Do Your Colleagues See You the Same Way You Do?

Watch your body language

Watch your body language

Have you heard the saying that goes something like this: if you don’t know who the office jerk is, it’s probably you?

You might be a well-intentioned manager that feels like a team player, but there might be something about your approach that prohibits your employees and colleagues from agreeing.

Columbia Business School suggests those who are rough around the edges at work don’t necessarily know it. “Finding the middle ground between being pushy and being a pushover is a basic challenge in social life and the workplace. We’ve now found that the challenge is compounded by the fact that people often don’t know how others see their assertiveness,” says Daniel Ames, a professor of management at Columbia and co-author of the new study.

Some results of the study show:

  • 57% of people actually seen by their counterpart as under-assertive thought they had come across as appropriately assertive or even over-assertive.
  • 56% of people actually seen by their counterpart as over-assertive thought they had come across as appropriately assertive or even under-assertive.

So now that we’ve got a 50/50 chance of falsely assessing our workplace behavior, what can you do to ensure you’re a more approachable but not a pushover boss?

Open up

Let employees and colleagues know your door is always open. Allow a safe space for honesty and ensure there will be no negative consequences for it.

Watch your body language

Maintain positive body language by sitting up straight and actively listening, smile and exercise welcoming posture by keeping your arms uncrossed.

Keep your emotions in check

Your employees need to know they can share information with you without causing an emotional response that may or may not be appropriate to the situation. Even if you’re frustrated or stressed, maintain a level expression of emotion which will save the moment and allow you time to consider what the productive next steps should be.

Listen

If you ask a question convinced you already know the answer, that will show and your employee will get frustrated knowing you’re not listening. Keep both ears open and be present in the conversation so your team will feel valued and offer feedback more frequently.

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Do you want to motivate and lead your staff more effectively? My executive coaching services can help you hone your leadership skills and clearly define your goals and objectives.

Too Social or Not Social Enough: How to Balance Your Workplace Connections

Mixing Business with Pleasure

Mixing Business with Pleasure

Being too social at work can result in a lack of productivity, office distractions and drama. But being the lone wolf can result in missed opportunities, a lack of team building and negativity. So how do you keep a social balance in the workplace?

Mixing Business with Pleasure

There’s a time and a place for personal conversation while at work. Asking a coworker how their weekend was could be a quick and friendly way to engage before the week starts off, but it could also turn into a loud, long-lasting discussion about family drama or recent vacations.

Sharing too much personal information with coworkers can be inappropriate, especially if it’s not a lateral relationship, so be careful how much you divulge. But be sure to not cause consistent distractions to those around you or to yourself.

Social Media

In this technological age, being social at work can also mean being social online. Are you spending more time checking your Facebook likes and Tweeting about coworkers than you are actually putting in work time? Are you messaging your colleague 3 cubicles away about the lunch menu and how hard your boss has been on you? Not only can this be monitored and subsequently get you in trouble, your productivity level will speak for itself. Catch up on emails and chit chat during lunch breaks and make sure you’re staying focused on the job at hand the rest of the time.

Don’t Skip an Opportunity

Here’s where the real balance comes in. Say your office holds a mingle, an off-site after work social event or a special lunch celebration – are you partaking? You may not love dearly the people you work with, but office social events are a great excuse to actually share your personal side guilt-free. You’re not wasting the company’s time or money yet you’re team building with the peers you rely on 9-5. Taking part in the social opportunities may also introduce you to other team members of executives you didn’t know before and that could lead to other success possibilities.

Balance is Key

So you don’t want to share your life story while on the clock, cause tension between team members or create a massive office distraction, but you also don’t want to miss networking opportunities and chances to shine. Keep your social media use to a minimum while at work and share appropriate amounts at appropriate times and you’re sure to win the hearts and minds of your colleagues.

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Do you want to motivate and lead your staff more effectively? My executive coaching services can help you hone your leadership skills and clearly define your goals and objectives.

5 Steps to Ease Difficult Conversations with Coworkers

1.Include Them

1. Include Them

Everyone has faced workplace tension at one time or another. With different personalities trapped in an office all day long, disagreements and competition are sure to arise every now and again. You might even be forced to work on projects with someone you simply don’t get along with. The key to being professional is learning how to work with people despite your differences.

You can’t change your coworkers and you can’t change their actions but you can change how you interact with them. Here are some ways to ease communication with those pesky colleagues.

  1. Include Them

Your actions and communications should show your coworkers that you find them to be an equal and valuable member of the team. When meeting to discuss a project or brainstorm ideas, be sure to ask them to offer their thoughts. Speak of the group or pair as “we” instead of an “I” to let them know you see them as a partner, not an enemy.

  1. Give a Pat on the Back

If your colleague does a good job or has a particularly useful strength, congratulate them on it. Be sure your compliment sounds sincere and not patronizing.  If offered correctly, the compliment can go a long way to bridging the gap between you.

  1. Don’t Brag

If your boss gave you praise or a customer wrote a great review of your work, be modest. This is especially important if the person you have most tension with is particularly competitive. When communicating with this person, try to focus more on company or team successes and less on personal ones.

  1. Listen

Your input is not the only thing that matters in this scenario. Making it clear you’re interested in what someone else has to say is crucial to easing tension. If you don’t take an interest in their thoughts or, worse, interrupt or ignore them, you are most definitely not helping matters.

  1. Scale it Back

It’s true that even the people you think you can trust might not be trustworthy after all, so this is a good general stance to take with anyone. But easing tension between coworkers means protecting your own interests and that includes not sharing too much. If something you say can be turned around and used against you, be sure to keep it under wraps.

It may be difficult easing the tension with your coworkers but there are easy steps to take that can ensure you’ve taken the high road to success.

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Do you need help increasing job visibility or improving your relationship with your boss or coworkers? My executive coaching services can help you hone your communication skills and clearly define your goals and objectives.

How to Increase Your Job Visibility

job visibility, career advancement

Pat yourself on the back.

You might agree that to ensure job security, you need outstanding job visibility.  Making it clear to your managers that you’re a valuable asset to the team can go a long way to securing a promotion to the next level.  But that begs the question: how do I stand out at work?

Increasing your job visibility may seem difficult and overwhelming but results will come by taking a series of small steps.

  • Ask for more responsibility, challenging assignments and leadership roles on team projects. Propose specific suggestions on ways the team can improve and then offer your personal strengths as contributions.
  • Pat yourself on the back. If you did great work individually, share it with your boss. If a customer expressed great satisfaction with you, share it. If you contributed greatly to a successful team effort, share that group success too.
  • Take initiative. Asking for challenging assignments is good, but finding a niche and filling it conscientiously shows built-in leadership. You’ll want to be careful not to step on anyone’s toes but if you see an opportunity to show independent problem solving, take it.
  •  Keep honing your skills, even if the job doesn’t require them. Well-rounded thinking is crucial to problem solving and creativity – Thomas Edison didn’t create the light bulb by staring at a candle.
  • Make yourself memorable when meeting others within the company, including upper management. Be well spoken, positive and knowledgeable while showing respect and appreciation for the others in the room.
  • Get involved on high-profile projects and accounts. If an opportunity arises for you to contribute to a VIP client, offer your assistance. A job well done on an important case will give you name recognition with management.
  • Request an opportunity to attend seminars and training sessions. Your boss will appreciate your enthusiasm and willingness to learn and then when you return, you can pass along your newfound information by holding your own training sessions for coworkers.

Being noticed at work is an important component of career success with great potential payoffs. When you take initiative, show interest and leadership and are able to toot your own horn, you become a memorable part of you work environment which can get you climbing to the top in no time.

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Do you need help increasing job visibility or improving your relationship with your boss? My executive coaching services can help you hone your communication skills and clearly define your goals and objectives.

Horrible Bosses: How to Cope

 

Learn the boundaries

Learn the boundaries

There are many different types of bosses; the neglecter, the micromanager, the bully who doesn’t care much about what you have to say. Let’s face it, some people don’t handle positions of power well and that leaves you in quite the predicament.

It’s an impossible feat to change someone else and what if, as much as you might want to, you can’t leave your job. Maybe you need the financial stability, it’s a short commute or you have your sights set on the corner office and no one will stand in your way. A boss with a bad attitude can be hard to handle but you can conquer the challenge by trying a few new things.

  1. Learn the boundaries

With a boss that’s hard to work for, it’s important that you quickly learn what to do and, more importantly, what not to do.  Find out early what the expectations are from your peers or by direct discussion with your boss regarding preferred communication method, timing and amount of detail desired. The sooner you learn and adapt to these boundaries, the less friction you’ll have to fight off.

  1. Discuss performance measurements

Open and effective communication can help ease some tension if you both set clear parameters for performance expectations. Ask for specific objectives and targets, in addition to the availability of resources.  Even if he or she comes to you later with contradictory and negative feedback, at least you know you’ve done what was expected of you.

  1. Offer the benefit of the doubt

Your boss may seem like a no-good menace to your office life but challenge yourself to be the bigger person. When he or she is right about something, it’s okay to admit it. If they have one good point amid countless bad ones, appreciate the good one. If you focus your energy on the positive and perhaps even show some respect for your boss’ successes, you may actually start to see improved behavior on their end. At least, toward you.

  1. Carry your evidence

It may seem may seem like a bold move to offer statistics that contradict your boss’ claims, but there may come a time when it’s necessary for survival. If your boss is hounding you relentlessly, threatening your job or escalating their complaints to upper management, use your evidence. Start a “hero” file filled with specific accomplishments and emails from satisfied clients.  Are you fulfilling your share of the orders? Is your customer satisfaction impeccable? Is your task completion better than you’re being accused of? You’ve already established your clear work performance measurements so if they’re not giving you due credit, direct their attention to Exhibit A.

  1. Be strong

Your boss’ bad behavior toward you is not personal. It’s important to remind yourself that their shortcomings are about them, not you. Don’t stumble over yourself to win them over because you likely never will, which will cause you more anxiety, self-doubt and decreased work performance. Make your priority your job; happy customers, completed tasks, impressive sales, satisfied coworkers.

Working for someone that’s rough around the edges can be draining. But there are steps you can take to take back some control. A horrible boss doesn’t necessarily have to send you running for the unemployment line; execute patience, strength and open communication and you might find yourself facing success.

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Do you need help assessing your career anxiety or improving your relationship with your boss? My executive coaching services can help you hone your communication skills and clearly define your goals and objectives.

How to Respectfully Disagree With Your Boss

Disagreeing With Your Boss

Have I considered this issue from every perspective?

Every workplace holds a myriad of personalities and work styles, so it’s not implausible to find yourself disagreeing with your employer from time to time.

Your distain can run the gamut of opposing a new plan to contesting a written warning you received, but no matter the issue, there is a right way and a wrong way to approach the situation. If you take certain things into consideration, you can turn the uncomfortable conversation into a constructive one.

Before you speak up, ask yourself these questions.

Have I considered this issue from every perspective?

Before verbalizing your thoughts, take the time to put yourself in the shoes of others that will also be impacted. If your qualm is about an assignment or unrealistic expectations set upon your team, consider how others may feel too. Most importantly, try to understand why your boss has asked for this in the first place. While you still may not agree it’s in the best interest of the company or employee morale, your boss might show some appreciation if you treat his or her concerns as reasonable ones.

Is this the right time and place?

You’ll want to make sure you address the challenges you’re facing privately and in-person. Avoid typing your frustrations in an email, as that is not the most effective way to get your message across. When you set up your meeting, ensure you have the adequate time and space needed; a time and place where you don’t expect any interruptions.

How can I turn this around into a positive and productive conversation?

Hopefully when your boss comes to you with concerns about your choices or work performance, he or she makes sure to let you know that aside from needing improvement in a particular area, you are doing a great job. Return the favor by ensuring your disagreement is delivered in a positive light. Avoid being accusatory or using negative vocabulary. Instead of merely batting down your boss’ ideas, be sure to prepare your own suggestions for solutions as a possible replacement strategy.

Don’t be discouraged if your boss doesn’t go for your suggestions. If you’ve handled yourself professionally and respectfully, you will close that meeting having left your mark. Remember that speaking up can actually improve your relationship with your boss and help your career.

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Do you want to improve the relationship with your boss? My executive coaching services can help you hone your leadership skills and manage up, across and down more effectively.

 

Outsider to Insider at work: Turnaround Tips

Executive Coaching

Building Rapport in your New Job: Turnaround Tips

You’ve recently started a new job with a larger role.  The position sounded ideal because it promised growth and the opportunity to showcase your skills.   You were thinking of this as the next logical step in your career.

But it’s not turning out the way you had anticipated.

Your new co-workers are a tightly knit group and clicky.  Moving your agenda forward requires their cooperation and support.  Frustratingly, your initiatives are being stalled because you can’t get traction from the influencers on your team. The ideas you suggest are met with “that’s not the way it’s done here.”

Worse, you can’t seem to insert yourself into conversations or take part in inside jokes.

You wonder what the heck is happening?

And you are feeling like an outsider.

Take heart my friend; you are experiencing the transitional pains of fitting into a new culture.

Here are steps you can take immediately to pave the way for receiving more cooperation on your projects while building better relationships with your coworkers:

  • Don’t put the cart before the horse.  In the example above, the new employee hadn’t built the bridges or relationships with co-workers that would make them inclined to help.  First and foremost, you need to launch a sincere effort to build good will.

  • Starting Over — So how do you build rapport after coming on like gangbusters?  Begin with saying you’d like to start fresh by pushing the reset button.   Invite them to coffee/lunch and approach the conversation as a friend…what would you ask a new acquaintance to get to know them?  Questions about their family, interests, motivators, etc.?  Do not attempt to bring up business or your goals.  These first chats are about them.

  • It’s not all about you or your objectives.  Once you sense you’ve created the groundwork for a discussion with the influencers, ask them their opinion of your projects and how you might be of help to them?  Ensure that they are aware that this is a two-way street.   And you need to mean it.  Ultimately it may require more effort on your part to deliver on your promise to help them.  However, in the long run, it’s the only way to be successful when you need other people’s support.

  • Make it a habit.   Being hard driving and goal oriented is all well and good but you need to earn the loyalty and commitment of your team. That means becoming a leader that people trust and want to follow.  Working well with others requires understanding what motivates each person and helping them become successful.   Incorporate these leadership skills into your everyday approach and you’ll go from an outsider to an insider at work.  More importantly, you’ll have developed expertise that you can put to good use in every future position.

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Need help in defining exactly what you can do in your new job to become successful?  That’s why people hire an executive coach.  Working with a coach you will receive support, accountability and a blueprint for action steps to become successful and comfortable in your new role.

 

The 5 Critical Conversations to Have With Your New Boss

five critical conversations to have with your new bossYou’ve recently started a new job. You definitely feel like the new kid on the block – everyone is watching to see if you’ll succeed, if they can trust you, are you a pushover, etc.

There’s a mountain of work to be done and meetings to be scheduled. It’s difficult to know where to begin.

A word of advice: Begin with your new boss.

At the start of a new job, there’s no more important relationship to establish and nurture early on than the one with your boss.

Your first instinct may be to jump into the juggernaut of projects and tasks awaiting you. Fight that instinct. Otherwise you run the risk of getting overwhelmed immediately and will lose the chance to set direction and goals based upon your boss’s needs.

It’s your responsibility to reach out to your boss, to find out what you need to know and make the relationship work. Don’t expect your boss to reach out to you.

There are 5 critical conversations you need to have with your new boss. These conversations can be thought of as a dialogue that continues over several meetings.

The 5 conversations are:

1. Where does the business stand? Does your boss see this as a turnaround situation, a start-up, a re-organization, or is the goal to sustain success? Do you see this the same way your boss does? Discuss the challenges your business situation presents and the resources that are available.

2. What are your boss’s goals/vision? The most important question to pose to your boss is: How can I help you be successful? Pay attention to your boss’s priorities and aim for early wins in those areas.

3. How will your boss define your success? How will your success be defined in the short and medium term? How often will you receive feedback on your performance? If you feel the performance expectations are unrealistic, you will need to negotiate those parameters in future discussions.

4. What is your boss’s preferred method of communication? How does your boss want to receive communications from you— in person, in writing, quick emails, voicemails? How often? What types of decision does your boss want to be consulted on, and what decisions can you make on your own? Your boss’s answers to these questions will give you insight into his/her management style.

5. What resources are available to you? What resources does your boss think are critical to your success? This may consist of additional staff, budget or the backing of your boss to push through needed initiatives. Ask the questions now before circumstances dictate the outcome.

The information and direction you gather from these early meetings will be invaluable to your success. Use your best powers of persuasion with your boss and cite the ROI that will be realized by investing time in early conversations.

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Looking for an on-boarding plan to be successful in your first 90 days in a new position? Check out my executive coaching services.

Strutting Your Stuff

This month, I focus on another chapter of the new book, “The
5 Patterns of Extraordinary Careers” by James Citrin and Richard Smith.

This chapter highlights the difference between direct vs. implied permission and strategies for both.

What’s this got to do with strutting your stuff? Everything.

One key to having an extraordinary career depends upon your getting the opportunity to show what you can do. If you’re never in a position to perform at your best or implement the innovative solutions that nobody else has thought of, you will be like the girl never asked to the dance.

In order to get the chance at a career-making project or job, you either need to be given permission (direct permission) or take it (implied permission). Here are selected strategies for both:

Direct Permission Strategies

  • Ask.
    Go ahead and speak with your boss or the powers that be and tell them what you want. Asking is the most obvious method, and sometimes the most effective.
  • Demonstrate Competency.
    Analyze the competencies that are required for the role you seek. Break the job into specific tasks, and then find ways to get experience in each of them. Speak with an incumbent in the job (outside your company), and get information about the specific skill sets that are required.
  • Strategic Mentoring.
    Find a mentor who will be your champion and to whom you can give back to as well. Getting your mentor’s expertise before negotiating for your desired goal can tip the scale in your favor.

Implied Permission Strategies

  • Start Over.
    When I was promoted out of a secretarial role at Charles of the Ritz, some managers continued to regard me as a secretary. Their reluctance to accept me as an equal made it difficult for me to gain their respect or do my job. This directly impacted my performance and my ability to grow in the company. It wasn’t until I changed jobs that I left the baggage of my secretarial title behind. Sometimes, you need to be somewhere new to get the recognition and responsibility you have earned.
  • Get Credentials.
    Additional education will often provide the imprimatur you need to advance to the next level. For example, an MBA, JD or CPA can be particularly effective early in your career. Consider getting an industry certification or enrolling in an executive education program if you are mid-career or beyond.
  • Barter.
    For example, find a colleague who has expertise in an area you’re interested in, but no time or impetus to use those skill sets. If you can provide the structure and drive to move a project forward, s/he could provide the knowledge. An example of this is when two people co-author a book.

Some words of caution: The absence of permission is not carte blanche to push ahead without forethought. You need to get prior buy-in for your ideas, or you could alienate your peers and jeopardize your success.

Enlist support among your colleagues, and gain the appropriate levels of direct and implied permission. That will enable you to have the backing you need when sailing into new territory.

Suggested Reading

The 5 Patterns of Extraordinary Careers
by James M. Citrin and Richard A. Smith

Leading Up: How to Lead Your Boss So You Both Win
by Michael Useem

Leadership Without Easy Answers
by Ronald Heifetz

Are You A Naysayer?

What happens the first time you hear about a new suggestion, idea or offer outside your comfort zone?

Do you immediately say “no”?

Does your stomach do somersaults while your brain struggles to come up with negative comebacks, both verbal and nonverbal?

Do suggestions outside your usual terrain make you feel frightened? Anxious?

How many opportunities have passed you by, and how much have you limited yourself, owing to a naysaying first reaction?

You are not alone, and there’s hope.

Did you ever wonder how the people who constantly put themselves out there (giving speeches, performing, in leadership positions) do it?

They do all those miraculous things AND they are often nervous and scared!

I recently saw Cher’s Farewell Concert on TV. A backstage camera was following her just before her concert began. One of the first things she said was, “I’m nervous.” This from a diva who has been performing for 40 years!! Did she give a great concert? Yes. Could you tell that she was nervous? No. Well, it only took 40 years of practice to perform beautifully despite being nervous!

I often wonder why people say “no” so quickly. Saying “no” may be an attempt to control your world. Otherwise, it may get too overwhelming? Or you may put yourself in a position to fail? Or be embarrassed?

Okay, nothing wrong with saying “no” when you need to set boundaries. Or when you know something isn’t right for you. But what about those times in the middle? For instance, if it’s a brand new idea that you’ve never considered before?

Here’s how this translates to your career:

You’re looking for a job. When someone mentions a career area that you’ve not considered before, do you immediately dismiss it without at least getting more information? Do you not even ask the person why they suggested it?

You’ve exhausted your contacts, spent hours submitting your resume to on-line job boards, yet balk when someone says you need to get out and do more networking.

Do you ignore job ads that might be a stretch because they don’t exactly fit your qualifications? What are you saying to yourself as you turn the page on that ad? I bet it’s a negative thought.

How married are you to remaining negative? Do you justify your lack of success by always pointing towards all the bad stuff that’s happening?

When you hear about a project or get to bid on a new piece of work, do you immediately feel you are an imposter and doubt your capabilities?

Sound familiar?

A client recently said to me, after I suggested a program that would help her deal with the clutter in her life, “How often do I have to do this? More than once?”

Try, your whole life! But like the example of Cher above, it gets easier after 40 years.

Well, the best way I know to counter your loud inner naysayer is to notice what it says . . . but not act on it. For instance,
if your knee jerk reaction is to say “no” and your stomach is doing its usual dance when someone makes a suggestion, say, “That’s an interesting notion, I never thought about that before.”

Give yourself time to ponder it, consider it in the light of a new day. Then, decide if it feels right. What you’ll be doing is giving new ideas a fair chance to flourish.

Being open to new ideas is the best way over the speed bumps on the road to getting a new job, winning that promotion or becoming a better boss.

I often use the phrase “speed bumps” with my clients, to symbolize the hardest part of keeping motivated when you’ve exhausted the usual channels of a job search. And there’s usually more than one speed bump. They come in twos, or threes.

So, next time you hit a speed bump, notice your naysayer. Then, continue to move forward, smiling.

Suggested Reading

The Portable Coach
By Thomas Leonard

Thomas Leonard, the father of coaching, recently passed away. I find myself recommending this book again to my clients, as it truly is a way of approaching and reorganizing your life and career that works. From the Clean Sweep Program, which helps you eliminate clutter, to becoming Irresistibly Attractive to Yourself, Leonard’s book provides steps to make it happen.

I Don’t Know What I Want, But I Know It’s Not This
By Julie Jansen

Julie addresses today’s work-dissatisfaction epidemic and uses career assessment quizzes and personality exercises to help readers assess their present job, discover the type of work for which they’re best suited and make change happen. Filled with real-life examples and a useful resource section, Julie’s guide is an invaluable instrument for implementing positive career change.