I have a question for you:
What is the level of fun that you’re bringing to your professional development right now?
If your answer is ZERO (or close to it), you’re not alone.
I used to believe that fun was something that happened after work.
(And this is despite the fact that I very much identify as someone who knows how to have fun.)
Here’s what I mean:
I was an improv performer for 20 years and I used to throw super fun parties for a living.
But, when it came to advancing my career at the hedge fund…fun had to take a back seat, right?
Well, I thought so…but I was wrong.
And once I realized my mistake and committed to having more fun at work, I realized how injecting a bit more fun into the process of being promoted into senior executive leadership will actually unlock new growth in your career.
In this episode of Maximize Your Career with Stacy Mayer, I show you how.
What You'll Learn:
- How feeling serious and heavy at work is impacting the decisions you are making about your career
- A super personal story about how I learned to have more fun at work (and the benefits I enjoyed once I did)
- How to notice when you are being too serious at work
- 3 big shifts you can make to stay “in the fun” at work (AND how they will majorly benefit your career)
- The link between feeling needy and being stuck in your career
Listen to the Full Episode:
Featured on the Show:
- Ep #37: How to Build Trust at Work Using ‘15-Minute Ally’ Meetings
- Download Stacy’s 7-Step Promotion Roadmap
- Connect with me on LinkedIn
- Join the next round of my 6-week group coaching intensive, Executive Ahead of Time
Hello, everyone - welcome to another episode of Maximize Your Career. I'm your host, Stacy Mayer and super excited, as always, to be here with you again this week. So, before I get started, I want to share with you how much fun we are having over in Executive Ahead of Time, my six-week group Coaching Intensive; and the program hasn't even started yet, which is kind of incredible. We start at the beginning of September, but I opened it up for some bonus group coaching sessions for anyone who registered early for the program. Because as we all know, September can be an incredibly busy time for many leaders at their companies. And I wanted to both get some quick wins under their belt and really set themselves up so that they can just hit the ground running in September; and make sure that they're setting themselves up to get a promotion or at least advance to that next level of leadership by the end of 2021 - by the time of your next performance review - making sure that you have all the tools that you need to really advance to that next level of leadership. How cool would that be? That's what we're doing inside of Executive Ahead of Time. And I wanted to share with you one of the big wins that has happened, because it's so fantastic how quick this work works.
When you do the process that I teach inside of Executive Ahead of Time, you get wins immediately. That's why the program is only six weeks. It's because it is that simple. And it's going to feel a little bit weird because you're going to come into this program, you're going to be like, 'why didn't I do this ages ago'? But the truth is that we have to be at a certain place to be able to really say 'yes' to ourselves. But once you're able to say, 'yes' to yourself and to say, 'you know what, I am ready to never get passed over for a promotion again. I have value to bring to my organization. I want to make a bigger impact on my organization now, and not five years from now'. And you can start taking these steps whether you're a front-line manager or a senior vice president already. Inside of Executive Ahead of Time, I teach you exactly what you need to do today to be able to make that executive level of impact your organization. So, it's really huge. So, one of the women in our program - she’s been working at her organization for 20 years, and she came into our first bonus group coaching session feeling stuck. Like many of you, she wasn't exactly sure where to turn. She was starting to look outside of her organization. She kind of wanted to stay with her organization, but she was just really having difficulty navigating those conversations and making a decision to be able to progress and move forward.
So, in just one coaching session, I was able to coach her on how she could begin making decisions and having higher level conversations, quite frankly, both internally and externally. And for her, it clicked immediately - exactly what she needed to do. And she just whipped herself into action, scheduled several meetings in a row with various different people, including her boss and other executive leaders; and also an external conversation. And has been having such an incredible amount of fun in the process and really enjoying the reactions that she's getting and the possibility of them creating a role for her internally. So now she has options and is, as she described it (this is in her own words), 'I feel like a rock star. And it is such an incredible feeling to not have all my eggs in one basket, to realize that I do have choices'.
And honestly, you all have choices right now in front of you, even if it doesn't feel like it. And you know why it doesn't feel like it. It's because it's very hard to get a bird's eye view to get perspective of our own world. We're stuck in our own world. We have our own perspective. I have several different coaches, advisors, and consultants in my life to give me that perspective. And as you start to advance towards executive leadership, you're going to want to surround yourself with those incredible leaders that really inspire you and also give you that perspective - so that you can make bigger, bolder decisions and have a ton of fun in the process.
And for this client inside of Executive Ahead of Time - when we start in September, she's already got several wins under her belt. And those six weeks are just going to be like 'bup bup bup bup bup bup'. I am so excited for her as to what she's going to come out of this program with on the other side. It's really impactful work and the outcomes are immediate, so I can't wait to get started in there.
Now, today's episode is all about fun. What is the level of fun that we could be bringing to our leadership today? And one of the reasons why I decided to create this episode is because of my own personal work; what I've been doing for my own leadership, and the advice that I've been given from the outside. And quite frankly, I have been told by a few too many people in the last several months that I need to have some more fun. And that's really sad because I am an incredibly fun person, and you hear me laugh all the time. I self-identify as a person who knows how to have fun. I used to throw parties for a living and those parties were fun.
I was an improv comedian for over twenty years. I know how to have fun. And so, when I'm working in my business and leading in my business and people are telling me I'm not having enough fun and I need to lighten up, I'm like, 'oh God, I better take this stuff seriously because there is something disconnected here'.
So, over the last several months, I've really been exploring this for myself and what is actually happening. And so, I'm going to break that down for you from a completely vulnerable personal perspective and then also give you tools so that you can start to explore this idea of having more fun in your own leadership. So, on the surface what is happening for me is when I'm outward facing - so I identify as an extrovert - I do have a lot of fun when I'm making connections with people, when I'm having conversations, when I'm talking to you guys weekly. My podcast is one of the most fun things I could ever do. You can tell I'm having a lot of fun when I'm making this. I'm not incredibly edgy and serious when I'm making this podcast. I have so much fun. I love performing. I love connecting. I love coaching. I love helping women. I get fired up. All of those great things. And then there's this other side to leadership for me personally that I get super serious.
So when I'm doing the behind the scenes stuff - the detail work, when I'm having to get more clients, when I'm making sales, when I need something, when I'm trying to make big decisions and it feels hard - when I'm not getting the results that I want, when I wish that I had more women that I could impact, when I want my Facebook ads to work better - whatever that is, I start to feel really serious and heavy. And unfortunately, I make decisions from that place. So, when we're talking about my desire to connect with more women - as you know, I want to get a thousand corporate women promoted into senior executive leadership positions each and every year worldwide. And when I'm really looking at the numbers and I'm thinking, 'Okay, why am I not connecting with the right people?' Then it feels hard. And the same thing happens for you guys when you want to be promoted - and it's so clear - your vision is so clear, you see the spot for you. Quite honestly, if you're at your organization or even externally, you see that position. I have a client inside of my advanced Promotion Accelerator program right now - and it's so clear that she wants to become a chief impact officer someday, and she sees that it's all laid out for her.
Just like I see the thousand women getting promoted each and every year worldwide, like it's all laid out for me. But then when I'm actually taking the steps to get there, I can get super-duper serious, and it can feel really hard because it feels far away, or it feels overwhelming, or it feels like it's not working. And so, I get really serious. And so, the coaching and the advice that has been given to me; so, you know, I take my own medicine that I give each and every one of you guys is to lighten up a little bit, to realize that having fun in the process actually gets you closer to the goals that you want. Whether it's to be a chief impact officer someday or it's just to get a bigger project, a more high-profile project at your organization so that you can feel like you're able to see the fruits of your labor. So, whatever that result is that you're wanting in your life, how can we add more fun into the process? And so, I'll talk about that a little bit, the more 'how’, today. But I just want you to kind of see and ask yourself, 'is that true? Am I being really, really serious here?'
So, one of the things that I have done in my life as I look back and as I start to explore - because the fact is this was coming from many different people - and I was asking, you know, 'hey, I'm a fun person. This doesn't make sense. Why are so many people telling me that I'm too serious?' And I looked back at my career and thought about this idea.
So, I was an improv comedian and I worked in New York City. I had my own theatre company, Manhattan Comedy Collective. I actually did my training at Second City in Chicago. I had so much fun. I performed with unbelievably incredible, incredible, incredible performers that you have seen on Saturday Night Live. And honestly in like every other commercial that I see on TV, I'm like, 'oh, I know that guy. Oh, that guy performed at my theater.' I was having a lot of fun. But at the same time, I was working at a hedge fund in New York City, and I call it my moonlighting gig because I worked at the hedge fund because I didn't want to wait tables. And then I quickly advanced at the hedge fund because I was really good at the work that I did. And I was able to advance my career and make a bigger impact and everything in my career. And I really loved actually working in the corporate world. That was a surprise to me at the time because so many of my colleagues in the theater community were working as, like I said, as waiters and waitresses.
And - it just didn't - I wasn't interested in that. I loved, loved, loved working at the hedge fund - but I was very serious. I was very, very serious at the hedge fund and I was like, 'Okay, this is the way that things are supposed to be done, and this is how you're supposed to behave. This is how you're supposed to dress. There are all these ways. This is what's working. This is what's not working' Very, very heavy. And when I look back at that time in my life, would I say that the time at the hedge fund was fun - like in terms of 'was I having fun'? No, I wasn't having fun. I was serious. This is my work. This is incredibly serious. I also look back at that time as being incredibly powerful; and the work that I was able to do and create because I worked at such an incredibly impactful hedge fund in New York. And the way that we were able to give back to the community and the impact that I was making at my company at the time, that was incredibly fun. So, enriching. And when I look at that, I'm like, 'yeah, it was fun'. But the process to get there, I was incredibly serious. I'm going to give a totally off-the-wall example because I started to talk about the way that I dress and the way that I presented myself at the hedge fund.
And there is a woman that recently received her second promotion. She graduated Executive Ahead of Time in April of 2021. And just this past month she posted on LinkedIn that she received a promotion. And I realized - I was like, 'oh, this is her second promotion since she graduated'. But there is this really interesting thing that happened right before she received the second promotion. She dyed her hair purple - she dyed her hair purple! Now, I'm not saying that you all need to dye your hair purple. But she actually commented on this, she said, 'isn't it funny that I received this second promotion the week after I dyed my hair purple?'.
Now, she did not get promoted because she dyed her hair purple. That's why I'm saying, 'you don't have to dye your hair purple'. But she did get promoted because she lightened up. She stopped needing it. That desperate, needy quality, that frustration that 'I'm stuck. I can't get out of this'. And so, what happened for her is when she graduated Executive Ahead of Time, she took a big leap of faith and made a very direct ask to get promoted to a management position. She was actually an individual contributor, in an analyst role. And she made a very direct ask to be a people manager. And they said 'yes'. And that boosted her confidence, which led her to feel like, 'you know what, let's just be myself'. And then she was able to receive that second promotion. And so that's what I'm talking about here. It's like, where are we stuck in our ways and our expectations? And quite frankly, are you making a frowny face all the time? And I'm like, no joke - if - when I am working sometimes, and this is today; if I pass myself in the mirror, I have a very serious look on my face and I'm like, 'oh my gosh, my quote-unquote resting face is very serious when I'm working'. And so even just that, - I notice that I'm squinching up, that I'm just, like, being so serious. There is a tool in mindfulness practice. And as you know, I'm an avid meditator and really interested in the spiritual side of all of this work. And there is a tool that's literally like 'smile'. You know, if you find yourself getting so serious, just smile and you'll pop yourself out of it. And it's so true because, sitting at my desk and I'm just so serious, and I notice my jaw is starting to get tight. And then I'm just like, 'oh, what if I sit here and smile for one minute?' And then I notice when I go back to my work, I just feel better. I'm less serious at the time. So that's your first tip of the day, is to just smile. And it's a practice. I'm smiling right now. You can tell - you can hear it in my voice.
So that is in essence what I mean by being too serious. Now, some other way is that you're going to start to notice, 'am I being too serious' is when you are thinking about advancing your career to the next level, what are the first thoughts that come to mind? So, are you immediately thinking about what's not going to work? Do you feel frustrated? Do you immediately think about your boss? Do you feel like you got - you missed your opportunity - I get that a lot where it's like, 'oh, I missed my shot, I'm going to have to wait three more years to get promoted'. So, like somebody else got hired in that position, you got passed over. So, you just feel really heavy, very serious. If any of those things are happening to you, the invitation is to lighten up. The invitation is to inject a little bit more fun in this process. And the way that you're going to do that is ask yourself, 'How can I make this process of advancing to the next level of leadership a little bit more fun?' Just really ask yourself that. How can I make this whole process more fun?
And the irony is, is that as you start to have more fun in this process, you are going to get bigger results. You're going to start to get that recognition. So just like the Executive Ahead of Time client that dyed her hair purple - as she started to have more fun, as she started to lighten up - she received her second promotion. Again, it's all about the process. We know that life is about the journey and not the destination. So, if we're not having fun in the process, then we're not going to be happy once we get to that destination. And I think you guys inherently know that because that's why you're not going for these bigger, better roles, because you feel like work is really hard right now. And you're like, 'oh, I don't want to scale. I don't want more responsibility because it's just going to be even harder' - which is true. So, I want you to do this work now of becoming that executive ahead of time and really taking care of yourself, so that you can have more fun in the process. And you know, honestly, so you can try the exercise, 'just smile'. Like when you notice your jaw clenching, when you're getting too serious at work, just smile. You don't even have to smile on camera if that feels weird. I'm just talking about in your own personal life. Just smile for a minute and you can start to do that process.
Something that is also really helpful is when you surround yourself with actual conversation. So, I talked at the beginning of this episode about how when I'm coaching clients, when I'm having one on one conversations with women, I am not frowny-face ever. And so even if you are an introverted personality preference, you can start to do this one on one. Just connecting with other women in this process is such a hugely valuable part of the process to becoming happier at work, to having more fun. So, when you're having those one-on-one high-level conversations, when you're connecting with other powerhouse corporate women, this is why part of the reason that the woman during the group coaching session (wasn't just because of my brilliant coaching), it was because of the encouragement of the other women in the group who were looking at her and saying, 'hey, you got this, go do it now'. And so, what we start to do is we realize we can create that for ourselves, and it works. We will have more fun.
A couple of other ways that you can start to have more fun at your job today is schedule a meeting with somebody who is completely out of your league. You have no business talking to this person - they're so high level - and you have absolutely no business reaching out to this person. I know you know who that is. Maybe it's somebody who is at your organization that's really high up, it could be your CEO. It could be somebody - another C suite leader, another executive that you don't have a relationship with - but here's the key, you really admire this person. Now, your first reaction may be like 'that doesn't sound like fun. That sounds horrible.' But think about if they say 'yes' to you and then the conversation goes really, really well, is that going to be fun?
I have a brilliant client that I work with inside of Promotion Accelerator (again, my advanced training program) who has just mastered this in her relationships with her CEO. It's unbelievable. She sent me a text last week and she said 'he just reached out to me to meet tomorrow. I didn't even know that he's in town. I'll let you know how it goes'. And then she texts me after the meeting. She's like, 'oh, he just wanted to write a few ideas by me.' It's so much fun. She's so happy. She's so giddy on a Friday afternoon. She is so happy to connect with this person that, you know, a year ago she had literally no business reaching out to him. And now it's like as if they're on peer to peer. So, I want to encourage you to challenge yourself - somebody that you admire, but that you have no business reaching out to.
I'll give you an example from my own life, how I did this, and it was super fun - is I actually sent a message to John Gray. He is the author of Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus. And I sent him a note to see if he would provide a advanced testimonial for my book that is coming out later this year. And I had no business doing this. I don't know him. I have no real connection to him. But I did it anyway. And I was super nervous about it, I was like, ‘Who am I? Why am I reaching out to this person?' And of course, the response that I got back from his team was, 'no, you know, he doesn't do that'. But I just persisted, and I stayed in the fun. It felt like a little bit like a game. And I was just like, well, you know, can you run it - and I just stayed focused, kept my eye on the prize, continued having fun in the process. And would you know, within 48 hours I received a response back from him that said, 'Yes. Yes, I will write an advanced testimonial for your book' and - oh my god - was I flying high! That was fun. It's still fun. It still gets me fired up. And because I have this advanced testimonial, I'm going to be able to reach more powerhouse women.
And so, I want you to start to do that. Think of somebody at your organization that is so ridiculously far away from you and try and schedule a fifteen-minute ally meeting with them. You can go back through my podcast episodes. I will link to it in the show notes about the process of the fifteen-minute ally meetings. But for now, I just want you to identify who is that person that scares you a little bit, but you're going to reach out to them anyway. And then think about the future. If they're just a person that just calls you up and has regular conversations with you, how much more fun would your life be at your organization if you started to do that?
So, these are some ways that you can start to inject more fun into the process today. One is literally smile - like just smile - when you find yourself getting too serious. Take a smile break for one minute. The second thing is that you're going to join a group of women or reach out and connect with other leaders that you really admire on a regular basis and support you and make you feel good about yourself. And then the third way is you're going to reach out to somebody who's ridiculously important and you have no business reaching out to them and see if they'll meet with you for fifteen minutes. That's it. Have a fifteen-minute ally conversation with them. Get the ball rolling and get started. We need you in a higher-level executive position. Your organization needs you to be making a bigger impact there today.
Part of the way that you're going to do that is by becoming the executive ahead of time. And my friends, this is not a heavy, serious process. If you take it too seriously, then, of course, you're not going to want to scale that. You want to have fun with this process. You want to enjoy your time, your journey to get there because that - all of that - scales with you. You are going to find yourself at an organization or in a position at your current organization where you are just having so, so much fun; and you're going to look back at it and be like, 'oh, my goodness, how did I create this for myself? I can't even believe it anymore. How did I get to where I am.’?
And I'm going to take the same medicine - when I find myself getting too serious, I'm going to have more fun. I'm going to laugh, I'm going to connect with other women and I'm going to continue to reach out to ridiculously powerful people and start to continue making those bigger, bolder connections every single day. Thank you so much for listening and I'll see you next week. Bye!
About Your Host
Hi! I'm Stacy Mayer, a Certified Executive Coach and Promotion Strategist on a mission to bring more diversity to the leadership table by getting 1000 underrepresented corporate managers promoted into senior executive positions each year worldwide.
I help undervalued executives scale to the C-Suite using repositioning strategies that build your confidence and visibility, so you can earn the recognition and support you need from key stakeholders while embodying your unique leadership style.
My podcast “Women Changing Leadership with Stacy Mayer” tackles topics like executive communication, getting more respect in the workplace from challenging bosses and team members, and avoiding the common mistakes that sabotage career advancement.