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?

4 Daily Habits That Build Good Working Relationships

Daily Habits

“If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.”

~ Henry Ford ~

Client Paul asks: One of my coworkers recently told me I’m hard to approach at work. It felt like kind of a blow, since I’ve always thought of myself as being a nice person. How can I change this impression my coworkers have of me?

Coach Joel answers: Paul, developing good relationships is a key part of succeeding at work, yet it’s often neglected. Do you ever have days where you keep your nose to the grindstone, churning out work—and feel like slamming shut your door on anyone who dares interrupt? This kind of attitude actually hurts your own productivity as well as your organization’s. Building good working relationships will help you become a more effective leader, boost your chances of promotion, enhance teamwork, and make you a happier person. These 8 daily habits will help you get there.

1. Communicate clear goals and expectations.

When you communicate clearly—and follow through—you show you’re a trustworthy person. Set clear goals and benchmarks for what you’ll accomplish in projects and your overall job performance, and help those you supervise to do the same. Choose the best medium for your communications, too. If sharing a complicated list of instructions, share it by email or as a hard copy in addition to going over it in person.

2. Share appreciation for others.

Noticing others’ contributions, large or small, will give them a more positive image of you. If others are feeling constantly judged or critiqued, it will be difficult for them to engage in creative, collaborative thinking with you. Knowing they are valued will help them share ideas more freely. Sharing your appreciation also conveys a positive attitude, which exudes confidence in your team.

3. Spend one-on-one time with team members.

Getting to know coworkers will help you develop good relationships at work. The one-on-one time also promotes openness and collaboration. Go to lunch with someone from a different department, who might have skills that will be useful for a future project. Have coffee with a coworker you haven’t developed a rapport with, and find out what you have in common. Just knowing you care enough to make this time will help break the ice.

4. Address interpersonal problems directly.

If tension is brewing or you have a difficult relationship with a co-worker, address it at the source before the problem gets bigger. If you feel that a team member is not pulling his weight, voice your concerns to him and state your expectations. Keep your tone calm and professional, and give him time to explain his perspective. Through direct communication, you may discover that the real problem is that he doesn’t understand his role, or that he’s wearing too many hats in the organization. Confronting the communication difficulty directly is one of the quickest ways to create good working relationships.

By adopting these daily habits, you’ll increase your coworkers’ respect and confidence in you. . Fortunately, they’re called “habits” for a reason—as you start doing these things on a daily basis, you’ll naturally remember to do them in more situations and with more of the people you encounter.

Try using at least two of these habits per day for the next week. Take notes on how people respond, and 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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Workplace Conflict: Blessing or Curse?

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“The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph”

~ Thomas Paine ~

Client Martina Asks: Lately, my office has become Conflict Central. We can’t have a meeting without someone leaving in a snit because his or her idea was rejected. There’s a lot of door slamming and loud voices. People who used to socialize together after work aren’t even speaking. Worst of all, our productivity is in the tank. As a team leader, I feel some responsibility to do something about this. I’d like to be the person who turns the team around and gets our projects back on track. What do you suggest?

Coach Joel Answers: Conflict has become a way of life in many organizations. In fact, a whole industry has been created around training people how to resolve conflicts. Just Google “conflict resolution” and you’ll see what I mean. But a lot of these tried-and-true, theoretical methods are not particularly effective. Some people thrive on conflict and love to create more of it. If you have one or more of those on your team, your job is going to be challenging.

How about this? Instead of seeing conflict as a negative, a big problem to be solved—how about looking at conflict as an opportunity to become even better than you are?

Martina seemed unconvinced but willing to go along—for a while anyway. Here’s the outline of actions steps that Joel and Martina put together.

  • Step 1: Develop an internal support team. Gather around a table with a few team members who you know are not happy with the current situation and would welcome an opportunity to be part of turning it around. Look for people who are open to using conflict as an opportunity to get better, not just a problem to be solved.
  • Step 2: Clearly define the problem. The problem is NOT that Joe’s a jerk who won’t go along with anything; or the work load is too heavy; or the boss’s expectations are unrealistic. Just as married people seldom fight about the budget, work teams seldom fight about the work load. What they both want is control. The problem is that nobody yet is able to see conflict as an opportunity and share control to build a better organization. It’s your job to show them how.
  • Step 3: Make your adversaries part of the solution. Not everyone will see the possibilities. However, you must, first of all, respect those whose opinions differ from yours. Invite them in. Give those who are willing to work together a seat at the table and get everything out in the open. During this kind of communication, the key ground rule is “no argument.” The key tool is listening and letting the other person know he or she has been heard. My book about Difficult Conversations provides a lot more detail about how this technique can work for you.
  • Step 4: Capture ideas and pick the top 5. Every person at the table will have ideas. Some will have merit; some will not. Make sure that your brainstorming session doesn’t deteriorate into an “us against them” free-for-all. Choose ideas from all different perspectives, ideas that are positive and will forward the action, not short-term solutions that will put a band-aid on an open wound.
  • Step 5: Team up to move up. Take your top five ideas and let each team member choose to be part of an implementation team that puts one of those into action. Develop a timeline for completion and an interim schedule for progress reports.

In short, the secret to conflict resolution is not “Can’t we all just get along?” The secret is giving people a project to work on where their ideas and creativity are respected and where they can see the results of their efforts.

What’s the biggest conflict in your workplace right now? Start making a list of steps you can take personally to turn this conflict into a big step forward for your team and for the company. Joel has helped many of his clients do exactly that. Email him today to discuss possibilities.

Talkback: Have you successfully turned a conflict into an opportunity? We’d love to hear how you did it. Share your experience below.

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4 Ways to Develop Effective Working Relationships

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“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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Feel Unappreciated?
Improve Your Working Relationships

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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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