“The most important single ingredient in the formula of success is knowing how to get along with people.”
~ Theodore Roosevelt ~
Paul is all about results. He doesn’t like small talk or discussing things on a personal level. He just wants to get his work done. When he interacts with people, he wants to hear only the bottom line action that is needed to complete the project. He doesn’t want to hear about how people are feeling. This feels ineffective. Building working relationships isn’t something he has ever needed to do until now. He just got a new job in which he is overseeing a staff of twenty people. The culture of his new company encourages building of relationships, connecting and caring.
Here are 4 ways that Paul can begin to immediately learn how to develop and build working relationships. He wants to be more effective in his role and recognizes the importance of growing in this area.
1. Be a reliable team member.
When you demonstrate your reliability, it builds others’ confidence in you. That makes you a person they want to seek out for advice, feedback, and collaboration. Stick to deadlines you set, or give advanced notice if you need more time. Follow through on the little things as well as the big things, from keeping the break room tidy to meeting project objectives.
2. Engage in active listening.
Active listening builds effective working relationships by showing colleagues you take them seriously. It also helps you more fully understand what they are saying. To listen actively, ask open-ended questions about what the other person is saying. When she finishes, paraphrase what she said to make sure you understand it. Focus on what the other person is saying, rather than on what you’re going to say next. Avoid interjecting your own opinion as the speaker explains her point of view.
3. Show empathy for others’ feelings.
Showing empathy goes hand-in-hand with active listening. Validating statements such as, “I’ve felt that way myself,” or “I can see why you feel that way,” help the speaker feel understood, even if you still have a different opinion about the situation. Feeling understood will lower the speaker’s defenses, so he can understand your perspective in turn.
4. Steer clear of gossip.
This one might seem like a no-brainer, but it’s often easier said than done. If gossip starts up in the break room, politely but firmly say you don’t want to participate in the conversation. In doing so, you’ll avoid damaging relationships and will show you have integrity. Making your preferences known, and directly address the workplace gossip that could be hurtful to others, may also help create a more professional workplace culture. Build a culture in which respect, integrity and empathy are the foundations to creating the most effective working relationships.
Developing effective relationships at work will create a more pleasant environment. And remember, these practices aren’t just for some relationships and not others—they’re for relationships with supervisors as well as people you supervise, for team members and folks you work with less directly.
Review the above list and select one habit you can begin applying this week. Take notes on how you do and the progress you make. I would love to hear how you do in implementing the idea you choose. Email Joel with follow-up questions about your results.
Talkback: Have you found these tips useful in your workplace? Do you have others you’d like to share? Post your ideas below!
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“A bad habit never disappears miraculously. It’s an undo-it-yourself project.”
~ Abigail Van Buren ~
Client Mitch Asks: I’ve just finished getting the results of my annual 360 review, and boy, am I discouraged! You would not believe the stuff people said about me. They say I’m causing the team to miss deadlines because I put things off until the last minute. The truth is, I work a lot better under pressure. The stress just makes me kick it up a notch and that’s when I get really creative. And around here, deadlines are missed all the time. Why am I to blame? Right now, I’m just waiting for the other shoe to drop—there’s a pink slip in my future. I’m sure of that. If everybody says about me is true, who would want me around anyway? Guess I’d better polish up the old resume.
Coach Joel Answers: Let’s take a step back here. I know performance reviews can be pretty upsetting, but they can also present an opportunity. Here’s another point of view you might consider. From what I heard you saying, I can pinpoint at least three self-defeating habits that are probably what’s behind all that unfavorable feedback. Here’s my short list of damaging habits. If you can break these, I’m sure you can turn things around.
- Catastrophic thinking
1. Procrastinating. You say you work best under pressure, but what is that pressure really costing you in terms of stress? Not to mention the poor image you’re projecting to your co-workers. Here’s the nugget for breaking any habit: you can’t just say, “I’m going to stop procrastinating.” You need to replace that negative habit with a positive one. For the next month, try starting every day at work by doing your hardest task. If it’s calling clients, do that first. If there’s a major project on the horizon, create an outline of what you need to do and take the first step. Once you’ve made a start, the rest of your day or your project will fall into place more easily.
2. Rationalizing is a way of excusing ineffective behavior. Actually, it’s a lie you tell yourself in order to preserve your self-esteem and give yourself permission to keep doing what you’re doing. You say you’re more creative under pressure. How can you replace that thought? Give yourself permission to be creative when you’re not under pressure, when you can actually enjoy the process. Let’s say you have a major client presentation coming up and you need a PowerPoint deck. Slow down. Take a relaxed half an hour to experiment with color palettes and designs. Do an Internet search for videos you could import. Your end result will be far more creative than something you throw together at the last minute, without time to visualize the end result or its effect on your client. And you won’t have to make excuses for missing deadlines or turning in a mediocre project.
3. Catastrophic thinking. You say there’s a pink slip in your future? That’s carrying one negative review to the extreme. Think about the language you’re using when you talk to yourself about this issue. Do you hear extreme words like, “never,” or “always?”
“Nobody wants me around. I’ll never find another job. I always get blamed when thing go wrong.” Right now, your team is seeing you in a negative light. If you want to build more positive relationships, you need to take action.
Instead of buying into your destructive self-talk, make a list of ten things you do really well, ten successes you’ve had in this job or in previous jobs. Write these down and re-read the list every time you catch yourself going into catastrophic mode.
And last but not least, commit to this change strategy by sharing it with your boss. Let her know that your 360 review was a great wake-up call because it showed you some changes you need to make. Tell her what those changes are and what you plan to do about them. Set up an appointment to review your progress in 30 days. Nothing will hold you accountable like sharing your commitment with someone else. There’s real power in public declaration.
Do you have some self-defeating habits you need to turn around? Email Joel today for some suggestions.
Talkback: Have you successfully replaced a bad habit with a good one? Share your turnaround strategy here.
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“Accomplishing the impossible only means that the boss will add it to your regular duties.”
~ Doug Larson ~
Client Dave Asks: I just don’t get it! I know I’m doing good work, but nobody seems to notice. I put in the hours, I bring in the clients, I get the job done. My colleagues seem to like me, so I don’t think it’s about improving my working relationships. But I’m sick of feeling underappreciated. It just seems like everything is a drag right now.
Coach Joel Answers: Everyone has dry spells, where it seems like you are unappreciated. The key is to use this time as an opportunity to “kick it up a notch,” as the saying goes. Working relationships can always be improved. For starters, maybe you’re not relating to the right people. Here are three action steps I’d recommend you take right away:
- Hitch your wagon to a star
- Give away gold stars
- Act like a superstar
1. Hitch your wagon to a star. If you want to be noticed and perceived as being a high performer, a leader in the company, then start hanging out with people who are. If you want to be a great leader, do what leaders do. Look around you and see who’s getting the accolades, the plum assignments. Notice what they do, how they act in meetings, how they communicate with clients. Then reach out. Ask one or two of them to coffee and ask for their advice. Then take it, and say “thank you.” When you start acting on their recommendations, they will notice and begin to mention your accomplishments to others.
2. Give away gold stars. It probably goes back to nursery school, but we all love getting gold stars. If you want to collect a few stars of your own, start giving them to others first. If you wish people would be freer with praise and appreciation, make sure you’re giving it out yourself. When you show your gratitude for what your colleagues are doing, they are much more likely to notice what you’re doing and the gold stars will follow. Not only will you get the praise you deserve, you’ll improve your working relationships in the bargain.
3. Act as if you’re a star. Your current feeling like everything is a drag is undoubtedly affecting not only how you perceive yourself, but how others perceive you. Start by giving yourself credit for what you do. Then share your accomplishments. If you’ve solved a sticky problem, ask your boss for a few minutes at the next team meeting to discuss how you did it. If you’ve brought in a new client, talk about your communication strategy. You’re not bragging, by the way, you’re sharing your ideas
If you implement these three steps, I guarantee it won’t be long before you’ll be seen in a starring role.
Are you getting the gold stars you deserve? If you’re not, email Joel today and get his input on how you can turn things around.
Talkback: Have you moved from one of the crowd into a starring role? Share your improvement strategy here.
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“Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.”
~ Scott Adams ~
Deann found herself stuck in a huge rut. As marketing manager for a major Internet company, she had always prided herself on being an “idea person.” Her team was known throughout the company as the place where creativity lived and thrived. Lately, however, she felt as though everything was turning gray. No bright ideas, no exciting new campaigns—Deann knew she had to do something to turn things around. If she was not inspired, how could she inspire her team? And they had a major new campaign to develop in the next month. No creativity = no campaign.
After a few days of wallowing in this unhappy state, Deann decided to conduct her own research project on creativity. She found an astounding number of resources and within a day or two she had come up with her own strategy for reactivating her creative thinking skills. Here’s her four-step action plan:
- Step 1: Acknowledge that you are creative
- Step 2: Let your inner child come out to play
- Step 3: Change your perspective
- Step 4: Pass it on
1. Step 1: Acknowledge that you are creative. This one may be the most difficult. Some people actually believe that either you are born creative, or you’re not. And there’s nothing you can do about it either way. Rather than getting stuck in the argument, Deann chose to make a list of situations in the past where her creativity had been running on high. Successful ad campaigns, new product launches, social media successes—by the time she finished her list, it was obvious to Deann that she had creativity to spare. It had just gone dormant somehow. Time to wake it up!
2. Step 2: Let your inner child come out to play. Children have no inhibitions about exercising their creativity. They will make mud pies, color outside the lines, draw pictures of unicorns—perfect demonstrations of creativity in action. But somewhere along the line, we grow up. We lose the sense of wonder, we become afraid to show off what we’ve got. Or as one teacher put it, “We start school as a question mark but we graduate as a period.” For the next two weekends, Deann did nothing but play. She went to kids’ movies. She took her nephews to the zoo. She bought a set of adult coloring books and paints and almost got lost in a world of color. Now she was ready for
3. Step 3: Change your perspective. As Deann considered her upcoming campaign challenge, she decided to throw out all the existing ideas, many of which were just reruns of past campaigns. Instead, she put together a list of what-ifs to create some new perspectives:
- What if we were doing this campaign in Brazil or China?
- What if our target market was seniors instead of millenials?
- What if we were selling corn flakes instead of high tech apps?
- What if we could be totally outrageous without fear of criticism?
The ideas began to explode in her head like popcorn. Deann was making notes so fast she could barely get one written before another one popped into her head. It was definitely time for
4. Step 4: Pass it on. It’s been said that we teach best what we most need to learn (Richard Bach). Deann knew that the best way to keep the creativity flowing and growing was to get her team together and share with them what she had learned. She decided on a half-day mini-retreat, off site, where everyone could be casual and relaxed. You can’t rush creativity. It’s much more effective to simply create an environment that allows it to happen.
She knew that diversity often inspires new thought, while sitting around with the same old team can cause everyone to fall into a group-think rut. So Deann decided to invite some of her colleagues from other departments to join the retreat. She wanted her team to be confronted with new ways of seeing things.
The results were rewarding. Not only did the entire team unleash a new level of creativity, word of Deann’s changing perspective began to spread around the company before the new campaign was ready for prime time. This created a high level of excitement and anticipation, and when the new campaign was launched, it was immediately labeled “the best one yet.” Now whenever she begins to feel stuck, Deann just takes her team back to her four-step plan for a refresher.
If you’re feeling stuck and under pressure to perform, e-mail Joel for some new ideas. You are more creative than you think. Apply these tips above and your creative skills will develop and grow.
Talkback: How do you keep your creative thinking flowing? Share your ideas here.
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“If you don’t know what your barriers are, it’s impossible to figure out how to tear them down.”
~ John Manning ~
Client Janice Asks: I feel like I’ve reached the end of the line with my career. “There’s no room on the ladder above me at the company where I work now. All the C-level managers are firmly entrenched in their positions. If I try to find another job, someone is bound to find out, and that will make me look disloyal. I’ve got two advanced degrees and I’m really overqualified for most jobs in my field anyway. I’m already older than most of my peers. And nobody new would hire me when they can get a 20-something fresh out of college for half my salary. I’m doomed!
Coach Joel Answers: I can see why you’re frustrated, Janice. What I’m also seeing, however, is that a lot of the roadblocks you’re seeing exist in your mind. They are not “out there”—they are inside you. And once you know what those roadblocks or barriers are, you can remove them and replace them with something else. Let’s take a look at some key barriers we all have and where they come from. It’s all about your internal truths, the beliefs you have about yourself and your situation. Here are 3 ways to overcome self-defeating behaviors.
- What is the truth about you?
- What is the truth about the people around you?
- What is the truth about your business environment?
1. What is the truth about you? I hear you saying that you’re stuck. You have no place to go. You’re overqualified, and maybe even overpaid in today’s economy. You know what all those beliefs are doing? They are causing you to shut down, to ignore or discount the possibilities that are out there. Since changing companies or careers may be more of a long-term option, how about shifting some of those barriers into benefits? You say you have two degrees—that’s great. You can use that education and those skills to challenge yourself on the job. Think about the biggest problem or challenge your company or department is facing right now. Expenses out of control? Come up with a cost-reduction plan. Clients leaving the firm? Create a retention strategy. Be on the lookout for ideas that will increase your visibility with those C-levels.
2. What is the truth about the people around you? Those C-level managers who are blocking the next rung on your ladder may stay right where they are for the foreseeable future. Why not use them to your advantage? Choose one whose performance or personality you admire and ask him for advice. If it’s appropriate within your company’s structure, ask him to become an ongoing mentor. Become your boss’s new best friend. Find out what her challenges are and volunteer to take one of them off her plate. If you come up with some new strategies as we discussed earlier, ask her advice about your ideas. You don’t need to feel inadequate around these people. You’re equal to many of them in both education and talent.
3. What is the truth about your business environment? Step back and get the big picture. First, where is your company headed? If you have a mission statement, understand it and place yourself in that picture to see where you fit. Do the company’s goals align with your personal career objectives? Start to get a vision for the future. If you are in an industry that’s in decline or has fallen on hard times, you may want to develop a plan for repurposing your skills to transition into a more growth-oriented environment. Understand your competition in the job market. Yes, 20-somethings are probably cheaper, but many companies value the experience and work ethic that improves with age. Start making a list of the skills and qualities that you have to offer. Look at that list frequently and add to it often. Reading it will give you a new degree of satisfaction in your current job, and it will provide you with some much-needed self-confidence if you do decide to put yourself on the market at some later time.
Do you have self-defeating barriers in your head? Email Joel today and discuss how you can overcome these limiting behaviors.
Talkback: How have you overcome these behaviors? What self-defeating thoughts did you remove? What did you replace them with? Share your story here.
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