Posts By Tory Johnson
With so many people looking for work and job searches taking longer than ever before, it’s easy for the process to get boring and job seekers of all ages and professions to burn out. But a so-called “breakthrough moment” – a specific time or tactic – can often change everything. To some it’s a wake-up call, an “ah ha!” revelation or a kick in the butt. The result can be transformational: a shift from down-and-out to ready to rock the world.
Here are four of my favorite examples.
By Jeffrey Ford and Laurie Ford
Realizing your goals takes more than passion, vision, and commitment: you need practical and productive communication to get what you want. When you are clear about your objectives, and your skills and presentation are polished properly, what’s left to do is to talk in a way that engages other people in creating your pathway to your goals. There are four types of conversation that are good to have with everyone in your life.
• Initiative Conversations: Talk about the future, and what you see is possible. What do you want for yourself and others, when do you want it, and what difference would it make if this future were fulfilled? Example: Saying to your family and friends, “I am going to start working from home next month. It will be good for me, of course, but it will also benefit all of us in many ways, and allow us to do new things together.”
• Understanding Conversations: Talk with people to learn who else could be involved in making your new future a reality, or find out where you might find the resources you need. Get their input on how you can accomplish the next steps. Example: Talking with your family, friends, and business relationships about improving your plan to start working from home and building your network of support, ideas, and opportunities.
• Performance Conversations: One very productive kind of talking is to ask someone to do something specific by a certain time, or to produce a result on a specified date. A related kind of productive talking is when you make promises to produce specific results by a stated deadline. When we ask, or promise, we are in “performance mode”. Example: Ask a good friend, “Will you help me set up a home office over the next two weekends? I have a plan for what to move and rearrange, and your help would make a big difference.” Or, make a promise to a business associate, “I will have my new business cards designed and on order with the printer by the end of this month.”
• Closure Conversations: A conversation that is always useful is one that creates closure or completion in a positive way. When you thank someone, or summarize the facts about where things stand right now on a project or plan, you are ending something in a good way. You also do this when you offer an apology for a recent mistake or misunderstanding, or clean up some “little messes” accumulated along the way. Example: You say to your daughter, “I’m sorry I snapped at you when you came home today. I’m still learning how to run my business from home, and I know you want to have fun in your free time after school. I know you want my new work arrangements to be successful, and I am sure we can come up with some better solutions than having me be cranky with you.”
Each type of conversation has a different purpose and accomplishes a different result. You will become more effective as you practice and gain confidence in using them all. With experience, you will learn more about the importance of including timeframes or deadlines in all your conversations, and discover how valuable it is to share your vision and engage others in talking with you about realizing your plans and dreams. Your path to success is paved with conversations, and each one moves you closer to your goals.
Jeffrey is a professor of management and Laurie a management consultant. They are authors of The Four Conversations: Daily Communication that Gets Results (Berrett-Koehler, 2009) and can be reached at www.usingthefourconversations.com.
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What impressed me the most last week at Maria Shriver’s California Women’s Conference was not the star power—CBS anchor Katie Couric, White House advisor Valerie Jarrett and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, among others—but the positive and upbeat mood among the thousands of women who attended this estrogen expo.
These smart women are clearly looking forward—not back—and seem anything but depressed, despite their state’s hard hit economy. I could feel it in the room as I spoke to them about my own fired to hired story and then afterward in their thoughtful and probing questions about today’s job market. Ever gracious Shriver told the crowd that I used to work for her at NBC and then joked that someday she’ll be asking me for help in finding a job. I think not, but it was nice to get such a warm compliment from a woman I have always admired.
Jillian Michaels, who has guided so many people on NBC’s Biggest Loser, showed her very serious side when she told a hushed audience to stop playing by antiquated rules that tell them to put themselves last. Couric talked about resilience. When boss after boss told her she wasn’t good enough, instead of crawling into a hole, she worked harder and harder…always giving what she called her best. Shriver also spoke so lovingly about recently losing her best friend, her mother Eunice Kennedy Shriver. She said everyone should embrace being loved and nurtured by other people–and that when you lose someone it’s ok to grieve on your timeframe, not anyone else’s. Lisa Niemi—Patrick Swayze’s widow –eloquently revealed the cruelty of the gossip tabloids that tried to steal their hope after his devastating diagnosis.
Jarrett hammered home one of my favorite themes—that women must help women. And Albright had the 12,000 women roaring with her infamous line that there’s a special place in hell for those who don’t help one another.
Each of these women focused on perseverance. Instead of succumbing to any number of obstacles, they’ve carved their own paths and broken through challenges.
I was reminded again of the California Women’s Conference this past Sunday when I cheered my brother on the streets of Manhattan during the ING New York City Marathon. He and more than 40,000 others took to the streets in an awesome display of mind-blowing achievement. Runners of all ages, shapes and abilities shared one clear trait: They set their sights on a goal and their bodies delivered.
Each and every one of them reminded me that it’s too easy to make excuses about why we can’t do something, when in reality if you really want it, everything is indeed possible.
…and then to Houston
I’ll see that spirit on display in Houston next week at the Texas Governor’s Conference for Women.
What are you setting your sights on right now—and what are you doing to break through the challenges to make it happen? Share your experiences here.