Monday, July 29, 2013

How to Become a Better Writer

Chances are that you spend much of your day writing. Whether it’s crafting a project update report or sending an email, your written communications are often a big part of your professional life.
What you may not realize, however, is how that writing can make or break your career. Poorly written reports, sloppy emails and even terse text messages can undermine your professional image, perhaps even costing you a promotion or an important customer.
In addition, writing beyond the daily email or report is becoming more important for professionals. Many are asked to write for industry publications or blogs as a way to demonstrate their expertise, but poor writing can quickly undermine that effort.
It’s also important to realize that your writing lasts forever. Even emails can be unearthed from years ago, so make sure what you’re writing can stand the test of time and isn’t something you – or your boss – will be embarrassed to discover down the line.
So, how do you become a better writer so that your career will benefit?
Some tips:
  1. Don’t betray the reader’s trust. Verify what you write and not just through Wikipedia. If you quote a fact, consult more than one source to make sure you give an accurate date or spelling.
  2. Give it time to breathe. Just like a fine wine, fine writing often benefits sitting for a bit. When you’ve written, edited and rewritten your copy, walk away from it, even if you can only give it 10 minutes while you go refresh your coffee. Nine times out of 10 you’ll spot some awkward phrasing or wordiness in your writing when you look at it with a fresh eye.
  3. Be concise. First, let me say that there is such a thing as being too concise these days. Personally, I don’t like getting thank-you -emails that say “thx” along with an automated signature. At the same time, I don’t want to wade through five paragraphs to find out what the heck it is you want from me.  Your first sentence should answer the “so what?” question for me. That intrigues me to read more.
  4. Be consistent. I use the Associated Press Stylebook, which makes sure that I follow a consistent style. For example, don’t write out “percent” some of the time and then use “%” other times. If you’re going to refer to someone by his or her last name in your writing, don’t switch halfway through to the person’s first name or you’re going to confuse your reader. Consistency lets the reader focus on your message.
  5. Make sure it’s relevant. Just because you have loads of great information doesn’t mean you need to include it all. Your readers will appreciate you summarizing key information.
  6. Read it out loud. You may have to do this in the privacy of your own home so your coworkers don’t think you’ve started talking to yourself, but it can help you become a better writer. If you can’t read a sentence without (read the rest here)

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Do You Feel Like an Imposter?

If you're in a position of power, people probably believe you to be a confident, hard-driving person.
If only they knew.
The reality is that inside you're a churning mass of insecurities and doubts, always afraid that others will find out you're not really what they think.
If you feel this way, you're not alone.
Some highly successful people have felt the same way, including Avon's first African-American female vice president, Joyce Roche.
Roche says she has suffered from imposter syndrome, a feeling that comes from believing you're a fraud and not deserving of the success you have attained. She suffered internally from the constant churn of doubts and a feeling that her success would come crashing down unless she worked all the time.
In a new book, The Empress Has No Clothes: Conquering Self-Doubt to Embrace Success, Roche shares her insecurities and how she learned to beat her feelings of self-doubt.
"I want women who are highly successful to know they're not the only one who have those feelings going on internally," Roche says. "I also want them to know that comfort does come with time, and I can hopefully help them find ways to quiet that inner voice of doubt sooner."
Both men and women can have imposter syndrome, often characterized by a feeling that one success will not be followed by another and not believing what others tell you, Roche says. If you have the problem, you also may keep your upbringing or educational degrees a secret from peers and think that you always have to have a backup plan in case you're discovered.
Being a workaholic or perfectionist are other characteristics of someone suffering from the problem. Such tendencies can lead to emotional, physical and mental ailments that can derail a career and a personal life, Roche says.
Want to get a handle on your own imposter syndrome? Here's what Roche advises:
• Speak up. Don't try to contain your feelings and cope with the stress on your own.
Tell a trusted friend, family member or mentor. If you can't do that, try (read more here)

Friday, July 19, 2013

The 10 Biggest Goofs Made By New Workers

On your first day of a new job you’re often excited and nervous. But after a few weeks, you start to settle in and feel more comfortable with your colleagues and the work.
But if you’re not careful, you could find yourself unknowingly making the kind of mistakes that will not only bug your co-workers and boss, but prompt them to label you as “annoying,” “clueless” or “worthless.”
If you want to avoid such monikers, consider these top 10 mistakes often made by newbies:
1. Saying “I know” too much.
You were hired for the job because the employer believes you to be intelligent enough to do it. But that doesn’t mean your colleagues want to hear a smug “I know” or an eye-rolling, “I know” while they’re trying to offer helpful advice. When advice is offered, offer a simple “thank you.”  If it is advice that has been offered before and you’re getting sick of hearing it, you can always say something like, “Thanks for the advice. Todd and Bridget mentioned the same thing so I can see this is an important issue.”
2. Dishing the dirt.
Even if you think it’s harmless gossip such as, “Did you see what Kim Kardashian wore the other day? Horrible!” you don’t want to give even a hint that you might be a gossip. While office politics and gossiping are part of any workplace, in the early days you’ve got to be careful not to give anyone any ammunition to use against you. When the new boss asks a colleague how you’re doing, you want the colleague to mention how you’re focused on work – not the latest issue of “People” or the fact that you gossip with another colleague during your break.
3. Failing to acknowledge the top dogs.
In some circles, this is known as “kissing up.” But paying your respects to leaders and top performers is much more than that.  It means that you’ve done your research and are being respectful of their accomplishments. In other words, don’t meet the top performer and say “Hi” without also noting, “I know you spearheaded that big project for XYZ Corp. last year.  I look forward to watching and learning from you.”
4. Being rude with technology.
Yes, it’s true that everyone relies too much on their smartphone and spends too much time on Facebook at work. One day you may do the same. But in the first months of your job, don’t even send one text during your work hours or even think of checking Facebook. It’s a double standard to be sure, but you’ll be judged much more harshly in the beginning for such behavior. Explain to family and friends that you’ll be offline except during breaks so you’ll be less tempted to stray into behavior that will cause others to see you as immature and lazy.
5. Showing up with orange hair.
If you were hired with brown hair, that doesn’t mean you can show up with neon-colored hair three weeks into your new job. It’s also smart to avoid new visible tattoos, piercings or clothes that drastically change your look. Bosses can get very (read more here)
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Monday, July 15, 2013

How to Become More Influential

Remember the first time you heard about Twitter?
At the time, you may have scoffed and said you could care less about what someone ate for lunch. But years later, with 400 million monthly visitors, the social network that uses 140-character tweets shows that millions of people obviously feel differently.
Millions of people follow famous personalities or celebrities on Twitter to see what they think. Not content with that information, they also may regularly check Facebook, LinkedIn and other social networking sites to stay abreast of what co-workers are doing or what industry leaders are saying.
That drive to know what others are saying or tweeting provides important lessons for those who want to be more influential, says Kurt W. Mortensen, author of Maximum Influence.
"Social validation boosts your influence," he says. "People will always believe someone else before they believe you. We think that if someone likes you or your product, then it must be good."
That means recommendations on LinkedIn or "likes" on Facebook can boost your influence, as can your ability to tailor your persuasion skills to individuals, he says.
"Probably one of the biggest mistakes we make in trying to influence others is trying to persuade them in the way we like to be persuaded — and not the way they like to be persuaded," he says. "Most of us only have three or four persuasion tools, and that's another mistake."
A person has many ways to persuade others, from conveying the right body language to telling stories that evoke emotion, Mortensen says. The key is listening carefully to garner enough clues to use the right techniques so the other person is moved to trust you and believe what you're saying.
"I'm not talking about manipulation," he says. "It's not persuasion if it's not a win-win for everyone. But if you believe in a product, then I believe you have a moral obligation to persuade someone to buy it instead of letting them go with an inferior product from someone else."
So if you have a great idea for your company, then you need to also find the best way to persuade your boss to accept it.
Such a move can be tricky because you have to be careful, Mortensen says. You don't want to step on the boss's ego.
"Make sure you're asking the right questions so that you're sort of leading the boss down the path you want him to go. Don't just dump data on him," Mortensen says. "It doesn't matter if he ends up thinking the whole thing was his idea. Check your ego at the door if you really want to get something done."
Whether trying to influence the boss or a roomful of colleagues, he says one of the best ways to get others to follow your direction is through the use of stories.
That story will help the most if it is emotional, according to a University of Pennsylvania Wharton School study. Researchers found that of 7,000 newspaper articles in The New York Times, those that go viral on the Internet are those that arouse emotions, such as happiness, anger or anxiety.
Another way to boost your influence: Don't make the mistake that only higher-ups have the power to make things happen, Mortensen says.
For example, a job candidate should (read the rest here)

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

How to Network While Traveling on Business

After a long day of business on the road, I have been known to hole up in my hotel room and have room service deliver a hot fudge sundae while I watch a marathon of "International House Hunters."
I always feel guilty doing it, however, because I know that I'm missing opportunities to engage in great conversations with other people. (I don't feel the least bit guilty about the ice cream.)
That's why I'm going to follow the advice in this column I did for Gannett/USA Today. Read on...

If you're like many business travelers, you're only thought at the end of a day may be to head to your hotel room, watch True Blood and order room service.
But for Patricia Rossi, business travel is more than getting from point A to point B with a minimum of hassles. She sees it as a golden opportunity to network and make new contacts.
"Most of us already have a beautiful relationship with the (television) remote," she says. "Business travel is a great time to get out of your room and meet people."
Rossi says the hotel chain she frequents when traveling — Hyatt House extended-stay hotels — offers evening socials that allow her to meet other business people in a relaxed setting with food and drink already on hand.
"All I have to do is show up, smell good and be nice," she says.
Rossi sees something special in breaking bread with contacts on the road, and inviting more than one contact to a meal can take the pressure off you.
"People really appreciate it so much," she says.
She also organizes "tweet ups," she says, contacting regular Twitter followers and asking them to meet her if she's in the city where they live.
"You've already developed those relationships online," Rossi says. "But this is a chance to get kneecap to kneecap with people, which is so important."
Another gold mine of networking opportunities is a hotel gym, she says.
"You're in there, blowing off some stress and staying healthy," she says. "I've developed some of the best relationships with people I meet in gyms."
While many employers trimmed business travel during the economic downturn, it is starting to make a comeback. In 2012, employers spent about $225 billion on domestic travel, a 5% increase from 2011.
That uptick may be because of the bottom-line effect of employees being on the road. Specifically, an Oxford Economics study conducted for the U.S. Travel Associationfound that 57% of business travelers say trimming their travel budget during the economic doldrums hurt their company's performance.
Rossi, a business etiquette coach, says if you're reticent about approaching strangers on the road to make a business contact, try these tips:
• Be observant. Spotting other business travelers with their briefcases and professional dress is easy, but also look for body language that shows a person is open to starting a conversation.
You can start with a simple, "Where are you headed?" and see if a person is open to talking. The guy who turns his body away from you or the woman who doesn't offer a friendly smile is revealing through body language that he or she is not open to chit-chat.
• Share a business card. Nothing is more off putting than watching "someone pat his body down like he's on fire" as he searches for a business card, Rossi says.
Always keep business cards in a handy spot so you can present one easily with your name facing the recipient. If you're the one receiving the card, make a polite comment or ask a question about the company where the person works.
• Follow up. Whether you make a new business contact through an evening get-together or in the airport security line, make sure you send a follow up e-mail or handwritten note.
"If the person mentions that a daughter is graduating, send a follow-up note saying that you hope everything went well," Rossi says. "Or, if the person mentions a love of NASCAR, follow up with an article about NASCAR in a handwritten note."
Notes sent through regular mail are especially powerful for establishing a connection, she says.
"Have you ever seen people go to the mailbox and get personal mail? They rip right into it first instead of the bills," Rossi says.

Monday, July 8, 2013

How to Improve Collaboration at Work

Is your team bogged down by bickering or back-biting? Do team members seem disengaged and uncollaborative? If so, it could be that they need to have their interactions overhauled so that conversations are supportive, focused and meaningful.
In Opening Doors to Teamwork & Collaboration: 4 Keys That Change Everything,  authors Judith H. Katz and Frederick A. Miller describe the necessary elements to improving interactions so that organizations will benefit from a more innovative, decisive and collaborative workforce. Anita Bruzzese recently interviewed the authors:
 1.       In your book, you write about the four keys that change every interaction. Let’s begin by looking at your suggestion to “lean into discomfort.” What do you mean by that?
Our interactions are the basic building blocks in organizations and the foundation for teamwork and collaboration.
We find people often are unwilling to speak up and to share their information or perspectives which lead to wasted effort in working together.  Leaning into discomfort is about being willing to experiment with new behaviors and invites people to speak up. Interactions with new people, ideas, and teams can be uncomfortable.  By literally saying, “I am leaning in to discomfort” you alert your team members that what you are about to say is a bit of a risk and invites them to join you in the conversation.
Leaning in to discomfort is critical to any individual or team that wants to learn, grow, solve problems together, and innovate.
2.       You also advocate “listening as an ally.” What does this mean?
All too often people listen to others to find the flaws in someone else’s position.  When we listen as an ally we listen as a true partner: working together to get underneath our assumptions, link to one another’s ideas and work through conflicts.
3.      If I’m working with others in my company, aren’t we all allies and working toward the same goal?
We’d like to think so – and often people will say they are working toward the common goal and vision. But in reality their behavior is the opposite.  What we have found in the teams and organizations with which we have worked is that few people actually really listen to (and hear) others.
When you listen as an ally, you work to understand the speaker’s point of view, and you make sure you understand before you respond. You seek to engage with the speaker and find the value in the speaker’s experiences and perspectives. As an ally, your focus is how (read more here)

Friday, July 5, 2013

L'Oreal Encourages Employees to Embrace Entrepreneurial Spirit

I consider myself really lucky because if I have a good idea, I run with it. Sometimes that idea doesn't always work out, but I think the excitement that comes from being creative and exploring new options can't be beat.
I remember well what it feels like to work for an employes that wants you to do things the company way, and would prefer you not think too much, thank you very much.
That's why its heartening to hear about L'Oreal, and the efforts they're making to encourage all employees to offer their ideas in this latest story I did for Gannett/USA Today....

If you're so unhappy with your job that you plan to look for a new position this year, you're not alone.
A recent Monster survey finds that 81% of workers who have used their Monster account in the past three years plan actively to seek another job this year and 79% report they're confident they're going to land another position
A desire for more money is a motivating factor for many workers, according to the online survey of nearly 6,000 job seekers. But so is a desire for a more personally fulfilling position.
Such reports can be unsettling to many employers.
Companies have been operating with lean staffs for many years because of the economic slowdown, and they may dread the thought of high turnover just as they're ready to ramp up operations.
At least one employer, L'Oreal, is trying to head off such turnover by offering workers a chance to develop more meaningful and fulfilling work, similar to what can be found in start-ups.
Michael Larrain, president of active cosmetics for L'Oreal, says employee surveys show that workers stay on their jobs for more than compensation. They also want work that lets them have an active voice, something he experienced as part of start-ups for a decade.
That's why he's focused on creating a culture of "intrapreneurialism," or instilling the entrepreneurial spirit within the company so it spurs innovative thinking, passion, ambition and growth.
"I want everyone to ask questions about why we're doing the things we're doing," he says.
That also means that everyone is encouraged to try new ideas without feeling they will be berated if they fail, Larrain says.
"We're going to strike out many more times than we will hit a home run," he says. "But when we do fail, we'll look at what we learned from it and what we can change for the future."
Larrain says he's aware that employees — especially younger workers in Generation Y — want more career development opportunities. Each employee works with a manager to come up with a career development plan because he wants to ensure that top talent doesn't leave.
"I'm watching managers to make sure they're listening to employees. I want them to throw ideas out there and then listen to the discussion," he says. "Our leaders need to be very, very, very strong communicators to establish trust and make sure people feel free to speak up."
As part of that effort, he has established a leadership development program that gives four sales representatives in the United States a chance to be mentored individually.
"We weren't doing a great job of preparing managers and vice presidents to be successful," he says. "That was forcing us to go for external hires," which can be expensive and time consuming.
Instead, Larrain says he is aiming for up to 70% of top positions to be filled internally, creating what he calls "a bullpen of superstars."
Larrain also uses a phone conference once a quarter to get feedback from sales representatives. Calls can range from 45 minutes to two hours, he says.
"I don't get to be in the field as much as I would like, but over the last two years we have developed a level of trust so that they can share what they want. There is no agenda. It gives me a chance to see what morale is like, and where we may be dropping the ball," he says. "It keeps the managers on their toes because they know I've got a link directly to the people in the field."
One program designed to spur that entrepreneurial spirit among all employees is one that mimics the ABC-TV reality show Shark Tank.
Each team at L'Oreal took eight weeks to work with a coach on developing dozens of ideas that were presented to senior leaders during two days in New York. Decisions were made immediately on the viability of an idea with one brand bringing a handful of ideas that "were done immediately," Larrain says.
"It created a buzz throughout the entire division," he says. "It showed that enthusiasm, hard work and entrepreneurship was noticed and acted upon. It's helped really give us jump forward in creating the culture I want."
The number of employees planning on leaving their current position as cited in the Monster survey makes Larrain even more convinced he's on the right path with transforming the culture.
"I want my people to know that they're more than a number in this division," he says. "I want an assistant to walk into my office and tell me she has an idea. I think it's extremely healthy for people to feel they have a voice."

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

How Introverts Can Harness Social Collaboration

If you’re someone who considers yourself an introvert, workplaces today are probably a big pain in the behind.
Open concept floor plans, collaboration areas and even a coffee shop smack dab in the middle of the office generates lots of noise, commotion, interactions and all the other stuff that wears down an introvert and plays havoc with concentration.
But there is a way that introverts can harness the new workplace to their advantage so that they can still work in a way that plays to their need for more quiet and introspection, but still meets the demand for constant collaboration.
Among the ways introverts can succeed:
  • By embracing social media. While you may have no problem posting updates to your family and friends on Facebook, branchout and reach colleagues or others in your industry through various social media networks. Try to set a goal of responding to at least three tweets a day from those in your company or joining at least one LinkedIn or Google+ discussion daily.  Such networking allows you to choose the times you feel like interacting.
  • Letting your caring side show. Introverts often are seen as standoffish to others, so if you’re not comfortable expressing sentiments to a co-worker in person (“I really appreciate your help with that project”), send an email. This can help break the ice so that when you need to collaborate in person, the colleague feels more comfortable with you.
  • Allowing colleagues in on your thoughts. Intranets and private social networks offer a chance for you to show off your brilliance at being thorough and well-prepared. It’s often difficult for introverts to sound off in meetings because they’re not comfortable with off-the-cuff remarks.  If you find yourself in this situation, you can use the company’s internal communication to share your knowledge or answer questions after a meeting. This shows (read more here)