Sharpen Up: 3 Actions That Put You in Control


Long before the pandemic pandemonium of 2020, we felt it, didn’t we? Seismic shifts were bubbling up in our companies, communities and careers as communication professionals. Cultural shifts. Technological shifts. Shifts in our own environment, in what we want and need from our lives at work and at home. The crossroads called “corona” shot those changes into overdrive. And now, here we sit, wondering what’s next for our work … and the world.

Ultimately, we have two choices:

  1. Stay as we are, perhaps feeling stuck and stressed, waiting for the world to tilt back to a predictable axis.
  2. Make a different choice, and navigate what’s next with renewed clarity and confidence, no matter what the world dishes out.

I’m guessing most of us would prefer No. 2.

The first is tempting — but deep in our bodies, we understand that it’s the second that moves us forward. But how can we find that clarity amid all the smoke and noise? Where’s that fresh dose of confidence coming from? How can we, as smart communication professionals, prepare to serve our companies, clients, colleagues and customers while also serving ourselves and our careers?

Here are three actions to take right now.

Action No. 1: Define What’s at Stake for You

In the past several months, I’ve had the good fortune to be the trusted advisor on the other side of the screen, helping clients swim forward in an ocean of changes. Sometimes they’ve gone under, just for a moment, before popping back through the surface, claiming the next breath of air.

No matter what industry my client comes from, one of the core questions they ask is the same: When so much is going on, how do you stay clear about what’s most important? How do you decide where to focus now?

If you’re asking that question, it’s time to define what’s at stake for you.

When you do the work to define the stakes and find clarity on what matters to you right now, it’s easier to filter out the noise. That way, you can move forward in a way that helps your company — and yourself.

Here are a few examples of what’s been at stake for a few of my coaching clients:

  • “If I don’t improve my leader’s perception of our team, we’re likely to be on the layoff list soon. I love my people and this company, so I need to lift my head up from day-to-day tactics and invest in building these leader-level relationships more intentionally.”
  • “I’m ready to take on bigger projects, but I’m not sure our other stakeholders see me as ready. So, I want to discover how they’re seeing my potential growth here.”
  • “I want to be promoted as partner in the next year, but with everyone distanced and distracted, I’m not sure if the decision-makers know enough about my contributions. I want to get clarity on how they see me so I can strengthen — or fix — their perceptions.”

Defining the stakes makes the invisible visible. It clarifies not only the destination but also what’s getting in the way. Or, as the late author Louise Hay once said, “You’ve got to see the dirt before you can clean the house.”

What’s at stake for you right now? Take a few minutes to write it down, and keep it close as you make your career decisions in the coming months.

Action No. 2: Reset, Repair or Reframe Your Work

When we’re in a crisis mindset, we can easily slip into rescue mode, doing anything and everything at work without question.

That’s fantastic — when the crisis is a short-term sprint.

For many of us, those rescue behaviors have evolved into our new way of being, even though our sprint has become a marathon. It’s time to take back control and reset what’s not working for you. You can reset relationships, processes, deadlines, boundaries, others’ expectations of you or even your own expectations of yourself.

To get the conversation started, try these magic words: “I’ve been reflecting on all the changes we’ve learned from this year, and it’s made me realize we’re doing [insert the thing you want to reset], which results in [negative consequence]. That was fine for a while, but I believe there’s a better way. I’d like to propose doing [insert the situation you want to create] instead.”

Initiating a reset not only helps you right your personal ship, but it also points out areas that have accidentally become habit that were never intended as so. Press reset and create the situation that needs to be in place for you now.

Action No. 3: Focus on What You Control

Today, yesterday and always, we humans have only been able to control three things in our lives:

  1. Everything we do.
  2. Everything we say.
  3. Everything we think.

That’s it. But that’s enough.

We can’t change the behaviors of our colleagues, clients or customers, although we can do and say things to influence them.

We can’t change what will happen with the economy or the world, although we can teach ourselves to train our thoughts to acknowledge the good, the encouraging and to counterprogram the negative noise.

You get to choose.

As the late author Wayne Dyer said, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”

Change how you’re navigating now, and what’s next will fall into place.

Darcy’s workshop, “Navigating Next: How to Get Clear (So You Can Get Going)” was one of the 10 most popular sessions from the Virtual World Conference 2020. Review this session and others by purchasing one or more of the conference recording packages. View all available recording packages here.

Darcy Eikenberg, PCC

As a credentialed coach and speaker, Darcy Eikenberg, PCC, has always been focused on helping leaders and high-performing professionals thrive during times of constant change. Her strategies generate more clarity, confidence and control — plus, they inspire a bit of courage to help handle our complex lives at work. A former communication business leader at a global consulting firm, she’s has been a member of IABC for more than 20 years and is currently working on a book of career encouragement advice based on her free audio series, “Your Red Cape Career.”

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