Someone once said that people are more committed to comfort than they are to change. Especially given the fact that with change comes uncertainty.
The reason is fairly simple; uncertainty makes you feel uneasy, out of control and even anxious.
I am reminded of the story of an executive* who, shortly after moving his family to another city, found out that his boss and mentor – who encouraged him to make the move to advance his career, was fired.
If uprooting and moving his family to a new city wasn’t a big enough change, with the arrival of a new boss, he now found himself worrying that he could also lose his job. Unexpected changes like this – especially in today’s business climate, are becoming commonplace.
What would you do if you were in his shoes?
Remember To H-A-L-T
You have likely faced uncertainty at some point in your career and life. Everyone has.
When faced with an unexpected change or a challenging situation, I remember the words that a close friend once shared with me: “Never make a decision when you are Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired.” I call it the HALT Rule.
In short, when faced with uncertainty, don’t react. I know that this can be easier said than done. However, taking a step back will provide you with an opportunity to look beyond the initial tide of emotions that can overwhelm you. This pause will empower you to effectively assess the situation and develop a sound go forward strategy.
Or to put it another way, you can turn the apparent curse of uncertainty into a blessing of new found good fortune. You have the power to do that! In this month’s eNewsletter, I will share with you the 3 ways that you can.
1. Don’t Fret; Focus!
Do you fear the unknown or is your fear based more on what might happen?
Think about this seemingly subtle yet significant difference. When the executive referenced at the beginning of this eLetter found out that his boss was fired, he didn’t simply shrug his shoulders and go blank. His first thought was that the new boss might want to replace him. This thought isn’t an unknown, it is a fear of what he imagined might happen.
According to countless studies, 85% of what we fear the most will never happen. While I am not suggesting that your worst fears can’t become a reality, what I am saying is that they aren’t likely to. This is why spending time worrying about what might happen is a waste of energy.
Instead, when confronted with the unexpected, focus on assessing the situation and gathering the facts as to what is actually happening.
Here is how you can stop fretting and start focusing:
- See the potential opportunities. Remember, with every closing door, there is an opening window.
- Gain a “big picture” perspective by adopting an attitude of gratitude. Acknowledging the things that are good in your life will create a sense of balance and calm.
- Seek advice from your coach, mentors and close friends. The perspective of trusted confidantes can help to ease your worst fears, by giving you an objective lens through which to view your situation.
2. Adopt a Contingency Plan
You know the old saying about failing to plan is planning to fail?
Clarify if your fear is generalized or grounded. For example, in October, it was estimated that Hurricane Mathew would make landfall in West Palm Beach, in close proximity to my home on the water. Needless to say, I secured my property, removed all furniture from outdoors and temporarily left Florida. Yes, I was blessed because Hurricane Mathew bypassed my home but I knew my preparedness had been justified.
While it is not always possible to plan for every contingency or unexpected situation that can arise in life, being prepared or having a planning process in place, will put you in the best position to deal with the unexpected. Specifically, there is comfort in foreknowledge, and empowerment in readiness.
Are you ready for the unexpected? There is nothing wrong with having a justifiable fear or concern; but distinguish between a grounded fear rather than a fear based on a sense of fate.
The following steps will make certain that you are prepared to face almost any situation with a cool head, and a steady hand:
- Diagnose the challenges you face. Do an honest assessment of your vulnerabilities. Where in your present situation are you most vulnerable in terms of a looming or present change?
- Like knowing where the emergency exits are in your office building, write down three potential situations that could happen, and then plan your response to each one. Think of it as being your personal fire drill that will guide you to safety in uncertain times.
- Just like golfers keep their mind on their swing and their eye on the ball, your focus must be on the business, upcoming changes and hidden agendas.
- Be willing to adapt or improvise your planned response when the situation calls for it.
3. Face Uncertainty With Confidence, Not Optimism
In his book Good To Great, Jim Collins wrote about the Stockdale Paradox.
He tells the story of admiral Jim Stockdale who, during the Vietnam War, was held captive for eight years. Despite the horrors he endured, and the fact that there was little reason to hope that he would survive to see his wife and family again, he never lost faith.
As Stockdale himself put it, “I never doubted not only that I would get out, but also that I would prevail in the end and turn the experience into the defining event of my life, which, in retrospect, I would not trade.”
Now you might suggest that Stockdale was an optimist. However, it was the optimists according to Stockdale, who did not survive. Rather than facing the dire circumstances they were in, the optimists in captivity put their faith in the unfounded hope that they would soon be released. When it didn’t happen, they gave up.
What Collins took away from the Stockdale experience is that while you must retain a strong faith that you will ultimately prevail regardless of what you are facing, you must also confront the facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.
The following tips will help you to be able to do this:
- Adapt your behavior to reduce your distress. That means making small but meaningful adjustments that are both appropriate to the situation and still honor your own values.
- Expand your network. Good networkers use their contacts as a source for information, insights and changes in the political landscape of their companies.
- Manage your destiny. Whatever happens, there is a purpose and it will ultimately work to your benefit if you can see that your experience helps you to build the gift of resilience.
Look Beyond Uncertainty
When you face the unknown with clarity, confidence, and an enduring faith in an eventual positive outcome, the veil of uncertainty will be lifted, revealing new opportunities and possibilities beyond your present circumstances.
In the end, my advice to you is not to fear the unknown, but to challenge it and embrace your bigger future, even if that future isn’t what you had originally envisioned.
* You can read the executive’s full story in my book The Future Of You.
“workplace stress costs more than $300 billion each year in health care, missed work and stress-reduction.” – American Institute of Stress
In today’s fast-paced business world there is an ever increasing demand to do more with fewer resources, and in less time, than ever before.
This can lead you to feel stressed . . . or should I say S-T-R-E-S-S-E-D! Especially if you work in an environment in which you are only as good as your last success or sale.
As hard as people work, it can be difficult to keep up.
The question this raises is what can you do to tame the stress monster and, restore some semblance of peace and balance to your life – both professionally and personally?
1. Know The Source Of Your Stress
I recently read a book about emotional intelligence in which the author talked about the importance of finding the balance between your emotional mind and your rational mind.
Without getting into the physiological make-up of your brain, anxiety and/or stress occur when our emotional side overrides our rational thought process, to the point that we are in a state of constant reaction.
This can lead to feelings of being out of control, which in turn perpetuates an escalating cycle of stress.
In an effort to regain control and leverage your rational thinking abilities, knowing what is causing your stress is key.
According to studies by Stress.org, the main causes of workplace stress are:
- Workload – 46%
- People issues – 28%
- Juggling work / personal lives – 20%
- Lack of job security – 6%
While you may have one or perhaps even a combination of the above listed sources being at the root of your stress, you can do something about it.
2. Recognize That You Are Not Powerless – Take Action
One of the worst feelings you can have is to feel that you are trapped and that you can’t do anything about it.
When that happens, you are reduced to being nothing more than a spectator in your own life. This ultimately increases your stress levels!
But you can do something.
For example, if your workload is too heavy, schedule a meeting with your boss. Let them know that you want to maintain your current high level of performance but require more resources.
I can’t tell how many times over the years I have seen first hand, people who were trapped by nothing more than their own misperceptions as to what would happen if they spoke up and said stop, I have a problem or I need help.
If you are experiencing workplace stress because of a relationship issue with a fellow employee, make sure that you document everything and then seek support from either a mentor or your HR Department.
If the source of your relationship woes are with your boss, read one of my most recent posts titled 3 Steps For Dealing With A Bad Boss.
The point is you are not powerless, so don’t simply accept the cards you have been dealt – reshuffle the deck and take new cards.
3. If You Can’t Change It, Then Just Change
There are of course things that you can’t control or change.
External factors beyond your control include a Merger & Acquisition, or the arrival of a new boss. Either of these scenarios can certainly throw your world into a temporary spin off its axis.
The key to dealing with stress that originates outside of your direct control, is to not dwell on what has happened . Instead consider all angles and then determine what course of action you can take.
If you have a new boss, schedule a time to meet with them to learn what their goals are, and how you can help them to achieve it. If you do not fit into the new boss’ plans, then proactively look for work elsewhere.
4. Have The Courage To Face The Unknown . . . Freedom
At the end of the day, believing that you are trapped and simply grinning and bearing an intolerable situation while waiting for the other shoe to drop, is likely to be more stressful than anything else.
It is far better to have the difficult conversations and to look behind the curtain of the unknown, than it is to simply stay put and do nothing.
Or as a great President once said, the “Only Thing We Have to Fear Is Fear Itself.”
Remember the Ralph Waldo Emerson saying “your actions speak so loudly that I cannot hear what you say?”
When it comes to preventing a social media spark from becoming an all-consuming wildfire, your actions and reactions will ultimately determine the degree of impact on your brand.
For example, I can recall an article in which the motives of an individual in terms of their support of a particular business strategy were contemplated. Even though it was a small piece of a much larger overall story that was being covered in the general media, and there was no accusation of any wrongdoing, the individual responded with flailing aggressiveness. Rather than remaining calm and diffusing the situation with a logical response ̶ or ignoring the article outright ̶ this person fanned a small spark into a potentially raging fire by the zealousness of their reaction.
Besides bringing what I would imagine was additional and unwanted attention to the article itself, the individual’s response actually caused people to wonder why a simple question would inspire such ire.
Taking a cue from the old ABC sales axiom of Always-Be-Closing, when it comes to managing your reputation on-line, the best advice I can give is Always-Be-Cool!
This doesn’t mean that you should feign your feelings or in any way be less than true to yourself. What it does mean per the Emerson quote, is that you do not want to detract from your response or the explanation of your position through attention grabbing actions that you will likely regret later. Remember once again, that once something is put out into the virtual realms of the social media world, it is out there for all to see.
Within the context of the ABC approach to managing your brand in terms of media or social media interaction, the following video featuring the new coach of the Buffalo Bills speaks volumes.
Now you might reasonably argue that when it comes to a personal brand or something for which you have strong feelings, containing one’s emotional mindset and response is an easier said than done task. While this may be true, I remember the words of a dear friend who said “when you lose control of your emotions, you lose control of the situation.” In the end, you and you alone will determine the end result of any challenges relating to your brand. This means that you must always look beyond the horizon of your present discomfort and anger to determine where YOU want to end up when everything has been said and done.
Of course if you are in the wrong, then acknowledging your mistake with both humility and contrition will go a long way towards repairing the damage to your brand. I will write about this last point in greater detail in a future post.
In the meantime, what is your most memorable example of an individual or company who effectively handled a brand crisis?
Here are a few additional tips that can help you to fireproof your brand:
- Stay connected and informed in terms of what is happening in the world around you. This means that you have to build your network of connections so that you will always be “plugged-in” to new developments that could have an impact on you, and proactively govern your actions and words accordingly.
- Take the time to fully assess a potentially challenging situation before deciding on a course of action even if your initial reaction is to “shoot back” in terms of a response. I can remember a client who once received an e-mail that was critical of their work. Although they were tempted to fire back a response defending themselves, they paused to understand what was at the heart of the original message and then replied in a manner that opened up an important dialogue as opposed to getting into a war of words. By doing this they solved the problem while gaining the respect of both their co-workers and their boss.
- Think back on difficult situations from the past. How did you handle yourself? Were you happy with what you did . . . were you happy with the outcome? If you could do it again, what would you have done differently? The old saying that those who fail to learn from the past are doomed to repeat it is so true. Learn not only from your past, but learn from the mistakes as well as the successes of others. In my book I talk about the difference in the way that Johnson & Johnson handled the Tylenol tampering scandal as opposed to how Exxon mishandled the Valdez oil spill. Both are important in that they provide valuable lessons in which the outcome is known.
- Tell the truth and be truthful to who you are. Like the George Washington cherry tree story, when you tell the truth or admit that you made an error there is no where to go from there but forward. You may have to take a little hit in the sort term but, you will ultimately earn the respect of those around you, and move beyond the situation as opposed to being enveloped or defined by it. Above all, do everything to make it right!
Remember to click the book cover image below to check out my new book “The Future of You! Creating Your Enduring Brand” for interesting and insightful examples of brand crisis management.
Tell me lies, Tell me sweet little lies, (Tell me lies, tell me, tell me lies)
Oh, no, no you can’t disguise, (You can’t disguise, no you can’t disguise)
Tell me lies, Tell me sweet little lies
Fleetwood Mac’s Tell Me Sweet Little Lies
In Part 1 of this post, I talked about the importance of approaching even life’s major events with the same level of integrity one would bring to more mundane everyday situations.
Of course, when you consider the negative fallout for Paula Deen after she had responded honestly to a series of deposition questions, it would be natural to pause to ask oneself when is honesty not the best policy? Or to put it another way, when is it better to say nothing and hope for the best?
I found it interesting that a number of arm chair legal experts made the suggestion that Deen would have better served everyone’s best interests ̶ including her own ̶ had she fallen back on an “I can’t recall” selective memory response. After all they reasoned, not being able to recall saying or doing something is not the same as having to take the fork in the road “truth or lie” route.
While each one of us must choose our own path when confronted with such choices, in the end it is what we think and feel and more importantly believe that will inevitably govern our actions. Even though it may be tough to live by the edict that what is popular isn’t always right, and what is right isn’t always popular, I believe that being able to live with oneself in terms of our career and life decisions cannot be ignored. Certainly the following Personal Reflection from my new book The Future of You! Creating Your Enduring Brand delves into this internal conflict in greater detail.
A Moment of Personal Reflection . . .
It is amazing how we all have a memory of something we did in which we at least to a certain extent continue to feel if not regret, then at least a disquieting sense that we could have done better.
From a personal standpoint, my moment of ruffled ease centers around a promise made but not kept.
The scheduling of a 2-day seminar gave me a couple of extra hours to spare before having to leave for the airport. It was the Friday of a very busy week and of course I was eager to get home and relax over the weekend.
As I was packing up at the conclusion of my seminar, I was approached by a number of people who, while not included in the original session, asked if I might be willing to stay a little longer at the end of the day and provide them with advice on how they could better brand themselves.
Having a couple of hours, and always happy to help individuals who take the initiative to want to learn, I agreed to give them an impromptu mini-seminar before leaving for the airport.
Unfortunately, and in the intervening minutes between their request and assembling everyone, the HR person through whom the main seminar had been arranged indicated that she was ready to drive me to the airport.
When I had informed her of the employees who had approached me to spend time with them, and that I had agreed to stay longer, she said that I should not worry about it because they were not high enough in the organization to benefit from my expertise. She then insisted, despite my assertions that I had agreed to stay, that we leave for the airport right then. In addition, she expressed the need to get some personal coaching due to a challenging situation.
Against my better judgment I relented, and after letting the employees know that I would now not be staying, I left with the HR person.
A few weeks later, when I reviewed the attendee comments for the session with the same individual from HR, she also informed me that some employees had publicly expressed disappointment that I had left for the airport rather than honor my promise to stay and talk with them.
I was ̶ and to this day, still am ̶ disappointed in myself for not staying with the employees as I had promised. I had in essence gone back on my word and in the process damaged my trust relationship with them.
I, of course, agreed to visit the company again and a few weeks later delivered a free seminar to the disappointed employees.
But here is the point of this story . . .
Often we will encounter a situation in which for whatever reason we will feel pressure to go against our instincts and even our word as a means of diffusing conflict. It is at crossroads such as these that we must step up to the plate and remain true to ourselves and the words or promises that both build and maintain the trust relationship we have with others.
While it would have been easy for me to deflect by saying that the only reason I left was because of the pressure placed on me by the HR person, the fact is that when everything was said and done, I and I alone am responsible for my own actions.
In this context it is important to always remember . . . say what you mean, and mean what you say!
I am certain that Paula Deen may have felt a certain degree of discomfort in honestly answering the questions regarding her words and actions. After all in today’s enlightened world of political correctness, she had to know ̶ at least to a certain degree ̶ that she would create a level of disappointment with the public, including her followers.
But unlike my situation, where I could correct the error by giving a free seminar and ultimately delivering on my promise, Deen cannot un-ring the proverbial bell in terms of taking back her words.
At the conclusion of Part 1, I posed a number of questions we all would do well to ask ourselves.
What were your answers then and, after reading today’s post are they still the same?
Finally, what can (and will) you take away from the Paula Deen story?
“Here’s an interesting thought . . . instead of being honest in the court proceedings if she had said “I don’t remember” she would have perjured herself but not have suffered the fallout. Would it have been better that she broke the law? What impact will this have on future court proceedings after seeing what had happened with Deen? Are people going to be more inclined to lie rather than expose themselves to the fallout of long ago indiscretions and mistakes?”
When news of the Paula Deen controversy broke followed shortly thereafter by the Food Network’s announcement that they were dropping her, there was of course no shortage of opinions and commentary on both sides of the issue.
While I will leave coverage of the specific details at the heart of the furor to the news media, I could not help but wonder how many of us have been faced with a similar choice to the one that Deen faced. Specifically to tell the truth and suffer the consequences or, remain silent about a past indiscretion, confident (or at least hopeful) that no one would ever discover the truth. While the stakes or consequences can certainly play a part in influencing one’s willingness to be totally frank, the answer is both complex and simple.
It becomes complex in that no one really knows how they will respond during an actual moment of crisis when careers and one’s future is on the line. Ironically, and perhaps in the case of Paula Deen, these crucial life changing moments may not even be that obvious at the time they occur. After all, I wonder if in looking back, Deen might have responded differently to the deposition questions if given the opportunity. But that is a discussion for another day.
Conversely, the answer is also simple in that based on the foundation of your values, discretionary honesty may not be an option. Or to put it another way, the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth in all circumstances may be your single guiding principle.
I would like to think that for the most part, we all conduct ourselves in accordance with the latter. Certainly the following Personal Reflection from my new book The Future of You! Creating Your Enduring Brand speaks directly to this point.
A Moment of Personal Reflection . . .
While I was writing this chapter I took the time to think long and hard regarding what values mean to me, and their impact on not only my life but on those with whom I come in contact. As a result of this reflection, I was reminded of the following experience.
Several years ago, I was sitting at O’Hare Airport, waiting to board the plane that would take me to yet another speaking engagement. Lost within my thoughts of going through security, and hoping to make it to the hotel in time to respond to my many e-mails ̶ you know the usual things that occupy your mind when you travel ̶ I barely noticed the beautiful diamond bracelet at my feet. As soon as I bent over to pick it up, I could see that it was an exquisite piece of jewelry. So here I was, at a busy airport, cupping a very expensive item that someone had lost.
What to do?
Turn it in to the guest services counter was the first thought that came to mind. Then I thought, What happens if I turn it in and it isn’t claimed? Or worse yet, What if someone gives into temptation and keeps it?
I called four friends on my cell phone asking what they would do. Each said that I should keep it, providing their reasons for why this was the best course of action. However, my gut kept telling me that I had to base my ultimate decision on my personal values. So I wrote a note and placed both it and the bracelet in an envelope and handed it to the attendant at the American Airlines counter, informing her of what I had found, and expressing my hope that the rightful owner would reclaim it.
Several weeks passed before I found myself again in the American Airlines airport lounge.
To my surprise, when I arrived and showed the person at the guest counter my ticket, she paused, then reached behind the counter to retrieve my envelope. She informed me that the bracelet had not been reclaimed, and that my decision to turn it in in the first place had moved the lunge’s staff to the point that they felt I deserved to keep the bracelet.
When I made the decision to turn in the lost bracelet, I never expected to receive a reward, nor did I anticipate that it would be returned to me. That being said, the real moral of the story is not so much my actions ̶ because I felt that what I did was the right thing to do. Nor were the circumstances by which I came to possess something of such beauty the ultimate message that I would like for you to take away from this experience. For me, the real moral of the story was the effect that my actions or value decision had on the lounge’s staff.
The fact that the staff were moved by my decision to turn in the bracelet and adamant that I be the final recipient speaks to the true power of our values, which is the impact our values have on others.
What impact are your value decisions having on those with whom you come in contact in your daily life? This is important, because this is an essential part of your personal brand!
Now I know that returning a lost bracelet and responding to a deposition question are not necessarily one in the same thing. That being said, I cannot help but believe that if you have integrity in terms of how you deal with the small things in life, you will also have integrity when dealing with life’s major situations.
So…here are some thought provoking questions to ask yourself;
· What’s the price you are prepared to pay for honouring your values?
· How do you define “honesty”? When is it appropriate to tell a white lie?
· How do you weigh the repercussions for living by your values?
· Last, are you managing your Brand so that you don’t have to worry about potential setbacks?
In Part 2 we will delve into greater detail what the Paula Deen controversy can teach us about truth and consequences. Is it appropriate to tell a white lie?
Suffice to say that we have all been shaken by the recent and shocking events in Denver this past Friday.
From a news standpoint, I will leave it to the CNNs of the world to cover the tragedy. However, and in the wake of the incident, there have been conflicting reports as to what Warner Brothers might and should do regarding the premier of their summer’s blockbuster movie Batman.
As you can well imagine, the cost to produce, distribute and promote a major motion picture is significant – to say the least. As a result, success at the box office in the opening weekend is critical to setting the tone relative to whether or not the movie will be a moneymaker. In short, the opening weekend is the “BIG” weekend for a new movie.
Given what happened in Colorado, there have been suggestions that Warner Brothers should pull the movie in its entirety – at least for the time being. Other reports have indicated that WB will pull ads in which the character portrayed in the film resembles the shooter so as not to make audiences feel uncomfortable.
Regardless of how the company handles the situation, one thing is certain . . . everyone will be watching and ultimately judging the WB brand. This is especially true when it comes to the public’s pocketbooks. According to reports while ticket sales are still somewhat brisk, experts suggest that they will likely be affected.
The negative impact resulting from the tragedy is not just limited to this particular movie. Money News reported that Cinemark Holdings Inc., the Plano, Texas-based owner of the theater in Aurora, dropped 4.5 percent. Even the industry as a whole has felt the effects as Regal Entertainment Group, the largest U.S. theater operator, fell 4.3 percent, as did Carmike Cinemas Inc. which dropped 1.6 percent.
Against this terrible backdrop, what would you do if you were Warner Brothers? Would you pull the movie? Would you take a more measured response by reducing the amount of advertising for the film? Or would you set up an online website where people can make donations to the families of the deceased. How about WB setting up a special fund, donating a percentage of every ticket sale to donate to the survivors’ medical costs, etc.?
One thing is certain, and as demonstrated by the contrasts between the manner in which Johnson & Johnson handled the Tylenol tampering crisis in 1982 as opposed to how Exxon mismanaged the Valdez oil spill in Alaska, the public and media have long memories.
Achieving the difficult balance between serving shareholder interests and public sentiments is a difficult task in situations such as these, with far reaching consequences. So deciding on an appropriate response is fraught with many challenges.
Whatever Warner Brothers decides to do, they would be wise to remember the famous line from a past blockbuster movie and be certain to “choose wisely.”