Tag Archives: career development

Identifying and Mitigating Unconscious Bias in Yourself and in Your Workplace

By Dr. Steve Yacovelli

Steve Yacovelli- Unconscious Bias in your workplace

Three fun facts: First, studies show that resumes with “white” sounding names (like “Greg”) were 50 percent more likely to get a callback for an interview by potential employers than a more stereotypically African-American sounding names (like “Jamal”), even when the resumes were identical aside from the name. Second, brunette and redhead women’s salaries are approximately 7 percent less than their blonde counterparts. And third, most 60 percent of corporate CEOs are over six-foot-tall; a large disproportion compared to the fact that less than 15 percent of American men are over this height.  In a popular political television show, one character says, “Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln. Tall men make great presidents.”

What do these three factoids have in common? They are examples of what is called “unconscious bias,” and actions are taken because of those unconscious or hidden biases. But what specifically are these hidden or unconscious biases, and more importantly how can you start to manage them so you’re making the right decisions in your workplace and our world? Let’s explore… 

What is “Unconscious Bias”?

Hidden or unconscious bias is the preference for or against a person, thing, or group held at an unconscious level. This means you don’t even realize your mind is holding onto this bias of, say, that person on the phone who is speaking English as a second language, or that effeminate man in front of you at the restaurant who isn’t what you were taught as “masculine.” In contrast, an overt—or explicit—bias is an attitude or prejudice that one endorses at a conscious level; it’s obvious and blatant.

Research on hidden bias shows that, regardless of the best intentions, most people hold deep-seated resistance to the “difference” of others, whether that difference is defined by evident factors as race, gender, ethnicity, age, or physical characteristics, or more subtle ones such as background, personality type, experiences, or even sexual orientation. But bias can also exist in a positive sense: you may favor your family, your community, and people with whom you feel a connection based on shared characteristics or experiences (like people who work for the same company or went to the same university as you).

These hidden biases aren’t purposely or consciously created; they are products of your brain’s self-generated definition of normal, acceptable or positive, and they are shaped by many factors: from past experiences to your local or cultural environment, to the influence of social community and the impressions from media. You don’t consciously create these definitions of “normal” versus “different,” “good” versus “bad,” or “acceptable” versus “unacceptable.” In fact, conscious and unconscious biases are often divergent; your hidden biases may exist in spite of our sincere desire to be bias-free and in direct contradiction of the attitudes you believe you have.

Why Do We Have These Biases?

Well, we can blame having an unconscious bias on our cave-ancestors. Back in the day, a cave-person had to quickly decide if the big-furry-sharp-toothed-animal at the cave-door was friend or foe; and those quick ascertains of safety were processed in their cave-brains. Science has shown that we receive 11 million bits of information every moment, but we can only consciously process forty bits of data at any time. How do we manage that 99.9999996 percent gap? Through our unconscious brains. So, as humans, it is perfectly natural for us to create these “cognitive shortcuts” to help us be safe and survive and manage all this data input.

But in 2019 we aren’t cave-folk, and that wiring sometimes goes against what we want our “auto systems” to work for the most part. Think about you at work: do you want your cave-wiring impulsively taking over who you should work with, the feelings you have toward hiring someone, or defining how you act towards a new co-worker or customer? No, you don’t. You want to have your conscious brains be prevalent, and that’s not always easy to do. But it’s something you should do.

Working on your unconscious base won’t just make your workplace more inclusive and successful, but it will go far to personally build trust between you and others, and that makes the world just a little bit better. Click To Tweet

“Micro inequities” & Why They Matter in our Workplace

OK: you’re at work and someone says to you, “For a woman, I’m really surprised how well you accomplished that task. Nice job.” Some would call this a back-handed compliment: a compliment that’s really an insult. The better term for this is a “micro inequity.” These are unconscious biases that come to life where people act or say things that “tip the hand” on their respective (most likely unconscious) biases. 

Why does it matter for you to identify and mitigate these microinequities in your workplace? For several reasons actually:

  • Micro inequities are a form of punishment for being different and occur in the context of work without regard to performance or merit.
  • Micro inequities undermine the effectiveness of the recipient.
  • Micro inequities take up workplace time and energy and undermine interpersonal trust and relationships.

Studies have found that over 71 percent of the workforce has experienced some form of workplace incivility or microinequity in the last five years. Incivility is evidenced by disrespectful behavior (Zauderer, 2002). What happened to these folks? According to this study:

  • 28 percent lost work time avoiding the instigator of the incivility/microinequity
  • 53 percent lost time worrying about the incident/future interactions
  • 37 percent believed their commitment at work declined
  • 22 percent have decreased their effort at work
  • 10 percent decreased the amount of time that they spent at work
  • 12 percent actually changed jobs to avoid the instigator

How Can We Start to Mitigate our Hidden Biases and Limit our “Micro inequities”? 

So, what do you do about this managing this unconscious, cave-selves? The first step is accepting that you DO have unconscious bias and become aware of the ones you specifically hold. One of the best ways you can start to explore what unconscious biases you have is through Project Implicit, or the Implicit-Association Test (IAT). The IAT is a free online assessment that will measure the strength of your hidden bias between various groups. Check it out—in a safe and judgment-free way—see what hidden biases you may have. https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/

Second, share and discuss the concept of “unconscious bias” with others in your workplace. Share the Project Implicit website with them. Talk (if you’re comfortable) what the results you had on the site. Encourage co-workers to hold each other accountable when those unconscious biases turn into microinequities.

Third, look at the bigger picture within your workplace. What are the biases that exist within your organization, and how can you start to challenge them. For example, look at your organization’s hiring practices. Does it tend to hire the same types of people or recruit from the same places? Are your marketing messages pretty non-inclusive? Are your customers or clients similar in demographic make-up? Think about your typically business practices and think as a team to ensure your collective unconscious biases aren’t impacting your business success.

Closing

So, we all harbor and exhibit an unconscious bias to some extent. And that’s OK; that simply means we’re human. But it’s taking that step to identify which biases we have, take steps to “debias” ourselves, share that action with others, and really look at how we do business that is the key to change. Doing this won’t just make your workplace more inclusive and successful, but it will go far to personally build trust between you and others, and that makes the world just a little bit better.

(source: Zauderer, D. (2002). “Workplace Incivility and the Management of Human Capital.” Public Manager, Vol. 31, p.36-43.)

Dr. Steve Yacovelli (“The Gay Leadership Dude”) is the Owner & Principal of TopDog Learning Group, LLC, a learning and development, leadership, change management, and diversity and consulting firm based in Orlando, FL, USA, with affiliates across the globe. With over twenty-five years’ experience, Steve is a rare breed that understands the power of using academic theory and applying it to the “real” world for better results. His latest book, Pride Leadership: Strategies for the LGBTQ+ Leader to be the King or Queen of their Jungle came out June 2019. www.topdoglearnign.biz .

The Truth about College: It May Not Matter as Much As You Think

By Peter Lyle DeHaan , PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

It amuses me to tell people I went to college for 40 years. Their reactions vary from shock to admiration, from pity to surprise.

As a high school sophomore, I learned the local community college would admit select high school seniors. Acting partly out of youthful arrogance and partly from moxie, I met with an admissions counselor, hoping to be admitted the following year. The advisor never asked my age or my grade as he mechanically pulled my high school transcript. Mathematically challenged, he struggled to convert my school’s quarterly grades into the semester credits he was accustomed to. “Well,” he concluded, “it sure looks like you have enough credits.”

I completed my first college class before I started my junior year in high school. I took at least one class a semester for the next two years. College offered a challenge that high school lacked. Though I earned high marks in high school, I excelled in my college courses.

As my senior year in high school wound down, classmates announced their college plans. My best friend was headed to a private school to study a new field called computer science. It seemed an interesting and promising choice, and I decided to follow her there. However, despite my parents having sacrificed to make weekly deposits into my college fund since the day I was born, the amount they accumulated fell short. This reality, coupled with frequent media reports of college graduates being under-employed in entry-level positions, led me to a more practical decision. I enrolled in electronic technical school where I could quickly learn practical job skills and enter the work force at a fraction of the cost. Upon graduation, I grabbed the first job that came along: repairing copy machines.

Pursue a Practical Education

It quickly became apparent this was not the job for me. My electronic school credential read, “electronic engineering technician,” and though I fancied myself an engineer, prospective employers viewed me as a technician. To make the career change I wanted, I needed more education. I reapplied to the community college and earned a pre-engineering degree.

I transferred to a local university and enrolled in its electrical engineering program. Well before graduation, a job change took me out of state. I established residency there and resumed my education. During this time, I responded to a help wanted ad. The stated salary was three times what I currently made. I met every qualification and dashed off my resume, fully expecting to be hired. But they didn’t even interview me. I later learned the company was deluged with applications, and it summarily rejected every applicant without a four-year college degree. I resolved to never let that happen again.

A College Degree Can Be More Than an Attendance Certificate

Now being cynically convinced that a college degree was little more than an attendance certificate, I sought the shortest path to a four-year degree. I found the perfect solution. It was geared for full-time employees who had at least two years of college. By attending evening classes, in an intense one-year program, I could parlay my various college credits with documented experiential learning into a bachelor’s degree. I didn’t care what the degree was in; I just wanted that piece of paper. As the school year wound down, however, I met with a surprise at work. In my annual review, my boss told me that my management skills had greatly improved. He rewarded me with a substantial raise. Although I had been striving for an arbitrary credential, I inadvertently ended up improving my job skills.

I shared this news with my professor, thanking him profusely. In what seemed unwarranted humility he dismissed my gratitude. “I don’t deserve any credit,” he said matter-of-factly. “All we did was offer you an opportunity; it was up to you to make something of it. It’s what you have inside that made the difference.” It was years before I would fully comprehend this.

Now seeing a direct connection between education and earning power, I returned for a second major. What I had previously learned were “soft” skills (interpersonal communication, group dynamics, human resources, and so forth). Now I needed to complement this with course work in accounting, business law, and strategic planning. This major, business administration, would enhance my job skills, making me a better and more marketable employee.

It’s what’s inside that makes the difference. Click To Tweet

A Masters and a Doctorate

After a few years, missing the elixir of education and feeling inadequate as a manager, I began considering a master’s degree. Again, I found a program geared for non-traditional students. Their offer was compelling, but even more intriguing was that I could enroll in a joint masters/doctorate program. I did. I anticipated the master’s degree would make me complete as a manager, but I viewed the doctorate more as a personal milestone.

After completing my master’s degree as planned, I immediately began working on the doctorate, which I had two years to complete. Already worn down by the intensity of the master’s, I soon regretted committing to the doctoral program. But stubbornness prevailed and I plodded on, meeting the requirements only a few months before the deadline. I was 42; it was 26 years since I had gotten a jumpstart on college at age 16. There were some diversions along the way, job changes, relocations and even a few breaks, but for the majority of that time, I was attending classes—somewhere.

A Second Doctorate

Fast forward a few more years. I felt a prompting to return to school once again, this time for personal edification, picking a Bible college – again distance learning. I applied for a second doctorate but they didn’t accept me. Not caring about the credential, but the learning opportunity, I accepted placement in their masters program. However, a couple classes into it, during a routine call to the school, I learned they had undergone a change in how they evaluate transfer credits. They bumped me up to their “second doctorate” program, which for me actually required fewer classes then the masters program I was in. I switched. By graduation, I had spent nearly 40 years in college. And that will be enough college for me – unless I want to return to teach.

College has meant many things to me: a challenge, a means to a job, help with a career change, an attendance certificate, an avenue to a better salary, an enhancer of job skills, management training, and personal edification. College can be many things depending on what we need and what we want to accomplish, but it is not a cure-all.

When I worked as a call center consultant, I would do week-long business audits. I would begin the week with an overview of the client’s company and then drill down to uncover weaknesses and opportunities. In doing so, a distressing pattern emerged. On about the third day, I would often find myself in a follow-up meeting with the person who manages the call center. They sharer their common concern in different ways and with various levels of emotion, but it always boiled down to the same sentiment: “I feel inadequate as a manager. I think I need a college degree.”

This broke my heart. I was never sure what to say.

Do You Feel You Need a College Degree?

These were successful, dynamic women, who started at entry-level positions and through hard work, dedication, and a talent for doing what’s nearly impossible, rose to significant positions. These individuals oversaw the majority of their organization’s workforce, controlled about half of its expenses (primarily labor costs), and maintained virtually all of the company revenue, yet they still felt inadequate. They believed a degree would make everything right. This always caught me by surprise because they conducted their work with such great aplomb, confidence, and success.

Here’s what I should have told them: “Yes, college can help you. If you have the opportunity to go and are willing to make the sacrifices of time and money, while putting much of your life on hold, then do it. It will make you a better manager. But it is not a panacea. There will still be times when you will feel overwhelmed, inadequate, or unprepared at work. Most managers have these feelings and a formal education won’t make them go away.”

While my educational choices have, in part, enabled me to get to where I am today, I know that had I gone down a different path, the result would be no less meaningful, because as my college professor said, “It’s what you have inside that makes the difference.”

What If You Don’t Already Have a Career?

These comments about college are strictly for those who have an established career. For the recent high school graduate and those just starting out or without a career path, I always recommend college, provided they can handle the workload. Being a traditional student and going to school full-time allows one to get a degree in the shortest time, but it is not financially possible for everyone. In this case, as for me, intersperse education with vocation. Although this approach takes longer, it enhances the experience as education is magnified by work and work is complemented by education.

What If You Have No Idea What to Study?

If this is the case, be sure to pursue marketable job skills. Don’t focus on skills that will maximize earning potential. Instead look at on what will maximize your enjoyment of life—which is not money. For those who are analytical thinkers, business and computers are good pursuits; for creative minds, consider marketing or graphic arts.

And remember, most college graduates don’t end up working in the field they studied. Instead they use their education as an entry-point to the work force. Once you have successfully proven yourself in full-time employment, work history generally becomes more important than your degree—as long as you have it.

So, if you go to college, study hard, make the most of the opportunity that you are given. Just remember, it’s what’s inside that makes the difference.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is a published author and commercial freelance writer who provides content marketing services.

Change Your Mindset or Suffer the Consequences

5 Steps to Thrive in Our Unstable World

By Brad Wolff

Brad Wolff-mindset shift

We live in a world of unpredictable and uncontrollable change. How can we survive and even thrive when our environment turns against us?

Bill Evans was the CEO of Shifting Rocks Corporation, the dominant regional player in providing rocks for road construction. After thirty great years, they suddenly dropped behind two competitors. Due to a combination of unforeseen changes, sales plunged from 50 million dollars to 25 million dollars. They went from 5 million dollars profit to a loss of  2 million dollars only two years. Bill hired a firm that helps companies thrive in a changing environment. After one year of working together, Shifting Rocks reached break-even. In two years, they climbed to a 6 million dollars profit. Their engagement levels are now higher than the “good years,” and Bill enjoys his job more than ever.

Become a Flexible, Adaptive, Learning Organization

The turning point was when Bill’s mindset changed with the realization that what led to success in the past often doesn’t work today.The primary characteristics needed to thrive now are:1.

  1. Flexibility—The willingness to change or compromise.
  2. Adaptability—The ability to utilize flexibility to meet the demands of new conditions.
  3. Learnability—The ability to quickly learn new knowledge and skills that are required to meet the demands of new conditions.

When you implement these traits, you become a Flexible, Adaptive, Learning Organization (FALO). A FALO provides a unique competitive edge in an unstable environment. A key element is the mindset shift to focusing on the things that lie in your area of control rather than constantly reacting to things out of your control. Instead of things getting easier, you get better!

How do you develop a FALO?

Focus on the things that lie in your area of control rather than constantly reacting to things out of your control. Click To Tweet

 Below is a five-step process to creating a FALO:

1. Shift your mindset from solving problems via processes and technologies to solving people problems first.

All business problems (including process and technology problems) are people problems at their root since people select, develop, operate and manage your processes and technologies. The perfect processes and technologies with the wrong people or with people who are not using them properly will never work. A process and technology focus is a convenient distraction away from the more challenging arena of human beings. However, starting with processes and technologies is treating the symptoms, not the cause. Your solutions will always be suboptimal with this approach.

Step 2: Create a personal development mindset as an organizational strategy.

The key to your professional growth is your personal growth and development. We take ourselves with us everywhere we go, and your self-awareness, skills and character traits are your only tools. It’s critical to realize that these elements of personal growth are developed not inborn. Certainly, you have inborn gifts. However, none are very useful until they’ve been developed over time.

History’s most successful CEOs such as Jack Welch of GE, Lou Gerstner of IBM and Ray Dalio of Bridgewater shared a common philosophy. They recognized that as people work on their personal development, they contribute far more productivity, collaboration, and positive energy/engagement as benefits. Each of these benefits enhances the others to create a multiplier effect throughout the organization. As people develop, they also adapt much better to ongoing life challenges. The organization’s knowledge and skills (learning) increase while becoming more flexible and adaptive.

Step 3: Develop a culture that supports ongoing personal development.

Developing a strategy of personal growth requires that you develop a culture that supports this strategy. Organizations frequently fail to execute their strategies due to lacking a culture that supports these strategies. Peter Drucker said that “Culture eats strategy for lunch.”

Google provides one of many examples of an organization that focuses on culture as a key driver of its success. Here are their “three principles for a top-notch culture”:
  1. Mission that matters—A clear mission and vision statement to motivate and unify employees.
  2. Transparency of Leaders—A crucial element to build safety, trust and collaboration that requires openness and vulnerability.
  3. Giving everyone a voice—Aperspective that values everyone’s opinion and point of view.

Do these principles apply to other companies? Yes, in fact, it’s more difficult to apply these principles in large organizations like Google due to increased layers of complexity

Step 4: Starting with upper management, take an open, honest inventory of weaknesses: A weakness is any habitual behavior that impairs your effectiveness, which prevents you from becoming who you want to be. Having weaknesses is an unavoidable part of being human. The key is to deliberately identify and acknowledge these habits rather than trying to hide or cover-up. Your weaknesses are obvious to others anyway, so attempting to deny or hide them impairs our growth and relationships.

The authenticity of leaders about their weaknesses builds trust and respect and creates a culture where people feel safe to do the same. Research and experience consistently demonstrate the importance of people safe feeling safe. People won’t allow themselves to be open about their weaknesses until they feel safe from ridicule or punishment.

Step 5: Commit to a process of ongoing improvement.

The key is that the leaders’ commit with both their hearts (emotions) and minds (thoughts). Developing new habits that serve you better than the old ones requires committed effort over time. Demonstrating this commitment helps develop a culture of people committed to their personal and professional growth.

It’s also important to develop a culture of constructive feedback and encouragement since you often don’t realize when you revert to old habits. Ongoing improvement is difficult without a culture that supports people making a consistent effort.

Developing a FALO is not complicated. It starts with a mindset shift from focusing on the external environment to focusing on the source of your success and power—the ongoing development of human beings. You can try to control your external environment or adapt to meet (or exceed) the demands. Which approach will you choose?

Brad Wolff specializes in workforce and personal optimization. He’s a speaker and author of, People Problems? How to Create People Solutions for a Competitive Advantage. As the managing partner for Atlanta-based PeopleMax, Brad specializes in helping companies maximize the potential and results of their people to make more money with less stress. His passion is empowering people to create the business success they desire, in a deep and lasting way. For more information on Brad Wolff, please visit: www.PeopleMaximizers.com.

The New Super Heroes: Introducing The Intangibles

By Baldwin Tom

Baldwin Tom-spiritual investmentsThere are seven capital investments available for organizations to build value and wealth. These capital investments are Human, Relationship, Spiritual, Customer, Organizational, Physical, and Financial.

In the 1980 winter Olympics in Lake Placid, the U.S. Men’s Ice Hockey team won the gold medal. In order for them to win gold, they had to beat the Soviet Union team ranked 1 in the world. They beat the Soviets on their way to winning the gold in a game that was called the Miracle on Ice. The odds against them winning were the same as if the University of California football team beat the Philadelphia Eagles Super Bowl champions. Impossible!

How did this happen? One can assume that it was not because they skated better than the Soviets. The U.S. team was composed of college students and the Soviets were semi-professionals. Instead, it was some intangible force. Here is a clue: The U.S. coach invested heavily on the intangible side into the team members. He instilled in them aspects of Human, Relationship, and Spiritual capitals. The team took to heart what they heard—they believed.

The result of the infusion of these capitals was a powerful Return on Investment of some psychic power that allowed the team to rise above expectations to beat the ‘unbeatable’ Soviet team. The effort by the U.S. team was considered by the International Ice Hockey Federation as the most incredible international ice hockey story in the last 100 years! There is power investing in intangibles.

Of the seven investments available to organizations, the five people-side investments are the most interesting. Three of these can be considered as the new super heroes powering success in organizations—The Intangibles. The three are Human, Relationship, and Spiritual investments.

These three set up the other investments and the organization for success. They clear the way, they prepare the path, they set the stage, they provide the spark, and they stay the course to provide significant multipliers for high ROI.Character comes from the inside. Invest in people and their relationships to build strong teams. Click To Tweet

The Intangibles, when deployed as investments, create energy and activate others toward positive action. Each of the three super heroes has distinct personalities based on their actions. Each has unique powers in what they initiate in others.

Each one will leverage existing opportunities to benefit the organization and to increase ROI from their efforts. The Intangibles interact with each other and with different other investment combinations to create value and wealth for organizations.

Super Hero 1. Human capital investments: Invest in the capabilities of people, their knowledge, skills, and competencies.

Human investments possess a driver type personality. Their uniqueness is in their direct action on people to energize, encourage, and support work. The actions may involve new education, advanced training, and psychological support.

Through activities of human capital investments, people are more able and prepared to take on new tasks and to be more creative and innovative. From this, people are more satisfied with their work and look forward to new challenges. Accordingly, the investment of human capital generates positive ROI.

When human capital investments are teamed with customer investments it leads to creativity and innovation and new products and services. When this investment is teamed with Organizational investments, it leads to new intellectual property and corporate memory. When Human capital investments are teamed with Relationship investments it creates high performance teams.

Super Hero 2. Relationship capital investments: Link people together for interactions that leverage power and influence.

Relationship capital investments involve influencer type personalities. The strength of this investment is focused on people—in linking people together. Relationship capital investments help build meaningful interactive groups, create bonding of personnel, and foster can-do mindsets. Relationship investments effectively build strength through numbers.

High performing teams result from the activities of Relationship capital investments. The results from Relationship investments include facilitated and accelerated actions throughout the organization and with customers and a boost in ROI.

When Relationship capital investments are teamed with Customer investments, this leads to partnering with customers. When this investment is teamed with Spiritual capital investments, it leads to satisfied people willing to work hard for the organization.

Super Hero 3. Spiritual capital investments: Establish cultural norms that smooth work flow and facilitate people and customer relationships.

Spiritual capital investments have social type personalities. This Super Hero is not demanding or pushy. Spiritual capital is subtle but significant when in place. It’s a lot like spraying WD-40 on all work because the result of Spiritual capital is a smoother and easier effort in getting work done.

he efforts of Spiritual capital investments are to support the personal side of peoples’ efforts that engender peace of mind and a sense of accomplishment, of satisfaction. The result of this is that people feel valued leading to higher personal motivation and willingness to contribute more.

When Spiritual investments are teamed with Organizational investments, the results lead to refining cultural norms and ethical decision making. When Spiritual capital investments are paired with Relationship investments, it leads to an ethical workplace that fosters positive group chemistries and greater resiliency within an organization.

When Spiritual capital is teamed with Human capital it promotes caring and committed people, willing to go the extra mile. When Spiritual investments are teamed with Customer investments, the result fosters value-based customer relations

Investing on the soft-side intangibles provides the intestinal fortitude to overcome internal and external challenges. Character comes from the inside. Invest in people and their relationships to build strong teams. Invest in team-focused spiritual capital to build loyalty and bonding, resulting in strong character. When opportunities arise or challenges surface, the people will do whatever it takes to help move the ball forward. Focusing on the intangibles strengthens an organization, giving it a solid core and foundation.

In 1990, the Wallace Company won the prestigious Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. Started in 1987, the award has been given annually to up to three U.S. companies who have implemented successfully quality management systems. Surprisingly, just two years after the award, Wallace filed for bankruptcy.

Following the award, instead of working to turn around an already troubled company, top Wallace officials spent time leading tours through their offices and leaving town on speaking tours. Clearly Wallace did everything it could to win the award. Yet, in the end, they lost it all. There is a lesson here. What did they invest in and what did they miss investing in? It’s possible that they did not invest sufficiently in the intangibles. They needed The Intangibles!

Baldwin Tom is a management consultant, professional speaker, and author of 1+1=7: How Smart Leaders Make 7 Investments to Maximize Value. A medical school scientist, professor, leadership program developer, and founder of an award winning science and technology firm, he leverages his experiences in those fields to provide insight and strategies to fit client needs. Baldwin is a Certified Management Consultant and served as the National Board Chair of the Institute of Management Consultants USA. For more information on Baldwin Tom, please visit www.geoddgroup.com.

Giving Yourself Permission Slips to Succeed

By Sarah Bateman

Joan was sitting at a round table when a hand descended over her right shoulder and slapped a piece of paper down on the wooden surface. A permission slip lay before her. Joan wondered, “Why do I need a permission slip?” She glanced up at her colleague, Cheryl, who said, “It’s a permission slip. You’ve been thinking about honing your presentation skills for decades. Why haven’t you?”

“Why hadn’t I?” Joan thought. She was right. It was her choice to dream but never act. It was her choice to exist but never take the risks to improve her life. Joan was expected to give presentations at work. Her presentation style was somewhat lacking—she sometimes appeared nervous, and it was obvious to others that it wasn’t an area in which she was particularly confident.

Joan noticed that her self-limiting routines and beliefs were affecting both her personal and professional life. She had to remember that her presence was significant and she began creating her own permission slips to succeed.

1. Her first permission slip to becoming significant and successful was allowing herself to do make mistakes. This is the natural growth and learning process when we’re children. If you’re not willing to allow yourself to do something badly you are not allowing yourself to change—you are not allowing yourself to grow. You are not allowing yourself to master new skills.

Do you feel uncomfortable placing yourself in unfamiliar situations? Have you avoided seeking new responsibilities at work because you didn’t want to look foolish? Research shows that it is important to become perpetual beginners. This is especially true as we age. Learning new skills makes you more flexible and ready to compete in this chaotic world. Successful working professionals are willing to become a beginner over and over again. They are willing to let go of being the expert.

There are strategies which can help you undertake new challenges. One is to break your routine. Do you find yourself on autopilot often? Are your day’s carbon copies of each other? Set the intention to try something new. You might speak up more in a meeting, or seek new functionalities at work. Find a friend or coworker to support you. Learning to say no when appropriate gives you more control over your life so you don’t overextend yourself. It is a way of learning to respect yourself. Click To Tweet

2. Joan’s second permission slip to becoming successful and significant was letting herself be heard and seen. She was practically non-existent during her early years at the office. Her first presentation was a moment of silence—she literally could not speak. Her struggles with connecting at work or in networking situations were drastically impacting her professional life. She needed to give herself the permission slip to speak up, and speak with confidence.

How would being seen and heard change your business life?. Would you gain more respect from those around you? Would you be able to build trust and relationships? If you are not seen and heard, you are not known—and opportunities and promotions will pass you by because you don’t stick out in people’s minds.

Deciding to be seen and heard can take courage. One way to begin is to set your intention before you attend a meeting or meet a client. Know what you want to contribute. Know what ideas you would like to share. In a meeting make sure you speak up early. The longer you wait to speak the harder it will be. Make eye contact with others in the room and use open body language. Be sure you are not creating a barrier between yourself and anyone else in the room. Remember: you want to be accessible at this time. Celebrate your victories so the next time it will be easier for you to speak up.

3. Joan’s third permission slip to becoming successful and significant was learning to say no. In the office she was very accommodating.—the supervisors loved her. Basically she never said no. They got into the habit of bringing her rush files, just before 5:00 PM. They would drop them at her desk and head home. Joan learned how important it was to shorten her yes list. Do you have too many Yeses in your life?

Have your forgotten the benefits of saying no? Learning to say no when appropriate gives you more control over your life so you don’t overextend yourself. It is a way of learning to respect yourself which will lead to others respecting you as well. Saying no gives you more time to yourself which is a precious commodity in today’s chaotic world. You will have more energy and time so when opportunities appear you will be available to take them. When you have time to yourself you have time to determine your priorities and make better decisions which cut down on daily stress.

Before saying yes ask yourself these following questions.

1)         Is this something I truly want to do?
2)         What am I saying no to if I say yes to this?
3)         What will I gain by going to this event or doing this task?
4)         When I need help will this person reciprocate?
5)         If I don’t do this how will I used my time instead?

If you decide to say no to someone, let them know as quickly as possible so they can made other plans. Maybe you can help the other person out by suggesting an alternative.

What aren’t you giving yourself permission to do?

What are the dreams which have escaped you until now? Since Joan began following her three permission slips she began enjoying her work life more. By allowing herself to make mistakes she felt less pressure to be perfect. She gained the confidence to learn new skills which made her more valuable to the team. When she began speaking up at meetings she learned that she had good ideas to contribute. She was more valued by the team. When Joan said no to excess, unexpected work she was able to focus on her responsibilities. If you’re struggling like Joan was, write yourself her three permission slips. They will better your work life, and make you a more valuable contributor to the team.

Sarah Bateman is a widely-recognized speaker, coach, and author of, Speak Up! Be Heard! Finding My Voice. Drawing upon her own experiences at crafting, honing, and delivering presentations, Sarah aids entrepreneurs and businesspeople to develop a focused message which is relatable, memorable, and succinct. A longstanding member of Toastmasters International, Sarah holds the Distinguished Toastmaster Designation. For more information about Sarah Bateman, please visit: www.SpeakUp-BeHeard.com.