsible for the customer, be it the CEO who determines the business strategy, the salesperson directly serving the customer, or the data scientist developing analytics platforms. You will only be able to embed agile ways of working once this becomes a core value, providing cohesion and purpose. This isn’t about doing your job better; it’s about serving the customer better.
This is much more than gathering insights or building elegant websites. It’s about building an adaptive learning process around the customer for everything the company does.
Getting design right is worth a lot. Companies in the top quartile of the McKinsey Design Index, which rates companies by how strong they are at design, outperformed peers in their sector in terms of growth by as much as two to one.
Here are two of the most important things the winning companies do:
One international pizza chain wanted to improve home delivery, a crowded market where consumers were already spoiled for choice. Data analysis revealed that one of the biggest drivers of customer satisfaction was how hot the delivered pizza was. This fact led the business to invest in “Intelligent Kitchen” technology, which determines when orders are baked based on the delivery address, driver availability, and current location, as well as road conditions to ensure the customer got a piping hot pizza. This approach grew overall sales 7 percent in the first year, and more in the years following.
The best results come from constantly blending both quantitative and qualitative research. One top team invites customers to its regular monthly meeting solely to discuss the merits of its products and services.
And the CEO of one of the world’s largest banks spends a day a month with the bank’s clients and encourages all members of the C-suite to do the same.
2. They Continuously Improve With Customer Feedback
Continuous improvement is key to success for a digital transformation. This is the raw learning capability. You can see it in companies that foster a culture of sharing early prototypes with outsiders and discouraging excessive time spent on mock-ups or internal presentations. Despite the value of iteration, however, almost 60 percent of companies in our survey said they used prototypes only for internal-production testing, and even then, only late in the development process.
New technologies allow companies to uncover insights and test products in a dramatically faster way than traditional market research or focus groups. Digital marketing teams can convene online customer panels using video chats and watch as the panels test products and provide feedback in real time. One insurer created digital diaries to help identify customer pain points that would previously have gone undetected.
Similarly, digital companies can quickly A/B test new products and campaigns with thousands of customers in hours or days.
Agile isn’t just a process. It’s a mind-set that puts customer objectives first. Team autonomy works best with guiding principles about what needs to be done and why.
Agile coaches are necessary to train people to learn new skills fast—leaders included.
Agile budgeting helps scale agile by quickly allocating money to projects.
Agile ways of working can’t take hold unless they are supported by stable processes.
Go to http://www.TheCustomerFocus.com or call 314-692-2200 to learn more about Shep Hyken or to learn about customer service training. Your people attend customer service training. They learn techniques and tactics on how to deal with complaining customers, angry customers or customers who just need a little support. They are taught the right answers to some difficult questions. This is what customer service training is all about. But… What happens when something happens that is outside of the parameters of the training your employees have received?