Running from Job

Why Running Away from a Bad Job Won’t Make You Happy

Running from Bad JobWhen you’re unhappy at work, it’s tempting to want to make an escape. Particularly when you work in a highly toxic or dysfunctional environment, you reason that anything must be better than this. If only you could start anew, everything would improve.

It’s only natural that a bad job would motivate you to want to make a change. The sense of urgency is much greater when you hate your job. But when you choose to run away FROM a job, rather than run TO a job, you leave a lot of room for error.

Here are 3 reasons that running away from a bad job won’t make you happy.

1. You’re letting your emotions dictate your future.

If you decide to leave your job just to get out of a bad situation, your judgment is generally clouded. Your anger, fear, or resentment are driving your decisions, which doesn’t allow for reason and deliberation.  When your emotions are in control, you may be more impulsive, irrational, or careless in your decision-making process.

Find time and space to think, not just feel. If you need to remove yourself from the situation to get the distance you need to neutralize some of your strongest feelings, take a vacation. Don’t make such an important decision without a clear head.

2. You’re not getting to the root of the problem.

Why are you so unhappy? What is so dysfunctional about your current environment? If you don’t use this opportunity to think critically about what went wrong, how can you prevent it from happening again?

When your primary motivation is getting out of a bad situation, it’s difficult to think analytically about what you need and want from your work. To ensure that your new role doesn’t lead to the same frustrations as your current role, be clear and specific about what’s not working and what you need to thrive in your next job.

3. You’re not taking responsibility for your own actions.

If you are in an extreme work situation where your physical or emotional safety is at risk, you should get out as quickly as possible. But most people are not. And as much as we would like to blame the boss, leadership team, or culture for our dissatisfaction, it’s often not that simple.

If you run from a bad situation, you miss a chance to learn from your mistakes. Think critically about what role you played in your own unhappiness. Are there things that, in hindsight, you could have done differently? Are there strategies that would be helpful for you to practice now so that you’re more confident and prepared in your next role? If you don’t make personal changes, you doom yourself to repeat negative patterns.

When you engage in critical thinking and self-reflection to determine what you truly want from your career, you create a powerful vision of the role you want to run toward. This vision guides your decision-making process and keeps you focused on finding the right role, not just the fastest exit.

Would you like help getting clear about your next step? Join the free 7 Days to a New Career Direction Challenge!

Biggest Reason You Haven’t Made a Career Change

The Biggest Reason You Haven’t Made a Career Change (And What to Do About It)

Biggest Reason You Haven’t Made a Career Change If you’re like so many other professionals, you’ve been thinking about making a career change for a long time. You’ve fantasized about leaving your current job and doing something more fulfilling, challenging, or rewarding. But you haven’t… You’re motivated to make a change. You know all the reasons why leaving is the right thing to do. So what is stopping you?

The biggest reason you haven’t made a change yet is that you don’t know what you want. You might have a job title in mind. You might have a sense of what you’re looking for in a new company. But you haven’t crystallized your vision.

Making a career change is very difficult. As humans, our natural tendency is to stay in our comfort zones, even if those comfort zones make us unhappy. The prospect of change triggers our primitive instincts to protect ourselves from threats. This leads to all kinds of excuses and justifications for inaction.

To battle the inherent forces of inertia and resistance to change, you need something even more powerful. A vague or incomplete vision of what you want from your next step is not strong enough to carry you through the inevitable fear and anxiety you’ll face during a career transition. To commit to real change, you need an inspirational goal to drive you.

Having coached hundreds of professionals through career transitions over the past several years, the most consistent theme I’ve observed has been their inability to clearly articulate what they want. Some know what they want to do but they don’t know where. Others have a vague sense of what they’d like to do but they don’t fully know what that looks like. Still others have no idea what they want to do – they just don’t want to continue doing what they’re doing now.

The problem with this lack of clarity is that it creates doubt. The unanswered questions and incomplete information weaken your resolve, leaving room for all kinds of thoughts and feelings to derail you. When you know exactly what you want, you can be intentional in your actions and more courageous in your efforts.

If you’ve been dreaming about a career change but haven’t taken action, or haven’t completed the process, it’s time to pause and reflect on what you truly want – not at a superficial level but at a very deep level. Ask yourself the following questions:

1. What is motivating me to make a change?

Be clear and specific about what’s missing from your current work. What are you hoping a new job will do for you?

2. What does my new job need to look like for me to feel fulfilled?

This is more than a question about job responsibilities. What are all of the criteria that are important to you?

3. What am I still unsure about?

Before you can get the answers you need, you have to know the questions. If you’re unclear about what you want, what do you still need to sort out before you can clarify your vision?

If you’d like more help getting clear about your next step, join the free 7 Days to a New Career Direction Challenge!

Are You Too Self-Reliant

Are You Too Self-Reliant at Work?

Too Self-ReliantIndependence, autonomy, and self-reliance are states we all strive to achieve throughout our careers. Micromanagement or a dependency on others creates strong feelings of disempowerment, often resulting in disengagement and reduced motivation. But can you have too much self-reliance?

I’ve spoken recently with several clients who are struggling to balance their own independence with their need for support from their colleagues. While they are generally self-reliant by nature, they are currently in work situations that require more insight and information than they currently have access to on their own. Asking for help, however, feels uncomfortable. They don’t want to “bother” their co-workers. Or their boss is stretched too thin to handle additional requests.

Instead, they try to complete everything on their own. And in the process, they lose a lot. Here are three areas that suffer when you choose to do everything independently.

1. Time

It’s not efficient to do everything yourself. You are surrounded by resources that have information that you don’t have. Why waste time researching when you can ask the colleague next to you?

You were hired to your role to add value. Reinventing the wheel is not value-added activity. Leverage your resources instead.

2. Quality

If you’re uncomfortable asking questions or seeking support, you can’t be sure that you have clear expectations. How do you know if you’re moving in the right direction? How can you be sure that your work is hitting the mark?

Without clear information, the quality of your work is at risk. Ask questions and socialize your ideas with others to increase your confidence and improve your results.

3. Relationships

If you’re too self-reliant, you deprive yourself of an opportunity to build professional relationships. Relationships develop through the natural give and take that comes from supporting each other. When given the opportunity, most people want to help those around them.

If you never ask for help, others won’t have an opportunity to help you, nor will they feel comfortable approaching you for help. Ask for help when you need it and you’ll build much deeper relationships with others.

Self-reliance is great when you have mastered a skill set and can perform the job independently. It is not appropriate for other situations, however. Here are three times when you should not behave too autonomously.

1. You’re New to Your Role

Being new to your organization or role can create intense feelings of vulnerability and self-doubt. You have endless questions and limited time to get up to speed. You want to develop relationships with your new colleagues but you don’t want to overwhelm them with requests for help.

It’s only natural to feel this way but your on-boarding term is intended to be a learning period. You are not expected to know everything, nor are you expected to research everything on your own. Use your colleagues strategically. Rather than pepper someone with questions throughout the day, invite them to lunch and bring a list of questions with you.

2. You Have New Responsibilities

As you take on new responsibilities, you’ll inevitably have questions and uncertainty about how to perform. Think, for a moment, about something that you do very well. How did you get here? You weren’t born with that experience. You learned it over time through observation, practice and support.

Treat new responsibilities the same way. Don’t create more pressure on yourself by setting unrealistic expectations. Learn from those around you and you’ll be up and running much more quickly and confidently.

3. You Want to Advance Your Career

Too many talented, high potential professionals believe that in order to take their careers to the next level, they need to keep their heads down and stay focused on their work. They believe that by becoming exceptional performers, influential leaders will notice and reward them accordingly. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.

If you want to get ahead, you can’t go it alone. You need visibility and influence to advance your career, which necessarily require the involvement of others. Share your goals with others and seek guidance on how to achieve them.

Self-reliance is an admirable quality. But don’t let it prevent you from leaning on others to advance your career.

Saying No

The Importance of Saying No

Saying NoI recently wrote a post on the power of saying yes. My goal was to emphasize the value that stems from your willingness to stretch the limits of your comfort zone and try something new. Unless you’re open to new experiences and opportunities, you won’t grow and advance your career.

This week, I am focusing on the opposite – the importance of saying no. Too often we say yes to activities that don’t serve us well. This leaves us with insufficient time and energy for more strategic efforts.

If you’re like many of the professionals I speak with regularly, you’re overwhelmed by your workload. But it’s not helping you to achieve your career goals. It might even be working against you.

There is a significant difference between being busy and being productive. Many of us are incredibly busy, but not often very productive. To achieve your career goals, you need to be focused on activity that directly furthers those goals. Ask yourself, how much of your day-to-day work is helping you to take your career to the next level?

Here are 3 ways your inability to say no is undermining your career advancement efforts.

1. You’re stuck in your comfort zone.

When you do something well, it’s easy to confuse activity with productivity. It feels good to be competent. But if you’re spending all of your time doing work that doesn’t challenge you, you’re not growing. And if you’re not growing, you’re not advancing your career.

What to do:

Take a look at your current workload and determine how much of your work is familiar, unchallenging, or tedious. Then consider how you might delegate some of this work to others. Are there junior colleagues that are interested in learning more about your role? Are there new employees that can take on these activities as a way to acclimate to their new environment? Are there administrative support resources that can perform some of these tasks?

2. You’re uncomfortable pushing back.

This is a common challenge for many of us. If you’re a pleaser by nature, you do what’s asked of you because you don’t want to let others down. By now, you’ve set a precedent. Others have come to expect that they can rely on you for support, even if it doesn’t serve you.

What to do:

You can say no to others and still be supportive. If someone asks you to engage in work that is not strategic to your efforts, offer to help them find a more appropriate resource to support their needs. Or be honest about the fact that, while you’d love to help, you don’t have the bandwidth to add any additional responsibilities to your plate.

3. You’re unclear about your goals.

You lack clarity about what you want from your work so you can’t be selective about what you take on. If you don’t know which efforts will best serve you, you can’t be strategic about the choices you make. You remain stuck in a trial and error pattern, hoping that eventually you’ll find what you’re looking for.

What to do:

Take a step back and reflect on what’s next. It’s very challenging to find time for self-reflection during the typical daily grind. But if you don’t prioritize this, you’ll never break out of this vicious cycle. Schedule time on your calendar to consider bigger questions about yourself and your career goals. If you struggle to do this on your own, find a support resource, such as a career coach, counselor, or mentor to guide you.

Until you break free from the endless tasks that are weighing you down, you’ll never be in a position to attract and embrace new challenges that will support your professional growth.

liked and respected

Yes, You Can Be Liked AND Respected

liked and respectedA major theme across many of my recent coaching conversations has been the perceived contrast between being liked and being respected. I have many clients who have established a professional brand built on likability. This quality has helped them to build strong relationships and reputations for being a good team player. But as they advance to higher levels, they begin to experience tension.

“I have a difficult time giving negative feedback to my employees because I’m too nice,” confided a senior-level executive.

“My boss’s expectations are unrealistic but it’s hard for me to push back. I’ve always been known as the one who says yes,” shared a mid-level manager.

“I want to be respected by my team but they don’t take me seriously. I have trouble standing up for myself,” said another manager.

The key message that I try to deliver to everyone who frames their challenge in this way is that being liked and being respected is not an either or proposition. If you are well liked, you do not need to lose your likability in order to gain the respect of others. Nor do you become unlikable simply by being respected. When you recognize that you can be your true, likable self and be respected at the same time, you begin to recognize that you have more options than you originally realized.

Here are some strategies to consider as you aim to increase your overall level of respect.

Be authentic

First and foremost, be yourself. If you’ve ever tried to take on a different persona in a conversation or other type of interaction, you understand how challenging this can be. When you feel inauthentic or insincere, your message is undermined by your body language or lack of confidence.

Use your likability to your advantage. By now, you probably have a strong well of support among people who perceive you as a nice person who cares about others. If you need to convey a difficult or unpopular message, most people will understand that you’re coming from a good place.

Be vulnerable

Many of us feel that in order to be strong, we need to be guarded. If we’re feeling nervous or uncomfortable, letting others in on how we feel will only leave us weak and exposed. The opposite is actually true.

When you’re feeling uncomfortable, share your feelings with others. Your vulnerability will allow others to feel vulnerable as well, which will lead to more powerful connections. For example, if you need to give difficult feedback, say something such as, “Just as I’m sure it’s not easy for you to hear this, it’s not easy for me to say this either.”

Vulnerability personalizes situations that might otherwise be tense and conflict-laden. When coupled with authenticity, vulnerability puts others at ease, maximizing the chances that we will truly hear each other.

Be direct

Direct communication can be difficult for professionals who are accustomed to softening their language. While it may feel easier or nicer to cushion a message with soft language, indirect messages are more likely to lead to miscommunication and less likely to inspire respect. If you have a tough message to deliver, be direct.

Think for a moment about the people you respect. When communicating with others, are they wishy-washy, unclear, or uncommitted to their message? Probably not. Observe the communication patterns of those you respect and look for opportunities to practice similar styles.

Engaging in behaviors that increase the respect of others takes practice. These strategies may feel outside of your comfort zone but with experience, they’ll come to you more naturally. Begin by practicing in low risk situations before advancing to higher risk situations in order to build your confidence.

Add Value at Meetings

Why You Must Add Value at Every Meeting

Add Value at MeetingsYears ago, I attended an out-of-state business review meeting with a strategic alliance partner. Because the relationship was of critical importance to our company, a large contingent of us made the cross-country trip to the partner’s site, investing valuable time and money in our visit. As we crowded into the conference room to exchange quarterly results and strategize new goals, my counterpart and I presented data and recommendations to the extended team.

While layers of hierarchy sat in that meeting, only a handful of people asked substantive questions and provided meaningful input. The few of us who were engaged in the discussion sat surrounded by an audience of people who presumably could have spent the day focused on higher value activity.

Shortly thereafter, our senior vice president, a participant in the meeting, reprimanded the members of our team who did not contribute, charging them with not adding value to the discussion. If we were going to spend time and money to travel to business meetings, we needed to justify our expenses by making a meaningful contribution. Otherwise, we should remain in the office.

This experience cemented in me the critical importance of adding value in every business meeting. It’s easy to assume that you can hide in a roomful of people. Why would anyone notice that you didn’t engage? But you never know who is watching.

Even if you don’t get called out for not adding value, blending into the background is a missed opportunity. If you want to build relationships, demonstrate leadership and expand your influence, you need to have a voice in these discussions. Asking an insightful question or sharing an observation can increase your visibility and perceived value.

Here are three steps to add value to your meetings:

1. Understand your purpose.

These days, it feels like there are meetings about meetings about meetings. It can be easy to develop meeting fatigue and check out. But, presumably, you’ve been invited to the meeting for a reason. What is that reason? What do others expect you can offer to the discussion?

Before attending the meeting, remind yourself of your purpose in order to clarify your value and focus your thoughts. Recognizing your role in the meeting’s agenda will also build your confidence, particularly if you tend to be uncomfortable speaking in meetings.

2. Prepare in advance.

Take a few minutes before the meeting to think about how you can maximize your value. What specific data or insights you can share? Can you offer support to others in the meeting? Are there questions you can ask to advance the conversation?

You won’t be able to anticipate all lines of discussion but spending a few moments to define your strategy will help you capitalize on opportunities in the meeting. Advanced preparation can also provide you with the chance to socialize some of your thoughts and ideas with influential participants before the meeting.

3. Remain engaged in the discussion.

In meetings that are poorly managed, it’s easy to tune out and shift your attention elsewhere. And with smartphones. laptops and other technologies, distractions are everywhere. To maximize your value, you must stay focused. If you’re not following the discussion, you won’t recognize when to strategically participate. The only thing worse than not participating at all is contributing an idea that makes it clear that you’re not paying attention.

Staying engaged can also provide you with opportunities to demonstrate your leadership skills. If the meeting veers off-track, gracefully re-direct the conversation to the focus of the meeting. Or if the discussion becomes tense, you may be able to add a comment or ask a question that defuses the situation.

When you’re busy and stretched thin, meetings can easily feel like an unproductive use of time. But how you engage in business meetings influences your overall professional brand. Make a strategic effort to add value at each and every meeting.

reasons you're overworked

The 3 Real Reasons You’re Overworked

10 reasons you're over workedYou know that feeling. You’ve been working long hours every day and you still can’t seem to catch up. You don’t remember the last time you did something for yourself. And your family is frustrated that you’re spending all of your time at work.

This is a common challenge for many successful professionals. They feel the frustration but don’t know what to do about.  Most of the professionals I speak with point to disorganized leaders, limited resources, or unrealistic expectations as the source of their overwork. While likely a factor, external forces are rarely the major underlying issue contributing to this unsustainable and stressful situation.

Here are the real reasons you’re overworked.

1. You’re a perfectionist.

Having high standards is an admirable trait. You care about your work and want to perform at the highest level. This quality has likely facilitated your advancement to higher levels.

There is a fine line, however, between diligence and perfectionism. If you’re overworked, look carefully at your behavior. Are you setting unrealistic expectations for yourself? Are you continuing to focus on work that is sufficiently complete?

Perfectionism is a complex issue but it can be managed. Begin by recognizing its role in your work situation. If necessary, seek the support of a coach, mentor, or other resource to help you find new ways to manage your work.

2. Your identity is too closely tied to your job.

I’ll never forget working in the high-tech sector when the dot com bubble burst. Countless friends and colleagues lost their jobs virtually overnight. Many had dedicated years of their lives working long hours and maintaining unshakeable loyalty to their companies.

When they lost their jobs, many struggled with identity crises. Who were they if not the professional they had worked so hard to become? It’s easy to get caught in a similar trap. With so much time and energy spent focused on our jobs, it’s only natural that our work would become tightly linked to our identities.

But you need to recognize when you’ve crossed the line. If your work dominates your life, it’s time to take a step back and reflect on how well your current behavior aligns with your values.

3. You’re uncomfortable negotiating.

Doing more with less has become a common mantra for many organizations. Unfortunately, in many cases this has come at the expense of top employees. Particularly in highly matrixed organizations where one individual officially and unofficially reports to multiple leaders, workloads can be intense.

If you feel that you’re drowning in unrealistic expectations and deadlines, it’s your responsibility to communicate that to your boss. As long as you say yes, your boss has no reason to believe that you’re struggling. Schedule time with him/her to discuss your current workload and re-negotiate priorities.

Negotiating is uncomfortable for many professionals but it doesn’t have to be. Rather than saying no, demonstrate leadership by expressing your concerns, proposing alternative approaches, and seeking feedback on the highest priorities.

There will always be times of peak intensity when you need to work extra hours and commit more of your mental and physical energy to your job. But if the levels are unsustainable, it’s time to look at your own behavior and take steps to more effectively manage your workload.

power of saying yes

The Power of Saying Yes

power of saying yesYears ago, while out for a drink with a colleague after work, I serendipitously met the leadership team of another internal department. Having had no previous interactions with the group, I was genuinely curious about their efforts and asked a number of questions to better understand their structure and focus. Throughout the conversation, I also had an opportunity to share my experience in the partner development arena, which was a key challenge for this team.

Shortly after our initial meeting, I was asked to assume a leadership position on the team. My mind immediately began to race as self-doubt and the Impostor Syndrome reared their ugly heads. I was doing so well in my current position. Why would I take such a risk on an unknown?

Despite the intense anxiety, I intellectually recognized that this was a critical career opportunity. I was being offered the chance to create and develop an entirely new team – an “intrapreneurial” role that doesn’t come along often. Only the barest strategy had been established; the rest of the plan and execution was up to me.

I accepted the new leadership position and fought my way through fear, uncertainty, and confidence issues. It was not an easy transition. I stumbled multiple times but I leveraged my resources and leaned on mentors for support. And while it would have been much easier to remain in my comfort zone, this new role fundamentally changed the trajectory of my career. The exposure I now had to influential leaders, along with the autonomy and authority I had to make critical strategic decisions was more powerful than anything I learned in business school.

Our lives are all a series of decision points. Some decisions are small and seemingly insignificant – should I eat lunch at my desk or join my team? Others feel much more consequential, such as making a career change or accepting a career advancement opportunity.

Each of the decisions we make, regardless of their perceived significance, has the potential to move us in a new direction. Making the decision to go out for a drink with my colleague after work was the key driver in my new career path. Had I made the seemingly benign decision to go home instead, my life would be very different today.

When you’re busy, stressed, or anxious, saying yes to a new opportunity can feel too scary or risky. It’s only natural to have hesitations. But saying yes can also catapult you to a whole new career level. Your comfort zone will always feel safe and predictable but it’s not challenging. It won’t stretch you or empower you to reach your full potential. The only way to grow is to say yes.

Here are some of the common decision points that I see professionals wrestle with:

1. Building relationships with influential leaders

This process scares many professionals because it triggers a number of insecurities. Am I wasting their time? Do I have anything valuable to say? Am I stepping on my boss’s toes? This opportunity is too important to ignore. Your future success in your organization depends on your relationships and reputation with key influencers.

2. Taking on a challenging role or project

As I mentioned previously, I’m intimately familiar with the Impostor Syndrome. I understand that voice that tells you that you don’t deserve to be where you are and that you’re a fraud. Don’t listen to it! When offered an opportunity to expand your skill set and stretch yourself, say yes.

3. Leaving behind something that’s no longer working

The comfort zone is a powerful place. Even when it’s frustrating, stressful, or even toxic, it often feels much easier to stay put. As comfortable as the familiarity and predictability are, they are not going to get you where you want to go. Say yes to powerful change!

Where are you struggling to say yes? Share your comments and experiences here.

Think Leaving Your Job

Think a New Job Will Solve Your Problems? Think Again

Will a new job solve your problemsWhen you’re feeling frustrated in your job, it’s natural to imagine an escape. Fantasizing about that mythical new job with the inspiring manager, supportive colleagues, lack of office politics, greater flexibility, etc. might be the only thing that gets you through a stressful work week. Once you make that transition, everything will be better…

If only it were that simple.

It may be true that it’s time to leave a toxic work environment. But finding a new job won’t necessarily solve everything. I was recently speaking with an executive coaching client. He came to me initially with a desire to make a career change. After experiencing frustration and burnout in his current executive position, he thought that finding a new job would alleviate his stress.

Interestingly, this insightful client soon recognized that the challenges he sought to address by leaving might actually be of his own making. Sure, he might have some frustrating colleagues and an overwhelming workload. But he realized that much of his pain could be attributable to the way he manages these stressors.

Rather than focus on a career change, he decided it would serve him best to first focus on development areas that he could address within himself. He astutely concluded that if he did not work on himself, he was very likely to find himself in a similar situation in his next job.

Are you trying to run away from your own issues?

If you’ve been struggling at work and considering a career change, ask yourself what’s motivating you. What are you hoping will change if you leave? How will a new work environment be better?

In some cases, finding a new job can help. Sometimes external factors, such as an incompetent manager or an unethical work culture, are out of your control and the best course of action is to change jobs. But often it’s not an external factor that’s undermining your career success and satisfaction.

Here are some questions to consider before making a career change:

  • Is your perfectionism leading to increased stress and burnout?
  • Is your tendency toward conflict avoidance keeping you from addressing tensions with leaders or colleagues?
  • Are your insecurities and self-doubt undermining your confidence in your ideas and positions?
  • Is your limited visibility preventing you from influencing others and making your voice heard?
  • Does your lack of understanding of how to manage office politics keep you from advancing to the next level?
  • Does your inability to say no and set reasonable boundaries leave you with an overwhelming workload?
  • Are you overlooked for promotions and challenging new opportunities because you don’t have powerful relationships with influential leaders?
  • Do poor impulse control and unchecked emotions alienate you from your peers?

Focus on yourself

If you answered yes to any of these or related questions, fleeing your current job for a new job will not help you. In order to achieve the career success you desire, you need to strengthen yourself. Until you address the internal challenges that hold you back, they will simply follow you wherever you go.

Identify your highest priority challenge – the one that most undermines your success – and set a goal to address it. Are you struggling to set boundaries with your boss? Consider educating yourself on negotiation strategies that can help you more efficiently manage your workload. Is conflict avoidance your challenge? Focus on learning and developing new conflict management strategies. Take a course, read a book, or speak with a mentor you admire in this area.

Leverage your current work environment as a practice ground for new behaviors. If you wait until you transition to a new job to address these development needs, it will be much more challenging to follow through. You’ll be caught up in learning your new role, building relationships with new colleagues, and executing against new goals to focus on your own professional development.

Even if you’re fully committed to leaving your job, regardless of the source of dissatisfaction, act now to tackle internal challenges. You’ll be much more confident stepping into your new role if you do.

Reinvent Yourself

Can You Reinvent Yourself in Your Current Job?

Reinvent YourselfA common theme that I’ve recently observed among several of my executive coaching clients is the challenge of reinventing yourself in an environment where leaders, colleagues, and direct reports already have an established perception of you. Is it possible to make changes to your leadership style, interpersonal interactions, or other professional behaviors while in your current position? Or do you have to leave your organization and start anew in order to alter how others perceive you?

The response to these questions is determined partly by the specific situation. If your reputation has been severely damaged, either by circumstance or your own efforts, it can be difficult to recover in your current environment. But let’s focus instead on more routine professional behaviors.

For example, many of my clients struggle with being too nice or too willing to say yes. Their likability, initiative and reputation as a strong team player have traditionally served them well in their careers. These very behaviors have allowed them to reach higher levels of leadership in their organizations. But now they find themselves in more complex political situations that require them to take a tougher stance. They don’t know how to be more assertive or decisive with colleagues who are accustomed to a very different style.

As anyone who has ever tried to make personal or professional changes knows, it is virtually impossible to create change in a vacuum. Have you ever tried to improve your diet as the rest of your family continues to snack on junk food? Or have you tried to unilaterally change the way you communicate with your spouse or partner?  If so, you can appreciate how difficult it is to achieve success without the support and involvement of others.

It is possible to reinvent yourself in your current job but you must be strategic about your approach. Here are some steps to help you create positive change without alienating, confusing, or disrespecting your colleagues.

1. Seek external feedback

Often our self-perceptions differ from the perceptions of those around us. Is your leadership style or behavior really undermining your success? Seek the feedback of others to understand how they see you.

Whether through formal feedback, such as a 360-degree assessment, or informal feedback through open communication with peers and leaders, try to assess how your leadership style might be hurting you. Look for examples of how your behavior may be impacting others. For instance, your team may feel that your niceness is keeping you from fighting for resources that they need to more effectively do their jobs. Or your boss might think that you’re taking too long to make important business decisions because you’re worried about upsetting others.

It’s easy to fall back into old patterns of behavior, particularly during busy or stressful times. Direct feedback can motivate you to follow through on making changes. It can also help you to prioritize specific areas of focus.

2. Communicate your goals

Making others aware of your goals can have many benefits. Firstly, letting trusted leaders and peers know your professional development goals, such as becoming more assertive, gives them a heads up that behavioral changes may be coming. Because they understand your plan, they won’t be blindsided when you take a tougher stance on an important issue.

Secondly, the colleagues you entrust with this information can provide support and encouragement. They can share their own strategies and best practices for handling specific situations, which you can adopt or modify as you try out new behaviors. As you adapt your leadership style by experimenting in new situations, ask for their feedback. How did they perceive the behavior? Did it have the effect you were going for?

And finally, sharing your goals with others can hold you accountable to yourself. Once that message is out there, people will be watching. You’ll be much more likely to take risks and step outside your comfort zone if you’ve made a public commitment.

3. Make incremental changes

Don’t expect to transform yourself overnight. Making any type of change takes time, so allow yourself the space to take this slowly. Begin with lower risk action steps that feel less stressful or intimidating. For example, setting a new boundary with a peer may feel less overwhelming than pushing back on your boss. As you build confidence and become more comfortable in your new role, you can tackle other areas.

Making incremental changes also allows others to get more comfortable with the new you. As you ease into new behaviors, they will transition along with you. It won’t feel as dramatic or sudden if you take it slowly.

Reinventing yourself at work can feel challenging or scary but it is possible. Have you reinvented yourself in the past? Share your thoughts and experiences here.