Curtis Harren

Why you aren’t getting what you need done at work.

Posted by in Business Growth

Action = Confidence = Action = Confidence …

The cycle of confidence driving action and blocks to action lowering confidence is so true in every aspect of life. So, it should be no surprise it’s also incredibly true in making things happen in business. After all whether you are an employee or an owner, the business you’re in is a big part of your life. So what happens in your life will have an impact on your business and what happens in your work day will have an impact in your home or inside yourself.

If something happens to you that erodes your confidence in something, anything! A broken relationship may erode your confidence in your ability to connect with people. This will undermine your confidence to connect with clients (prospective or otherwise), this will likely impact your ability to make sales. If your business, your role or your function is struggling the emotions of not being as successful as you convinced yourself you should be will influence your ability to be fully present in your life outside work which will prevent a feeling of being fulfilled in your life and will undermine your confidence to tackle the struggles of life.

One of the biggest and first casualties is your confidence to take action!

No wonder something like only 4% of all initiatives in business are ever implemented to completion!

Seriously! That is what the statistics say.

Don’t believe me?

Think about it for a second…

How many times have you gone to a conference, read a book, met with a mentor, we’re inspired by a successful peer, (and so on…) and never quite got started on that thing that moved you? Let alone taking it to completion! Why? Well, there are plenty of excuses. Yes, excuses! Don’t kid yourself otherwise. I don’t have time. It’s not my first priority right now, if only I had a champion, I don’t have the money. Just to name a few. But!!

Underlying all of these excuses is actually just low confidence. Sometimes expressed as a fear ( False Expectations Appearing Real); fear of success, fear of failure, fear of being made a fool, fear of being worthy, fear of being found out, fear of not fitting in. There are just so many! So what happens when low confidence kicks in?

We stop taking action! We second guess ourselves. We undermine our own confidence in our own abilities and we hesitate, procrastinate or stop all together.

Sometimes we push this feeling away and assign blame on others around us. “He’s not pulling his weight!”, “she just doesn’t get it!”, “what an a**hole!”

Sometimes we stop taking action in the area(s) we need to and go work on the things we do feel confident in. “I’ll clean my desk now and work on my strategy later”. “I’ll go for lunch with Sue today so I can get inspired, then I’ll get back to it… only to never get your brain back in gear.” Ultimately, we are convincing ourselves we don’t have the confidence to say no to other things, to be resilient in the moment and stay focused on what is really important.


When you look at the diagram, it’s truly a living cycle spiraling outward or inward. At every transition between confidence and action is a “permeable barrier”. This “barrier” is under our mental control. We can choose to let it block us, or we can choose to be resilient. But, we as busy, and let’s be honest, lazy, people, we will defaults to the easiest path and that is usually to unconsciously accept the block and acquiesce to not internal discourse that prevents us from generating results, or actions, we actually want. Without conscious effort, this has the negative impact of eroding our own confidence. Do enough of this overtime and we will have to contend with low self-esteem, low productivity and of course low confidence.

What to do…

The first step is to be self-aware enough to recognize that you are that’s a decision point where you can either succumb to your fears, anxieties, insecurities, and doubt or you can choose to be resilient, confident, self-assured, and goal oriented. As soon as you bring this decision to the conscious forefront you choose the path you will take and you choose your own ultimate outcome.

Be honest with yourself, which path will you choose the next time you encounter this decision? Is it the choice you really want to make?

Let’s be realistic

Can you order statues to take action, or be confident at every decision point? Probably not. What this whole thing comes down to is priorities. I called them strategic actions.

Strategic action

A strategic action is an action that will get you to where you want to go. Not all actions will do this. For example, consider a road trip. If you get in your car and start driving, that is an action. Getting your car properly prepared and then driving in the direction you need to go is a strategic action. Just driving does not mean you are headed in the right direction, your car is ready, the fuel tank is full or you even have a driver’s license. Driving, therefore, is an action, but it won’t necessarily get you to where you want to go.

Consider what the implications might be to your confidence in this road trip example. Will going in the wrong direction, burning time and money, build your confidence or erode it? What will happen to your confidence when you arrive intended destination because you intentionally prepared yourself, established a route then followed the directions you decided on?

Now consider a business example…

writing a business plan.

The typical and common blocks to thinking about, creating, researching and ultimately writing a business plan include:

  • No time

  • Don’t know where to start

  • Ran out of steam/got busy

  • Scary blank page

  • Doubt (such as, what if I learn my business isn’t viable?)

  • Just Want to get going (take action)

  • So many more…

Yet something like 75% of business owners will say they have one. Of that 75%, 50% will be able to prove they’ve researched and have solid knowledge about the needs of their business, 25% will be able to show that research and only between 5-10% will be able to show their full plan. Even less will show they review it and make strategic adjustments at least annually.

What is the underlying reason? Mostly lack of confidence.

Let’s consider this statement. A blank page and not knowing where to start can cause hesitation. Hesitation is the child of low confidence. You might know your business intimately and be very confident about it but the hesitation speaks to having low confidence about writing, certain facts, or perhaps just knowing how to organize or capture your thoughts.

Having no time or being too busy speaks to not knowing (possibly) what your priorities are. Possibly it’s because you don’t have a team or don’t trust your team to carry out their duties so you have the time. Either way it speaks to your confidence. Confidence to hire a team or your confidence in their abilities, getting it done right or doing what you need done.

No matter what, this lack of, or lowered, confidence has the impact of blocking action, either fully or partially. The business either doesn’t get started or doesn’t get completed.

What actions in your business life are being blocked by lowered confidence? What areas of confidence are you going to build up intentionally? I’d love to hear. Let me know.


For Those Left Behind

Posted by in Change Management

We are well into the year 2016. There’s no need to pull any punches, in the oil and gas industry there has been precious little good news. There has been, and will likely continue to be, some pretty painful job cuts. Having said that, there’s nothing new about this in our industry. It’s one of the reasons the industry pays so well; in exchange for cyclical employment stability.

This has led to all sorts of support, recognition and resources for those who have been let go, re-deployed or utterly out of work. But what about those who still have their jobs? Suddenly you are asked to do more with less. Your department may have lost 75% of the team and you, the chosen, are left to do the same amount of work with fewer of you left. I don’t want to understate the impact of job loss on those who have lost theirs, but the point of this article is to help those left behind.

Your managers, supervisors or even directors are under similar burden. Their stress levels are through the roof because they’re under scrutiny to deliver “results for stakeholders”. They may even seem to “suddenly show their true colors”; become mean, jerks or other expletives that can’t be professionally printed here. For those left behind this can feel oppressive.

For those left behind, there is loss. Loss of friends, comrades in arms and compatriots. There is also a sense of loss of freedom, comfort and camaraderie.

You may have even had “good loss” – such as losing that annoying unproductive unhappy coworker, but they at least did some work and that is now on your plate. But still it’s all part of the sense of loss. You were already running flat out with full days now you have to do the work of 2, 3, or even 4 people. It’s overwhelming.

For those left behind the effect is a lot like a PTSD reaction or possibly survivor’s guilt depending on your circumstances. I don’t say this lightly. As a parent of a high anxiety child I’m keenly aware of what the physical manifestations of fear and stress does to both emotions and the physical body. Not as a clinical expert but as a real life expert.

Being left behind can be, perhaps really is, overwhelming, stressful and quite complex emotionally. You can also have guilt. Guilt that you have a job while your friends don’t. Guilt that you are having negative thoughts about the job you used to enjoy or the boss that turned callous on the team.

If you are still employed after a significant round of layoffs, you are probably also feeling a lot of fear, have a sense of being trapped and have huge uncertainty…”are they done the cuts?”, “what will happen in 6/9 months, next year?”. Ultimately the foundation of security you had in your position has been fundamentally shaken and that is unsettling.

It’s important to know, this is normal. Most people find change unsettling, and job loss is one of the most significantly unsettling changes that can occur in a business. Especially significant amounts of job loss. But the question is how can you cope or adapt quickly to make the emotions go away?

  1. Be present. Don’t try to make the emotions go away. Feel them. Acknowledge them. Give them voice, to yourself, to close friends, your support system. Being present at its simplest is little more than focusing on breathing from your diaphragm, taking inventory of what you are feeling and where in your body you are feeling it, and embracing the moment you are in.
  2. Ask for help. Talk to your supervisor, manager or director. Make use of your mental health services offered through your benefits. If you don’t know, your HR department should be able to safely and discretely direct you to resources available to you. Alberta Mental Health services offers drop in help. It takes great strength to ask for help. Ask for it knowing you are strong for doing it.
  3. Allow yourself to feel your emotions. Do not “suck it up buttercup”. Do not “take it like a man”. Do not put on your “big girl panties”. These efforts only “stuff your emotions” which make your body like an emotional pressure vessel. It will eventually need to be released…the question is; will it be a slow controlled release or an explosion? Continually stuffing your emotions will eventually explode.
  4. Find a way to see positives for yourself to help you change your attitude about your situation. Everyone is a little different, but maybe this is a good opportunity to further your career, to learn something new that you can add to your resume. Be creative. Adjusting your own attitude is the most significant way to change your situation…by changing your perception of your situation. It’s not as easy to do as this article might imply, but it is the most effective.
  5. Have an honest conversation about the realities of the new teams capabilities with your manager(s). Recognize that a good supervisor will understand the new situation but they will also seek to stretch the team to push limits. That’s okay. You’re a high performance team member in a high performance team. What better way to build your own strength than to push your own performance boundaries. Identify ways to be more efficient.
  6. Do not sink into rumour, gossip and hearsay. These just feed the negative. Your job, besides your duties, is to find ways to focus on the positive.
  7. Work with your supervisor to develop a strategic plan and set goals for your role, however it has changed. Create a clear and reasonable path toward success for you in your role.
  8. Ask for training. You may hear there is no budget. But the government has financial programs that can make training quite affordable, even covering more than 60% of the training costs.

Good training to consider is time management, skills upgrading or goal setting, or “how to perform at your best”.

Ultimately it’s about becoming more comfortable in this new unique uncomfortable situation of not feeling left behind, but reaching positively toward a new more certain future.