“Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson~
Caleb, a manager in his workplace, often found himself fumbling for words. He wanted to learn how to make the most of his daily interactions with employees, even the brief ones. He reached out to several mentors in leadership positions. “What are the most important things you say to your employees?” he asked.
Strong leaders use phrases that give employees a powerful motivational boost, his mentors said. These phrases aren’t just sprinkled into a conversation. Rather, they often guide the direction of a conversation by opening a space for authentic sharing of ideas and appreciation. These five phrases are the building blocks to positive relationships based on strong communication, Caleb’s mentors told him.
- “You have what it takes.” It’s crucial to let people know you believe in them. They need to feel confident in their abilities in order to fully apply themselves. Find ways each day to express your confidence in people. Encourage them to take risks when you believe they’re likely to succeed, and to tackle ambitious projects.
- “How does that work?”This phrase resounds with humbleness, as well as the self-assurance to admit that you don’t know everything. As a leader, it’s vital to recognize that everyone possesses specific expertise and a distinct perspective. Knowing when to encourage them to share their expertise is an important skill for a leader. This is a good phrase to use in a meeting with more reserved team members who don’t normally boast about their knowledge. When you know they can explain something well that others will benefit from knowing, give them a confidence boost by asking this question.
- “I’m impressed.” This is one of the most important phrases used by leaders. When you take notice of others’ skills or contributions, let them know. Be specific about what you admire about their talents and efforts. Sharing your appreciation will encourage them to continue making a strong effort in the future. Use this phrase in front of other employees or higher-ups so that others will take notice as well, making this simple phrase an even bigger motivation booster.
- “What do you need?” Asking what employees need in order to carry out their work effectively shows you want to be supportive of their efforts. It also reveals a high level of confidence in others. Rather than micromanaging how their work should be carried out, you’re viewing them as the expert in how it should be done. A strong leader has the ability to play a supportive role by asking this question and following through. Posing this question in a more general way—in terms of how the workplace or job conditions could better meet employees’ needs—may help reveal broader areas of need, such as help with stress management or budgeting time.
- “What is your vision?” Likewise, this question shows that you value the ideas of others. You want them to feel invested in their work. And you know they’ll feel much more invested if they play a strong role in designing their own work performance goals. During one-on-one meetings, you should also ask them about their vision for their career and how they plan to work toward it over the next several years. This will show that you care about their career goals and will help you prepare talented team members for advancement.
Leaders who use these phrases are positioning themselves for advancement by improving employees’ job satisfaction and getting the most of their people. “Write down these phrases and keep them somewhere handy, on your desk or wall,” one mentor told Caleb. “Make sure they’re in a spot where you’ll look at them often, so you’ll have a continual reminder to use them. You’ll soon use them without thinking about it, and it will feel more natural every day.”
Try using all four of these phrases over the next couple of days. Email Joel for more advice on making your people feel motivated to excel in their jobs.
Have you used these phrases with people you supervise? Do you have other favorite phrases for motivating people that you’d like to share?
“Celebrate what you want to see more of.”
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.
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?
“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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“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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“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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