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Generational Issues at Work: Mind Your Karma, People!

stereotypingI was 38 when a fiftysomething colleague explained life to me: You do a bunch of stupid stuff in your 20s. In your 30s, you still do stupid stuff, but you start to figure out who you want to be. You get some serious clarity in your 40s – but that decade? It only lasts about 15 minutes. Your 50s blow by even faster.

I laughed so hard, but I’m telling you, that dude spoke the truth. Time flies and then you are suddenly way older. I recently keynoted for a conference for young lawyers, most of whom were between the ages of 27 and 43. I loved their energy and potential, and especially appreciated how they were just beginning to feel and use their power.

“Don’t you get all smug about being so much younger than me,” I chided them. “I believe in reincarnation and by the time I come back and am your age, you are going to be pooping in your Depends.”

Everybody laughed. But there is some truth to the idea that what goes around comes around. And, even if you don’t see the value in workers who are much older than you, the value is there. There may be an older person who doesn’t seem to get or fit in with the vibe or direction you want, but that person worked hard and learned much. It is far better to learn what that person has to offer than to push him or her away because they are old. The day will come when a much younger boss is looking at you and thinking you are the one who just doesn’t get it. There is a good chance you are going to get back everything you dished out. That’s just Mother Karma doing her thing.

Can we please just stop generalizing about generations and start appreciating one another? The number of younger workers is decreasing. The number of older workers is increasing. We need each other.

You may be working with or supervising people who are older than you, and they might seem much older. But, your turn to be the old person in the office will come and it will come much sooner than you think. You probably don’t like being lumped in as being one way or another because you are a millennial or a GenXer or GenYer, so be careful not to make assumptions of the Baby Boomers.

Some Boomers are pretty badass. I know I am. Let’s do an adventure sometime. You’ll see.

We can joke about our differing work or communication habits, but we have everything to gain by trying to go to the other person’s perspective and learn to communicate. Why build division when you can build trust? We all have plenty we can teach each other. Don’t assume the “old person” in the room is not tech savvy. Some aren’t that great at it, but by now, most are pretty good and many are as technologically with it as you are. Regardless, they are huge resources because they know people. They know office politics. They know how to sell and plan and create an agenda and make a presentation. They are wonderful resources because they’ve made their stupid mistakes and can keep you from making a few.

They are smart, and they want to be involved, not placated, patronized or minimized.

I have been interviewing people who killed it professionally. It is heartbreaking to hear what they have faced as they hit middle age and were either laid off, pushed aside or drowned in unemployability.

Don’t categorize them because they don’t look or think like you. Find out what they’ve got, because you will be surprised what a difference they can make.

I used to be a reporter and I remember one of the “veteran” employees who was one of the oldest people in the newsroom. When she died, I looked at her age in her obituary and shocked to realize that, way back when she was “the old person,” she was 45. Forty-five is ancient to a 23-year-old, but it is very young. The other “old person” in the newsroom hadto be ancient because she was a grandmother, but now that I’ve gone back and done the math, I realize she was 37 at the time.

They were so young, but to me they were so old. ! still hung out with them – a lot. We had a great time and I learned a lot.

I’m sad that, now that I have worked on this generational career project, I am hearing stories about older people who are talented and extremely successful have been automatically discounted if they are over a certain age.

Is the cutoff point 50? Fifty-three? Fifty-five? Somewhere in there.

If you are young and having to supervise or deal with older people, here is a true fact: People over 40 and over 50 and over 60s have careers that matter just as much to them as yours does to you. Don’t discount them. Be their champion and they will be yours. Believe me, they can make you very, very successful.

Plus, your day is coming. You’ll get what you give.

Best-selling author and leadership keynote speaker Fawn Germer is looking for professionals of every generation to interview for next book project on generational issues at work. Write her at fgermer@fawngermer.com if you would like to participate. Visit fawngermer.com.

Transition time? Ugh. Here we go again.

Transition blues. Ugh. Here we go again.

Nineteen years ago, I had a plan. I’d quit my job as a journalist, write my book of mentoring wisdom from great women leaders, then get real rich. Talk about career transition and reinvention!

The day I resigned, my friend Susan said, “I hope you understand that it will be a very long time before you see a penny from that book.”

I thought she had no idea how good my book was going to be.

I dove into my dream, all gung-ho and certain of my inevitable success. But soon I became the humiliating cliché of the starving author in transition

Careers move in and out of transition. It's all about the obstacles.

Careers move in and out of transition. It’s all about the obstacles.

who couldn’t find a publisher. I’d left my career to pursue my dream – and I’d failed.

I remember driving through the toll booth on Florida’s Skyway Bridge and seeing a sign that they were hiring toll collectors.

“I wonder if they’ll hire me,” I thought.

That’s how defeated I was. Never mind that I’d been very successful as a journalist and was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize four times. Was this my next transition?

A friend shook some sense into me.

“If you lose faith in yourself,” she said, “Then who is going to have faith in you?”

Susan was so right that it would be years before I ever saw a penny from my book. But I persevered and it became a best-seller and then an Oprah book. All of my obstacles led me to a career as a leadership speaker. I never would have imagined that in a million years.

That whole experience, which was both crushing and exhilarating, taught me so much about our career highs and lows. It’s never a straight shot up. There will always be setbacks. If it were easy, everybody would be wildly successful.

And the real challenge is this: Once you figure it out and make it, you have to figure it out and make it again. These days, this world changes so fast that we have to keep re-inventing. That can be exhausting.

Shouldn’t we get to coast a little?

But we don’t get that luxury. I have to do re-invent, too. What worked five years ago doesn’t work now. Reboot or be irrelevant.

Your ability to succeed rests solely on your ability to recalibrate and rebound. If you are sick of proving yourself, you aren’t alone. But you have no choice. You can’t keep doing what isn’t working and you are too smart to just give up.

So, buck up.

Figure it out.

Recalibrate your vision, come up with your task list, expect obstacles and setbacks and always know that, one way or another, you will be successful.

I just finished writing my ninth book – this time, it isn’t about leadership. It’s about dealing with my parents as they aged, faced stroke, Alzheimer’s and dementia, then died. Per usual, I’ve had some obstacles. I had an agent tell me the book was too personal. Another said that nobody wants to read a book like that when they are dealing with those issues. But I persevere for one reason: I needed such a book when I was facing those issues.

And, anyhow, if I don’t have faith in myself – and my work – who’s going to have faith in me?

Fawn Germer is one of America’s most sought-after leadership keynote speakers. She’s the best-selling author of nine books and is one of two women in the top 25 on the prestigious “Guru List” of best leadership speakers worldwide. For speaking information, write info@fawngermer.com.

 

 

When Your Job Doesn’t Fit Right…

If you have got two left feet, you don’t need to prove a point by becoming a ballerina. Life is never a perfect fit, but it should still fit – especially at work.

Back when I was a reporter, I worked with a man who consistently made fact errors and required three times the editing of anyone else on staff. Since the paper was a union shop, he couldn’t be fired, so he was relegated to night and weekend shifts and given the worst assignments. He told me he’d been “utterly miserable” for all but two years there, yet he wound up staying for more 20, languishing until the paper went out of business. Twenty miserable years!

What was really tragic about it was that he loved technology and math – and was brilliant in those areas. He just wouldn’t pivot toward his strengths. He wouldn’t consider technical writing or IT positions because his miserable reporting job had a good paycheck, benefits and union protection. If only he’d embraced his considerable strengths instead of trying to force success with his considerable weaknesses.

Most of us have what I call a “considerable strength.” Mine is information. I know how to get, process and communicate it on deadline. That is valuable talent. But I also have my considerable weaknesses – math, paperwork, foreign languages, bookkeeping… there’s a long list. So what? I know what I am good at, and I play to my strengths.

Are you playing to your considerable strengths? If you aren’t, your work life is more stressful and less successful than it could be.

Examine what you are doing and decide whether it’s time for a change. If it isn’t going to get better, DO SOMETHING. There is a difference between diving into discomfort so you can learn new things and stubbornly trying to make a bad fit work.

Ask yourself:

  1. How do you feel when you show up for work? Are you more filled with hope and purpose or resignation and dread?
  2. Are you on track to advance? Are you being recognized and rewarded for your contributions? Is there room for you to grow in your job or are you stuck in place?
  3. How are your work relationships? Are your colleagues supporting and advancing you? Do you fit in?
  4. How do you feel on Sunday nights? Are you ready to roll into the next week, or are you anxious?
  5. Is your job fulfilling? Challenging? Purposeful? Or does it just look good on paper and/or provide a reliable paycheck? Does the prospect of doing the same thing for many years excite you or turn you off?

You know in your gut if you are forcing yourself to succeed at your weakness. Explore other options and take your time to find the right fit. Don’t run in and quit your job when you don’t have another one and don’t take the first thing that comes along without careful deliberation. Change is good. Risk is good. Plan your change and fortify your risk.

Few of us get to love every aspect of our work every minute of the day. You will always have to make peace with doing some things you don’t enjoy or might not be great at, but when you fight to make something work that really doesn’t, you are wasting time and wasting life. Are you willing to lose 20 years to a bad fit?

Moving Forward

When you want to quit, take a break, slow down, recharge, then start again. Move forward slowly, an inch at a time if you have to, but keep moving forward knowing that there will come a point where you conquer your challenge.

You see, if you give the universe permission, it will give you every possible excuse to lose faith in yourself and quit. Once you quit on yourself, you might as well quit everything else.

The cycling story I wrote about yesterday is just a metaphor. Perseverance like that has nothing to do with cycling, and really, nothing to do with the task at hand that is giving you so much trouble.

Those moments of great self-doubt are profound test points that determine your own strength or fortitude. They determine whether you want to achieve your goals – or not. You have to assume that things never go as planned and obstacles will arise to make your challenge harder to achieve. Know that, so you can expect and accept the torture of temporary setbacks and failures. Then get back up on your bike and move on.

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Fawn Germer is the best-selling author of four books and speaks to corporations and organizations about courages and creative leadership strategies.

Just Ten Minutes

I travel a lot for my speaking business and the thing I hate most is coming home to a dining room table covered with stacks of mail. I just can’t deal with it, and so I leave it. Then the pile grows. And grows.

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There came a point where there was not a single inch of space available on that table. One morning, I lamented this to a friend who told me, “Just set your timer and give it ten minutes of straightening time. You can do the same thing tomorrow. But, you only have to do it for ten minutes.” Well, that didn’t seem so bad, so I told myself I would do it.

I kept putting it off. Noon came and went, two o’clock, four o’clock, and finally I said to myself, “This is ridiculous. It’s only ten minutes.” So, I set the clock, and focused on that table. Ten minutes later, I realized I was almost finished clearing that table. It only would take another five minutes, which I gladly did. Suddenly, that table was 100 percent clear of clutter.

It is exactly the same when trying to clear the clutter you have stacked up in your brain. Even if the outcome is peace of mind, inner strength and outright joy, the idea of changing your entire thought pattern, perceptions and attitudes sounds like work.

You don’t have to change everything today.

You don’t have to go into some twenty-three hour Zen zone of affirmation, affirmation, affirmation to reprogram every negative thing about you.

Just give it ten minutes.

Just start.

The single parent I mentioned yesterday did go back to school and is a nurse today. It was a long, arduous challenge, but she did it one step at a time.

Clearing the Clutter

You don’t lose fifty pounds in two weeks. You lose them one pound at a time. You don’t begin a fitness regiment by running  a marathon. You run a mile or two. counteracts lipitor

So don’t stare at the prospect of de-stressing and re-building your life by expecting to change everything by midnight tonight. It’s too intimidating. You are who you are. You may want changes, but those changes can’t – and won’t – happen in an instant.

The one thing I have seen repeatedly in people who face daunting challenges is that they often won’t try because the situation seems to big and hard to conquer. They think they must do it all and fix it all – at once, and that’s too hard so they just don’t bother and settle for the status quo.

I know a very bright young woman who had a child when she was 17 and wound up cleaning houses. By the time she hit her 30s, she was convinced that she could have nothing more for her life. She blamed it on foolish choices in her youth, but I told her that the foolish choices continued every time she chose inaction over action. She wanted to be a nurse, but the prospect of going to nursing school was too overwhelming, especially since she’d be doing it while dealing with life as a single parent with very little income.

I told her about a man I interviewed at a college graduation. He started his studies as a young father and it took him ten years to get that bachelor’s degree. He did it one class at a time. It didn’t matter what was going on in his life, he always had one class in progress to move him forward toward his ultimate goal. And, he achieved it.

You don’t have to fix everything in one day. If you think you do, you will be tempted not to fix anything. Just take small steps.

Fawn Germer is the best-selling author of four books and speaks to corporations and organizations about courages and creative leadership strategies.

Excuses

I am so over people making excuses of why they can’t do something. Let’s look at some of the excuses people use, and see how ridiculous they really are.

Excuse: You’re too old.

Bull.

Grandma Moses didn’t start painting American folk art until her late 70s. S. I. Hayakawa didn’t get elected to the U.S. Senate until he was 70.  When Golda Meir was elected prime minister of Israel, she was 71. George Burns didn’t win an Academy Award until he was 80. George Brunstad was 70 when he swam the English Channel. Mario Curnis climbed the 29,035-foot summit of Mount Everest when he was 66. Cardinal Angelo Roncalli became Pope John XXIII when he was 76 and called Vatican II. George Selbach scored a 110-yard hole-in-one at age 96.

Excuse: You lack the education to do something. for prices avodart

Right.

Among those who never earned college diplomas: Bill Gates, Maya Angelou, Larry Ellison, Jane Goodall, Michael Dell,  Quentin Tarantino, David Geffen, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Thomas Edison, Woody Allen, Carl Bernstein, Eleanor Roosevelt, Ray Bradbury, Estee Lauder, Richard Branson, Agatha Christie, James Cameron, Grover Cleveland, Walter Cronkite, Muriel Siebert, Harry Truman, Abraham Lincoln and George Washington. In addition, Peter Jennings and John D. Rockefeller never got their high school diplomas.

Excuse: You come from the wrong side of the tracks. You were raised poor.

So were Oprah Winfrey, Benjamin Franklin, Malcolm X, Jackie Joyner-Kersey, George Orwell, Charles Dickens, Elvis Presley, Roseanne Barr, Gloria Steinem, Shania Twain, Truman Capote and millions of other successful people.

Excuse: You’re disabled.

Tom  Cruise (dyslexia), Patty Duke (bipolar), Stephen Hawking (Lou Gehrig’s disease), Magic Johnson (HIV), Marlee Matlin (deaf), Itzhak Perlman (paralyzed from polio), Franklin Roosevelt (paralyzed from polio),

Excuse: You’re too fat.

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What about Winston Churchill, Marlon Brando, Elvis, Aretha Franklin, Oliver Hardy, B.B. King, Luciano Pavarotti, Orson Wells and Presidents Teddy Roosevelt, William Howard Taft and Ulysses S. Grant? Don’t forget Santa Claus.

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We use excuses to talk ourselves out of trying for promotions we think we can’t get. We use them to stay in jobs and relationships and circumstances that we don’t even like. We use them to put off furthering our education, starting fitness programs, moving, losing weight, building relationships and doing those things that put us in our discomfort zones. Excuses don’t count. Results do.

Fawn Germer is the best-selling author of four books and speaks to corporations and organizations about courages and creative leadership strategies. rocaltrol

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Our Own Limits

Sometimes we do hit the wall of our own limits, and some excuses do count. I want to sell ten million copies of this book, but I can’t make ten million people buy it. All I can do is write the best book I can, and work like heck to promote it. I may have wanted to win a Pulitzer Prize when I was a reporter, but all I could control was that I would do Pulitzer-quality work. I got four nominations, but never the prize.

If you want to act, you can’t assure yourself that you will win an Academy Award. All you can do study, practice, and prepare yourself to perform at an Oscar-quality level. If you want to be CEO of General Motors, you can only control that you have the knowledge, finesse and ability of someone who would ascend to that position.

You might want to do an Ironman Triathlon, but your knees won’t let you run at all. Some excuses count. But again, not many.

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For almost every challenge we encounter, there are a multitude of excuses that give us a pass to walk away. Maybe they make us feel better, but excuses are just cop-outs for choosing that which appears easy of something that poses difficulty. Deep inside, we know that. But we use them anyhow.

Fawn Germer is the best-selling author of four books and speaks to corporations and organizations about courages and creative leadership strategies. download her alibi free

Change Your Life

If you are going to change your life, really look at what you are up against and split the challenges into stages that you can knock off one or two at a time. I know. How can you dream huge dreams while still grounding yourself with your own human limits? Sounds like quite a contradiction, but it’s not. What I am suggesting is that you dream huge dreams, but pace yourself.

Make the decision – really make the decision, and make those goals become reality. Once you have some momentum, add to your list. Do more. And more. The more you do, the more you will be able to do at one time.

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Don’t fool yourself into thinking you have such superhuman stamina, willpower and determination that you can accomplish everything, all at once. But, don’t use that reality to talk you out of striving for goals that seem out of reach. Again, it’s pacing. Set a course for you that will push you and make you stretch, but don’t set one that will kill you.

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Connect Carefully: Friendship and Betrayal in the Workplace

I once asked my now ex-husband if he wanted to go out for dinner with the girls. “No thanks,” he said. “You all get together and talk about things like … growth.”

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Well, yeah. That’s the beauty of being a woman. We connect. We get to know each other deeply and we support each other in our personal and professional networks. Is there anything more validating than glancing at a friend and seeing that she has picked up on your sudden feeling of frustration or anger doubt – without you having to even say a word? cytoxan abana realty

I would never have had the courage to conquer my obstacles without my friends cheering and pushing me from the sidelines. But, I have to admit I have trusted a few women who never deserved that trust. This is a stumbling block for many, many women in professional environments.

Sometimes our willingness to so freely connect makes us vulnerable. If I stand in front of an audience and ask, “How many of you have been stabbed in the back by another woman?” almost every hand will go up. I usually follow-up by asking, “How many of you confronted the woman?” Only a few hands will rise. seroquel

That is the downside to our connections. Some of us trust too easily and reveal too much, which can put us in extremely vulnerable positions – especially if we award our trust in a competitive work environment. We expect more from women because we feel like we give more. When we are hurt by another woman, we are often too hurt or afraid to look her in the eye and ask for an explanation or say that we didn’t like it.

It seems easier to grouse about it with other co-workers than it does to go directly to the source of the conflict and say, “Why did you do that?” But, when we say nothing, we condone the betrayal. Confrontation is tricky business and should be handled as diplomatically as possible. The person must know you are watching so it doesn’t happen again. You don’t want to be messed with. You aren’t a victim.

Network and connect freely, but be careful who you count as your friend. The friends you have are priceless. Just know who they really are and learn to connect carefully.

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