“Optimism is the foundation of courage.”
~Nicholas M. Butler~
Sandra sighed in annoyance when Carlos, her coworker, who bounced into the office humming an upbeat tune. Their team had just lost a major client, and he seemed clueless about how that might affect the company.
Over lunch, she vented her frustration to her great mentor—and to her surprise, her mentor told her that Carlos had exactly the right attitude. “Sandra, optimistic people have many life benefits that pessimists just don’t share,” she told her. “You see optimism as naïve. You’re analytical; you don’t want to believe anything that’s not based on solid reasoning. But here’s the thing—optimism is actually the most rational approach. Optimists aren’t just choosing to see things differently; they’re actively creating a better reality for themselves. Trust me, it works.”
- Boosting Your Health
People that are optimistic have healthier hearts, a 2015 study by the University of Illinois found. To double your odds of being in ideal cardiovascular health, become an eternal optimist, according to the authors. Optimists also take more consistent measures to improve their physical health—whether they have a chronic illness or not—thereby improving their outcomes, say Suzanne C. Segerstrom, Charles S. Carver, and Michael F. Scheier in The Happy Mind: Cognitive Contributions to Wellbeing. Increased immunity is another benefit of optimism, they add. In other words, optimism can help you live longer and enjoy a better quality of life.
- Improving Mental Wellbeing
Because pessimistic people also have an eight times greater risk of depression, optimism can also boost your mental health, says Elsevier in Job Readiness for Health Professionals. Optimism also helps people cope with stress and become less overwhelmed. They tend to head off stressors early on, often keeping them from getting as big, Segerstrom and her coauthors note.
- Viewing Failure as Opportunity
Rather than viewing failure as a catastrophe, people who are optimistic start looking for potential new beginnings right away. They don’t deny that problems exist—they’re proactive about solving them, say Segerstrom and her coauthors. They make creative leaps toward other possible futures, taking calculated risks, and they’re not afraid to move beyond their comfort zone. Their lack of fear makes them excited about possibilities they may not have envisioned, rather than anxious about them. Because they believe solutions are possible, optimists focus relentlessly on achieving them.
- Branding Yourself as Capable
Optimistic people brand themselves as capable and confident. Thus, they’re more likely to be seen as leaders, people whom others trust. Their optimism gives them a natural charisma, causing others to gravitate toward them.
- Building Workplace Morale
Optimism is contagious, as Shawn Murphy says in The Optimistic Workplace. Optimists inspire others to reach toward greater heights, frequently using motivational words. When others witness an optimist achieving seemingly unreachable goals, or staying the course through a difficult time, they’re more likely to act more ambitiously themselves. They also make others feel good about themselves and excited about the future. All this creates a positive feedback loop, as people perform at their best when they’re feeling positive, says Murphy.
- Earning Promotions
Optimists tend to advance further in their careers than pessimists, according to Elsevier. They don’t self-sabotage by placing arbitrary limits on themselves. Plus, all the qualities discussed above give them a definite advantage over their pessimistic counterparts.
- Strengthening Relationships
Optimistic people tend to enjoy stronger relationships with family and friends, say Segerstrom, Carver, and Scheier. They work more effectively at solving relationship challenges, and they maintain social connections through times of stress, the authors explain. Plus, they keep a healthy work/life balance.
Sandra no longer saw Carlos as clueless and naïve. Each morning when she went in to work, she gave herself permission to feel excited about the good things that might happen that day. At their weekly lunch, her mentor would ask her to share all the successes that had happened, both large and small. As a result, Sandra found herself focusing on them. In doing so, she gave them more power than the petty annoyances and perceived roadblocks that had previously dominated her focus.
To improve your quality of life and achieve your work career dreams, cultivate an optimistic mindset, as Sandra’s mentor advised her. Even if you’re a natural pessimist, it’s never too late to start.
Need more support in cultivating an optimistic outlook? Contact Joel for his executive coaching services.
Achieving the highest possible return on human capital must be every manager’s goal.
Sebastian asks: As a new manager, I see that building relationships with my employees is way different than with coworkers. I don’t want to be that stereotypical boss who stays behind a desk except to give criticism. Can you help me figure out how to navigate these new waters?
Joel answers: Sebastian, you’re absolutely right in putting a lot of thought into this issue. Gallop found that one in two American workers has left a job to escape from a boss. Plus, 20% of workers would be happier if their boss left their organization.
Relationships between employees and managers are not only shaped by personalities—they’re also shaped by societal forces you have less control over. The constant demand for talent can shift the power dynamic between employees and bosses, notes Elizabeth Aylott in Employee Relations. Today’s employees expect a lot from a boss, because they know they’re not easy to replace. Here’s how to give them what they’re looking for.
- Be Trustworthy
Trust is important to the employee/manager relationship. Make a habit of following through with all promises on time. When you’ve finished something you told an employee you would do, say so. If you said you would read her proposal, call her into your office and provide effective feedback so she knows you’re supportive of her efforts. Repeatedly being “too busy” to respond to your employees conveys that you don’t make them a priority. Following up with people about the things you’ve pledged to do shows you respect them, fostering good feelings toward you.
- Work Alongside Them
Spend some time working hand-in-hand with employees, so you can really get to know each other’s working styles. You’ll see firsthand how they work best, so you can serve as a better coach. Their respect for you will grow when they see you’re willing to help out with the tasks that many managers may feel they’re above. Plus, you’ll gain a more in-depth view of each team member’s role when you actually see what they do on a daily basis.Use inclusive language, like “Look what we’ve accomplished together” or “What do you think we can achieve today?” This will emphasize that you’re a team.
- Help People to Grow
Show each member of your team that you care about helping them achieve deeper fulfillment from their work. Make time on a quarterly basis to check in about their career satisfaction and any changes they envision in their trajectory. If they’ve decided to make a change, this will help you figure out together how it can mesh with the organization’s needs. These talks will help establish a strong relationship based on mutual consideration. In fact, Gallup reports that employees are almost three times more engaged when managers regularly meet with them one-on-one, either face-to-face or on the phone.As people push their boundaries, offer genuine gratitude for their contributions and efforts.
- Uphold Boundaries
Recognize that the power you hold in your relationships with employees can make it hard for them to say “no” to social invitations. Hanging out with particular employees outside of work can breed resentment in others and signal favoritism. Thus, it’s best to keep employee and manager relationships professional. It’s okay to go to an occasional event at someone’s home, like a holiday party, but socializing with particular people too often can compromise your working relationship. The same goes for social networking—not everyone wants to use Facebook to keep up with professional contacts, so “friending” your employees may not be a welcome move.
- Watch Emerging Trends
Keeping your pulse on emerging and future trends will help you meet employees’ shifting expectations. The younger generations expect a lot of coaching, training, and feedback, for example. Read the latest surveys and reports on what employees want, so you know how to boost their performance and loyalty.
Strong employer and manager relationships require continual effort to grow. Remember that as a manager, you’re not just responsible for getting tasks completed—you need to foster relationships that keep your team strong. When you build these relationships, employees will feel comfortable coming to you with both problems and ideas, improving workplace culture and boosting your team’s capacities.
“One important key to success is self-confidence. An important key to self-confidence is preparation.
Grayson asks: I’m naturally a shy person, and I want to learn how to be confident at work. I know that confidence is key to coming across as a leader, and I definitely want to advance. How can I stop blending into the background and start exuding self-assurance?
Joel answers: Grayson, you’re right to be focusing on building your confidence. Without confidence, you won’t increase your visibility at work or have the courage to take risks. And without taking risks and building visibility and influence, you’ll have difficulty reaching the next level. This is an exciting time in your career—you’re launching a new, more confident phrase that will take you to places you never imagined you could go. Being confident at work takes effort—here’s how to get there.
- Prepare What You’ll Say at Meetings
Thinking through what you’ll bring to a meeting will help you say it with confidence. You’ll also be more articulate, having carefully prepared your ideas. Everything doesn’t have to be completely polished—maybe you have a few ideas to share in a brainstorming session, and you want to get the group’s feedback. Either way, you’ll contribute with more confidence when you feel prepared. Come to the meeting willing to speak up at work.
- Grow a Team of Supporters
When you know you have star players batting for you, you’ll feel your confidence soar. Build relationships with mentors you can learn from, both within and outside of the organization. Cultivate advocates within your company as well—people with influence and credibility who will talk you up to bosses and coworkers. You won’t just benefit from their sway over group opinions—you’ll gain confidence from the insights these relationships give you. Whenever you feel uncertain, visualize this team of people all cheering you on.
- Ask for Feedback
A confident person doesn’t put her head in the sand, avoiding any feedback. Nor does she believe she’s above all criticism. Rather, she has the courage to be vulnerable by asking for others’ input about her performance. When you solicit feedback, others will perceive you as more confident—it shows you’re challenging yourself to improve every day. Consistent feedback from people you trust will also strengthen your performance, raising your confidence even higher.By the same token, if your confidence is being drained by a critical coworker, remember that your response to criticism speaks volumes. If criticized in front of others, invite the critic to continue the conversation over coffee. Actively striving to learn from criticism and understand where it’s coming from will show self-assurance.
- Find a Problem You’re Equipped to Solve
Pinpoint a problem that you’re uniquely poised to solve—something that others will notice, even though they may keep pushing it to the back burner. Tackling a persistent problem head-on shows confidence and ambition, especially when you took the initiative to solve it.
- Celebrate Risks
When you make a bold move that took some courage, celebrate! If you held your ground in a meeting instead of backing down at the first sign of controversy, that’s a milestone. Whether or not you accomplished what you intended, you showed guts, and that’s a victory in itself. Share what happened with one of your biggest cheerleaders—whether your spouse, a coworker, or a close friend—so you’ll have someone to affirm your success.
Like Grayson, almost all of us need to learn how to be more confident at work as we progress in our careers. Keep challenging yourself to step outside of your comfort zone while celebrating your wins, and you’ll be well on your way to a healthy level of self-confidence.
Joel’s executive coaching can help you fast track your development by building your confidence, visibility, and influence at work. Review his executive business coaching services.
“Intelligence, knowledge or experience are important and might get you a job, but strong communication skills are what will get you promoted.” ~Mireille Guiliano~
At a performance review meeting, Sean’s boss told him he needed to improve his communication skills. “You express yourself articulately, and you’re assertive, but you can go further,” his boss told him. His boss went on to describe a range of communication-related skills that would help Sean become a stronger leader, some of which Sean had never thought about developing.
Articles on business communication skills often address the importance of being assertive in the workplace. In some cases, however, they don’t discuss the “hidden” skills that are essential for strong communication, like the ability to view the world from someone else’s point of view. When you’re equipped with a wide array of communication skills, you’ll be poised to succeed in all realms of business. Here are the six ways to improve business communication skills.
- Practice good office politics.
Participating in office politics is essential, and that’s not a bad thing. Done well, it means influencing company culture and building your influence. Showing loyalty to your boss, honing strong relationships with allies, and networking with different circles of people in your organization are all examples of participating well in office politics. It all comes down to being respected and noticed by others, and showing respect and appreciation in turn, in order to grow your influence with them.
- Communicate across functions.
Strong communications across different organizational areas is essential for maximizing productivity. Your team isn’t going it alone—you depend on all the other teams in your organization, and if you’re not communicating closely, your relationships, processes, and outcomes are suffering. Get to know the people in other areas of the organization, and become a liaison between these different areas of business to improve the flow of communication. Along with members of these other teams, work to define your joint goals and establish how to coordinate your efforts.
- Learn to understand different working styles and personalities.
Learning how others think and work is an essential part of leadership. During one-on-one sessions with people you manage, ask them how they learn and work best. Some employees might appreciate receiving an email about an important topic the day before a meeting, rather than being asked their opinion on the spot, for instance. Navigating these differences is a vital task of a leader, and it will greatly improve the effectiveness of the team.
- Become a pro at conflict resolution.
Conflict resolution may not be fun, but that’s why it’s such an in-demand skill. Learn to master conflicts by addressing their root causes, helping everyone to feel heard, and asking for solutions from everyone who’s invested in the issue. As you guide both parties toward compromise, you’ll gain greater respect and trust from them both, enhancing your relationships and reputation in turn.
- Be assertive yet humble.
Assertiveness is one of those obvious business skills that articles on communication in the workplace tend to tout, and it’s definitely an important quality of a leader. However, the strongest leaders balance assertiveness with vulnerability. They know how to ask for feedback on their performance, be transparent about issues that affect everyone, and gain the trust of others by putting them at ease.
- Use virtual communication effectively.
Resisting using virtual communication will prove a major hindrance in today’s workplace. Virtual communication offers a way of making the playing field more equitable for people who may have trouble physically getting to work for long hours each day, like parents of young children. It also makes working with contract staff more viable over long distances. Plus, job training and coaching can often be done via virtual communication for a lower cost. Get comfortable with virtual communication, and many doors will open.
“As you build strong business communication skills, you’ll enhance cooperation and relationship-building throughout your team,” Sean’s boss said. For the remainder of their meeting, Sean’s boss helped him craft a plan for improving in these areas. He also gave him business articles to read on improving communication skills. Sean left the session energized and enthusiastic about making the changes, knowing his boss was priming him for taking on greater responsibility down the road.
Are you working to improve your business communication skills? For specific guidance, support and tips on becoming a master communicator at work, you can contact Joel for executive coaching or visit his hundreds of articles.
What business skills have you focused on developing? How did they improve your leadership? Share your stories here.
“Entrepreneurs as ‘soloists’ will be replaced by orchestras playing a stronger, more credible tune.” ~Steve Case~
Tamara felt her department was too isolated from the rest of the organization. As she stepped into a higher-level managerial position, she talked with her mentor about how to change this situation. Her mentor advised her to develop a cross-functional team of people who worked together in close communication.
A cross-functional workforce is composed of people from a variety of departments and levels of hierarchy. If, like Tamara, you manage people from an array of departments—or if you aspire to step into such a position—start leveraging a cross-functional workforce to increase your team’s effectiveness.
- Understand the big picture.
Building a strong cross-functional network will help you better understand how your organization functions. You’ll learn how to improve workflow processes because you’ll know exactly what should happen during every step. That knowledge will make you a better project manager. Others will come to see you as a go-to person when they have questions about project flow or other departments’ functions. As you share your knowledge, everyone will come to understand the big picture better.
- Improve your interpersonal communication.
Creating a cross-functional workforce means developing strong communication with different departments and areas of the organization. You’ll find that the functioning of the whole company improves as you learn to communicate fluidly across the organization. By checking in regularly with people across the company, you’ll make yourself and your team more approachable. When they have questions or concerns, they’ll bring them to you right away rather than letting them fester. Likewise, other employees will learn to reach out to colleagues from other departments when they need to ask clarifying questions. They’ll become supportive allies to one another rather than working in isolation, or worse, in competition. Model that attitude by being a humble, approachable leader who always seeks to improve through feedback, and others will follow suit.
- Clearly understand responsibilities.
When you understand the big picture and are communicating effectively, you’ll be able to ensure that everyone understands their role and responsibilities. Because you have thorough knowledge of how a particular department functions and what it does, you’ll know what each employee is supposed to be doing. You’ll therefore be able to communicate your expectations clearly, and to more accurately evaluate employees’ performance.
- Building workplace morale.
When the whole workplace feels like a team and you’ve built a strong level of trust between departments, morale will skyrocket. The end goal will be at the forefront of people’s minds every day; you’ll all have more of a “big picture” mentality. Plus, you’ll all celebrate each other’s successes and see how they contribute to the success of the whole group, boosting motivation. As your increased effectiveness leads to more big successes, morale will only continue to rise.
To build a workforce that is truly cross-functional, Tamara’s mentor advised her and her team, to have one-on-one conversations with people who have key roles or managerial positions in different areas of the organization. “Have lunch with them, and ask them to explain what they do. Show respect and admiration for what their department does,” she urged. “You’ll develop strong rapports with these key players, and that will grow your visibility and influence, helping you reach reach greater heights of success.”
If you’ve started working toward building a cross-functional team, but want more pointers, contact Joel for executive coaching. He’ll be able to provide effective strategies to growing these relationships.
What benefits have you experienced from building cross-functional relationships? Share your stories here on how your teams, across the organization, learned to work together more effectively.