The 16 Ways to Improve Your Work Performance In 2017

“Celebrate what you want to see more of.”

~Tom Peters~

Simon wanted to have an extremely productive upcoming year. He reached out for executive coaching so he could take the necessary steps to help him improve his work performance. With advanced planning, he knew he would be prepared to start the New Year with a significant advantage.

This is the plan that I completed with Simon and other clients over the years.

STEP 1 – CLOSE OUT THE OLD YEAR. Close out the year in an effective way so you are ready to charge forward in the New Year.

1. Wrap up loose ends. Close out those small nagging projects you’ve been meaning to do. Make the phone calls, answer those emails, and turn in expense reports. Essentially you want to clear out dated projects so you can start fresh.

2. Organize your work area. Clean up your desk, put away old papers, toss dated files and generally straighten your physical area. Then you’ll come back to a clean organized office for less stress.

3. List your accomplishments for the year. Take the time to review your accomplishments. Quantify all that you can. How did it benefit the company? What value have you brought? Keep this in a file for your next review.

4. Keep in contact. Before you leave for vacation turn on voice mail and email autoresponders with a message you are away. Make sure the office has a contact for you in case of urgent matters. You don’t want to return from vacation to unpleasant surprises.

5. Check employee benefits. Businesses often have changes to their employee benefits that happen with the changing year. Take a look. Do they affect you? Or have your circumstances changed and you need to update beneficiaries, withholding amounts, or providers?

STEP 2 – TAKE A YEAR-END BREAK. Be sure to take a well-deserved year end break. This is a time for relaxation and renewal. You will return to work more vitalized and energized than if you just keep on working without a break.

6. Unplug. Disconnecting from typical social media and technology gives your brain a chance to recharge. It calls on new neuron paths and creates new ways of thinking. When you return to work, your performance will improve.

7. Connect with family and friends. Personal interaction is another way to recharge your life. Pick up hobbies and activities. Have fun. Enjoy.

8. Strengthen your network. The holidays are a great time to send greetings to those you want to keep in your network.

9. Gratitude. Life feels fuller and more enjoyable when we have gratitude. Take time to thank others and express appreciation. Be grateful for what you have.

10. Reflect on your personal and professional life. What changes do you want to make to have a more fulfilling life?

STEP 3 – PREPARE FOR A FRESH START. As you start 2017 you will be prepared for a fresh start. Think of it as a new beginning. The old is behind you and the New Year is a blank page for you to write on. Jump in with enthusiasm.

11. Goal Set. Take stock of where you are and where you want to go. Are there projects or tasks you want to be a part of? Do you want to join a class or professional association? What steps do you need to take to get there? Write down the process and calendar it.

12. Update LinkedIn profile. Review it for needed changes. Use your goals to focus the content and attract the connections that will help you achieve them.

13. Organize your priorities. What is most important? Why? How will you keep that in focus? Learn how to use your time in the most productive way possible.

14. Choose your attitude. Make the New Year one of optimism, gratitude, focus, energy. Use this to create a brand and an expectation that you will produce great work.

15. Focus on the positive. Look at each negative with “What can I learn from this that will make me sharper, stronger, more resilient?” Don’t drag others down, lift them.

16. Capture your 2017 accomplishments. Going forward, track your successes. Make an email folder to hold records of your accomplishments. Quantify them and remember how they added value to the company.

When you apply these 16 principles, you’ll find that you naturally improve your work performance. You’re focused, organized, refreshed and connected. You know where you’ve been and where you want to go. Get set for a rewarding 2017!

Need help rejuvenating, organizing, or planning for your future? An executive coach can cut through the fog to clear answers.

Talkback:
What have you done to launch the next year ready to increase your performance? How effective do you think these tips will be for you?

Be quiet!
How to make sure you talk less and listen more!

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“Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening when you’d have preferred to talk.”

~ Doug Larson ~

Kevin is on the management fast track at a Fortune 500 company. He’s outgoing, friendly, never met a stranger. He sees himself as a real deal-maker. Yet a lot of people in Kevin’s world routinely keep their distance when he enters the room. Even some of his clients seem to shut down when he’s around. He doesn’t quite understand why others don’t see him the same way he sees himself.

In his recent 360 review, ten stakeholders did provide quality feedback to Kevin. These insights began to shed some light on the situation. Frankly, he just talks too much. His co-workers and managers see him as a bit of a phony, maybe someone who’s not as smart as he thinks he is, even as someone who’s not to be trusted. The main message he heard in the feedback was to talk less and listen more.

Kevin realized he needed to make some immediate changes. His first thought was “hire an executive coach” and he did exactly that. He knew that getting advice and feedback from a neutral third party could speed up and enhance his process of personal change dramatically.

Kevin’s coach was very specific. “In order to project confidence and speak with authority, you need to talk less and listen more. What you have, Kevin, (to quote Cool Hand Luke) is a failure to communicate.” Within a week after his executive coach was hired, the two of them created this 4-step plan:

1. For at least the first two weeks, don’t speak up in meetings at all, unless someone addresses you directly. Listen and take notes instead.

2. For the next two weeks, when you’re with clients or in a meeting, don’t speak up or offer opinions unless someone asks you. Instead ask questions, such as “Where did you find that information?” or “What do you think the outcome of that strategy would be?” Take notes on the answers.

3. Cultivate relationships with senior managers whose attitude and behavior you admire. Spend time with them and begin to model your communication style after theirs. Schedule regular coffee dates or informal meetings and ask for their advice and feedback.

4. After practicing the listening strategy for a month, gradually begin to speak up in meetings, offer new ideas to clients, and make low-key comments in groups or with other co-workers. Keep notes about how others are reacting to you now and adjust your strategy accordingly. Always, however, emphasize listening over speaking.

“Here’s the bottom line,” Kevin’s executive coach told him. “And this is what you hired me for! People don’t listen to you because they are too accustomed to your having something to say for every occasion. When you make a habit of talking less (or not at all), you’ll get their attention immediately when you do speak up.”

Six months later, Kevin felt that his implementation of the 4-step plan had totally changed how he was perceived in the company. He had his strategy of talking less and listening more.

Are the people you work with tuning you out? Take a look at your communication style and see how much time you spend talking rather than listening. Follow Kevin’s four-step plan, or hire an executive coach for assistance. Joel can provide some valuable suggestions. Why not email him today?

Talkback: Have you made successful changes in your communication style? How did you do it? Share your story here.

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Executive Coaching Consultants
Help with Job Dissatisfaction

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“Obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.”

~ Michael Jordan ~

Marcia is stuck at the bottom of a very deep pit. She hates her job. She got hired at the bottom of the last recession and at that point, any job looked good, and this one looked even better than good. So she convinced herself this was a great move for her and five years later, she’d rather be anywhere but here. So what now? Just that morning she had watched a TV show where an executive coaching consultant was a featured guest. Marcia had never considered hiring a coach or consultant, but as a mid-level executive in a stagnant company, she was going nowhere fast. She began to focus on some of the ideas the coach presented. Marcia decided to take some of his advice and use her frustration to design a replacement strategy. She took his four key questions and started reworking them to fit her situation.

  • What don’t you like about your job right now?
  • If you kept your current job, what would you like to change?
  • How could you make those changes?
  • How badly do you want to change?

1. What don’t you like about your job right now? The first question was easy to answer. Morale in the company was awful. Sales were slumping and no one seemed to care. There was a new product introduction on the drawing board, but her boss hadn’t even brought it up for discussion in staff meeting. There had been no performance reviews or salary increases in almost two years. Rumors of downsizing and layoffs ran rampant, even though the company was still showing a profit.

2. If you kept your current job, what would you like to change? Marcia really didn’t want to quit her job. What she wanted was to get her enthusiasm back at work, to feel excited about the company and her prospects the way she had in the beginning. She wanted to see the company move ahead and grow. She realized that there were some things she could change, and some things she couldn’t. For example, she could volunteer to start a brainstorming group to get the new product introduction off the ground. She could even start an informal, off-site, after-hours group to discuss ways they could work together to improve company morale.

3. How could you make those changes? Marcia decided to take action on both of those ideas quickly, and to have them up and running within 30 days. First, she set up an appointment with her boss to discuss the new product launch. “I know you’re way too busy right now,” she said, “and this project is just adding more pressure. So if I can get together a brainstorming group, we can kick start it and give you some ideas to work with.” Her boss looked relieved at her suggestion and told her to move ahead immediately.

Marcia also began chatting informally with a group of like-minded co-workers, and they set up a happy hour talk fest offsite to discuss ideas for improving morale and helping the company move ahead.

4. How badly do you want to change? The executive coaching consultant had been very specific about this one: if you focus on the negative, you’ll get more negative. Instead, define the negative and then pivot to a positive. Focus on things that work, not things that don’t.

If you are feeling stuck, if you’re not where you want to be, don’t stay there. Use your negative feelings to get your mojo back. Take these positive steps to turn the job you have into the job you really wanted in the first place. If you’re having trouble getting yourself out of the pit, Joel may be able to help. He has guided thousands of clients as an executive coach consultant toward greater job satisfaction and career advancement. Why not email him today?

Talkback: Have you been successful at turning a negative job situation into a positive? How did you do it? Share your experience here.

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5-Step Plan to Developing Your Personal Brand

Developing Your Personal Brand

“Behavior is the mirror in which everyone shows their image.”

~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe ~

Jason has been with his company for more than five years. He’s tried every trick in the book to get ahead, from letting his boss know he’d like to move up the ladder to working overtime on his projects in the hopes that his efforts would be noticed and rewarded.

But nothing seems to be working. He still has the same job, same title, and (sadly) the same salary as when he started five years ago. What’s Jason doing wrong?

Maybe Jason is not doing anything wrong; maybe he’s just doing the wrong things.

If you want to boost your personal brand, forget about dropping hints or hoping someone will notice the long hours you’re putting in. Those tactics will get you nowhere fast.

Luckily, one of the books Jason read as part of his effort to get ahead was a how-to book about career advancement. He decided to use some of his acquired knowledge to solve his own problem. Here’s what he came up with:

  • Step 1—Define the problem.

Jason’s first reaction was, “I’m being ignored. I deserve a promotion and I’m not getting one.”

  • Step 2 – State the cause of the problem.

This is an important step, because often when people try to solve problems, they are merely getting rid of the symptoms, not resolving the issue. After a bit of soul-searching, Jason realized that he really wasn’t doing what it takes to stand out in the crowd. Hard work is fine, but he needed a personal brand and he definitely did not have one.

  • Step 3 – Brainstorm.

Come up with potential actions you could take to turn the situation around. Jason talked to a few trusted friends outside his workplace and they gave him a number of useful suggestions and opinions.

  • Take on a project that nobody wants to do and finish it successfully.
  • Offer to work on a project outside your own department (with your boss’s approval, of course).
  • Schedule a one-on-one with your boss and ask for her input on a rebranding plan.
  • Find a mentor. This could be in your company or outside of it, but should be someone who’s ahead of you on the ladder (not your boss).
  • Share your successes. Don’t brag, and don’t be modest either. Speak up about your accomplishments. This includes what you’ve been doing, either in meetings, by e-mail, or one-on-one with others in the company.
  • Share credit. Nobody does it alone and you’ll get ahead more easily if you let others participate in your success.
  • Step 4 – Choose your options.

You don’t have to do everything all at once. Pick two or three things you can do right away. Jason took the first two suggestions on his list and wrote up a plan. Then he scheduled the one-on-one with his boss to get her input and suggestions. After refining his plan, he immediately began putting it into action.

  • Step 5 – Monitor your results and make changes if necessary.

Jason first volunteered to revamp an inventory control project that nobody else would touch, because it looked boring and complicated. He cleaned that up and then made a presentation about how he implemented a new plan and achieved results. With his boss’s approval, he sent a summary of his presentation to several C-level executives.

Five months after Jason implemented his rebranding campaign, he was offered a management position in another department—and a nice increase in salary to go with it.

If you’re stuck where you are right now, feeling unnoticed and unappreciated, (not to mention underpaid), how could you rebrand yourself? Look at Jason’s action items and see if you can adapt any of them to your situation. And be sure you’re solving the problem, not covering up the symptom. Joel has helped dozens of clients boost their careers with personal branding. Email him today.

Talkback: Have you successfully rebranded yourself? What did you do and what were the results? Share your experience here.

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How To Be A Great Mentor: 5 Traits to Cultivate Now

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“I am not a teacher, but an awakener.”

~ Robert Frost ~

Randy is more than a little anxious. He’s been moving ahead rapidly on the fast track with his company and he knows that his C-level managers see him as an emerging leader. Now, however, his boss has just presented him with a new challenge: mentor two employees who have just joined the firm. Randy has had a few good mentors in the past, but there’s a big difference between having one and being one. And he hasn’t been one since he tutored his girlfriend in math when they were high school seniors. He needs to be ready in two weeks. What to do first?

Like all creative leaders, Randy begins to brainstorm and research. Within a few hours, he has the outline of a game plan and knows exactly what he needs to do to become a great mentor:

  • Develop a servant mentality
  • Ask the right questions
  • Cultivate their strengths
  • Model executive presence
  • Put them in the spotlight

1. Develop a servant mentality. The mentee is the star of your little show, so always keep him or her in the limelight. They may not be comfortable there, at least in the beginning. Every actor has butterflies on opening night, after all. Your job is to cheerlead, comfort, and encourage. And stay in the background.

2. Ask the right questions. Robert Ridel, in his book Critical Thinking for Everyday Life, says that “to question is to understand.” Probing, open-ended questions often lead other people to discover answers and ideas that they didn’t know they had. Always approach questioning from the positive point of view:

  • Why do you think that worked so well?
  • What would you do differently next time?
  • If you were the client, what questions would you ask?

3. Cultivate their strengths. Being in a new position, or with a new company, is challenging in itself. Fear of failure may lie pretty close to the surface. Now is the time to remind your mentee of what she or he has already accomplished. They landed this job, didn’t they? And that was based on a track record of prior successes. Get them to talk about those successes and how to translate them into the current environment. This doesn’t mean you should ignore the downside. As George Lucas said, when discussing Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones, “Mentors have a way of seeing more of our faults than we would like. It’s the only way we grow.” You can see both sides but always accentuate the positive.

4. Model executive presence. You already have the right skills and attitude. That’s why you were chosen to become a mentor. You are not only talented, you create an impact when you enter the room. You know how to influence others, and you consistently provide added value to every project you manage. Always demonstrate these traits when working with your mentees. Come from a place of teaching, not from ego. 

Good approach: “We just made a really successful presentation. Why do you think it worked?”

Not so good: “Wow! That was fantastic. I just love it when I knock it out of the park.”

5. Put them in the spotlight. When your mentee scores a win, give him the credit. Let him know when he hits a home run. Don’t hesitate to brag to your peers and C-level executives about what a great job he’s doing. Then use that win as a foundation for continuing to grow.

Six months after Randy took on his first two mentees, he was asked to develop a mentoring model to be implemented company-wide. Today, mentoring is a way of life, based on the initial plan he put together.

Are you about to become a mentor? Or are you already a mentor and need some new ideas to motivate your mentees? Email Joel today for his suggestions.

Talkback: Have you successfully mentored employees or others in your industry? What tips would you like to share with our readers?

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