Wednesday, August 23, 2017

How to Adapt -- and Thrive -- in the Changing Workplace



How do you drink your vodka?
That’s a question Absolut Vodka wanted to answer when they hired a research firm that was tasked with figuring out how people drink vodka and other liquors.
But researchers didn’t simply poll people about their alcohol consumption to find the answers. Instead, the researchers decided to focus on the emotional nuances of the social setting where people share alcoholic drinks.
So, they went to a party.
What they discovered from watching party-goers is this: what matters most to the attendees and their hosts were the stories that went along with the drinks. Researchers listened as people began sharing personal stories about certain brands of liquor playing a memorable role in their lives, such as during a vacation.
Based on the information gathered from those observations, researchers were able to suggest innovative ways that Absolut Vodka could become more memorable to consumers.
Using such observational methods are part of corporate anthropology, an extension of traditional anthropology that is used in non-traditional settings, explains Andrea Simon, who has a PhD in anthropology and now serves as a corporate anthropologist.
“The reason I love anthropology is because it teaches you to see, feel and think in new ways,” she says. “It’s no longer the strongest and smartest who will survive – it’s who is the most adaptive.”
Simon explains the Absolut story is a good example of how companies can use new perspectives to be more competitive.
“We (corporate anthropologists) see the things (read more here)

Monday, August 21, 2017

5 Ways to Become a Better Listener



Are you a good listener?

Hello? Are you there? OK, put down your smartphone, stop staring at someone across the room and let me try this again.

Are you a good listener?

Most of us would say "Yes, of course!"

Then, we might follow that up with, "Wait a minute...what did you say?"

Don't worry, you're not alone. I am supposed to be a great listener, because that's what I do for a living. I ask questions and then I'm supposed to listen carefully to ensure that I not only quote a person correctly, but I fully understand the context of the remarks.

I'll be the first to admit, however, that I can be distracted. For example, the other day I was interviewing a technology expert on the phone and one of my cats (Ace) decided that he would sit and meow nonstop outside my office door.

At the same time, my cellphone started pinging alerts on the latest White House resignation (I always do interviews on a landline for better quality sound).

Years of training helped me to block out those distractions and they were minor compared to what some people have put up with at work, especially in open concept offices.

I know that we all want to be good listeners, but it can be difficult with so many distractions. Still, becoming a good listener is one of those skills you can never work on enough and one that will always pay off for you in your private life and in your career.

If you want to improve your listening skills, try:

1. Making it a priority. You're never going to become a good listener if you don't really work at it. This may sound ridiculous, but I'm not talking about hearing someone -- I'm talking about listening. This means when a colleague begins speaking, you quit writing an email or texting on your smartphone. You take a deep breath to relax your body language and then fully tune into what the person is saying to you. You must do this every single time. It's like learning to ride a bike. The first time you decide to pedal down the street with your eyes closed, you're going be in for a world of hurt.

2. Don't interrupt. This is nearly impossible for many people, but it's like hoisting a red flag that reads: "Not listening!"

3.  Don't hijack the sentence. You may not mean to be rude when you finish someone's sentence -- it could be that you're just excited and want to join the conversation. But you're not a mind reader, and you never know with 100 percent certainty what someone is going to say to you. So, let the person finish his or her sentence without your input. Besides, it's rude and grabs the conversation away from the speaker.

4. Tune in. As mentioned earlier, you need to completely tune in to the other person in a conversation. People who are viewed as very charismatic are know for completely focusing on whoever is speaking to them. To these people, it seems as if no one else exists. So, stop looking over the shoulder of the person speaking or checking your phone or looking out the window.

5. Repeat. In order to become a better listener, summarize what you've heard when the person is finished speaking to you. This way, you ensure that you heard information clearly and understand the context. This is a step that is critical to ensuring your skills develop so that you're truly on the road to becoming a good listener.

What other steps can someone take to become a good listener?




Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Why that Toxic A**Hole Gets to Keep His Job



When you hear the word "toxic," are you filled with the warm fuzzies?

Certainly not. When you hear the word, you think of poison. Maliciousness. Harm.

But guess what? If you're in the workplace, you're probably exposed to toxicity not through some chemicals or bad water -- but because of the person sitting in the next cubicle.

A new study released today by Fierce, Inc.  finds that there are toxic people in workplace, and they're causing a lot of harm. But instead of complaining about such people -- as we would if our drinking supply became toxic -- we are silent, the survey finds.

Specifically, the survey finds:

  • 53% of 1,000 respondents say they handle toxic colleagues by ignoring them
  • Only 24% of them confront these toxic co-workers
  • 18% complain to management
  • 41% of employees say that management does nothing about the situation once they are alerted
The fallout from these toxic employees, who are described at lazy, negative and unsatisfied with their jobs, is that that increase the stress of their colleagues. They hurt morale, decrease productivity and negatively impact the quality of the work. Women feel the effects even more than men and are more likely to leave a job because of toxic co-workers, the survey finds.

The survey also finds that less than one in five believe that a toxic colleague will change if confronted. However, that could change if more workers were trained to have better confrontation skills, says Stacey Engle, executive vice president at Fierce, Inc.

"A successful confrontation will leave both parties feeling like the relationship has been enriched and issues have been resolved. Without the skills to confront, it’s not surprising that employees don’t feel like the tactic is successful, and in turn are less likely to try to improve the situation. This cycle can be the downfall of a good team, or even organization if not addressed," Engle says.




Monday, August 14, 2017

Is Your Vocabulary Holding You Back?



It doesn't matter if you work remotely, in an open office or on a assembly line.The way you speak can have a big impact on your career.

Why? Because a limited vocabulary may prompt you to stay quiet in meetings. Or, you may not understand what others are saying and so miss information from your boss or other senior leaders. In addition, at a time when all workers must continually improve their skills, a poor vocabulary could cause you to fall behind if you're required to read new material.

Another problem may be that you're mispronouncing words. The other day on Twitter I saw someone refer to "intensive purposes." It's "intents and purposes." I've also heard other people say "upmost" instead of the correct "utmost" and "mee-mee" instead of "meme."

You may think this is no big deal, but if you want to get ahead in your career then you need to show that you're capable of addressing senior leaders or customers without embarrassing your boss. (Bosses often will avoid telling you that your language needs improvement because it can be a difficult conversation, so they will just avoid it by choosing someone else for an assignment who is a better communicator.)

If you think it's time to improve your language skills (and most people could use improvement), then try to:

1. Hold yourself accountable. If you hear the boss or someone in a meeting use a word you don't know, take the time to look it up on dictionary.com and learn it's meaning and how to say it. (Don't rely on someone else's pronunciation, because he or she may be saying it wrong.) Once you use it in a conversation naturally about three times, you can move onto another word. The dictionary.com website also offers words of the day, which can be a fun way to expand your vocabulary and increase your confidence.

2. Pay attention to key words. If your boss or other executives use words such as "acumen," "affinity," and "visceral," then you need to become comfortable using them. Such "power words" can help executives be more comfortable with you. Make sure you note the context in which they are used and try to replicate them in similar conversations.

3. Ease into it. While you're building your vocabulary, don't feel you have to incorporate every new word or phrase into your conversations right away. You may be more at ease trying new words at the rate of about one a week, or practicing them in front of the mirror. Or, try calling into a podcast and using your new skills -- sometimes that sort of format reduces the initial trepidation.






Thursday, August 10, 2017

How to Become One of the Boss's Favorites



I'm all for work/life balance and making sure that you're not headed for burnout by working too much.

But that doesn't mean you go to work and just warm a chair every day, doing just enough to make sure you keep your job.

A recent study shows why such an attitude can be dangerous to your job security -- and could hurt your career and earning power in the long run.

A study by VitalSmarts of 1,594 managers and employees shows that top-notch employees are seen as three times more valuable to the organization that the average employee. (Such top performers were ranked as 9 or 10 on a performance scale.)

Further, these productive employees are also responsible for 61 percent of the total work done in their departments. They are more likely to finish projects they start; less likely to let things fall through the cracks; don't miss deadlines; and less likely to have overflowing inboxes.

Well. You may think that's just fine and dandy. Let these top performers do most of the work, and you'll keep doing your job and finding enough time to check Facebook every hour or play "Word Cookies" on your phone.

But if that's your attitude, think back about 10 years. Remember the economic meltdown where thousands of people lost their jobs? Who do you think was let go first? The people who just warmed the chair every day or the top performers who did the most valuable work?

Also, consider that no boss promotes someone who isn't a 9 or 10, and such a worker certainly doesn't earn bonuses or garner significant annual pay raises. A so-so work performance is not only affecting you now, but could cut into the amount of money you earn over your career.

If you think it might be time to improve your work performance, here are some phrases that bosses use to describe top performers and average performers, according to the survey:

Communication Practices:
·         Top Performers: “Ask for help”, “Not afraid to ask questions”, “Know who to go to”, “Know when to ask” 
·         Average Performers: “Lack of communication”, “Slow to respond”, “Don’t listen”, “Complain” 
Productivity Practices: 
·         Top Performers: “Organized”, “Good time management”, “Attention to detail”, “To do lists”, “Keep track of”, “Block time on their calendar”, “Prioritize”, “Stay on top of their work” 
·         Average Performers: “Not enough time”, “Lack of attention”, “No follow through”, “Too busy”, “Late”, “Disorganized”, “Don’t meet deadlines”, “Not on task”

Researchers offer these productivity practices of top performers:
1.       Collect everything that owns your attention. Capture all commitments, tasks, ideas, and projects rather than keeping them in your head. Use just a few “capture tools” you keep with you all the time such as lists, apps, email, etc.
2.       Decide what your stuff means to you. Clarify if the items you’ve captured have an action or not. If they do, be very clear about what the VERY next action is and who should take it.
3.       Use the two-minute rule. If an action can be completed in two minutes or less, do it immediately. Don’t defer. The time you’ll waste letting these simple actions occupy your attention and to-do list is not worth it—two minutes becomes your efficiency cutoff.
4.       Do more of the right things by reflecting in the right moments. Rather than diving into your messy inbox first thing, take two minutes to review your calendar and your action lists. This reflection ensures you make the best decisions about how to use your time.
5.       Review weekly. Keep a sacred, non-negotiable meeting with yourself every week to re-sync, get current, and align your daily work and projects with your higher-level priorities.









Monday, August 7, 2017

Why You Can't Remember Stuff at Work -- and How to Get Better at It



I'll be the first to admit that my memory isn't what it was when I was 20-years-old, and I bet many of you would say the same even if you're only 25-years-old.

That can become a problem in the workplace, where you may have to recall a client's name you met two years ago or remember exactly why a project ran into manufacturing turbulence last quarter.

With so much information coming at us, it can be difficult to hang onto everything in our brains. Why, for example, can you remember the name of your third grade teacher but not the hotel you stayed at two nights ago?

Several studies suggest that you may be able to improve your memory by grouping multiple items into related groups. For example, when test subjects are given a list of words to recall in any order, they tend to remember them in similar groups, such as fruits or vegetables.

Memory experts believe that learning to cluster words speeds up recall responses and working memory capacity.

Try it with things you're trying to remember at work, as well as these other methods for improving memory:


  • Set up a routine. If you're always searching for your keys, make sure you designate a place at work and put them in the same place every day. Same thing with your unopened mail or items that need to be filed. 
  • Stop multitasking. I know, I know. You're one of those amazing people who is capable of writing an email, talking to a colleague on the phone and doing deep-knee bends. But your brain isn't functioning at it's best when you drag it in different directions, and studies have shown when you multi-task you are less likely to recall what you have learned. 
  • Get enough sleep. Successful people like Arianna Huffington are touting the benefits of getting more sleep, citing studies that show it's critical to your physical, mental and emotional well-being. No one has to know you went to bed at 10 p.m. if you feel like you're a wimp for getting more than four hours of sleep a night. Your improved memory and performance will be a big payoff for your career.
  • Pause. If you're having trouble recalling some information, take a quiet moment and try to place yourself back in the place where you originally heard the information. Think about the conference room where you and colleagues were discussing a new timeline for a project. How did the discussion begin? Who was present? What was the mood of the room? Recalling those aspects can help trigger your memory and enable you to remember more specific information.
What are some ways you keep your memory sharp?



Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Why You're Not as Influential as You Think



When Stacey Hanke begins working with leaders to boost their effectiveness, she knows that at least 95% of these people are going to overestimate their influence on others.
Hanke, a C-suite mentor and leadership trainer, says that even very smart and experienced people are fairly clueless when it comes to how much clout they really have with others, whether it’s peers, team members or customers.
“There are a couple of reasons this happens,” she explains. “First, they get fake feedback. Everything sounds like ‘good, nice job’ from everyone. The second is that they base their influence on how they feel about themselves, and that’s not influence. Influence is how others see you.”
Many of them face a jarring reality when Hanke reveals the perception others have of them, but she says she always adds that it’s possible for anyone to gain more influence if they’re willing to do the work.

Learning to adapt

No matter what industry you’re in, or your job title, Hanke says it’s critical you work on increasing your influence if you want to make a sale, talk your boss into new technology or make your team more effective.
“This isn’t about changing who you are, but rather figuring (read more here)