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The Value of Rapport at Work

Rapport is the ability to get along with others in a way that makes them want to work with you. It is built upon mutual trust, empathy, and respect and contributes to a positive, productive workplace. When you have rapport with others, you gain a wealth of resources for career advancement, mentoring, and problem solving, among many other benefits. Here are five tips to help you build rapport.

  1. Be consistent. This means that you walk your talk—your words and actions are in sync. People can rely on you to be responsible and accountable.
  2. Show genuine interest in and respect for others. Treat everyone as an individual with unique interests, preferences, concerns, and expectations. Avoid stereotyping and judgements. Accept people for who they are and where they are in life. (Check out my program Bridging the Generation Gap for help understanding generational differences.)
  3. Share your story. Rapport is built on mutual interactions. It is important for you to share information about yourself and your life so that others see you as an individual and can relate to you on a personal level.
  4. Honor boundaries and business etiquette. Be considerate of others and show courtesy even when your patience is strained. It doesn’t take effort to ask with a “please” and accept with a “thank you.”
  5. Actively listen and be present. Active listening means paying attention to the other person and not being distracted. Practice being mindful by focusing on the words you hear, by observing body language, and using your own body language to show attentiveness.

Rapport is a skill that can be developed. For more information see my blog posts Why Empathy at Work Works, Shhh! Listen, and Building Effective Relationships at Work.


Customer Loyalty Matters

Creating long-term business success and growth is a challenge for all managers and is especially important for those in sales or customer service functions. The key to success lies with retaining existing customers and cultivating those relationships to get referrals for new business. Here are some tips to help your team keep existing customers happy, so they willingly recommend your products and services to others.

  • Ensure consistent, quality service. All customers must receive the same level of care and consideration to avoid the appearance of favoritism. Establish quality standards, create customer care codes of conduct, and make customer service delivery a key component of performance plans.
  • Give your team members authority to handle customer concerns. Wherever possible, let customer-facing employees make decisions about how to handle complaints and concerns. Give them the authority to grant exceptions, give compensation, or offer alternatives to unhappy customers. Your service is only as good as the most recent customer interaction.
  • Provide continuous training. Customer service standards are evolving, especially with social media. Now, a single bad customer experience can be shared instantly to tens of thousands. Keep your team sharp with ongoing training that enhances their skills and ability to handle difficult situations.

Encourage your staff to look for ways to make every customer interaction an opportunity to reinforce and deepen the relationship and show respect for your customers. Need more customer service tools? Check out my workshop Creating a Positive Customer Service Experience.


Working with Toxic People

Toxic people at work can turn the best office into a war zone since they are adept at fostering conflict, stirring things up, and causing dissension. Just as environmental toxins are poisonous, so too are toxic people! Here are some tips to protect yourself.

  • Stay away from gossips. Gossipers love to put people down and share everything negative about others. Not only does this hurt the targets of their comments, it hurts those who listen to them. If you associate with gossips, you will be lumped into the same category as they are—someone who is untrustworthy and must be avoided. Don’t fall into this trap. When someone starts gossiping, leave the area or be assertive and state that you don’t want to hear what they are going to say. See my blog post Dangers of Office Gossip.
  • Point out snipers. Snipers usually don’t make direct comments or state criticism because they don’t have the courage to say outright what they think. Instead, they rely on a sarcastic tone or state their hurtful comments as if they were teasing. This is a form of bullying. When confronted with a sniper, ask them to repeat what they said and explain what they meant. They dislike being called out, and this usually shuts them down. They will think twice before doing it again with you.
  • Avoid judgmental people. These people often have a fixed mindset. They are closed to new ideas and refuse to acknowledge that they have the power to change. They believe things will never get better, there’s no recourse, so why bother? Judgmental people criticize everyone and everything they disagree with and characterize them as wrong. Ask them for objective proof of what they are saying and be prepared to refute them.

Don’t let toxic people invade your life and space. If you can’t avoid them in the office, take steps to mitigate their influence over you. Establish boundaries and be assertive when communicating with them. Stay positive even if you feel overwhelmed since positivity will win out in the long run. See my blog post Does Positivity at Work Really Make a Difference? for more information.

Negative people need drama like oxygen. Stay positive, it will take their breath away. Unknown


Your Team Needs a Customer-First Mindset

You know that customer loyalty is a major factor in realizing long-term business profitability and growth. It’s less expensive to sell to an existing customer than to land a new one. Plus, loyal customers refer your business to others who can become more loyal customers.

Building and cultivating customer loyalty can be challenging, but it is made easier when your team has a customer-first mindset. Here are some tools to help you and your team.

  • Focus on the customer. This seems straight-forward, but it can be difficult in execution. When you focus on the customer—either on the phone, in person, or via e-mail—you must step into that customer’s space and leave your biases, opinions, and judgments behind. For the time you are interacting with the customer, you are totally with them and are giving them your full attention. Nothing else matters except for delivering excellent customer care and cementing a positive relationship with them.
  • View customer interactions as opportunities. Customer loyalty is built up over time and comes from consistent, excellent service. Every time a customer contacts an employee, that employee has a chance to build a new, positive relationship or foster an existing one. Give your employees the authority to offer solutions without having to get approval, teach them to communicate in a friendly, conversational, professional manner, and avoid canned responses.
  • Cultivate a win-win mindset. When a customer contacts you with a problem, immediately focus on possible win-win resolutions. This doesn’t mean that you always give the customer what they want; sometimes you can’t. Show empathy and use good questioning techniques to reveal alternatives that might satisfy the customer. Reach for a positive outcome!

Help your team develop a customer-first mindset with my program Creating a Positive Customer Service Experience.


Overwhelm Can Kill Your Productivity

Sometimes we have so much to do, we feel like we are being buried alive, our stress level soars, and our ability to get things done plummets. What do you do if you can’t get out from under overwhelm?

  • Stop and regroup. Step back and take a deep breath—or several! Make a list of everything you must do. Don’t prioritize it right now; just put it on paper in no order. Sometimes this alone helps relieve the stress. Call this the Task List.
  • Create a Priorities List. Setting priorities can be challenging when you are in overwhelm because it is difficult to differentiate among activities. One easy way is using paired comparison. Number your Task List using the alphabet and then prioritize by looking at pairs of tasks. Here’s how:
    • Which is more important, A or B? You decide B.
    • What’s more important B or C? You decide B.
    • What’s more important B or D? You decide D.
    • Now you compare D to every item still on the list, one at a time.
    • Let’s say you end up with Q as the most important action. It becomes #1 on your Priorities List.
    • Now start again and apply paired comparison to all items on the Task List. When you are done, you will have easily created your Priorities List.
  • Apply the Pareto Principle to your Priorities List. The Pareto Principle states that 20% of your actions will deliver 80% of the results you need. Take your Priorities List and identify the top 20%.
  • Go to your calendar. Use your calendar to set aside to time to focus on the top 20% of your Priorities List. Fill in your time doing the 80% when you can.

When you feel threatened by overwhelm, take these easy steps to regain a feeling of control and to refocus on your top priorities. See my post How to Use the Pareto Principle for Productivity at Work for more information.


Build Effective Relationships at Work

Managers often become so focused on getting daily work accomplished that they lose sight of the people skills part of the job of leadership. Here are some tips to help build more effective relationships at work.

  • Think first, then act. Exercise consideration and thoughtfulness when speaking or acting and understand the effect of what you are going to do before you do it. You are less likely to offend others and are more likely to improve your professional image.
  • Listen, then speak. This is difficult for many of us! Attention wanders no matter how hard we try to stay focused on a speaker. Don’t multitask when listening and respond to the speaker in ways that show you are paying attention. For example, repeat key words and phrases the speaker used and ask questions that show you heard them.
  • Be positive, not negative. Research from Harvard University suggests that a positive attitude is a critical factor in how productive and happy your team is. The more positive you are, the more others want to work for and with you. One easy way of demonstrating a positive attitude is to notice the little things that people do, show gratitude for them, and give praise for a job well done.
  • Relate to people one-on-one. Know everyone on your team and treat them as individuals, but go beyond your department. Network within your company to build relationships that will nurture your career and make the workplace more interesting. Be willing to share information and offer help if you see someone struggling.

Building effective workplace relationships enhances your leadership and professionalism and creates a work environment that is more enriching and productive.

Need help cultivating a positive, productive workplace? Check out my Lead4Results program.


Strengthen Your Team’s Productivity

Your team relies on you to keep them headed in the right direction—toward meeting departmental goals. Your success in doing this depends on your ability to build and nurture a positively productive workplace. Here are five tips I teach in my GO System and Lead4Results programs to help you.

  1. Make sure everyone on your team understands the goals that the entire team is striving to reach and their part in accomplishing them. When each person appreciates their contributions to the entire team, they are more motivated to excel.
  2. When hiring, consider how well the person will fit within your team’s existing dynamics. You want candidates that will strengthen cooperation and collaboration among team members.
  3. Understand the strengths and weaknesses of each team member. Play to their strengths, and strengthen their weaknesses when making assignments. Provide opportunities for your employees to stretch through training and coaching and use delegation strategically. See my blog post Successful Delegation for more information.
  4. Make sure the work environment minimizes distractions, is ergonomically sound and safe, and is a neat and pleasant place to work in.
  5. Ask your team to recommend improvements that make their work more efficient, listen to what they say, and make changes, as appropriate. If a change cannot be made, explain why; otherwise, the denial may seem arbitrary and could shut down further productive suggestions.

A strong leader helps their team focus on raising the bar and grooms them to achieve more than they think is possible. Encourage them like a coach would before the team takes the field! See my blog post Coaching Employees for Performance Excellence for more tips.


Persuasion and Professionalism

Persuasion is the ability to get people to agree with you, and it is a skill you can learn. Here are seven tips to help you be more persuasive and to get the results you need.

  1. Be consistent. This means that you walk your talk, and your words and actions are in sync. Consistency is the foundation; you cannot be persuasive without it since it establishes your credibility.
  2. Be credible. Credibility means that others believe what you say and rely on you to keep your word. The two together lead to trust.
  3. Be trustworthy. When people trust you, you can persuade them to your point of view. At this stage, it is vitally important than you do nothing to damage the trust they have for you. It is almost impossible to regain trust once it is broken.
  4. Be honest. Trust requires you to make honest, factual statements that come from sound, qualified sources. Exaggeration or hyperbole may be accepted initially, but will damage your credibility and trustworthiness over time. Be careful to clearly identify your personal positions as beliefs or opinions.
  5. Be transparent. Speak up if something happens that affects your team or deliverables and accept accountability by admitting mistakes and acting to remedy them. This deepens the trust you have with others and improves your ability to be persuasive.

Persuasion is a skill that can be learned. Check out my workshop, Getting Results through Influence and Persuasion to bring this program to your team.


The Pareto Principle Makes You More Positively Productive

Have you heard of the Pareto Principle? Many people have and use it to be more positively productive every day. If you haven’t, here’s a quick explanation of what it is and how you can use it.

In the 1800s, Italian economist Vilferdo Pareto studied the wealth and income distribution in Europe. He discovered that approximately 20 percent of population held 80 percent of the wealth. The ratio held when it was extended to other areas and became known as the “Pareto distribution” or the “80/20 Rule.”

The 80/20 Rule states that roughly 80% of effects come from 20% of causes. For example, 80 percent of your profits will come from 20 percent of your customers, and 80 of complaints you receive also will come from 20 percent of your customers! Sometimes, the distribution skews one way or another—90/10 or 85/15, but generally it holds true.

Applying the Pareto Principle at work means that 20 percent of your activities will produce 80 percent of the results you need. The more you focus on the 20 percent that delivers the 80 percent, the more positively productive you are. The key is identifying the 20 percent that matters!

Look at your job description and performance plan. What results are you being held accountable to achieve? What is in the top tier of importance? Is the client conversion project more important than the monthly sales report? Is the new marketing plan implementation more important than the stack of performance evaluations on your desk?

Each time you decide to focus on a task, ask yourself if you are working on the most important task you can in the moment? Are you working on the critical 20 percent? Stopping to answer these questions will help you focus on the key tasks. See my blog posts Priorities Matter and Juggling Multiple Deadlines Using Paired Comparison for more information you can use.


Does Your Workplace Stress Your Team?

Workplace stress is epidemic, and just about everyone experiences a level of stress every day. According to a survey on workplace stress from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 40 percent of respondents stated that their jobs were very or extremely stressful! The report sites these contributing factors that lead to stress: “Heavy workload, infrequent rest breaks, long work hours and shiftwork; hectic and routine tasks that have little inherent meaning, do not utilize workers’ skills, and provide little sense of control.”

Here are some tools to help you identify and reduce work-related stress in your department.

  • Check ergonomics. Poorly positioned computers, badly designed office chairs, inadequate lighting, and offensive noises and odors are just some environmental factors that create stress. Check with your company’s environmental safety unit for solutions that are easily implemented.
  • Require everyone to take short stretch breaks every 60 to 90 minutes. Sitting for too long is physically debilitating and detrimental to health, and focusing for more than 60 or 90 minutes reduces productivity. A short break is necessary to relive physical and mental stress.
  • Make sure every team member understands your expectations about deliverables, deadlines, and performance measures. Stress can mount when employees are unsure of themselves or their roles in your organization.
  • Provide opportunities for employees to take training and learn new skills. This shows that you appreciate them and are willing to invest in their development. Raising morale and improving motivation are stress-busters.
  • Lighten up! Laughter in the workplace relieves tension and stress. See my blog post Does Positivity at Work Really Make a Difference?

As a manager, you need to evaluate if your work environment is negatively stressing your team and take steps to create a stress-free workplace. See my blog posts Take Action to Manage Stress and Stress Busters for more information.