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Showcase Your Skills

If you want to advance in your career, people need to know what you can do and how well you can do it. If you are a good writer, you must be able to demonstrate this skill so that others know you have it. When a job opportunity arises that requires strong writing skills, you want people to think of you.

How can you showcase your skills without bragging and putting people off? Here are some tips.

  • Start by choosing a skill you want to demonstrate, such as written or oral communication, time management, organization, conflict resolution, negotiation, project management, creativity, leadership, problem solving, and so on. You want others to know you have leadership skills.
  • Look for opportunities to showcase this skill. For example, you can offer to lead a team that is researching a way to streamline procedures. If that’s not possible, show initiative, which is part of leadership. Suggest improvements or ask insightful questions at meetings, offer to coach or mentor a new employee, and take on additional assignments eagerly and with enthusiasm.
  • Discuss your skills with your manager during your performance review. Since we often forget what we achieved, I suggest you start keeping an accomplishment journal. This can be a paper document, a Word document, or a note on Outlook or your phone. Every Friday, take a few minutes to jot down what you accomplished the past week and how you did it, so you have a resource of successful achievements you can refer to.

Being able to demonstrate your skills without bragging requires you to take actions that highlight your expertise. You don’t have to tell people how good you are; you can show them!


Handle a Rude Customer with CARE

Having a customer service job requires patience and empathy, which can be challenging when you are faced with a rude customer. In this situation, it is doubly important for you to remain calm and professional, so you can resolve the customer’s problem without getting caught up in their drama. Here are some tips to make that task easier.

  • Just breathe. When you are confronted by an angry or rude person, the natural tendency is to tense up. This tightens your breathing and can elevate your blood pressure. The key is to take a long breath—not a huge sigh! You don’t want the customer to know you are doing it, so just take a long, slow, soft breath and smile genuinely while you do it. You may also take one small step back, putting a bit of distance between you and the customer.
  • Let the customer be angry.They need an opportunity to get out their frustration. They may make hurtful comments and while it’s almost impossible to not take what they say personally, you need to look past the outbursts and acknowledge that they just want to be heard. Approach them with an open willingness to let them vent.
  • Stay calm and respectful. Eventually your calm demeanor will calm down the customer! At this point, rude, angry customers can be reasoned with. Reassure them that you want to help resolve the issue and begin asking questions to find out the facts.

What about a customer who uses abusive language or expletives? Stay professional and politely tell them that you will not tolerate that kind of language. Reinforce that you want to help them, but you can’t do so if their language is offensive. If necessary, you may have to involve your manager or even security if you feel threatened.

Check out my workshop, Creating a Positive Customer Service Experience for strategies and techniques to improve customer service.


Get Out of Your Own Way!

Do you complain that other people get in your way and prevent you from doing your job? Do they interrupt you, distract you, and derail your efforts to be positively productive? Do you sometimes feel like a helpless victim? If so, stop! You’re not a victim. In many cases, you are getting in your own way.

Let’s look at three areas where you might be sabotaging yourself.

Interruptions.It can take up to 20 minutes to regain your focus when you are interrupted, so you must take control of them. This requires you to be selfish about your time and how you are using it. When someone tries to interrupt you, explain that you’re on a deadline and will call them back later; make sure you do! Set your out-of-office message to tell people when you are available to answer questions and be firm about it. Close your door if you can. Remove your visitor’s chair or pile papers and books on it. Unless it’s your job to answer questions, start referring people to either online or print resources.

Perfectionism.Your work needs to be accurate and precise, not perfect. I’m not saying it’s okay to make mistakes, but spending an inordinate amount of time tinkering and tinkering with something to make it perfect is counter-productive. Accept the fact that sometimes you will make mistakes despite your best efforts. Acknowledge that you can improve, will learn from any mistakes, and make it okay to be wrong!

Procrastination.Often this is the heart of not getting things done. For some reason, you just don’t want to do it. Maybe you don’t know where to start. If this is stopping you, start anywhere. There’s no requirement that you start at the beginning. Maybe you don’t know what to do because you have a lack of training or experience. If so, find out who can teach you, check out training offered by your company, and use online resources to find what you need. Sometimes, you just don’t like the task. In this case, limit how much time you will commit to it and give yourself a reward when you finish.

Remember, people may not be what’s keeping you from being positively productive. You might be the reason. See my blog post, Where Are You Wasting Time?


When a Key Employee Leaves

As you know, an important part of leadership is developing employees, so they can advance in their careers. The downside, they are promoted into a new position, and you lose them.

When an employee begins to grow and take on more responsibility, start planning for a time when they will be promoted into a new job or even leave the company. If you want to keep the employee on your team, look at your own department and decide if the existing structure provides opportunities for this employee to advance. If not, can you make changes that will allow for promotion or higher compensation? If this isn’t possible, the day may come when the employee will leave.

Succession planning is a key responsibility for all managers. You don’t want a key employee walking out the door without having a replacement in the wings. To be effective, you must constantly develop employees, so they can fill different roles in your department. This means implementing a robust cross-training initiative. Don’t limit yourself to your department. Network with other managers to see where you can cross-train across units to develop more well-rounded employees and give them opportunities to grow their skills and learn new ones. See my blog post The Value of Cross-Trainingfor more information


Stop Procrastinating and Be More Positively Productive

You know what you must do, deadlines are looming, but you can’t get started. Instead, you work on less important tasks. We all suffer from procrastination sometimes, but if you are a chronic procrastinator, you’re ruining your productivity, and your professionalism will suffer. Here are five quick tips to get going when you just want to sit back and do nothing!

  1. Start anywhere. No rule says that you must start at the beginning, and unless it’s a matter of safety, you don’t have to do the task in any special order! The key is to just start.
  2. Take one small step.Identify the smallest step you are willing to take and take it. Then do it again and again, focusing just on the next smallest step. Large tasks are easier to get into when you break them down to just one step.
  3. Make an appointment with yourself. Go to your calendar and set a specific time to work on the task. Put it down just as if it was an appointment or important meeting. Set an alarm for fifteen minutes before the appointed time to gather any materials you need, and when the time arrives, get to work.
  4. Play to your peak hours.If you are a morning person, schedule critical tasks in the morning; if you are a night person, schedule then for the afternoon. These times are your most productive.
  5. Don’t stop.Just starting can produce momentum, so keep going. Even if the time you have allotted to the task arrives, keep going and take just one more step, and then one more until you reach the end.

Don’t let procrastination drain your productivity! When you find yourself dragging your heels, take one small step and see where it takes you. For more information see my blog post Get Into the Now Habit.


Flexibility at Work

Most people associate flexibility at work with work hours; however, flexibility also applies to your attitude about what happens and the choices you have about responding.

The opposite of flexibility is rigidity. Rigid people are said to have a fixed mindset. They see few options, are reluctant to make changes, and find most effort futile. As you can imagine, this rigid mindset closes them off to many opportunities. On the other hand, when you are flexible, you have a growth mindset, which helps you adapt to change and more easily meet challenges. This is the path to success at work and in life.

In today’s workplace, change is the norm. Everyone is working faster, and most people have more responsibility now than ever before. Your ability to adapt is one of the most important managerial and leadership skills you can develop in both yourself and your employees. Here are some tips:

  • When faced with a challenge, find a way to turn it into an opportunity to gain experience. Instead of groaning and fretting about whether you can meet it or not, set an intention to find a way! Ask an expert for advice, do online research, reach out to your network, find a mentor.
  • Take more calculated risks to help you stretch and grow. Consider the downside of not acting versus what you gain by acting. Trust your expertise and instincts and reach for greater achievements.
  • Form win-win relationships with others for mutual help and support. Accept that everyone has a unique style for working, learning, and communicating. Become comfortable with a variety of personalities and learn how to listen and communicate with attention and respect.

Notice areas where you are rigid and discover what is holding you back. Cultivate a habit of flexibility to enhance your professionalism and demonstrate your leadership skills. See my blog post Build Your Mental Musclefor more information.


Three Work Habits to Avoid

Habits can serve our productivity or harm it. For example, the habit of spending the last 15 minutes of the day planning for the next day improves productivity. Another good habit is taking regular breaks throughout the day to re-charge. Even if many of our habits support us, we sometimes fall prey to bad habits that negatively affect our productivity. Here are three work habits to avoid.

Habit 1: Checking email throughout the day. As I teach in my Writing and Managing Email workshop, checking email throughout the day is OK if you do something with the email when you check it – just don’t leave it in your in-box.

Habit 2: Letting yourself be interrupted. You may not believe this, but you allow yourself to be interrupted. Whenever someone comes into your office or cubicle, you have a choice to stop what you are doing and take care of their needs or ask them to wait until later when it’s a better time for you. Be more assertive about your time and how you let others use it.

Habit 3; Multitasking. Many people think they are being more efficient when they do several things simultaneously. This is a myth. What you think is multitasking is serial tasking. Your focus is moving from one activity to another so fast, it seems as if you are multitasking, but you’re not. You are turning your attention on and off, which means you will spend more time than if you completed the tasks sequentially.

Take some time each day to notice your habits and work to change those that are draining your productivity. See my blog post Your Habits Can Make or Break Productivity for more information.


Get Moving to Be More Positively Productive

If you exercise regularly, you know that the energy boost you get from exertion can carry over for hours after your workout. Exercise doesn’t just give you physical energy; it also helps build mental muscle and reduce stress. The chemical mix from exercise increases learning, memory, decision-making, and problem-solving ability, all of which improves productivity.

  • Take short movement breaks. Every 60 or 90 minutes, get up and move. Jog in place, walk to the breakroom, take a quick walk around the block. Do something that gets your blood flowing and increases your breathing. When you return to your desk, you will be refreshed and able to be more positively productive.
  • Take the stairs. When you choose the stairs over the elevator or escalator, you give your leg muscles a workout and burn plenty of calories. You achieve the energetic benefits of a longer, more moderate workout in a shorter amount of time. Stair climbing needs no special equipment and can be performed by most people.
  • Walk more. Park farther from the entrance, get off the bus or train one stop before or after your regular one. You might have to add extra time to your schedule, but the benefits of walking will more than make up for it since you will arrive at work energized and ready to jump in.

Don’t dive in with a whole routine of daily movement. Start slowly. Take one flight of stairs during the day. Add a minute or two to your short movement breaks. Your goal is to add more movement to your day, so pay attention to your body and note how much more positively productive you will become.


Tardiness and Professionalism

Have you ever had an appointment with a client or colleague and ended up cooling your heels because you were on time, but they were running late? How often have you sat at a restaurant table, waiting for a guest who was tied up in traffic?

Everyone has had to wait for someone at one time or another, but if you’re the person who frequently keeps others waiting, you are damaging your professionalism and relationships and losing productivity. If you find yourself always running late, here are a few things you can do to stay on time.

  • Before leaving the office the night before an appointment or meeting, prepare everything you will need to take with you and place it where you can grab it and go the next day.
  • Set an alarm or notification on your calendar or phone so that you leave with enough time to arrive promptly. Allow for possible delays, such as slow elevators, no taxis, public transportation breakdowns, and so on.
  • Use an agenda to facilitate your meetings and start and end them on time.
  • Be assertive about your time when attending other people’s meetings. Inform the meeting leader that you must leave at a certain time to get to another appointment, gather your belongings about five minutes before you must leave, and then depart on time. See my blog post Keep Meetings on Track.
  • Bring something to work on or read if you arrive early, so you can stay positively productive while you wait for latecomers to arrive.

Even with the best planning, you will sometimes be late. As soon as you know you won’t arrive on time, notify those you are meeting via text, email, or phone call. Make sure you apologize for your tardiness when you arrive.


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.