Published on February 14th, 2015 | by Debra Woog0
What’s Blocking Your Peak Career Performance?
By Debra Woog—
Often we think of peak career performance in terms of momentous events, like publishing research or closing a huge sale. These are commendable high points. Yet by keeping our focus solely on a few accomplishments, we can miss out on developing the key skills that will get us to them reliably. Without learning and practicing these skills, you’re limited to a finite number of peaks, and even these may feel a bit too “hard won” to celebrate.
What if peak career performance were not a small number of wins, but a series of brilliant moments that could extend indefinitely? What if, as smart talented women, we could set ourselves up to have regular, frequent “moments” where our skills, interests, and qualities intersect in work that is truly meaningful and valuable to us and to those we serve?
Consider Jocelyn. A gifted writer and strategist with a bachelor’s degree from Stanford, a Master’s from Harvard, and a long list of happy clients, Jocelyn put off making a major decision – one with the potential to advance her career.
Despite a long list of evidence that she’s good at what she does, Jocelyn felt anxious about whether the skills, interests and qualities she brings to the table were good and valuable enough. Recently rejected by committee for an award she applied for, Jocelyn worried that she was not worthy of achieving the next level of success in her chosen profession.
Jocelyn’s frustration brought her to a question that plagues many woman professionals today: “What do I really want?” As someone with a commendable track record of getting things done, Jocelyn wondered why it’s so hard to decide … so she spent time and energy looking at many options from all angles to be “fully informed.” But really her mind was spinning with wonder about what it would take for her to have another “win,” when that would happen, and how hard would it be to achieve.
Even successful women professionals unknowingly hold themselves back from peak career performance by falling into the self-doubt trap. The antidote? Cultivate stress hardiness to achieve peak career performance that lasts over time.
Stress hardiness, also know as emotional resilience, is defined as one’s ability to adapt to stressful situations or crises. Suzanne Kobasa Ouellette, Professor Emeritus at the City University of New York, where she taught psychology, social science, and liberal studies, developed a profile for what she called a “hardy personality.”
Dr. Ouellette wrote that the three C’s of hardiness – control, commitment, challenge – could be developed through a series of specific skills, three of which are especially relevant to Jocelyn and any other woman who feels she’s working too hard, questions her next move or wonders whether what she offers has value.
Recognize and tolerate anxiety and act anyway
Uncertainty is pretty much a given in today’s volatile job market and economy, and anxiety often stems from the fact that future outcomes are uncertain. Learning to recognize when uncertainty makes you anxious – and acting in spite of that feeling – allows you to direct the course of your career. Identifying and controlling the aspects of a situation that you can control can make it easier to make peace with the factors you can’t control. Continued practice of this skill builds “anxiety tolerance” that can free you to achieve more peak performance moments throughout your career.
Discriminate and make choices consistent with goals and values
Getting clear on your innate values can do wonders for your career trajectory. Once you do, it becomes easier to set meaningful goals. This step illuminates a clear path down which you can base every decision on what’s most important to you to express in the world). With your values in mind, decisions of any magnitude become so much easier to make. Like a muscle, your decision-making ability is strengthened with consistent practice.
Ask assertively for what you want and desire
Studies show that women negotiate for higher salaries far less often than their male counterparts. If you’re job hunting, do your market research and decide what salary and benefits you seek. Then, negotiate! Similarly, if you’re considering a prospective client, ask good questions to decide if they’re a fit for the way you work. If you’re applying for an award, be clear on why you’re applying, do your best in the process, and then cede control. Getting clear about what you want and desire is the first step. The more you ask for what you want and desire, the more often you’ll get it.
By committing to practicing these three skills, Jocelyn has increased her own strength hardiness. She has created and regularly revisits her unique definition of what success means for her. Today she acknowledges that her self-doubt is a part of life; she invites it to sit at the table but no longer gives it a vote when she faces challenging decisions. She has accepted that she is both brilliant and imperfect.
Now Jocelyn sees each choice as a step into something bigger – and she’s getting better at controlling what’s within her power and letting the rest go. She’s less tentative and fearful, more decisive and brave. In short, Jocelyn has become a lot more confident and comfortable acting in the face of anxiety, making choices consistent with her values and goals, and asking for what she wants.
The results? Opportunities have opened up for Jocelyn, including new clients and new projects she’s excited to work on. She’s let go of responding to each choice as a “once and for all” decision. She’s experienced more peak moments in the last six months than she had in the last five years.
What’s your next step to setting yourself up for peak career performance?
Debra Woog (rhymes with “Vogue”), president of connect2 Corporation, specializes in coaching women professionals to accelerate success with outstanding interpersonal and intrapersonal communications. See Debra’s Top Coach Page.