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28
Apr

Five Communication Mistakes to Avoid

Everyone has known the embarrassment of saying something and wishing they could take it back. When we speak without thinking, we can hurt someone’s feelings, damage our reputations, or sabotage our careers. Here are five communication pitfalls to avoid. 

  1. Shooting from the hip. It is easy to respond immediately, especially if you are upset or angry. Stop yourself and communicate more thoughtfully by asking for time to respond. Say something like, “That’s an interesting point. Give me a few minutes to think about it.” Then, think before you speak.
  2. Sending e-mail without proofreading. This is a common mistake. It happens because e-mail is quick, and we tend to move fast when handling it. It doesn’t take more than a minute or two to proofread e-mail before hitting send whereas it can take a long time to clarify what you really meant or to apologize for a negative tone. See my workshop Writing and Managing E-mail for help.
  1. Being too brief. Most people want us to get to the point when we are writing, but that can create an extremely abrupt, offensive tone. If you use a lot of short sentences, you are punching the reader, so lengthen your sentence structure. Make sure you honor basic business etiquette by using please and thank you and by making requests rather than barking orders.
  2. Rambling. The opposite of being too brief is rambling. If you ramble when you are writing, people won’t read. Generally, if your writing is too long, you are providing too much background and context. Strip these out and put them in a section labeled “Background” at the end of the document for people who want to read it. If you ramble when you are speaking, you need to focus on the points you want to make and watch the listener’s body language. It will tell you if you are going on too long. 
  3. Assuming you have been understood. Too often, we think we have communicated our meaning when, in fact, the listener has gone away with a different understanding. Encourage people to ask questions of you to ascertain their understanding. Don’t rely on them, however, also check for understanding by your asking questions that start with how, why, or what. See my blog post Shhh! Listen! for more information.

Take some time to make sure your communication is clear, concise, and correct, and you will be more positively productive. 

17
Apr

Does Your Team Trust You to Lead?

As the leader, your employees look to you for guidance and direction, and most take their lead from you about how to respond to what’s happening in the workplace. You are always on stage, giving clues about how they should think, feel, and behave when it comes to your organization. They trust you to lead the way.

One important key to trust is your skill at demonstrating your expertise in both the technical aspects of the job and as a leader. Consistently share your expertise with them and help them be more effective and successful. Show your willingness to groom them for greater responsibility and promotions.

Strengthen trust by avoiding gossip, being careful in how and when you communicate, and showing high emotional intelligence at all times. This is especially important in times of change when employees feel uncertain. They will look to you to see how you are responding. If you show doubt or uncertainty about the change, they will reflect this. Your ability to communicate confidence and be trustworthy can help mitigate their concerns. 

8
Apr

Is Your Team Happy

A happy team is a productive team, and team happiness depends on your ability to create a positive environment where your employees feel valued. This, in turn, leads to productivity. According to study by the economists at the University of Warwick, happy employees showed a 12 percent increase in productivity whereas unhappy employees were 10 percent less productive. So how can you keep your team happy? 

  • Make each team member feel valued.  Take time to get to know your team as individuals and relate to them on a personal level. Make sure they understand how much you value their contributions to the team’s success.
  • Find out what makes each team member happy. While some employees value money and promotions, many others are happier with time off for family and friends. Talk to your team members and personalize recognition.
  • Give team members a voice. Keep two-way communication open and vigorous. Encourage your team to make suggestions on how to improve their jobs and the processes they follow. Don’t just listen; act on their suggestions whenever possible.

Set aside time every day to interact with each team member either in person or virtually. Build a bond between them and you and with each other to create a happy atmosphere and help your team be more positively productive. For more information, see my blog post Does Positivity at Work Really Make a Difference?

1
Apr

Take Action to Manage Stress

For fast-acting relief, try slowing down.  Lily Tomlin

Everyone reacts to stress differently; what motivates one person sends another into a panic. Some stress is normal and helps keep you going. This is called eustress. Negative stress, on the other hand, is distressing to your body, mind, spirit, and relationships. If you ask most people about stress, they will probably say they have too much of the negative kind! Here are some signs of negative stress or distress:

  • Frequent stomach upsets 
  • Trouble sleeping 
  • Feeling tired all the time 
  • Feeling burned out at work 
  • Having a “short fuse”
  • Grinding your teeth or clenching your jaw

Do any of these ring a bell? If so, here are some quick fixes for stress relief on the job.

  • Take walk outside. Fresh air and sunshine are just what the doctor ordered. Getting your body into motion releases chemicals that can raise your mood and reduce your stress.
  • Drink lots of water. Frequent hydration keeps your body in top shape and helps flush the negative chemicals released by negative stress.
  • Re-evaluate your priorities. Eliminate anything that doesn’t have to be done today and focus on what you can accomplish. Don’t beat yourself up about what cannot be done.
  • Stop multi-tasking. Multi-tasking is stressful. Your attention jumps back and forth from one task to another. This constant switching causes tension. The result is feelings of distress. Not only does multi-tasking stress you out, you spend more time getting the tasks done than if you do them sequentially. 
  • Take a time out. Sit back and think about something that matters to you—your family, friends, pets, an upcoming trip to Paris, a golf game on the weekend, and so on. Taking your mind off work and putting it on something or someone important and pleasurable is taking a mini-vacation without leaving your cubicle! 

Don’t let stress beat you down! When you experience the signs of stress, immediately implement one of these tips for relief. If you suffer from prolonged stress, you should see a health care professional who can give you additional remedies. For more stress relief, see my blog posts Is it Distress or Eustress? and  Stress Busters

26
Mar

Avoid Delegation Mistakes

Delegation is a powerful tool to develop your employees and show that you trust them to deliver results. Despite the importance of delegation for productivity and employee development, many managers avoid it because they have experienced delegation failures in the past. Here are five common delegation mistakes to watch out for. 

  1. Failing to clarify required outcomes and expectations. Always take time to explain deliverables and measurements and answer all questions. 
  2. Choosing the wrong person. Delegation is great for helping employees learn new skills and tasks, but don’t set the employee up for failure by delegating an assignment that isn’t suited to their temperament. Delegating sales calls to an introverted person may not play into their strengths!
  3. Not setting check-in points. With a new assignment, establish check-ins or status reports to let you know how the employee is progressing and where you need to provide help or feedback.
  4. Micromanaging the assignment. After you hand over the assignment, be available to answer questions and provide feedback when necessary, but let the employee handle things on their own. 
  5. Not providing evaluation at the end of the assignment. It is important to meet with the employee and give them feedback on how well they performed. If the assignment is an ongoing one, this initial feedback can set the tone for ongoing success. 

Delegation isn’t hard, but it does take preparation and management. Be willing to invest the time and effort because you will save time in the long run while enhancing the professional skills of your team and showing them that you trust them. 

See my blog post Successful Delegation for more information.

19
Mar

Avoid Delegation Mistakes

Delegation is a powerful tool to develop your employees and show that you trust them to deliver results. Despite the importance of delegation for productivity and employee development, many managers avoid it because they have experienced delegation failures in the past. Here are five common delegation mistakes to watch out for. 

  1. Failing to clarify required outcomes and expectations. Always take time to explain deliverables and measurements and answer all questions. 
  1. Choosing the wrong person. Delegation is great for helping employees learn new skills and tasks, but don’t set the employee up for failure by delegating an assignment that isn’t suited to their temperament. Delegating sales calls to an introverted person may not play into their strengths!
  2. Not setting check-in points. With a new assignment, establish check-ins or status reports to let you know how the employee is progressing and where you need to provide help or feedback.
  3. Micromanaging the assignment. After you hand over the assignment, be available to answer questions and provide feedback when necessary, but let the employee handle things on their own. 
  4. Not providing evaluation at the end of the assignment. It is important to meet with the employee and give them feedback on how well they performed. If the assignment is an ongoing one, this initial feedback can set the tone for ongoing success. 

Delegation isn’t hard, but it does take preparation and management. Be willing to invest the time and effort because you will save time in the long run while enhancing the professional skills of your team and showing them that you trust them. 

See my blog post Successful Delegation for more information.

13
Mar

Be More Productive with E-mail

Experts estimate that we spend about three hours a day on business e-mails. That’s almost half of your productive work time! Here are some tips to help you be more positively productive with e-mail.

  • Open, read and respond to e-mail at set times during the day, if appropriate for your job duties. You will handle them faster and more efficiently than if you take a knee-jerk reaction and answer them as they arrive.
  • Set rules so that the most important e-mails and those from the most important senders go into a special in-box that you set up. You can set a rule by following the instructions for the e-mail service you use.
  • File away completed e-mails as soon as you finish them. Allowing completed e-mails to stay in your in-box creates electronic clutter and diminishes your productivity.
  • Use “reply all” only if everyone needs to see your response. Otherwise, delete recipients that are unnecessary before sending your reply.
  • Watch your tone. If your e-mails have been criticized for being too abrupt or rude, lengthen your sentences and make sure you are courteous and polite. 
  • Take a minute or two to proofread before hitting “send” and correct any grammar or punctuation mistakes.

Need more help with e-mail? Check out my popular workshop Writing and Managing E-mail

4
Mar

Does Your Team Have a Customer Service Mindset?

Customers judge your organization based on how they are treated whether in person, by phone, or through e-mail. Every point of contact with a customer offers a chance to enhance your relationship with that customer—and with everyone that customer is associated with on social media! 

More than ever before, customers are sharing their experience—good and bad—using social media, so one unfortunate customer experience can reach thousands of existing and potential customers. Here are some strategies that will help your team create consistently positive customer interactions.

  • Avoid judgment. Consider the customer’s viewpoint, understand where they are coming from, and accept their perception of the situation. 
  • Focus on a solution. Customers want results, so clearly communicate options, explain applicable policies and rules, and describe how you will proceed.
  • Allow time for questions and explanations. This is especially important when dealing with older customers and people who require more time to process information and make decisions.
  • Be responsive. Some interactions cannot be rushed, so take your cue from the customer. If they need more time, slow down; on the other hand, if they want speed, pick up the pace.
  • Watch body language. The customer’s body language will communicate more than what they are saying. Look for positive signs, such as good eye contact, smiling, leaning toward you, and a relaxed posture. Make sure you pay attention to your body language, too!

A mindset that truly values the customer and demonstrates customer care can help your team deliver quality service that customer’s value and will recommend to others. See my blog post Tips for Building Customer Loyalty for more information. 

25
Feb

Get Along Better with Your Manager

The more you understand your manager and his/her likes and dislikes, the easier it is to work together. Your ability to develop an individual relationship with the person you work for is the key to being positively productive and valued.  Pay attention to your manager’s preferences in these areas:

  • How does your manager like to receive information?

If your manager prefers in-person conversations, set a regular, standing appointment to touch base. If they prefer email, set a rule or filter to have their e-mails go into a special folder that you check more frequently.  For information on rules and filters for e-mail, check out my Writing and Managing E-mail program. 

  • Does your manager like just the facts or the whole story? 

Some people want you to get to the point. They do not want to hear about your process, your challenges, or anything else they feel is a waste of time. Others want to know the gritty details. Do you know what your manager prefers? 

  • Is your manager a lark or an owl? 

Larks are early birds at their best in the morning. This is when they tackle important tasks that require concentration and focus. Night owls are just the opposite. They are best later in the morning and into the afternoon and evening. Take advantage of your manager’s most productive time by scheduling important activities and decisions during their peak hours. 

The more you know and understand your manager, the better your working relationship can become. Start now to pay close attention to their preferences and change your behavior and work habits to support them. Do you work for a “difficult” manager? Check out my blog post Handling Difficult Managers for more information.

18
Feb

Lead 4 Results

Some people are natural leaders; most of us need to learn how to lead. Here are some tips to help you be a stronger leader and get the results you need.

  • Walk your talk. If you want your team to deliver results and be positively productive, you need to set the right example. Do your best every day and hold yourself to a higher standard than everyone else.
  • Maintain a leadership attitude. Leaders don’t crumble when things hit the fan or when faced with a challenge. They step up and take charge, encouraging their team to stay focused on the goal, remain calm, and be positive. 
  • Share the glory. Show your appreciation for hard work by rewarding and recognizing the accomplishments of your team members. When you acknowledge their successes and give them credit when it is due, you gain their trust and loyalty.
  • Be accountable. Share the glory, but assume accountability for the actions of your team. Hold each person responsible for results and a level of performance, but the buck really stops with you as the leader. This takes courage and humility when things have gone wrong, but these are the characteristics of authentic leadership. For more information, see my blog post Are You an Accountable Leader?
  •  Listen and learn. Just because you’re a leader doesn’t mean you have all the answers. A good leader learns from others and is willing to discover new, better ways of doing things.  Encourage your team to make suggestions for improvement and act on the ones that will make a positive difference.

Leadership can be challenging, especially if you also are a manager and are  responsible for day-to-day productivity. These tips can help you improve your leadership ability easily and effectively. For more help, check out my Lead4Results.