all or nothing thinking

Are your perfectionist tendencies keeping you stuck between a rock and a hard place?

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Confessions of a recovering perfectionist

Balance is something I’ve fought for all my life.

I use the term “fight for” deliberately, because I haven’t found it easy and my other extreme is putting my head in the sand.

As a recovering perfectionist, sometimes I feel that if I can’t do something properly, I shouldn’t bother at all.

It’s either perfect, or it’s the worst thing ever made and everyone is an artistic failure, including myself. (Yay, emotional extremes!)
— Felicia Day

Yet this is a furphy. After all, 3 x 10 min walks around the block is better than nothing, and recent research tells us that it’s even better than 1 x 30 min walk around the block on some markers!

Throughout my career I’ve felt I’ve needed to choose between

  • Doing everything or doing nothing

  • Going at it like a bull at a gate or not even trying

  • Effort or ease

  • The Masculine or The Feminine

  • Feast or famine

  • Flat out like a lizard drinking or lazing around on the couch ... drinking! 🤣

  • Always on or always off and

  • Never giving up and always letting go.

My perfectionist tendencies have kept me constantly choosing between a rock and a hard place, and feeling guilty when things didn’t work out.

Balance will only come when I make peace with this part of myself and with that comes real impact.

CONFESSION TIME - Does this sound like you? How do you find the balance between on and off? Do you have any advice for others? Or do you need help with this?  Drop me a note and let me know - ablesing@amandablesing.com - or share to inspire another woman somewhere.

#executivewomen #womenofimpact #lookoutCsuitehereshecomes 

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Feel like your leadership journey has stalled? Email ablesing@amandablesing.com to set up a 30 min one on one to learn more. Helping clients shift from feeling invisible to becoming invincible in just 12 months

Five things that undermine your ability to communicate your value

At the beginning of the year I wrote an article on "How to be More Fascinating".  I referenced Sally Hogshead's work on "How to Fascinate" and the importance of understanding your own value and being able to clearly communicate that.  

Most of us are really good at describing the job that we do (describing the widget). In fact, let's be honest here, men are even great at describing how well they do the job!  Yet we women (and I include myself in this) are far more comfortable describing the role itself and downplaying our own contribution.  

But what's frequently missing for both men and women's communication is clear articulation about the value that you offer to the success of the organisation more broadly.  

"It's not the what and the how, but the why. "  And if you want to know more revisit Simon Sinek's Leadership talk on the power of  Why.
Let me rephrase - the people who get ahead more easily are far better at articulating their value.

What might that sound like?  Examples below:

  • "Yes, I run the customer care team and I do it well - but as a result of that good work we've managed to drive customer satisfaction levels up by 2 points in the past year which drives customer retention and ultimately improves profitability, and don't forget that it costs 7 times more to attract a new customer the retain an old one."
  • Yes I head up the complaints division and I do it well - in fact just this year we reduced the number of complaints that ended up being referred to the Ombudsman by 25% which resulted in far fewer penalties and fees, plus we also decreased the amount of time it took to handle each complaint which means a significant reduction in costs,  plus higher staff engagement and increased customer retention by 15%. By the way, did you know that a 2% increase in customer retention has the same effect as decreasing costs by 10%?
  • "Yes, I run the events department and as a result of this great work our brand advocacy has increased which we can see via our social media metrics (insert compelling %), we are also perceived seen as the "go to" provider of PD for the sector which is edging out our competitors, plus we've managed to put increased efficiencies in place due to the repeatable nature of our work,  so are delivering better than budget financial results for the entire organisation."
  • "Yes I run the HR function and as a result our staff engagement scores have increased by 10% in the past 12 months, we've seen a reduction in staff turnover which saves us both money and loss of corporate knowledge, plus we've been nominated as an "employer of choice" by the staff which means both retention and recruitment in the future will be less labour intensive." (Once again insert compelling statistic).

Now I've made these examples up, but I think you get the picture.  In fact I hope you can see the big picture! 

It's  not enough anymore to say "I do a good job".  As women we've been socialised to believe that doing "good work", behaving well and doing the right thing is the secret to success. However the reality is that doing good work will only get you so far. 

As an ambitious woman or a "leader in the making" you need to be able to demonstrate you see the big picture and how the work you do completes that picture for the organisation as a whole. You need to dream, to scheme, execute bold, audacious moves along with communicate in terms of value. 

This is not bragging - this is simply smart business. And the reality is that the people who frequently get promoted over and above others, are the people who understand how to communicate in language that the C-suite understands - the language of value.

So what gets in the way of clearly communicating value?

1. Pretending to be someone you aren't: Maybe you took the role because it pleased a partner or parent. Maybe it was something to pay the bills until the right role came along. Maybe you feel like you're in a holding pattern, until something better comes along.

So find a way of expressing yourself confidently and authentically at work - or change organisations. Clean up any "dirty little secrets", be prepared to do the work without your war paint on, commit to the here and now and step fully into the role.  You will be far happier AND more effective if and when you are able to step up, speak out and take charge.

2. Lack of belief in your own abilities - sometimes manifesting itself as "imposter syndrome" or feeling like you're a fraud about to be caught out.  This can be exacerbated by feeling over-stressed, over-worked and over-whelmed - frequently followed by fear of under-performing. 

Find a way to take time out to regroup. Find a way to get support whether at home or at work to help you get back on track (champions, sponsors, coaches and mentors are great resources).  And remember, if famous people like Emma Watson feel like a fraud, then it's perfectly normal for you to feel it too at times. Many years ago my coach told me to take a holiday. And while at the time I thought the advice was misguided, he was right!  I came back refreshed with my confidence and self belief replenished.

3. Not understanding your "why" and the knowledge of what drives you to get out of bed every day and do good work.  

Connecting with your why will not only make it easier to believe in your own abilities, but is also a great starting point for connecting with the why of your organisation. Your ability to see your own big picture, is a great starting point for seeing the bigger picture about the work your organisation does.

4. All or nothing thinking - which gets in the way of possibility thinking, thinking outside the square or parallel thinking.  

Why does everything need to be either/or?  Why not try a "YES AND" approach and see how this changes your perspective making your work a lot less confrontational, less about who is more right, and more about how can we deliver value together.

5. Lack of preparation - sometimes we go into these discussions imagining we can "wing it", make it up as we go along and play it by ear.   The reality for most of us is that we need to do the work.  If you don't naturally think in terms of value, then not preparing is just like the ostrich sticking its head in the sand.

So take time to reflect, to prepare and run through a variety of "what if" scenarios.  You need to talk with others more senior to you. You need to work out what keeps your boss awake at night and you need to do the work. This is part and parcel of a growth mindset - and while right now it might appear you are on the wrong side of a whole heap of work - if it means a bigger salary far sooner, more acknowledgement from those more senior, or simply that you love your role more, then it will pay off in spades.

Negotiation Season

So why have I brought this up now? Because it seems to be salary negotiation season right now. Many of my clients are asking for tips on negotiating and/or renegotiating salary packages or consulting fees.  And being able to clearly communicate your value, rather than describe the job, is critical.

Leverage is essentially what you bring that is valuable to someone else, plus your ability to help them see that value.
— Carrie Gallant, Gallant Solutions
  • A picture says a thousand words, and having a decent set of professional photos for your career progress is really important. 
     
  • It says you are ambitious,  keen to get ahead and that you think of yourself as leadership material. So put aside your discomfort and get some headshots done. 
     
  •  I am the creator of The Ambition Revolution – the science and  art of amping smart and savvy. 
  • I mentor busy professionals to ensure they remain strategic, agile and focused on the bigger game. 

  • I also work with organisations who are trying to increase the profile of women in leadership, but struggling to do so

Feel like your leadership journey has stalled? Email ablesing@amandablesing.com to set up a 30 min one on one to learn more. Helping clients shift from feeling invisible to becoming invincible in just 12 months

Is your All or Nothing Thinking Holding you Back?

Last month I attended the League of Extraordinary Women’s Run the World Conference in Brisbane (next one scheduled for Melbourne). And while I thoroughly enjoyed the lessons shared by inspiring entrepreneurial women  - I made a really interesting observation in particular when talking with others about what we would take home from the event.

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In the course of several coffee break conversations I heard the same sorts of from comments from different people and I had a huge "aha" moment - because I used to be that way (and to some extent probably still am especially when tired or run down).  But because of work with coaches/mentors, reading Mindsets by Dr Carol Dweck, along with Dr Daniel Amens reflections on ANTS (automatic negative thinking) – to put it dramatically – has set me free.

So picture this – your new conference buddy is amazingly talented, incredibly skilled and is thinking about going out on her own. She mentions that that the work of one of the speakers in the NFP space really inspired her, but when we asked if she too might work in that area, she said “No, because I’ll never be able to do it as well as what’s already out there, so I’ll not do it at all”.

Her “all or nothing” thinking(if I can’t do it well I won’t do it at all) closed off any possibility that there might be an opportunity worth exploring.

On the same weekend I was speaking with yet another attendee about successful social media strategies and referring to one of the speakers use of Instagram – and the response from this attendee was, “Well Instagram works for them because they are a fashion label, it will never work for me like that”.

In this instance it was “always thinking” (a milder form of catastrophising ) closed off any possibility that there were any transferable lessons or insights despite the differences in products.

In both instances the individual might have been right, but the dominant negative thought patterns of “always”, “never” or “if I can’t do it well I won’t do it at all” definitely means these individuals won't even give it a try or bother to explore. My new friend who is wary of Instagram will never find out whether or not it might work because her mindset closes her off to even finding out how to use Instagram for other things.

Beware automatic negative thoughts

Dr Daniel Amens is the author of several books including Unleash the Power of the Female Brain. However in some of his earlier writing he talks about ANTS – Automatic Negative Thinking and the examples above are classic examples.

All or nothing thinking – its either all in or all off, there is no mid ground. This really fits in with the perfectionist thinking and we’ve read before about how perfectionism holds women back.  “If I can’t do something properly or well, then I won’t do it at all.” So how on earth did you learn to drive? We certainly didn’t come out of the womb knowing how to walk and talk already.  Most importantly this attitude or way of thinking yet again, keeps us playing small and safe.

Always thinking -  or in my own language “catastrophising”. I was raised by a long line of catastrophisers – and while I hate to admit it the old fairy tale of Henny Penny The Sky is Falling probably wasn’t funny to me as a kid. I excelled at catastrophising all through my 20’s and 30’s.  I used to disguise it socially by saying “never let the truth get in the way of a good story”. 

Look for dramatic language such as:

  • “My boss always micromanages me”.
  • “My team are always late in the morning”. 
  • “My business is failing because I didn’t get the email newsletter out on time.”  
  • “This entire article/report is rubbish because of the typo near the beginning”.

With this sort of thinking dominating then we miss out on so much that might actually be good.

Develop a growth mindset

Dr Carol Dweck talks about mindsets – fixed and growth. When we have a fixed mindset our view of our talents, capabilities and possibilities has an upper limit.  On the other hand if you have a growth mindset then your view of what’s possible has no upper limit – you know that you anything is possible and you can learn to do anything, with the following three provisos:

  • You need to be prepared to be uncomfortable,
  • You need to be prepared to fail at times, and
  • You need to be prepared to do the work.

When we feel tired, stuck or frustrated, I reckon our thinking become more negative and we are more prone to a fixed mindset.

 And the best bit is that they are all easily remedied.  All you need is willingness to observe, reflect and learn - plus remember the three provisos.

 Start observing yourself in meetings or when you are out with friends.  Do you use language like “its always like this”, or “my husband never does this even when I ask him”, or “if I can’t do the 90 minute yoga class, then I’m not going to any yoga at all today”?

 Once you’ve noticed this start questioning yourself – are you actually right? Or is it that you have become so used to using always language or all or nothing language.  Surely 30 to 60 minutes of yoga is better than no yoga? And in fact there is some evidence available that suggests 10 – 15 minutes of yoga 3 times per day is far more beneficial than a 90 minute class anyway.

 With regard to career goals – all or nothing thinking will definitely keep you playing a much smaller game.

  • “If I can’t land that promotion easily then I won’t even bother applying.”
  • “I’ll never be as good as (insert incumbent’s name) so I won’t waste anyone’s time in even going for it.”

Tara Mohr in her research into why women only apply for roles unless they are 100% qualified, talks about people not apply for roles because they don’t want to waste anyone’ time including their own. 

 “I didn’t think they would hire me since I didn’t meet the qualifications, and I didn’t want to waste my time and energy.”

 And I think that if you are prone to all or nothing thinking, always thinking or perfectionism then this would be skewed even more.

Because if you don’t put your hand up, if you don’t give it a try because there is a glimmer of a chance, if you don’t throw your hat in the ring because you think you  aren’t already perfect for the role, then no one will even begin to know that you are looking for a new opportunity. You certainly won’t get any job application experience or interview rehearsal time and you will stay stuck in a rut of your own making.

They way we do anything is the way we do everything.  What else are you missing out on because of negative thinking or a fixed mindset?  So, time to audit your thinking so you can get ahead more easily.   

What do you think?  How does this play out in your world?  Comments below.

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  • I am the creator of The Ambition Revolution – the science and  art of amping smart and savvy. 
  • I mentor busy professionals to ensure they remain strategic, agile and focused on the bigger game. 

  • I also work with organisations who are trying to increase the profile of women in leadership, but struggling to do so

  • Call 0425 780 336 or email ablesing@amandablesing.com to learn about how mentoring can help you make a bigger difference.

Feel like your leadership journey has stalled? Email ablesing@amandablesing.com to set up a 30 min one on one to learn more. Helping clients shift from feeling invisible to becoming invincible in just 12 months