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Stand Out at Work

If you’re like most managers, part of your job is to develop your team and help them succeed. You also need to help yourself succeed by standing out from the crowd and establishing your reputation as a leader.

  • When you arrive at work in the morning, do something important. Don’t start by answering e-mail or hunkering down with a cup of coffee. Check in with your team and spread around some praise and encouragement. Drop into your manager’s office and share an accomplishment from the day before.
  • Establish a reputation for excellence in one critical area of your business. Don’t become known as the go-to person when the copier jams or the computers freeze. Be known as a champion facilitator, negotiator, peacemaker, conflict resolver, sales person, and so on.
  • Take on projects and activities that showcase your strengths.
  • Offer to mentor new team members to help them get up to speed or teach a lunch-and-learn to share your expertise.
  • Show initiative and come up with ways of streamlining processes and procedures to make them more efficient.
  • Volunteer to serve on teams and committees that let you connect with others in the organization outside your department. Become known in a larger playing field.
  • Speak up at meetings to demonstrate your interest and expertise.Leaders know how to make a point and stand out.

Actively look for ways to improve how things are done and how the organization can be more profitable and positively productive. Show up as someone who sees the big picture and wants to help the company succeed.

See my blog post How to Talk About Accomplishments Without Bragging.



Control Presentation Jitters

Many people fear public speaking more than they fear death! I’m not sure that’s true, but I do know many people feel presentation jitters before having to speak to a group. Whether you are presenting to a dozen people around a conference table or several hundred in a meeting room, you can control the jitters with these tips.

  • Be prepared. Know more than you will ever say in the presentation. That depth of knowledge will give you confidence that you can handle questions. Decide on the specific points you want to make and the order in which you want to make them, but don’t memorize them.
  • Control your breathing. Generally, when you are nervous, your breathing will become shallow and rapid. Take slower and deeper breaths and follow your breathing for a few minutes. This is a tried-and-true method to lower stress.
  • Smile! Smiling actually changes your body chemistry by increasing endorphins and serotonin levels. It lifts your mood, helps you feel more confident, and makes you seem more trustworthy.
  • Make good eye contact. Really look at people, pause, make a connection, and then move on. When presenting in a large room, break the room into four quadrants, move your gaze around, pause at each quadrant for a while, and look at people in that quadrant.
  • Get out from behind the lectern. You will be tempted to hang onto it like a life preserver. Instead, move around. This boosts your energy and communicates your energy to the audience. Don’t wander as if you are lost; move with determination, then stop and deliver part of your presentation before moving again.

Use the jitters to energize your presentation. A bit of nerves is good for you since the tension and adrenalin in your body can boost your performance!

“There are only two types of speakers in the world. 1. The nervous and 2. Liars.” 

Mark Twain



Be Accountable Even if You Aren’t Responsible

As a manager or leader, your staff or coworkers may make promises, take actions, or make mistakes that cause problems—problems that youneed to handle. While you are not responsible for the action that caused the problem, you are accountable as the manager to resolve it and make the customer happy.

30365778 – hello i am accountable words on a name tag sticker showing you accept responsibility or blame for a problem

  1. Start by assessing the situation.
    • What is causing the problem?
    • Was a mistake made?
    • What promise was made?
  2. Let the customer know that you will respond to the problem within a reasonable period of time.
  3. Identify what you reasonably can do to resolve the problem for the customer.
  4. Whom do you need to speak with in order to handle the issue?
  5. Do you need to involve your manager? If so, be prepared to propose a solution. Never go to your manager with a problem; go with a solution to a problem!
  6. Evaluate your options and decide the best course of action to take.
  7. Let the customer know your decision and explain how it was arrived at. Offer some kind of compensation to the customer, if appropriate.

After the issue is resolved, meet with the employee to determine how the problem occurred and coach the employee to ensure it doesn’t happen again. Establish clear goals, expectations, and ownership for every staff member and make sure employees know what they are accountable for achieving.  Determine if your team members have enough autonomy to make decisions without your intervention and give them the tools they need to do so.

See my blog post How Accountable Is Your Team?


Get into the NOW Habit

“Wouldn’t it be nice if life took a cue from horse racing and a gun went off when it was time for us to get moving? Life rarely sends us a signal as clear as a starter’s pistol. It’s up to us to recognize when it’s time to just start.”

Stuart Levine, Cut to the Chase

Time management starts with managing yourself. The more work and projects you put off, the less time you will have to do each. This often results in decreased quality of work and increased stress.

Chunk it down. Do not put it off just because you will not have enough time to finish the entire thing in one sitting. You can eat an elephant one bite at a time.Break up large tasks into small tasks and work on the small tasks consistently.

Gain momentum. Do some work on assignments as soon as you get them, so you get your mind focused on the project right away. This can provide momentum and help you keep going.

Use bribery! Give yourself a reward for accomplishing part of a task you have been avoiding.

Set appointments on your calendar. Set aside specific time slots on your calendar to work on tasks you are procrastinating about and honor those commitments.

See my blog post Procrastination for more tips and start now to do what you have been putting off. Discover how positively productive you can become by just taking one small step forward!


How Each Generation Views Leadership

Preference for management styles is a major source of conflict and misunderstanding, especially among team members from different generations. Younger employees feel that their ideas and contributions are ignored, and they are not given the same respect as older workers. On the other hand, older managers believe that younger employees do not respect authority, seniority or rank. Here are some tips to help you understand what style of leadership each generation prefers.

  • Traditionals appreciate strong, “control-and-command” leadership. They respect rank unquestioningly and see no value in consensus or collaborative styles of leadership.
  • Baby Boomers are the opposite of Traditionals and prefer collaborative leaders who give power to the people. For Boomers, it’s democracy first and then authority. Expect them to question everything and want to “make it better.”
  • Gen X is unimpressed with authority—position does not automatically lead to respect; leaders must earn it. They have no respect for leaders who rely on authority or rules to lead and distrust the consensus style of leadership favored by Boomers.
  • Gen Y looks up to leaders and expects guidance and some protection from them. They see a leader as their mentor and coach. They treat everyone as peers.
  • Gen Z want managers and leaders who are willing to relate to them as persons and work with them to develop clearly defined career paths. Managers who invest in their success will be rewarded with hard-working, loyal employees.

Understanding each generation’s preference for management styles is a key element of effective leadership. Knowing what each generation responds to and rejects can help you lead better, more positively productive teams.


Talking About Tough Stuff at Work

Difficult conversations are hard any time, but when you need to have a tough talk with someone at work, it pays to be prepared!

  • Decide on your purpose and what you hope to accomplish with the conversation. Your objectives should be mutually beneficial and should demonstrate empathy for the other person.
  • Be objective and evaluate how you might have contributed to the situation. Have you done or said something that could have been misinterpreted?
  • Set an intention that the interaction will go well. Keep this in mind to help you stay on track and not let your emotions take charge.
  • Examine your assumptions about the other person’s intentions and avoid ascribing negative motivations to him or her. Keep in mind that if your buttons are being pushed, you may be experiencing feelings held over from something totally unrelated to the current situation.
  • Practice the conversation to yourself, using a variety of possible responses and situations. Imagine handling things with calmness and grace.

A little preparation can make the difference between a successful exchange that results in a positive outcome and one that creates hurt feelings and resentment. Your ability to have difficult conversations and talk about the tough stuff at work is a skill that will serve you both on and off the job. See my blog post Don’t Run Away from Conflict for more information.


Tips for Cleaning the Desk Before Vacation

Vacation time is just around the corner and now is the time to start getting ready to take off. Here are a few tips for clearing your desk and preparing for time off, so you can enjoy your vacation and relax without any stress or worries about the job.

  • Consider the Length of Your Absence. Before you plan to leave, consider how long you will be gone and what deliverables are due right before you leave, while you are gone, and right after you return. This is the key to successful delegation and for keeping your work in order while you are away.
  • Delegate Tasks. Delegating tasks is necessary any time you plan to go on vacation. This ensures that you take care of any work generally done by you. Delegation helps you put your mind at ease, knowing critical activities will be accomplished in your absence. Decide which tasks should be delegated and to whom, and prepare them for the task well before you leave. See my blog post Delegate for Results for more information.
  • Clear the Clutter. Clear any clutter and documents from your desk to ensure paperwork is not mishandled or lost while you are on vacation. Cleaning your desk thoroughly will also help you get a handle on tasks that need to be completed before you leave. Remember to turn on out-of-office notifications and let people know whom to go to in your absence! You can find more tips in my blog A Simple Approach to Eliminating Clutter.

A little preparation means a carefree vacation!



Networking for Results

When it comes to networking, size matters. Networking success requires us to build mutually supportive relationships and that requires an investment of our attention, time, and effort. If your network is too big, it becomes impossible to effectively use it; if it is too small, you restrict business opportunities. Like the story of Goldilocks, you want to build a network that is just the right size.

  • What is the maximum number of connections you can comfortably support? If you want to do it yourself, experts believe that most people can handle between 150 and 250 relationships in a meaningful way. If you want to be a super networker and connector, you will need help managing the numbers!
  • Choose a variety of people to add to your network. Go beyond your industry and form relationships with professionals in noncompeting businesses. This gives you access to new resources and new, potential opportunities.
  • Make connections. Malcolm Gladwell in The Tipping Point calls out what he refers to as “Connectors.” They are the six-degree-of-separation people who can connect you to just about anyone. You don’t have to be a super connector like the people Gladwell mentions in his books; rather, just be open and willing to help others by connecting them with people you know. The more bridges you build between the people in your network, the stronger your influence.

Think quality, not quantity when it comes to networking. Visibility counts, so show up and be present. Commit to devoting a certain amount of time to cultivating relationships to ensure your networking is rewarding—and fun!

Hate the thought of networking? See my blog post Networking Tips for Shy People.


Do You Believe in Intuition?

 “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”—Albert Einstein

Intuition is something that cannot be proven; despite this, many people believe in it and use it for decision making. It’s often referred to as a “gut feeling,” as if it resides inside the body like an invisible organ, or a “flash of insight,” like a lightning bolt in the brain. So, what is intuition? Does anyone know? Do you believe in it or do you debunk it as New Age woo-woo?

Cognitive scientists—experts who study the mind and its processes—treat intuitive insights as quick, initial assessments of a situation. The brain recognizes repetitive patterns, especially in areas that we focus on and have experience with. The more you know about a subject or situation, the more familiar you are with it, and the faster your brain can make assessments and find solutions based on your experience. In other words, intuition comes as a by-product of knowledge and experience. For example, an experienced physician can often tell something is wrong with a patient before running a single test. A law enforcement officer can “feel” if something is “off” about a crime scene, even if he or she cannot specifically say what is wrong.

Since intuition draws on what you know and brings past experiences into your present awareness, it can help you form possible solutions that logic and linear thinking may not reveal. It can be a valuable tool in decision making.

Does this mean you should rely on intuition alone? Probably not. But it does mean that intuition has a valid place in decision making. Take those “gut feelings” and “flashes of insight” seriously and evaluate this with your more rational mind for better decision making and problem solving. (See my blog post Tune into Your Intuition for more information.)


How to Calm Angry Customers

At some point, everyone must deal with angry customers who may use a variety of tactics to show their displeasure. Next time you are faced with angry customers, keep these tips in mind to resolve the issue and consistently deliver quality customer service.

  • Stay Calm

One of the greatest challenges in customer service is staying calm when a person is angry. Angry customers often need to vent until they have released their frustration. The key is to not take customers’ behavior personally. They are only reacting to an event, and their anger has nothing to do with who you are. Focus on uncovering the issue behind the anger and do what is necessary to resolve it.

  • Practice Active Listening

Allow irate customers to speak as long as they need while you actively listen to their complaints. Try to avoid interrupting or offering a solution too soon. Acknowledge them by nodding or stating that you understand. Tell them that you are sorry about the situation, even if it is not your fault. Once they have released the majority of their anger, repeat their concerns to let them know that you have fully understood their complaint. (See my blog post Listen and Learn for more information.)

  • Agree to a Solution

There are several tactics that can be used to arrive at a solution with angry customers. Sometimes, customers will have a solution in mind that may be acceptable. If your company already has a policy in place for the specific situation, you can offer that solution to them. After arriving at a solution, take action immediately so that the issue is resolved as quickly as possible and follow up with customers at a later date to ensure continued satisfaction.

Remember that there is often a lesson in every customer encounter. As Bill Gates once said, “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.”