Global Leadership Speaker and Premier Work-Life Balance Speaker
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Archive for March 2010

It was a bumpy flight, but the turbulence stopped.

I am blogging from the roughest flight I have ever experienced in my life. We’ve been jerked and tossed and, three times, we’ve felt the panic that comes by a sudden downward plunge.

I’m sitting next to a really sweet, 22-year-old woman, a white-knuckled flyer who doesn’t enjoy the turbulence. I reassurred her that we’d be fine, but then it hit me — if you can’t make peace with the inevitable turbulance, you never get to go anywhere. It hit me that this flight is a metaphor for what many of us have experienced with our careers over the last 18 months.  

Several months ago, I delivered a keynote for a high-budget, incredibly well-produced event. The association spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on production — and it showed. I told the producer how impressed I was and he said something so inspiring and memorable that I have treasured ever since.

“I haven’t worked in six months. I love what I do. I am fighting to be able to do the work I love.”

Those words never left me because it struck me that is what we are all doing now. We are fighting for the right to do the work we love. Basically, we’ve been asked to reapply for our jobs, then reapply ourselves to prove how much we deserve our success.

I know that many have found the challenges they’ve faced to be frustrating and unfair, but some of us have actually welcomed them and experienced a reward we wouldn’t have gotten if the economy hadn’t knocked us around a little bit. The turmoil forced us to refocus and recommit. Doing that has made me truly appreciate how lucky I am to be able to fight to do work I love so much. I remember another corporate speaker telling me, “My calendar is empty. How are we supposed to find anything at a time when corporations are laying off tens of thousands of people.” Maybe my business was a little lighter last year, but it was more fun because I used the opportunity to try some creative marketing techniques that worked. This year is turning out fantastic. But, again, I am fighting for the right to do the work I love — just like that producer, and just like everybody else.

Those of us who made up our minds to stop fixating on the turbulence of the economy and, instead, shift and turn and figure things out have, for the most part, done well in spite of the downturn. Those who thought they would wait until things got “back to normal” saw their businesses decimated. Those who kept on doing things the way they have always done them saw huge losses.

It was a bumpy flight, but the turbulence stopped. Amazing how that always works in this crazy life.

We’re landing now. Safe and sound.

Fire the jerk. Taking control when you’ve given your power away.

This is the latest in a series on dealing with control issues.

There are bosses who try to micromanage everything in order to control the outcome, and what do they accomplish? They alienate their people, get no buy-in or support, and ultimately scramble to achieve their goals.

How does it feel when someone is trying to control you? Not good. I kind of like my free will, and I’m pretty sure you like it, too. I don’t like someone telling me when or where or how or why. I like to feel that others respect and value my judgment enough to let me do my best – whether the issue is professional or personal. I welcome constructive criticism because others can see places where I can improve my game. But I don’t welcome the hovering presence of a control freak who is so neurotic that he or she can’t let me be my best self.

You can probably imagine that I am inclined to fight back when that happens. But I am floored by the legions of people who find themselves in jobs, relationships, friendships and other situations where they get pushed around. There is certainly no shortage of controlling partners who will pick away until they have wiped out the confidence and self-direction of a less-assertive partner. If you find yourself being pushed around by someone who acts like he or she knows better than you, you’ve got to take responsibility for giving your power away. You are the one allowing it and you’ve got to ask yourself why. Do you need someone to tell you how to do things their way or do you need to find someone who respects you enough to let you do it yourself?

I know a woman whose husband controls everything, from how she styles her hair to when (and how) they are going to be intimate. She is always telling me, “I feel so out of control,” and she is – because she lets herself be bullied and lets someone else dominate her world. Sometimes you have to take chances – at the risk of a relationship – in order to salvage your individual self. You have to honor who you are, or you are no one at all.

How do you do that? By setting boundaries and making choices. I have had more than one bullying boss, and I learned to deal with them in different ways. One guy was normally loveable, but he had a terrible temper that would blow before he got all the information he needed. This was back when I was a reporter and he blew up at me in the middle of the newsroom, yelling because he thought I didn’t do an assignment, but I’d done it –he just looked for it in the wrong computer file.

 “Don’t ever yell at me in public like that again,” I told him as I pulled him into his office. “It is unprofessional and I am not going to take it. Second, I did the assignment. It’s right where it is supposed to be. You have made a big scene out there based on your bad information and now you need to go out there and publicly set the record straight.” And, he did. He apologized right in front of everyone.

But, another bullying boss would blow up at everybody and, when he blew up at me, there was no setting him straight. That was the way he was. He didn’t care about being fair or decent. He didn’t care about how we felt about how we were treated. He walked around the room with his “I’m the boss!” attitude and, believe me, he was the boss. At least, until I decided that he wasn’t.

It is amazing how much power an individual can have over you until you decide you have had enough and take the steps to make change. In this case, I had enough, did my resume and got another job. Once I moved on, he couldn’t control another single thing in my life.

When others have control over you, it is because you relinquish it to them. You are not a prison inmate who has relinquished your right to live and breathe in the way that you choose. But, you do have the decision to stay in controlling relationships and controlling work environments – or not.

You can fire your boss. You can dump a bullying spouse or partner.  It may not seem like you are in charge of your own life, but you are.