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Archive for the ‘communication’ Category

I’ve seen several blog posts and other articles recently that use the terms “introvert” and “shy” interchangeably. I wanted to take this opportunity to dispel the myth that being an introvert necessarily means we’re shy (or socially awkward for that matter). True, some introverts are indeed shy, and some shy people are introverts, but this is more coincidental then by definition. Being an introvert means that we thrive more in settings where we can engage in deeper conversations with a handful of people (vs. small talk with many people). It also means that we need to recharge our batteries more often by having more “alone” time, as compared to our extroverted friends. And we tend to think before we speak, vs. automatically speaking first.

happy introvert signThere are of course other ways of identifying an introvert, but I think these areas I just mentioned may be where the misunderstanding and confusion lie. I just looked up the definition of “shy” which includes words like “timid, easily frightened away, wary, reluctant.” The word “wallflower” can also be a good way to describe a shy person. As an introvert myself, I can safely say that I am none of these when I go to a social or networking event. My “battery” may drain more quickly, prompting an earlier exit, and I may prefer having conversations with one or two people only, but that’s just my inner introvert kicking in…I should say “shining through!” Making these important distinctions will help improve our understanding of others, both in our personal and professional lives.

Check out Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain. I’ve just started reading it and it’s already proving to be very enlightening!

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In my last blog post, I talked about how to keep employees engaged, the importance of showing employees the big picture. and how their day-to-day tasks contribute to the overall success of the organization. A blog post from awhile ago dealt with the big mistakes that some leaders make, one being, “Giving inconsistent or no feedback, direction, motivation or guidance.”

In reading a blog post from my friend and fellow coach, Kathy Wilson, she discusses this area of leadership with great insight and clarity. Both managers and employees thrive when there is meaningful two-way communication in the workplace. Kathy talks about letting employees know why their work is important and the need for leaders to describe the big picture (i.e.) how employees positively impact the organization as a whole. This can be a very effective motivator, but can also feed into frustrations when not applied, and ultimately lead to employees looking for greener pastures.

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For those who don’t know, I’m referencing the movie, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, where the uninspiring high school teacher is trying to keep his students interested …and failing miserably due to his dull and monotone delivery. Many managers face similar challenges in keeping employees engaged and motivated. Even though the cause of disengagement is different between the scene in the movie and a real-world employer, the results are pretty much the same – low morale and the potential breakdown of the organization. 

To summarize Torben Rick’s article, the following are, in my view, some of the top ways to be an effective leader in your organization and help keep employees invested:

1. Show employees the big picture. When we know that our work is important and how it impacts the organization as a whole, this can help motivate us to keep doing good work and make a valuable contribution.

2. Encourage open communication. Consistently solicit feedback and ideas from your employees. Knowing that you’re listening and their input matters is a great motivator for them. Go a step beyond and show specifically how their ideas are being used within the organization.

3. Give timely feedback. Don’t wait until annual review time. Frequent and periodic feedback is more productive all the way around. And this includes positive feedback as well!  Positive reinforcement is one of the great motivators, although sadly not implemented nearly enough.

4. Support employees’ professional development. Support employee growth and development by providing education and learning opportunities, cross training and coaching. When employees know that you care about their personal growth, it can be a very effective motivator and create a sense of belonging.

5. Collaborate and share on finding solutions: Instead of single-handedly resolving all issues, give team members the opportunity to take responsibility and work through problems or issues on their own or collaboratively. This will help them gain a sense of empowerment and increase overall engagement.

For a good laugh, here’s the scene from the movie.

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Employee turnover is a very costly expense for organizations and something they generally want to avoid. One of the major causes of turnover is weak employer/employee relationships.

But what can organizations do to improve that? Research now shows the advantages of self-expression in the workplace, particularly for new employees. But the benefits apply to the organization as well. In the studies done, when new employees were allowed to express their individuality and use their unique strengths, instead of conforming solely to organizational  values and behavioral norms, both the organization and the employee benefitted – especially in terms of greater retention, higher quality work, greater engagement, increased job satisfaction and more positive job attitudes. This is a practice that organizations would be smart to consider.

Here’s the full report.

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Job rejection happens to virtually everyone at some point. And the form rejection letter that we get in the mail doesn’t help matters. I’ve gotten my share, including one that had someone else’s name on it. Nice. At least get my name right. The most memorable rejection letter I ever received, though, was a hand-written note from the hiring manager with whom I interviewed. Despite my disappointment, I have to say that I was really impressed by this – how many organizations will take the time to send out personalized hand-written rejections? Not too many, that’s for sure. It was not only impressive, but also helped soften the blow just a tad.

I think the same rules would apply when sending out a post-interview thank you note. As a job applicant, you’re almost certain to stand out in the minds of hiring managers by sending out a hand-written letter. How many people would take the time to do this? Again, not many, especially in this age of technology. Just to be clear though, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with sending a thank you via email, especially considering that many people don’t bother sending any note at all, either by email or through the post office. (Actually, the one big advantage to sending an email is if the organization plans to make a hiring decision within a couple days. Regular mail may not get to them in time.)

My recommendation would be to try it and see what happens. If you get the job, it might be that the hand-written thank you note tipped the scales in your favor. I say anything that can give you an edge in the job search, go for it!

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We all try to do our best at work and to keep errors to a minimum. That’s good! But somewhere along the line I think some of us, in our pursuit of perfectionism, forget that we’re only human and mistakes happen. It’s not so much the mistake that’s usually the problem. It’s more about how we react to it.

I think everyone at some point has tried to cover up a mistake at work. Very early on in my professional career, I would occasionally try to cover up certain mistakes, especially the ones that I thought would get me in trouble with my boss. I quickly learned three very valuable lessons from doing that: 1. Your boss and colleagues will respect you more for admitting your error up front. 2. You won’t have to live with the stress or fear of having your mistake discovered. And 3. Your mistake will almost always be discovered.

Being dishonest will almost always come back to bite us in the butt. So just admit it, learn from your mistake and move on! After all, wer’re only human!

For an interesting take on perfectionism, check out The Perfectionist’s Handbook.

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Years back, I got a job offer as a result of cold-calling a company where I was interested in working. This was incredible, especially since I am so not the cold-calling type. I had pulled up the company’s website, which merely gave a contact name and number to call “for more information.” Little did I realize at the time that I was dialing the number for the Vice President of Sales. I left a voicemail introducing myself and gave a synopsis of my background and what type of job I was looking for. Within an hour, I got a return call from one of the Directors at the company, who invited me in for an interview and who would ultimately become my boss. 

Now I wouldn’t exactly advise against cold-calling today when on the job search. It does show initiative, assertiveness and confidence. But with the growing popularity and prevalence of social media sites like LinkedIn, the cold call is gradually being replaced with the “warm call.”  I went to a LinkedIn workshop last night that walked us through the process.

In a nutshell, using the Advanced Search feature in LinkedIn can potentially put you in touch with decision makers at key organizations. For example, if you know only the geographic area and industry you want to work, and don’t have particular organizations in mind, you can do a search on “CEO” (or another job title with decision-making power), zip code, industry, and then include other search criteria such as your alma mater. LinkedIn will give you a list of CEO’s who work in a certain industry, in a certain area, who have gone to the same school as you. From this list, see who is a 2nd degree connection and which connections you have in common. This is a perfect opportunity to contact that mutual connection to see if he or she would be willing to introduce you to that person who works in the industry and area you’re targeting. And going to the same school is a great lead-in when you ultimately contact this person. Hence, the warm call!

One final note: you want to request an informational interview from this person, rather than asking for a job. More on informational interviews in a future post!

Here’s an example I found on youtube that illustrates the “advanced search” function.

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