Do you have career decision analysis paralysis? Making important career decisions can be tough for physicians. The stakes are high and the consequences uncertain, making it easy to put off important choices. If you tell yourself you do your best work facing a deadline, it is possible this is really an excuse for procrastination.
To move past indecision, Dr. Chang and I worked through three stages of decision-making. I’ll tell you more about Dr. Chang, who needed to make a decision about how to allocate her work roles for the upcoming budget cycle.
Stage 1: Getting ready to make career decisions
Why do we procrastinate? Behavioral psychology research points to a phenomenon called “time inconsistency”. Our human brain tends to value immediate rewards more highly than future rewards. This trips us up because our best-intention plans for the future can lose out to what’s more desirable today.
For Dr. Chang, the long term career satisfaction of working with Residents, conflicted with the current rewards of seeing patients. The decision once made, would be costly to change.
Stage 2: Make a decision
Making a decision to get what you truly want is particularly challenging for women. As caregivers, we women often put family and patient needs over our own. That makes career decisions even more challenging. In an effort to get it ‘right”, we lean into data and analysis to make decisions, but rational analysis is not enough. You need a decision you can put both your heart and your back into.
Dr. Chang imagined a future that did not include working with Residents. Getting in touch with the emotions of that scenario influenced her commitment to her choice, in spite of the possible consequences.
Stage 3: Make your decision right
Dr. Chang’s choice felt particularly important because it would have lasting consequences. Reality is, there are far too many variables to know in advance what career choice will be best. What you can control is how motivated you are to support the success of your choice. You already know to expect the unexpected in the outcome of any choice we make. Where we have the most control is our day -to – day choices and activities -after we make that big decision.
Release the grip indecision with by anticipating how your choice will feel the future. If your heart is in it, you can make it work.
P.S. Need more help moving past indecision? Schedule your consult today!
The women physicians with whom I worked at the March conference loved the ease and power of creating a personal leadership brand. As is often the case, when you return home, you may realize you have questions you didn’t think to ask. If you missed learning about leadership branding, read my past post, “How to Develop Your Leadership Brand.”
Here are my responses to the most frequently asked questions regarding how to unlock the power of your personal leadership brand:
How Is My Leadership Brand Statement Different Than a Mission Statement?
Both are essential in your personal and leadership development. You ultimately want both statements, as they serve different purposes.
A personal mission statement causes you to think deeply about your life, clarify your purpose, and identify what is important to you. What this gives you is criteria for living a meaningful life.
A personal leadership brand statement identifies who you are as a leader. Your leadership identity drives your decisions toward big-picture leadership goals.
How Can I Use My Personal Leadership Brand to Advocate for Myself?
Women frequently are powerful advocates for others, but often are less strong when advocating for ourselves. Your leadership brand can help you make a decision or build your case for a decision. In the process of creating your leadership brand, you identified your leadership “sweet spot.”
Inevitably, you will want to say no to projects, assignments, or roles that don’t align. Although you may not be able to negotiate your way out of or into every situation, you will be better prepared to make your case.
After I Create My Leadership Brand Statement, How Do I Use It?
- Share it with your team. You send a strong message about the importance of accountability when you hold yourself accountable to living up to your leadership brand.
- Create personal leadership brands as a team exercise. This is a powerful exercise to develop understanding and appreciation of team strengths and diversity.
- Include it as the summary statement in your resume’ and/or LinkedIn profile. Your statement will begin shaping how others perceive you.
Remember that you are training people how to treat you and see you in every interaction you have with them. Utilize the power of your leadership brand to define who you are as a leader, and your legacy for the future.
To read more content about leadership skill building, by clicking here.
Shift happens. Priorities change, funding is reallocated, and the project you’re leading is cancelled. Sometimes a change is so challenging, it feels like an obstacle to your career trajectory. People get confused and don’t know what to expect when priorities are shifting. They also don’t know where to focus. If you are uncertain about what’s next, what is important, and what adds value, your team feels uncertain, too. People need to know what leadership values they can expect from their organization and from you.
The key to being resilient and helping your team bounce back may surprise you. Focusing on your leadership values will help you find the ground under your feet and be recognized as the leader you are. You and your team will move forward again with clarity on what is valued and seen as important.
There is a 3-step process to create alignment. See below.
1) Check your leadership values. As a leader, people are watching you.
Below is a list of adjectives representing common workplace values. Circle the 5 values that you truly value most. Be sure these are what you really value and not what you say you value or what your boss wants you to value. Feel free to add other workplace values to the list.
- Collaborative Good listening
- Creative Innovative
- Decisive Inspirational
2) Circle the 5 leadership values you think your staff and/or colleagues believe are most important to you.
This is based on their experience with you. Are there any discrepancies? People feel when someone in a position of leadership is not real with them. These are important for you to notice and correct.
3) Circle the 5 leadership values you think that your company or organization values most.
What are the differences between your company’s or organization’s stated values and your experience of what the company or organization values?
By completing this simple exercise in values and alignment, you have accomplished two important steps to getting recognition for your leadership. Your staff and colleagues will trust you as a leader if you are real with them. Others will identify with and follow a leader they trust. You set you and your team up to meet goals that are viewed as valuable by knowing what your company or organization actually values.
Read more content about leadership skills by clicking here.
Saying No Is Hard.
On a short family vacation, I had some time to relax, think and get clear about my priorities. I realized I was spread too thin and had noticed some projects I had agreed to really didn’t fit into my top priorities. When I said “yes”, I was excited about the projects, but now just thinking about them stresses me out. I was feeling a mix of guilt, inadequacy, and fear. How do I work toward saying no?
What do you do when you have already said “yes”? You gave your word. People are counting on you, and you pride yourself on being someone who honors commitments, no matter what. Do you suck it up and try harder, or do you call it quits?
A “Saying No” Script To Get You Started
Tell the truth. You will respect yourself, and others will respect you, too. When done well, you can save your integrity and preserve the relationship.
- As you know, back in January I agreed to chair your committee. When I said “yes”, I fully believed I had the bandwidth to do a great job.
- In March, one of my partners unexpectedly retired. Great for her, but it also dramatically impacted my workload.
- It pains me to say this, but I must step down from this commitment. The committee deserves a great outcome, and I will not be able to deliver as I thought I would.
- I apologize for causing any inconvenience. While I can’t chair the committee, I am willing to support this program moving forward by…
Although people may be disappointed that you are saying no in the short run, it is far better to retain others’ trust and your own credibility by being realistic about what you can deliver.
What have you tried that worked in this tough situation? I’d love to hear from you.
Emotions can give you an advantage in decision making if you make proper use of them.
We’re constantly faced with too much information to process consciously. If your brain comes across something it appraises as a “red flag,” you’ll be sent a message in the form of feelings and thoughts that are created by an emotion. This imprecise signal alerts you to pay attention.
Last week we explored self-awareness, key to the development of the other three domains of Emotional Intelligence (EQ). With awareness, you can apply self-management, the next domain of EQ, and make an emotionally intelligent decision.
Near the end of her team meeting, Lynn was noticing her flushed face and sweaty palms – clues she was on the verge of an emotional outburst. Only 5 years out of medical school, the memory of her crazy work schedule was still acute. In medical school she had felt helpless to do anything about her schedule, now she did have influence and options.
In less than 10 seconds you can ask yourself:
- How do I feel about this situation? Lynn felt unimportant, like her physical and emotional needs did not matter.
- What do I think I should do about it? Getting mad would feel good but not get the results she wanted. Exploring what was getting in the way of a decision could yield results.
- What effect would that have for me and for other people? Finding the real source of the obstacles would yield a solution. Lynn would practice separating past situations from the present.
- Does this action fit with my values? Lynn valued a collaborative decision that worked over a temporary Band-Aid fix.
The best decisions are a balance of emotion and logic. Pay attention to the information your body provides and then engage your logical mind!
Asking for what you want—and setting boundaries around what you don’t want—is a key life skill. Are you challenged to ask for what you want? Or so enthusiastic to practice this skill, that you over-do assertiveness and end up with colleagues who shut down, get angry or feel resentful?
Here are four tips for developing your assertiveness in a way that will actually strengthen, deepen and enrich your relationships—thus avoiding the “alienation trap”:
1. Get Clear.
Being assertive starts with knowing what you are—and aren’t—willing to be, do, or have. For many of us, coming to this knowledge is a real task unto itself. Here, it may be useful to ask: “In an ideal world, what would I like to happen?” Focusing on an ideal outcome opens our minds, prevents us from falling into passivity or “victim-thinking,” and helps us get really clear on what we want and don’t want.
2. Set Boundaries.
Once you know what outcome you need (or want), share it with your colleague. Pay attention to the way stating your boundary feels in your body. With practice, you can actually sense when you’re hitting the “sweet spot.” It can feel really good to express your needs or desires out loud. Phrases like “such and such doesn’t work for me” are simple ways of being assertive while maintaining connection with your colleague.
3. Make a Regular Habit of Stating Your Needs and Desires.
You can build your assertiveness the same way you build any muscle: exercise. Practice speaking up about your needs, big or small, on a daily basis. When you speak up about things that are less controversial—such as a meeting start time, how to communicate about a patient or what committee you want to participate in—both you and colleagues get used to your assertiveness. It becomes easier for you to practice and for your colleagues to hear. Also, when bigger issues come along, you and colleagues will have a healthy process in place for dealing with differences in needs, and you’ll have greater confidence in the resilience of your partnership.
4. Give as Much as You Get.
Assertiveness is a two-way street. If you want your boundaries to be respected, you must return the courtesy to your colleague. If she asks that a meeting not be scheduled after 5:00 p.m., respect that. If he asks you communicate by email and not by text, don’t. When it comes to following through on a colleague’s reasonable request, actions really do speak louder than words.
If your colleague isn’t respecting your boundaries even though you’ve set them clearly, it may be time to ask for help to look more deeply for underlying concerns or issues.