Wednesday, October 29, 2014

How Small Changes Can Build a Stronger Team

When it comes to influencing others to change their behavior, the smallest changes can make the biggest differences, contends a new book called “The Small Big” by Steve J. Martin, Noah J. Goldstein and Robet B. Cialdini. Using scientific research, the authors explain how small changes can help you build a stronger team and make team members more productive and motivated. In this interview with Anita Bruzzese, Steve Martin talks about how managers can be more effective by only making some small tweaks.
AB: Let’s say I’m a manager and I’m trying to figure out how to build better relationships among team members. What small thing can I do to encourage cooperation and a feeling of partnership among them?
SM: Get team members to consider those things they have in common with each other but that are uncommon to outside groups. People want to be part of the gang yet stand out at the same time.
A simple way a manager can help to draw out these uncommon commonalities is ask team members to fill out getting-to-know-you forms before any formal work is done, but rather than ask questions like, “name your favorite TV show” or “list your favorite travel destination,” which will generate similarities that are common, instead ask “name your top five TV shows” which are more likely to identify a shared love of a more uncommon liking.
AB: While some may believe that more money or other rewards can motivate employees to be more productive, you say there is one solution that will only take five minutes and not cost anything. Can you explain?
SM: In today’s hyper-busy world it can be very easy to lose track of the significance and meaningfulness of the jobs we do. So anything a manager can do to remind her team of why their jobs are important can increase motivation levels resulting in more productive individuals. One way to do this is to allocate five minutes at the start of the working week to highlight an example of where their work had made a meaningful difference to a customer or client.
AB: If I’m trying to persuade someone – like my boss or a customer – what small way can I optimize my chances for success?
SM: Think “how can I help that person?” rather than “how can they help (read more here)

Monday, October 27, 2014

How Road Warriors Stay Productive

No one would ever claim that business travel is loads of fun, and much of that is because road warriors often get frustrated trying to stay productive while away from the office. No matter their good intentions, it seems delayed flights, overbooked hotels, noisy surroundings and bad connections undermine them.
But with savvier planning, anyone can become more productive – and less stressed – while on the road.
For example, some travelers say they find it a lot less stressful to stay at the same hotel chain – or even  the same hotel if they’re often traveling to the same destination. That familiarity cannot only ease the stress of trying to learn new surroundings, but can also garner some perks from hotels.
For example, extended stay hotels like the Hyatt House offer evening socials to help their frequent business guests network, providing the food and drinks within the hotel. All you have to do is show up and add some key business contacts to your contact list.
In addition, many hotel chains offer reward programs that allow you to accrue points. This can not only add up for some free stays during your down time, but can increase the chances of getting a room – a decent room – when bookings are tight or you show up late because you circled Atlanta for three hours. Such chains also track your needs, such as a preference for a quieter room away from the elevator and ice machine, which can mean you will be more productive when working in your room.
If you’re staying at an unfamiliar hotel, always inquire about the business center and its hours of operations. Before heading to your room, check out the center to see if it will meet your needs, or if the printer has an “out of order” sign on it. In that case, it’s worth asking the hotel to recommend a nearby Kinko’s.
Once you reach your room, immediately put away your personal items so unpacking won’t interfere with your work later. (An organized room also helps you avoid time-wasters such as searching for your socks instead of going over your notes for a big presentation.) Next, set up an area that will be just for work, such as at the desk or table. Begin charging your laptop and phone and put out writing pads, pens, etc.  Vow to keep the television off while working.
Here are some other ways to stay productive while on the road:
  • Do some prep work: It takes a little time, but it’s worth it to sync your calendars on your devices. Also, sites like GateGuru can help you keep track of changing gate assignments, security-line wait times or layover time adjustments. It also will list amenities in an airport, helping you to quickly locate a healthy meal or snack to keep you focused and energized.
  • Stay connected: Consider a MiFi device or Karma, (read more here)

Monday, October 20, 2014

5 Ways to Get Others to Listen to You

Do you sometimes feel like you're wearing Harry Potter's "cloak of invisibility" at work?

No one really pays attention to you. You're often interrupted when speaking in a meeting, and your boss scarcely seems to know who you are.

Perhaps the problem is not what you’re saying, but how and when you’re saying it.

Let’s say that you’re on the agenda of the next office meeting to give a brief rundown of a project you’ve been working on for several months. You’ve been scheduled as the next to the last item, right after a request from the office manager to stop leaving spoiled food in the refrigerator.

Chances are good that people will not be alert and listening by this point. In fact, they’ve probably started checking emails and posting their favorite Halloween costumes for dogs on Pinterest.

How can you compete with a bulldog dressed as a pirate?

That's why it's important to think about the timing of what you say. In this case, get your item moved to earlier in the agenda.Remember: No matter how interesting your project is, people are probably not going to be in the mood to be receptive and excited about it, simply because they’re tired and fed up and bored. Instead, by getting an earlier time slot, you have a better chance of getting others to listen to you.

Another way to get others to pay more attention to what you’re saying is by joining forces with an already popular person or group. For example, if someone in your office has just gotten major funding for a project, is there a way you can tie your work into that? By piggybacking your efforts onto something that is already well-positioned, you increase your chances of being heard.

Some other ways to get yourself on the radar with others:

· Schedule face time. The boss may be busy, but tell his or her executive assistant you need some one-on-one time with the boss and ask to be put on the boss’s schedule. It helps enormously if you’re polite, friendly and professional with the assistant so that you can get a time slot when the boss won’t be rushed or stressed. Always try to avoid Monday mornings or Friday afternoons, when the boss may be the most distracted.

· Be at the right place at the right time. If an important client or potential customer attends a certain gym, arrange to “run into” them. “Oh, I’m glad I ran into you. I’ve been meaning to give you an update of my project. I’m starting to wind it up, so can I call you this week?” This make it sounds like you’re doing a nice thing, and doesn’t sound needy or pushy.

· Avoid interruptions. While some people like to schedule breakfast, lunch or dinner meetings, the atmosphere makes it difficult for someone to concentrate on what you’re saying. The serving of the meal, the chatter of nearby customers and other interruptions make it tough to keep the focus on your message. It’s better to try and have a meeting set for a private location where you won’t have distractions.

· Be prepared. Whether you’re speaking to two people or 200, if you want people to listen to you, you must do your homework. Be armed with interesting facts and work on using inflection in your voice as well as some hand gestures. Maintain eye contact. Watch how key players seem to gain the attention of others, and learn from it.

· Listen. The key to communicating well with others is learning to listen so that you can respond appropriately to questions and react to changes in the conversation. People will listen to you when they know you are listening to them.


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Best Way to Deliver Bad News to Your Manager

No one likes unpleasant surprises, and that includes your boss.
But when you have bad news about sales performance or a new product development, for example, your vice president wants to hear about it right away.
So how do you deliver bad news without it becoming a shoot-the-messenger scenario?
Jodi Glilckman, author of “Great on the Job,” says “it’s unrealistic to think that mishaps, miscommunications and outright screw-ups won’t happen. They will. The goal, therefore, is damage control.”
The key whenever there is bad news to deliver to the boss is not panicking (OK, you can panic for 5 minutes, but no more). But then you’ve got to figure out some solutions to present to the boss because most bosses don’t want to hear about problems, they want to hear about solutions.
And don’t even think of trying to sweep the whole thing under the rug, Glickman cautions.
“It’s not that hard to convince yourself that problems will disappear on their own if you just let them be,” she says. “But that strategy is akin to playing Russian roulette with your career – you have absolutely no way of knowing, much less controlling, the outcome.”
If you’ve got bad news to deliver to the boss, here are some ways to minimize the damage to your career and perhaps even garner some kudos for being good in a crisis:
  1. Pick the right time and place. While you don’t want to intentionally delay giving the boss bad news, you also don’t want to blurt it out as she’s running for an elevator or showing some clients around the office. Schedule some time one-on-one when you won’t be interrupted and stress that it’s not something that can be put off. This also will help to let your boss know the topic is serious and you’re taking it seriously.
  2. Do your homework. If the problem is that a big mistake was made in a report to investors, then the boss is going to want to know why. Glickman suggests collecting information on where things went wrong as quickly as you can, or letting the boss know when all the information on the problem will be available.
  3. Be specific and concise. The boss is going to want to know the exact problem and the impact. If a competitor beating your product to market is going to hurt overseas sales by 25%, say so. Avoid blaming a specific person, which (read more here)

Friday, October 10, 2014

5 Ways to Shine at a Job Fair

During the height of the Great Recession, job fairs were a mob scene. People with 30 years of experience were standing next to recent college graduates, all clamoring for work.

But as things have improved, many people don't think that job fairs are worth their time.

They're wrong.

Job fairs are a great chance to practice your networking skills and develop your personal brand pitch. They're the perfect opportunity for you to hone your professional persona and to learn to handle meeting new people with ease.

But before you put on the business suit, here are a few things to remember before attending a job fair:

· Do your homework. Once you decide on the job fair, research the employers who will be attending. What does the company do? How many employees do they have? What is the mission statement? How could your skills fit into that environment? Use the Internet or call the company for an information packet before the event so that you’re prepared to ask questions of the recruiter. The candidate who can move beyond, “What does your company do?” will be noticed.

· Be organized. Once you’ve researched the employers, keep your information in files to be reviewed before each conversation. Don’t be worried if the recruiter sees your notes – it will show that you cared enough to do the research and are approaching the fair professionally. Don’t juggle a coat, papers, umbrella, coffee cup, etc. Carry your things in a professional tote or briefcase, and keep your coat hung up or neatly folded over your arm. Eat or drink away from the recruiter tables – keep at least one hand free to shake hands and accept business cards. If there is free merchandise, don’t try to keep track of that as well. If you don’t have a bag to store it, leave it. It’s much more important that you look professional, not like a kid at the carnival.

· Hone your message. You won’t have much time to meet with recruiters, and they will want to hear your qualifications clearly and concisely so they can move on to other candidates. Practice your promotional message that outlines your strengths and how you could be of value to the company. Look for specific strengths. Saying you’re a “people person” doesn’t say much, but saying that you are detail-oriented and thrive on helping solve problems tells the recruiter more, especially if you can concisely cite an example.

· Look and sound the part. Dress professionally and neatly and make sure your breath is fresh and hair neatly combed. (Don’t chew gum.) Make eye contact and always offer a firm handshake. When you speak, make sure you keep your head up and pointed toward the interviewer. Job fairs can get noisy – don’t shout, but project your voice clearly.

· Take notes and get names. Have a pad and pen ready so that you can take notes from your interview. Keep the recruiter’s business card with your notes, and make sure you get an address so that you can send a thank-you note after the job fair. Your notes should keep track of particular interests of the employer, the qualifications being sought and where and when you can do further interviewing.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Apps to Consider When Job Searching

When considering a job or career, you may turn to a personality assessment to determine what type of job you should have or what kind of employer would be a good fit.
Such assessments are becoming more popular because they’re being developed into apps that can help you quickly discover that you sound like a whining ninny at work or that you can quit your job without burning bridges.
Kerry Schofield, a psychologist, says that such self-help apps appeal to many people because they’re so easy to use. Instead of having to make an appointment with a career coach or psychologist, a few taps on your smartphone and you’re able to discover information about yourself that might have been much more costly or time-consuming in another setting. Perhaps more important, apps allow you to privately find out about yourself without having someone in human resources or your boss also know your results.
“I think these apps are often a Godsend to many people, especially those who might be shy,” she says. “It gives them a way to communicate about themselves.”
Schofield, a psychometrician who helped design the quizzes used in an introversion measurement app by Good.Co, says that apps can also help educate people more about their personalities, to see that there are many different shades to individual behaviors.
For example, the Good.Co self-assessment app not only looks at whether you’re an introvert or not, but offers deeper assessments to see what type of introvert you are. Schofield says that the quizzes are built around 20 years of psychological research into individual differences.
“Like most personality traits, many of us fall somewhere in the middle,” says Schofield of introverts and extroverts. “People in the extremes (of being introverted or extroverted) are quite rare.”
Another interesting aspect of using apps to look at your strengths and weaknesses is that research indicates you are more honest with your answers when only you see the results. In other words, you may give answers to surveys at work that you feel your boss or colleagues may want to hear, but you’re more inclined to be brutally honest when it’s just you and an app.
“I think when people are more honest with themselves, then they can begin to learn what they can do to make the most of their true strengths,” Schofield says. “For example, maybe as an introvert you’re capable of contributing a great deal because it’s your quiet confidence that impresses people. Everyone has something special.”
There are many apps on the market that can offer you self-help and career improvement advice, such as:
  • Unstuck. A free app that helps you resolve your problems while providing motivation. For example, it offers digital coaching, asking if you are a “tunnel visionary,” a “waffler” or a “lone leader.”
  • Sociidot. Do you have trouble accomplishing the goals most important to you? This free app aims to help you “take a stand now and create the life you really want to be living.” You start with one dot, then connect it to the next “to make your roadmap come to life.”
  • WorkOnIT. “A better you is only a tap away,” is the promotion for this app that is aimed at helping you with SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, trackable) goals. The app offers coaching advice to help you “understand how to go about achieving your goals.”
  • Lift.  Users choose one or more habits they want to develop and then “check in” when the action is performed (you have to perform the habit at least three times a week to gain “momentum”).  Support and encouragement is provided with community users who give you “props” for accomplishing your tasks.
Schofield says that she believes apps will eventually lead more people to get professional help via mobile devices. She predicts more psychologists and other career counselors will use apps to connect with those interested in improving their lives – but aren’t comfortable having formal visits in an office or simply don’t have the time.
(This post originally ran on Intuit's Fast Track blog)