"Selling" Your Soul in Professional Sales

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(Note: I'm not referring to the state of your soul in eternity, but rather the integrity and health of your conscience and personhood).

When I did some reflection on how I may have compromised my own values (see the last blog entry), one area stood out - selling something professionally that I didn't really believe in.

This short video gives a couple of insights, and how I'm trying to turn that around. 

Maybe you don’t sell products or services, but most of us have to sell ideas or points of view at some time in our lives.

Can you relate? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

How To Lose Your Soul at Work (and get it back again)

Important note: in this article the word “soul” refers to one’s personhood, conscience, and sense of self.  However, I’d also be happy to talk with you about your “eternal soul” if you contact me.

Image by  Gerd Altmann  from  Pixabay

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

There’s an 80’s song, Once in a Lifetime, by Talking Heads, that speaks about mid-life disillusionment.  Having gone through this myself, I can relate with the questions the singer asks himself, “Well, how did I get here?” “Am I right?  Am I wrong?”  “What have I done?”

That feeling of “lostness” can be a scary place.  And while the feeling might be triggered by a specific event, the underlying causes can operate unnoticed for years. Seemingly small choices chip away at your soul little by little over time until one day you don’t know who you are anymore.

Take a look and see if you’ve fallen into any of these areas of neglect, and if so take action. It’s never too late to get back on track.

1. You Compromise your values 

Kathy is competitive and likes to pursue excellence, but the lackluster culture at her current company feels like a ball and chain keeping her from personal success.  In the short term she thought she could “power through it,” and help to improve her environment.  But over time her frustrations grew, her performance suffered, and she lost her edge and self-respect.  Why? Her work wasn’t in line with her core values.

Very simply, values are guiding principles that are important to you.  These include moral/ethical boundaries (truthfulness, honesty, respect, fairness, etc.), as well as what you personally think makes for a fulfilling life (physical fitness, constant learning, financial independence, justice, etc.).  The list varies greatly from person to person, but the important thing is that you know what your values are and that you honor them.

If the temptation to compromise your values happened in a huge, obvious way it would be much easier to see and avoid.  But it usually happens in a more insidious way through a series of small micro-choices and neglect.   These accumulate over time resulting in an incongruent life, deep sense of frustration, and lack of self-respect.  In short, you lose who you really are. 

Solution:   Do a values inventory.  Then get together with a trusted friend or a coach to identify places where your life is out of sync with your values.  If you can make changes in your work environment to support your values, that’s great.  If not, you might need to make a career transition.  You deserve better. 

“Peace of mind comes when your life is in harmony with true principles and values and in no other way.” Stephen Covey

2. You Don’t update your goals

Jim loved his small but growing company.  He was a valued team member who was making a direct impact to bottom line growth.  But fifteen years and four acquisitions later, he’s working in a hidden division of a huge tech company doing menial work that doesn’t challenge or excite him.  He thought he’d “play it safe” and just go with the flow, but now he’s bored and dreads going to work each day.

Have you found yourself in a place you never wanted to be?  That happens when you’re not intentional with your plans.  Circumstances change over time and if you don’t revisit your goals and make adjustments, you’ll just drift into other people’s expectations for you.

Solution: Schedule appointments with yourself to look at your personal treasure map and your road map, make updates as needed, and then take action.  If you haven’t done this in years, just get started.  You’ll get better the more you do it.  A good coach can act as a sounding board and help keep you accountable to a realistic plan.

“If you don't know where you're going, you'll end up someplace else.”  Yogi Berra

3. You’ve Stopped learning

Shivkumar was a talented, rock star employee.   His projects leveraged the latest technology to save his company millions, and he was rewarded with rapid advancement.  Now he’s in upper management, and he’s fallen out of touch with technology trends.  No one can keep up with all of them, but he’s adopted certain mindsets that have built a defensive “cocoon of denial,” around himself.  Namely: 

  • Entitlement - “I paid my dues - I should be rewarded for my past accomplishments”

  • Pride - “I’ll look stupid if I admit I don’t know this subject matter”

  • Fear - “what if I don’t have what it takes to learn this new skill?” and

  • Laziness - “it’s just too much work to keep up with these changes”

Solution: Shiv is stuck in what’s known as a “fixed mindset.”  If this sounds like you, then develop a “growth mindset” to reignite your learning. My clients consistently rank the book, Mindset, as the #1 resource to get them back on track.  And sometimes you just need wake-up call.  A good coach will have the courage to tell you what others are afraid to say and will hold you accountable to your action plan.

“A man who asks is a fool for five minutes. A man who never asks is a fool for life.”  Chinese Proverb

In what ways are you feeling lost?  Are there other factors operating in your life that aren’t listed here?  Please add your comments below and be part of the discussion. In the meantime, enjoy some retro video.

What most job hunters get wrong

Image by Mary Pahlke from Pixabay

Image by Mary Pahlke from Pixabay

When I meet a prospective client who’s considering a career transition, it’s pretty typical for them to ask me to review their resume and help them understand why they didn’t get the last job they interviewed for.

Like most people, they’ve been focusing all their efforts on the execution portion of their job hunt - what I call “the visible part of the iceberg.” Unfortunately, that system isn’t very effective at helping people find a great fit.

The most important part of a job hunt is hidden beneath the surface. And when people put in the effort to first get clarity on who they are and what they want, the chances of them finding a job they’ll love go way up.

I’ve lived this out in my own life, and now I help other people get the clarity they’re looking for as well.

I hope you enjoy this short video. Please share it with some of your friends who dislike their current job or are actively looking for a new one.

Don't Should on Yourself

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This is a friendly reminder to love yourself.

One key is recognizing the scripts that are running in your subconscious. Identify those voices in the back of your mind that always tell you you’re not good enough, you need to change, or you need to be like someone else before you’re acceptable.

Once you see those for what they are - tyrannical taskmasters - it makes it easier to shut them out. It will take practice, but it’s worth the effort.

You are too valuable to be squashed into something you weren’t designed to be.

Love Who You Already Are

 
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I'm all for self-improvement. I work at it every day, and believe that we should all strive to be the best we can be.

The problem comes when you try to be someone that you're not meant to be. That's a recipe for a life of frustration and disappointment.

Being your best starts with accepting the limitations of your design. Think about it… If you not satisfied with your Real Self - with all your realistic strengths and limitations - in essence you’re saying that your Creator made a mistake. Not good.

If you can adjust that mindset and thank God for how you're made, you’ll release a flood of wisdom and have the proper foundation to move forward with your plans.

Watch this short video for an encouragement.

The Tyranny of Should

 
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“Should”

When I take stock of who I am and see that things are good
A thief comes in to steal my joy, accusing, “But you Should…”

“You Should be more productive.  Your body Should be slim 
That guy right there is so well-liked, you Should be more like him.”

So now there is a rubble heap where my esteem once stood
Knocked down with cruel intention by the wrecking ball of Should

“How dare you be contented.  Your best will never do.  
Try harder still,” his voice demands.  “Become a different you.”

I get back on the hamster wheel determined to improve
But hear him say to my dismay, “the finish line has moved.”

Then in a time of clarity I see I have a choice   
I can choose to tune him out and hear a different voice

I hear, “I am accepted.”  I hear, “I am enough.”  
And where I lack, God’s got my back.  I’m covered by His love

I’ll celebrate my talents working hard at what I do  
I’m doing fine with my design, my limitations, too

I don’t do super-exploits.  Sometimes I wish I could
But I accept me as I am.  I’ve had enough of Should!

Copyright 2019 by Peter Cafarchio

How Comparison Steals Your Joy

Photo by  Fares Hamouche  on  Unsplash

I was reflecting about how I tend to despise my natural limitations instead of accepting them, and this graphic representation came to mind.  I hope you can gain some personal insights from it.

How it works

When I accurately see myself the way I am, with a realistic view of my strengths and limitations, I can have self-respect and a healthy appreciation for myself.

The problem comes when I get fixated on a fantasy version of who I think I should be.  In that version, my strengths are exaggerated, and my weaknesses are ignored or hidden.  It’s unrealistic, but I’m more attracted to that version.  And then when I see my Real Self in comparison to my Fantasy Self, I wind up disliking myself because I don’t measure up.  The result is deep-seated unhappiness with my core identity.

Entire industries spend multiple billions of dollars each year to convince you that you don’t yet measure up to the Fantasy Self.  They don’t mind damaging your self-esteem just so you’ll buy their products to improve yourself.  Pretty sick, huh? 

Social media makes it even worse by broadcasting images that only show our best moments and hide our real struggles.

And if you’re a high-achiever, you might be naturally prone to setting unrealistic expectations for yourself and others.

What can you do?

One plan of attack is to identify the sources that contribute to your Fantasy Self.  A short list might include: entertainment, advertisements, past messages from your family of origin, condescending friends, certain corporate cultures, and your social media feed.  

Ask yourself if these influencers are making you feel better or worse about your Real Self, and then manage or eliminate them. It’s not easy because we’re barraged every day, but a few key choices can make a big difference.

The second approach is to get a good understanding of who you really are – self-awareness.  Do the work using assessments, a coach, and feedback from friends and coworkers to get an accurate view of your strengths and limitations.  And then learn to love and accept yourself for who you are.

What’s interesting is that the better you know your Real Self, the easier it becomes to see (and reject) your Fantasy Self. 

I’ve heard it said that when currency experts are trained to identify counterfeit money, they don’t study the infinite ways the money can be imitated. Instead, they study the unique characteristics (paper type, colors, inks, images, etc.) of legitimate currency. Then if they see that one aspect is altered, they know the bill in question isn’t authentic.

The same principle applies here.  Get to know the real, legitimate you, and it becomes easier to spot the voices trying to make you into a phony.

How about you? What’s one comparison you can eliminate this year to increase your joy level?

Are Your Strengths Hurting Your Results?

Coach Pete Strengths Blog .jpeg

(Check out this sample excerpt from a coaching session)

Client: “I just love strategic planning. When my team lays out their goals and barriers, I can very quickly see the way forward. It’s like I intuitively know which path will work and which ones won’t.

Coach Pete: “That’s great. What’s the best part of that for you?”

Client: “It just brings me a lot of pleasure to contribute my best work. And there are times that I get so excited because I was the first one to see it and I just know it will work out. I feel like I’m ‘in my zone.’”

Coach Pete: “Is there any downside to that excitement?”

Client: “Well, now that you mention it, it can also be frustrating. Sometimes the answers come so fast I have a hard time verbalizing them. And when my coworkers don’t see the answers as quickly as I do, I lose patience with them and can cut them off when they want to keep discussing it. One time, someone even said I come off as condescending. I think it’s getting in the way of my career advancement.”

Perhaps this person works with you, or maybe it is you. On the one hand, you might really appreciate these “super powers,” and on the other hand, you find them “super annoying!”

Why is that?  What makes a talent so valuable in one situation, but then not so helpful — maybe even harmful — in another? The answer lies in knowing when: when to feature your talents, and when to hold back until a more opportune time comes along.

“To the man with a hammer everything looks like a nail.”  

- Mark Twain

Have you heard this quote before? It shows our tendency to over-use one our strengths. When we realize that we can help in one situation, we try the same approach in every situation.

In the example above, the client knew she was doing her best work when using her powerful “hammer” talent of strategic thinking. Subconsciously, she thought, “What would make the session even better? Even MORE strategic thinking!” However, seeing the solution is one thing, but building a team consensus around the solution is a separate process. The client didn’t realize the effect that her excitement was having on her coworkers. She needed self-awareness to know when to let her strategic thinking shine, and when to put it on the back burner until everyone else could get up to speed.

This exact scenario might not register with you personally, but people overplay their strengths in a variety of ways. Consider this short list of examples:

  • The harmonizer loves to help find a consensus and make peace. But, overused, they can squelch dissent and kill difficult discussions that sometimes need to happen.

  • Someone with a commanding presence is invaluable during times of chaos to clear confusion and set direction. But, when things are stable, they can be abrasive and overbearing.

  • Analytical types are great when the team needs accuracy and thorough insights. Not so much when a quick “good-enough” decision needs to be made.

  • You need creative idea people when you’re innovating and pioneering. But those same traits can be disruptive when your team is in strict execution mode.

  • The ability to enforce policies consistently across an organization leads to sense of fairness and stability. Taken too far though, it becomes rigid, even when flexibility is needed.

  • Personalized attention to develop a customized solution will delight a client. But, that approach won’t scale if your team wants to reach a broad market.  

Making it work

So how can you find balance? Anyone can develop the ability to manage their talents, but you’ll probably need some help along the way. Here are some things to keep in mind.

  1. Self-awareness. You need to be able to clearly understand and articulate your talents. After all, you can’t manage them if you don’t know which ones you have.  Having a clear framework and a language to describe them is crucial.

  2. Gallup CliftonStrengths is a good place to start. Their new report format has some big changes that are worth checking out. If you took the assessment a while ago, dust it off and go online to get the Full 34 report. It’s filled with new insights customized to your unique strengths combination.

  3. Get coached around your strengths. I’ve seen firsthand how my clients gain huge insights from the WeAlign approach in order to maximize their strengths and manage their weaknesses (disclaimer: I’m a WeAlign Certified Coach and partner).

  4. Find an accountability partner to give you feedback when they see you overusing your strengths. Actively solicit their observations when you work together.

  5. Practice. And be patient with yourself. You may not see immediate changes, but over time, anyone can increase their self-awareness. Like any other skill, if you stick with it long enough you can get good at it.

Which of your strengths might you be overusing? Did any of the scenarios listed above touch a nerve? Has anyone ever told you to tone it down a bit? I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments on the subject.


My Day with the Relief Bus

I’m taking a break from my normal blog to highlight a non-profit that I believe in, New York City Relief. They’re doing really great work with the homeless in New York and New Jersey.

NYC Relief is super effective in training and deploying volunteers. I just finished my fifth trip with them, and each experience has been worthwhile and fulfilling. Getting right into the mix to hear these people’s stories, lending a hand, and just showing some kindness has taught me a lot about the common needs we all have.

Handing out socks, hygiene kits, and offering prayer

Handing out socks, hygiene kits, and offering prayer

Making new friends - you definitely get back more than you give.

Making new friends - you definitely get back more than you give.

David is a Bahamian immigrant who works a security job, but arthritis in his ankle forces him to use crutches and he can no longer walk his rounds. He was thankful to get soup and bread to help cut costs so he can pay his (subsidized) rent. And he was grateful to receive prayer for his ankle, but mostly he was glad to just be able to tell his story to someone who was willing to connect with him and appreciate him.

Maria was one of several mothers who come to get bread, socks, and anything else we have to help her family. When I asked her if she would like us to pray for anything, it was all about the needs of others - not for herself. These women are doing their best to hold their families together against tough odds, and I have huge respect for them.

Shiv struggles with alcoholism. He hates it and wants to quit, but hasn’t beaten it yet. He’s currently living on the street because he’s had bad experiences in shelters. He has a family in LA that cares and prays for him. He really hopes things can turn around. The Relief Bus is able to direct him a number of services for housing healthcare, work, and addiction treatment.

It’s far too convenient for me to lump people into a category like “homeless,” especially in New York. But I try to remember that we’re all people, and we all need dignity and respect. Each one has a story, and very few chose the circumstances that landed them in their situations.

I count it a privilege to be used by God to share his love and care for each of the people He loves so much.

Here’s their home page https://newyorkcityrelief.org/
Here’s how to support them https://newyorkcityrelief.org/get-involved/

If you live in the greater NYC area, I highly recommend volunteering on the Relief Bus sometime soon. It’s well run, safe, and the experience will give you a new perspective on life.