Who is Your Tea Server?

Who’s that one person in your life who gets on your last nerve?

Let me tell you about my person.

Recently, a man named “Sam” and I, along with 2 other women, sat shoulder to shoulder at a small table at Starbucks. A war raged inside me as he spoke.

Compassionate, good listener Julie worked hard to take in Sam’s words. She smiled and nodded encouragingly as he spoke.

Then there’s impatient, barracuda Julie. She thought, Will this narcissist ever stop talking? He’s driving me insane!

Sam wore a gold name tag on his blue plaid shirt which said, SAM SMITH, REALTOR. He found our Career Coaches’ Meetup group online, and decided to crash our inaugural meeting even though he’s not a coach.

He continued sharing his story. He said, “You know, most realtors are con artists. 80% of them are stay-at-home mothers filing their nails, looking for an easy buck. Do you know how little work they do in proportion to how much money they make? It’s a messed up system. Me? I do it differently . . .”

Soon barracuda Julie took over. I gnashed my teeth preparing to bite off his head as he shared way too much information about his 8 business ventures. The guy seemed desperate for approval.

After 15 minutes of his self-absorbed chatter I interrupted him: “Excuse me Sam, but what are you for exactly? I only hear what you’re against.”

This comment sucked the energy out of the room. It was not my best moment. Once again, I’d let a narcissist get the better of me. Whenever someone talks and doesn’t listen, lacks empathy, seems close-minded and arrogant, they push my buttons.

Long ago, the great Buddhist teacher Atisha wanted to move to Tibet. When he was told that Tibetans were very good-natured and flexible, he decided they wouldn’t be irritating enough to push his buttons. Therefore he decided to bring along his mean-tempered, ornery Bengali tea server.

This guy was bad news. For example, whenever Atisha asked for tea, the tea server would say, “Get up off your butt and get it yourself, you lazy bum!” Atisha would be tempted to shake his fist and tell him what’s what, but instead he’d take a deep breath and not react. The tea server kept Atisha in an alert, awakened state.

When he got to Tibet, he learned he needn’t have brought his tea server; there were plenty of unpleasant people there.

Each of us has a tea server, someone who pushes our buttons. Who comes to mind for you?

Maybe it’s the person who cuts you off mid-sentence. Or maybe it’s your lazy co-worker you secretly hold in contempt. Perhaps it’s your partner: “Can you ever be ready on time? We’re always late!” You react by blowing your top.

The truth is, each of us has different types of tea servers. The person who drives you batty, I may think is dreamy. That’s revealing, isn’t it? It means we have to really own our own part in this whole tea server dilemma. Here’s why it matters.

If we’re constantly reacting to our tea servers, we’re not being very good leaders. There’s a theory in complex systems I love called “requisite variety:”

The person in the room with the most variety of responses to people and problems has the most influence.

Think of a master chess player. The one with the most flexible mind and moves up her sleeve will beat her opponent.

In another context, think of the most impactful leaders you know. Are they rigid and reactive or fluid and full of grace? I personally prefer the latter kind of leader.

I also want to BE the fluid and graceful leader. Once I react unskillfully to someone, I’ve lost my ability to influence him in the future.

You know the saying, “The things we dislike most in others are the characteristics we like least in ourselves.”

For years my tea server has consistently been narcissists. Enough! Time to have an imaginary sit down with my tea server narcissist Sam and think about how we’re alike. I realized:

He really craves approval of others – just like me.

He’s an overachiever trying to be good at a million things . . . just like me.

He works really hard to be seen as “one of a kind” – which describes me to a T.

Once I realized I actually had a lot in common with Sam, I felt a lot tenderer toward him. I felt our shared humanity. I no longer felt so rigid and righteous about him – a much stronger basis for a relationship.

This afternoon, as sure as we’re sitting here, your tea server will appear in your life. Will you shake your fist and react in old familiar ways, or will you take a breath, and respond with grace?

Julie Bondy Roberts, MA, GCDF is a LinkedIn Profile Writer & Trainer, Public Speaker, Career Transition Coach, Forbes Contributor & Overachiever. She is the founder of Coming Alive Career Coaching.

Frustrated with your job search? Need clarity, solid tactics, a friendly nudge? Contact Julie at juliebondyroberts@gmail.com and she will help you get on track. You can also follow Julie on Twitter and Facebook.

What Joan Lunden Can Teach Us about Busting Through Career Barriers

How is your mindset affecting your job search?

While it’s important to master the mechanics of job search – networking, relationship building, personal branding – what you tell yourself can make or break your search.

I recently saw Joan Lunden – morning show host pioneer and intrepid journalist — deliver the keynote speech at a TrueU conference. She shared how she busted through thick-as-brick walls to reach her goals, demonstrating it’s how you champion yourself that matters.

Here are the mantras she used that cleared the path. Adopt them. They are free for the taking:

“If you want to play the game, find a way to get on the playing field.”

After Lunden graduated college, a family friend in TV suggested Joan apply for a job at a local TV station. In spite of the fact there was no actual job opening and she lacked relevant experience, she showed up at the TV station the following day and requested an interview and an audition.

Afterwards, they told her, “Nice job. Except we don’t actually have an opening.”

The weatherman there noticed her audition, and was impressed. He recommended her to another station, where she became the first female “weather girl” ever hired in Southern California.

Lunden was not thrilled being a “weather girl” because:

a) She knew nothing about weather

b) She had to wear a tight, white mini-dress and white lace-up boots (this was the early 70’s). Nevertheless she was determined to break into TV. Intuitively she knew this role was her ticket to landing a job she could eventually sink her teeth into.

As a job seeker, aim toward your future, as you chart your career. When less-than-ideal opportunities land in your lap, ask yourself: Will this opportunity provide either skills or connections to others which will move me forward? Lunden reasoned the “weather  girl” role was her ticket. It gave her exposure in front of a camera, strengthened her poise, and taught her to think on her feet.

Lunden landed on the right playing field, then bolted to 2nd base, but she had to embrace the idea that . . .

“Sometimes you have to take the risk of not being great in order to learn how to be great.”

Lunden’s popularity grew quickly after taking the weather girl job. Within 6 months, 6 stations across the country offered her a job. Not sure what to do next, she asked the same family friend for advice. He recommended she speak to his network executive friend in New York. When the executive found out she had 6 offers, he offered her a job, as a journalist. Something she’d never done before.

Fortunately, Joan had a nurturing “inner champion” who said, Say yes, then figure it out. Many of us lack an audible “inner champion,” and instead listen to our (really loud) “inner thwarter,” who says, I can’t do this job because I’m not qualified! or,  I have no experience doing that, or I’ll fail! Sound familiar?

What would be possible if you let yourself be a beginner at something you’re excited about? Imagine this: Decca records rejected the Beatles, telling them “We don’t like your sound. You have no future in show business.” It’s helpful to remember The Beatles weren’t always The Beatles.

Lunden accepted the journalism job. On the first day, a cameraman asked Lunden, “How many magazines will you need?,” referring to the film reel holder. She said, “Oh, I probably won’t have time to read magazines today.” They burst out laughing,  and took her under their wing. And thanks to them, she learned about journalism.


“Take every small assignment and make it shine. And then you will grow.”

After Lunden landed the coveted morning host spot on Good Morning America, Barbara Walters took her aside and gave her the advice above. Walters  chose not to fight the male-dominant TV culture (Lunden’s 2 predecessors fought it and were let go). Sure enough, Lunden’s initial assignments were about home-improvement, parenting, and consumer products, all topics she actually loved. She researched like a fiend, adding her own unique spin, and her work gained attention. Eventually she landed interviews on par with her male counterparts, reporting from 16 countries, interviewing 5 U.S. presidents, and covering 5 Olympic Games.

While Lunden clearly had good mentors who helped her along, she hit roadblocks that might intimidate the best of us. She hurdled the roadblocks because she followed the wisdom of her positive, inner champion.  Lunden models for us, be mindful of what you tell yourself. It may just come true.

Julie Bondy Roberts, MA, GCDF is a certified LinkedIn™ Profile Writer and LinkedIn trainer. She is the founder of Coming Alive Career Coaching, and loves teaching people how to get found on LinkedIn.  A participant in one of her workshops recently wrote: “Julie’s LinkedIn class took me from a skeptical LinkedIn novice to a believer in the power of LinkedIn!”

To learn more about LinkedIn™ Profile Optimization packages & training your group or organization on growing your business through LinkedIn, contact Julie at juliebondyroberts@gmail.com. You can also follow Julie onTwitter and Facebook.


6 Steps for Pivoting Into Your Next Job Breathlessly Insanely Fast

My friend Amy just nabbed her ideal job, after a 6 month search. While she’s thrilled where she landed, she knows this won’t be the last company she ever works for.

“Next time, I don’t want the job search to take so long. I’m dreaming, aren’t I?” she asked me.

Not at all. In fact, I wish more people thought like Amy.

No job is permanent. All it takes is one little change of command to get hauled into HR on a dime. No one expects to be laid off or stuck in a dead-end job, but that’s life these days. Here are 5 steps you can take to pivot into your next job breathlessly, insanely fast.

1. Engage on LinkedIn enthusiastically

First, your LinkedIn profile is optimized, current and engaging, right?

Second, if you’re not active on LinkedIn now, today is a great day to start. William Arruda suggests all you need is 9 minutes a day:

  • share a status update on something you’re an expert on
  • request to connect with someone you admire
  • join a Group, comment and provide insights
  • share an accomplishment

Worried your boss will think you’re passively job searching as a result of your activity on LinkedIn? Choose one of these responses:

  • “You’re not interested in massive brand reach and lead generation? Oh my, we need to talk!”
  •  “By highlighting my accomplishments, it makes YOU look good. Other companies enjoy doing business with winners.”

I have a lot of clients who love their jobs, who actively work the LinkedIn ecosystem. They understand this platform is much more than a job search tool: It’s a vibrant way to provide value, serve others, and learn.

2. Keep a running list of the ongoing impact you’re having, quantifying results.

I’ve created LinkedIn profiles and resumes for CFOs, Lean Six Sigma experts and Sales Managers who scratched their heads when I asked them how they contributed to revenue, sales and bottom line – the very information hiring managers care about most.

You will make your life so much easier at the next go-round by tracking your accomplishments along the way. While your job isn’t only about numbers, you will forget the results you created during that product launch 2 years ago. Record your successes!

3. Have productive conversations at least twice a month with people who work at interesting companies

Really. You can do 2 a month. Over a year, that’s 24 people you’ve developed relationships with whom you can help, who may be able to help/refer yousomeday.

I get it. It’s so easy to say, I haven’t got time to meet new people. Consider this: People are much more open to meeting with a stranger who is employed than one who isn’t. (Though you meet with and help job seekers, right?)

To find both interesting companies and the people who work there: Google

  • Top Workplaces 2016 in [your city]
  • [your state] chamber best places to work
  • Top companies for work-life balance
  • Contact thought leaders in your industry and ask them

Once you’ve discovered which companies to pursue, find insiders and hiring managers who work there using LinkedIn, and write a glowing, personalized connection request.

And at the end of every productive conversation please always ask, “How can I help you?”

4. Grow your number of LinkedIn connections

The greater number of connections you have, the greater your reach. The more genuine, legitimate 1st degree connections you have, the more people you have in your corner who can refer you to people in their network.

It’s to your advantage to be a genuine connector, not a people collector.

5. Grow your number of LinkedIn Recommendations

Recommendations are like stars on Yelp – and you can never have too many. Make sure recommendations written by colleagues, mentors and managers are specific and reflect the superpowers you most enjoy using.

I really like this recommendation template by Adrian Granzella Larssen. It’s not rude or over-stepping by inserting it into your LinkedIn recommendation request. On the contrary! Do you enjoy writing a recommendation from scratch? Didn’t think so. Help out your reference by providing a guideline. They will appreciate you.

6. Do you pass the “ layoff test ?”

I learned the phrase, “pass the layoff test” from Alan Henry. Here’s the test: If you were laid off today, do you have 10 people in your network you can reach out to, for support and to troubleshoot next-steps? If not, that’s a sign you’ve let your network languish. Time then to get to work and rebuild relationships.

John Maxwell says, “Your network is your net worth.” In other words, your best asset is the people you know. Take good care of your future while you’re still employed by following the steps above, and remember: The shortest distance to a job is measured by the number of people who are thrilled to refer you.

Stay in touch, build new relationships and keep thrilling others by serving well.


Julie Bondy Roberts, MA, GCDF is a certified LinkedIn™ Profile Writer and LinkedIn trainer. She is the founder of Coming Alive Career Coaching, and loves teaching people how to get found on LinkedIn.  A participant in one of her workshops recently wrote: “Julie’s LinkedIn class took me from a skeptical LinkedIn novice to a believer in the power of LinkedIn!”

To learn more about LinkedIn™ Profile Optimization packages & training your group or organization on growing your business through LinkedIn, contact Julie at juliebondyroberts@gmail.com. You can also follow Julie onTwitter and Facebook.