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Archive for August, 2011


Make the Most of the Phone

Most people know you from your voice on the phone. While a phone conversation is a much warmer type of communication than email, make sure your phone “style” says what you want it to say. 

  • Make sure your voice sounds friendly by smiling when you answer the phone.
  • Speak clearly and pronounce every word precisely.
  • Speak slower than you would if you were meeting in person. It takes most people longer to process what they hear over the phone since they do not have your facial expressions and gestures to enhance understanding.
  • Use courteous and respectful language. No one has ever complained that someone was “too polite”!
  • Answer the phone with a greeting such as, “Good morning, XYZ Company, Carol Barnes speaking. How may I help you?” 

Make sure your voice mail message reflects you, your business and is working for you. 

  • Keep your voice mail greeting brief and update it, as necessary, so people know when you will return calls. For example, “You’ve reached Carol Barnes at XYZ Company. It’s August 22. I’m in meetings this morning and will return your call after 1 p.m. today. Please leave a detailed message and a number where I can reach you.”
  • Ask that the caller leave a detailed message.  That way when you return the call you are fully prepared and the call is productive.  This will also help eliminate the need for additional calls.
  • Do not record “cutesy” voice mail statements or greetings that sound unprofessional.

 Voicemail can be a very productive tool if you use it wisely.


The Art of Giving Feedback

How you give feedback can make or break workplace relationships. You can use feedback to reinforce positive behaviors or correct negative ones. The goal is to give more positive feedback which will help people improve, develop and grow. Here are tips for giving effective feedback: 

  • Never give feedback when you are angry or upset.
  • Be courteous and diplomatic. Remember, most employees want to improve, but may need help understanding how.
  • Provide specific, meaningful statements and evaluations that encourage the employee to make positive changes.
  • Present your points in a calm, clear, rational way.
  • Use words that directly relate to behavior, not personalities.
  • Paint a bigger picture by describing the effect of the employee’s work or behavior on you and your unit.
  • Avoid making judgmental statements and never exaggerate.
  • Ask the person’s opinion about how and where he/she thinks improvements can be made. 

By giving feedback in a positive and constructive manner, you will help others understand their strengths and weaknesses, influence behavior and improve performance by increasing confidence and competence.


Look Before You Decide

We spend much of our day solving problems and making decisions. Often, we do this by reacting to a situation when we’re on deadline, stressed and short for time. This is often where people struggle. They react to what they think the problem is. Instead, try to understand if there is a problem in the first place! Change your approach and become more proactive by answering the following questions:

  • What makes you think there is a problem? Describe what you think the problem is.
  • Where is it happening? Is it isolated to certain people or areas? Is it pervasive?
  • When is it happening? Does it seem to arise at intervals or at certain times?
  • With whom is it happening? Does the problem arise from a conflict between personalities? Work styles? Does it seem to center around one person or department?
  • Why is it happening? What might be the contributing factors to this problem? The environment? Lack of training or preparedness? Differences among team members?

Describe the problem using a gap analysis. Describe what is happening, then describe what you want to happen. The difference is the gap that needs to be addressed with a plan to get from where you are now to where you want to go.