Have you ever heard someone described as a really great listener? Being defined in this manner implies all sorts of positive attributes; Fairness. Maturity. Open to opinion.
There are so many reasons to emphasize the power of listening in the workplace. From developing future leaders to teaming skills – the art of listening is a much needed skill set. Many leadership experts feel you simply cannot excel in business today without this skill, and I agree fully. Listening can not only make you more likeable — listining can change the face of your career.
Tom Peters, author of In Search of Excellence, aptly calls this skill set “strategic listening”. No matter what your role or organizational purpose he is adamant that listening is critical. Listening is about respect. It is about making a commitment to others. It is about commitment to progress and change.
What you might gain from tweaking your listening skills:
- You’ll grow as a contributor. Learning to put your own thoughts aside for just a moment, will help you process new ideas. Overall, you’ll be in a better position to absorb more of the knowledge that is around you.
- You’ll be better positioned to handle problems. When challenge occurs – effective listening skills can help you to understand dissenting opinions and varying points of view. As a result, you’ll have a far greater chance of finding needed solutions.
- You’ll discover hidden potential. In many situations, your most effective team members may not be the most highly vocal. Hang back and let them know you value their opinions – they’ll be more likely to come forward and contribute.
We can all improve our listening skills. For now, hold back and let others complete their thought. Then reflect on what you have learned. It’s a great place to start.
I’ve never been one to mince words about workplace topics. I’ll admit this may cause a bit of momentary stress for some of my clients. However, our work lives are far too important to take lightly or “baby”. (For some reason, “walking on eggshells” almost certainly leads to more problems and fewer solutions.) By and large, it is simply more advantageous to lay the cards on the table, than to “bluff”.
Which leads me to the topic of development – that often nebulous career goal that we all seem to seek. We all want to improve and progress career-wise. The problem is that we often sit back and wait for others to craft that path and send us an invitation. Why wait? I am giving you permission to take responsibility for your own development.
Some things to consider:
- Master competition. Get a hold of yourself. Just because your colleague was recognized – doesn’t mean that you are doomed. Becoming effective in today’s workplace requires being able to process the ever-present notion of competition. (You can read “7 Ways to Deal with Workplace Competition” here.)
- Reflect on your failures. Yes, I said it – dwell on your failures. Whether the failure was an overlooked opportunity to collaborate, or a missed client deadline – go back and re-visit them. It might be uncomfortable, but it will be time well spent. You’ll likely learn something that you can apply toward the future.
- Think big. Think of your industry carefully and name the 5 skills or traits that anyone would need to succeed going forward. Imagine you are speaking to an intern in your profession – and that your guidance is the only career advice they will ever hear. What would you tell them that they will need to succeed? Then take your own advice.
- Pinpoint obstacles. The only real expert of you, is you – so get to know your career “self”. I find that utilizing exercises to reveal hidden issues (and talent) is a great option to explore. Try the one explained here, by renowned coach Marshall Goldsmith. Who knows what you’ll uncover?
What role have you played in your own career development? Tell us your story.
On certain days, 5:00 PM rolls around and I haven’t accomplished a single task on my “to do” list. I’m doing things – but arguably not the “right” things. Days such as this make me fully aware that it is advisable to take a quick look, every so often, at how we are utilizing our time.
The level of distraction in our work lives has never been greater – on-line, off-line, mobile. Meetings, e-mails, travel. With all of the elements competing for our attention – it’s hard to know if we are making wise “time” choices. A few signs to be aware of:
- You don’t seem to have the time to complete your “best” work.
- You don’t have time to recharge or re-energize.
- You have little time to explore new contacts or projects.
So, I pose this question: Are you an effective time-user? That’s a difficult question to answer. However, I am sure we can all agree that time is a valuable commodity, that commands respect.
Here are a few posts that can help you get on the right path:
- SXSW: Here’s Why You’re Not Productive, Franseca Levy, LinkedIn
- The Ugly Truth About Time Management, The Office Blend.
- How Busy People Find Time to Think Deeply, Ben Casnocha, Linkedin.
- You Should Work From Home Before You Go to Work, Caterina Fake, LinkedIn
- Make Time for Time, Anthony K. Tjan, HBR
- 7 Must- Have ( Free) Mobile Apps to Do Your Job Better, Ryan Holmes, LinkedIn.
What are your time “challenges”? Fill us in.
It’s an occupational hazard — I love to hear details about people and their work. When meeting someone at a conference or gathering, career related topics always flood my mind. Most questions on this topic consist of the garden variety; Who do you work for? How long have you been with your organization? Do you travel much? But, these aren’t the questions I’d like to pose. I’d like to know much, much more and hear the “unabridged” story. The successes, the failures, the wrong turns, the U-turns — all of the highs and lows.
They all meet and mingle to tell a real-life career story.
Most of us become so busy with our everyday work lives that we fail to carve out a moment to reflect on our own paths. That process would take time and the right frame of mind. However, I encourage you to do so.
So — here are the questions that I would really like to ask you. You can consider them when you have a moment:
- How did you choose your line of work (be completely honest)?
- Would you make that same choice today?
- When you think about work, do you feel energized?
- If you could create your dream role, what would that be?
- Who was your most challenging boss and why?
- Who was your most aggravating co-worker and why?
- Are you most creative alone or on a team?
- What kind of work spaces motivate you?
- What is your most memorable failure?
- What single thing would you change (if you could) to improve your work life?
I’d love to hear some of your answers and what you might do with the information. Feel free to share that here.
You are the average of the five people that you spend the most time with. – Jim Rohn
I’ve heard Jim Rohn’s incredibly insightful quote on a number of occasions.
Every time I hear it I pause — as the message is simply that powerful. Those we surround ourselves with could easily be viewed as a critical life choice, as we absorb the moods, problems and the passions of those around us.
Instinctively, we might first apply this concept to our personal lives — quickly completing a review of our inner circle of friends and family. But really we should also applying this mantra to our work lives. The same standard holds there. Those we surround ourselves with can affect our work lives tremendously, for the better or for the worse.
I began to apply the “Fab 5” to specific work goals. (For example, finding the right guide to become a better speaker). However, this seemed far too limiting.
These 5 individuals should have robust relevance to all aspects of our work lives — a group of key people to serve as a “catalyst”, encouraging both exploration and excellence.
As such, the lineup should afford a broader application of the principle.
Here are my recommendations for the “Fab 5”:
- A mentor. An individual with whom you feel entirely comfortable. They should have a working knowledge of your “dream” career direction or path. Trust is paramount and being candid is required.
- A sponsor. This individual knows how to help you position yourself to facilitate needed career progress. They’ll help you consider options such as a “stretch assignment” or a strategically placed team role. They are masters at “career marketing” and will push your career boundaries.
- A collaborator. We all need a “co-conspirator” who allows you to free-associate and helps you explore ideas. They are likely to be quite creative and open, and not overly critical.
- A devils’ advocate. This role should be filled by someone who can “cut to the chase” and expose any weaknesses in your career logic. They help you to reveal obstacles and keep things “real.”
- An entrepreneur. Somehow you just can’t replicate the mindset of an entrepreneur. They are the whole package. Quick. Creative. Above all, gutsy. They won’t let you sit on the sidelines of your work life for very long.
Don’t limit your “Fab 5” to those you can physically spend time with — connecting online works as well. Look to channels such as LinkedIn or Twitter as potential sources to fill these roles. (Those we connect with virtually can still have the power to change our perspective and drive us forward).
Would you benefit from a “Fab 5” in your work life? Who would you include?
This post was originally published at Talent Zoo
Do you have a list of your workplace successes handy in the top drawer of your mind? If you don’t, you may be missing out on a powerful source of energy in your work life. Most of us have a strong tendency to forget to “stop and smell the roses” within our careers – (I am guilty, as well) – and this can create a success paradigm that we can never entirely fulfill.
This week on LinkedIn, I explore the fascinating movement of Positive Psychology, as applied to our work lives. (Find the post here.) Based on the simply brilliant TED Talk of Shaun Achor, we travel the path of potential well-being and success, through the process of learning to be a bit kinder to ourselves and others around us.
It’s a shock — the sheer number of individuals ready to venture into new work life territory. Surveys have revealed some troubling numbers and I am convinced that there is quite a lot of pent-up demand for job shifting. The state of our recovering economy (which has essentially curtailed free movement within the job market) has taken its grueling toll on attitudes toward work. Job engagement is waning. Other workplace consequences cannot be far behind.
However, I’ve not given up hope. Interestingly, employees will stay for the content of the work (Read Blessing-White’s research report here.) So taking a very close look at your current situation piece by piece — might be in order. What’s really bugging you at work? Might things be changed for the better? I recommend taking serious stock and sorting your thoughts before you leap over that proverbial “cubicle wall”.
A few ideas to gain some perspective:
What can I do to salvage my current role? Feel free to take control of the situation at any time. Start with a long, hard look at all of the the forces that are operating. Sometimes it can seem easier to throw up your hands and say ” I am done!”, rather than investing any more mental energy into an already frustrating situation. However, if you don’t — this can simply be short-sighted. If you leave, before you’ve had one solid conversation with your boss, it’s entirely possible that you are taking the easy way out.
What is it about my current role that really bothers me? Is it a problem with a specific co-worker? Not enjoying the content of the work? It’s amazing how you may not have had a real conversation with yourself about the specific reasons you are unhappy. Make a list of the possible contributors to your feelings. Rank order them in terms of importance. Label the top 2 or 3 as “deal breakers.” Take the “deal breakers” that you have identified and meet with your supervisor to discuss them. Start that dialogue now.
Are there personal reasons that may be affecting my opinion? Stress in other areas of your life, can easily spill over into your work life. In general, try not to make career decisions when other things in your life are in flux. If possible, let some time pass before you consider a change. Work-related decisions that are made during times of great stress, are generally poor decisions.
What is the state of opportunity in my field? Please, please, please look before you leap. If the market in your line of work still appears to be somewhat tight — stay put and work on modifying your current role. Want to expand your horizons? Prepare for a “career pivot” and arrange for an “in-house” mini internship within your organization. Know an inspiring coworker? Ask to make that person your mentor and move forward in that way, while staying put for just a while longer.
Being happy at work can greatly enhance your life — and change just may be the only avenue to achieve this. However, examine the aspects of your work that you might revise, before you take the leap.
You might argue — but it is my opinion that you cannot expect to walk through the office door a virtuoso.
Whether you are new to the workplace or simply changing direction, it takes a bit of time to establish your reputation and set yourself apart from the crowd. This is perfectly fine — as good things can come with patience. It’s not a sprint to climb the staircase of success, it is definitely a “steady and paced” endeavor.
Tom Peter’s classic article, The Brand Called You, emphasized the importance of developing your own career brand in our fast-paced world of work — and I fully agree with his premise. Standing out in a sea of competition can be daunting, and branding is a savvy option to consider. You are your own brand — and you alone have the control to develop that brand wisely.
Keeping your nose to the grindstone is a great place to start. However, a solid “brand” strategy is even better. You need to set a projected path and make the most of every interaction. Whatever you are doing, make a commitment to do it well — no matter what the task. Ultimately, it is your behavior that will identify you as something extraordinary.
What will you be adding to the workplace equation? Strive to be unique. Be remarkable. Be courageous. Make a solid commitment that your actions (and your attitude) mesh with the brand of a “high potential” contributor.
A few ideas. Try a couple of them to start:
- Start listening and talk less. Brand yourself as a strategic listener — a critical workplace skill. Key here, is having the smarts to stay quiet and absorb the knowledge that is around you. Grow this way, as this can serve you well.
- Underscore you strengths. Brand your strengths. What are the 2 or 3 areas of expertise that comprise your core value to an organization? Be sure you can speak to these. In fact, develop an elevator pitch explaining your brand — just in case someone directly poses this question. Always be ready to tell your strategic story.
- Be mindful of an “Achilles heel.” Your weaknesses can hold you back, so be sure to identify these early on — and brand yourself as someone who is self-aware. It may not be the most pleasant of tasks to consider, but tackling impediments head on, can help catapult your career forward.
- Be the link. Moving forward in an organization requires a broader focus today, so brand yourself as the “link”. How does your function (and your specific role) contribute to the success of your organization? Be sure you understand these connections and educate others about them.
- Read more. Brand yourself as an expert. There are great sites, blogs and book titles to help you get a strong grip on your specific industry. For starters — find out what your boss is reading. Develop talking points that engage others and encourage progress.
- Find mentors and a sponsor. Navigating the world of work can be a challenge — and seeking different perspectives can be a huge advantage. Don’t limit yourself to one mentor, build a set of them and brand yourself as a life-long learner. Don’t overlook the need for an internal sponsor, someone to help you gain exposure and key “stretch assignments”.
- Raise your hand for projects that everyone is avoiding. Brand yourself as a team player. Remember that the tougher the assignment, the more you’ll stand to learn.
- Learn to collaborate. Brand yourself as someone who gets things done. Gather information about how decisions are made. Be aware of the respective contributions of other teams in varying functions. Help to create an atmosphere of creativity and innovation.
- Chart a self-improvement course. Brand yourself as a “self-starter”. Don’t wait for others to suggest training and development opportunities — always have a list on your radar. Stay alert for development opportunities that will make an impact on your career path and prepare you for the next steps. Don’t ignore the basics (presentation skills, for example), as they are career building blocks.
Do you have a strategy to build your own brand? Share your ideas here.
A version of this post previously appeared at Talent Zoo
It’s Thanksgiving morning. I’m juggling a recipe for homemade cranberry sauce (it’s not going well), the Macy’s NYC parade and a turkey that isn’t fully defrosted. (A slight mathematical error on my part). I am no Julia Child — but that is beside the point.
Between the marching bands and floats, the screen suddenly pans to a smiling older gentleman behind the scenes at NBC. Who is this? He’s 94-year-old Milton Delugg, musical director of the Macy’s parade — a role he has fulfilled in some capacity for many years.
I feel inspired seeing him there. He is a success on so many levels. (Note: Mr. Delugg remained as musical director for the parade through 2013. He recently passed away.)
One reason? He has found what he loves to do — his life’s work. While doing so, he continues to offer joy through the music he shares. Does this keep him young “at heart”? Not sure.
But he is remarkable.
I hope we all find this in our own career journey — and want to work forever. One more thing to be grateful for.
(But, I am still hoping for a cranberry sauce success.)