Writing and receiving handwritten notes are becoming a lost art in today’s society. Yet this tradition of notes is a timeless act of appreciation in both our personal and professional lives. How unexpected and welcomed when you receive a note of appreciation from a client, teammate, etc.? It just feels good….and when you acknowledge and thank others, it’s a simple way to build relationships. You will stand out in that person’s mind, and it will make you feel good as well.
Here’s how to make the most of your thank you notes:
- Set the right mood. Select a salutation that matches the formality and intimacy of your relationship with the recipient. Make sure you address the recipient correctly.
- Be specific. Reference the exact gift or act of kindness in which you are thankful for. Express how it touched or affected you. Avoid referring to the specific amount of money given as a gift.
- Be authentic. Express genuine appreciation in a personal way. Strive to use the same tone you would use if you were speaking to the recipient in person.
- Use quality paper. Beautiful stationery shows the recipient that you care and also provides a more pleasurable writing experience.
- Write legibly. Take you time and use a good, smudge-free pen. If you’re not sure of what you want to say, write a draft before beginning the final version.
- Close with affection. “Sincerely” is a classic option, but you can use a warmer, more personal closing for more well-connected relationships.
Source: Experience Life- September 2015
Do you have trouble being productive in the morning? Eva Wisnik shares her advice on how she gets more done before lunch than most people do in a day! Here’s how you do it:
- Get your head in the game. Some people keep their brain shut off until the moment they reach their desk. However, you’ll be more productive with some morning forethought before you start working. It is helpful to sketch out your plan either the night before or on you morning commute. If you’re going to be chained to your desk for 8 hours, treat yourself before work. This will give you an energy spike and help you start your day in control. This could be wearing your favorite shirt or stopping for your favorite morning treat.
- ID your to two. Identify the two most important things that must get completed that day. Write out small manageable steps for completing these important tasks and get to work! Aim to complete these tasks before lunch.
- Do the worst things first. Avoiding dreaded tasks from the beginning can lead into a day filled with procrastination. Completing these tasks first will allow you too move through your to-do list rapidly.
- Focus on critical emails. On average, only 30% of emails require an immediate response. Flag these important emails and work your way through them before lunch!
- Stop interrupting yourself. When distracting tasks pop into your head such as, text messages, appointments, or online orders, it feels as if they must be completed at that moment so they won’t be forgotten. However, these interruptions will eat up your morning. Keep a piece of paper handy where you can jot down these non-urgent personal to-dos and complete them at a later time. Minimizing these interruptions will increase efficiency in your morning.
Source: Yelena Moroz Alpert
In today’s interpersonal world, extraordinary service and relationships are the keys to earning repeat business and attracting new customers. A dissatisfied customer may not only cost your business revenue, but also damage your reputation as well.
Here are some great reminders on how to keep your customers happy and coming back:
- Keep your word. Your ability to deliver on your promises to a customer speaks highly to your character and credibility. This is something customers look for and appreciate.
- Be honest. If you misrepresent yourself to a customer, your credibility will suffer. Create a reputation based on honesty and trust with customers.
- Show up on time. Punctuality is a reflection of your organizational skills and dedication. Being late will reflect poorly on customers or potential clients. If you can’t be on time, be early.
- Acknowledge your mistakes. Clients will generally be flexible and forgiving if you quickly acknowledge an error and work to fix it. Attempting to cover up a personal mistake will never work out in your favor. Also, don’t make excuses or blame others. Take responsibility and find a solution to make your customers happy.
- Handle conflicts gracefully. If a client or employee tests your patience, criticizes or questions your authority, do not react with hostility. Keep you disposition under control and remain on topic – stick to facts.
- Don’t burn bridges. Never respond emotionally or hostility if your business is threatened. Instead, remove yourself from the situation and return to the conversation when you are calm. You never know when you may need someone that will be hard to reach if you have burned bridges.
Source: Jacqueline Whitmore, Poised for Success
Ever feel overwhelmed with an overflowing inbox? Do you spend more time navigating a cluttered inbox than you should be? Have you ever considered that it may be YOUR fault? Don’t worry, there are some easy tips you can follow to take control of your inbox and no longer feel it is controlling you.
- “Reply to All” does not apply to all situations. Be careful to use this feature only when it is absolutely necessary. Replying to all can create lengthy email chains that are not always needed. This can contribute to an overflowing inbox.
- Make sure you address each question in an email reply. The way you respond to emails can also affect the size of your inbox. If you diligently respond to each question asked in an email, you prevent further emails asking the very same things.
- Share your calendar! Sharing your calendar with your team is another effective way of communication and planning. By sharing your calendar, your team members are able to check your availability and use meeting requests instead of emails to plan meetings or conference calls. This feature removes these types of requests from your, already cluttered, inbox.
- Set parameters with your team. By this simple task of designating tasks within your team, members will know whom to “cc” on which emails.
- Have a good email signature. Your email signature is a very important feature. It should contain all of your contact information so no one will have to ask for you phone number, email, website, mailing address, etc. This information should be presented in a clear and concise way and be easy to copy/paste.
- Use subject lines wisely. By using specific subject lines that directly reflect the content of your email, the recipient’s attention can be obtained sooner. This allows for a quick response to emails and helps when you are searching through your inbox for a particular set of information.
Success Magazine -November 2015
Many leaders come about the role and title by accident. Due to good technical skills, a great work ethic, seniority, or the unexpected exit of a former leader, a new leader is promoted. Without warning, and often without support or development, the new leader goes from “one of us” to “one of them.”….and oftentimes results in poor team dynamics.
It begins with you – take control of your path. Three steps to developing yourself, becoming the leader you want to be.
Step 1: Define your leadership.
Step 2: Make friends with reality.
Step 3: Build a plan to close the gap.
Step 1: Define your leadership
This first step is the fun part. Decide who you want to be as a leader. Here are seven (7) simple questions to help you start defining your new vision:
- What are your top two or three values?
- In order to lead by your stated values what is required of you?
- What tough decisions might you have to make in order to set a good example?
- How do you handle poor performance?
- What do you do to manage your anger and frustration?
- How do you speak?
- How do you inspire others?
After you answer these questions on paper – You are the creator of this experience. There’s no one stopping you from developing a vision of who you want to be, how you want to be perceived, how you want to feel, and how you perform your role.
Step 2: Make friends with reality
Telling the truth is the difficult part. This step is second in the process for a reason. If you start with facing reality before you define your vision you may get discouraged. Telling yourself the truth about where you are takes courage, maturity, and a certain amount of character. As you look at what you want to create, where are in in comparison? Do you tend to allow bad behavior from your employees? Do you lose your temper? Do you make promises you can’t keep? Are you a poor planner? Now that you have completed step two, you probably have a big gap between where you are and where you want to be. In short, you have a lot of work to do.
Step 3: Build a plan to close the gap
As a leader you need to be a good planner. There’s no better way to test and train your planning abilities than to start with yourself. Your plan includes shoring up your weaknesses, developing new skills and building empowering habits. Start thinking more like an entrepreneur — hire your own coach or go to a conference.
It’s great when your company invests in your growth and development, but why wait or rely only on that avenue? You have choices because you are a creator. You were chosen to lead because of your character, your initiative, your work ethic or other wonderful qualities. Don’t let any company determine your worth or your ability to elevate your leadership—embrace an entrepreneurial mindset and commit to your own leadership journey. No matter how much you invest in yourself, that investment is never wasted, and always gives you a return on investment.
Expert from Smartblog on Leadership, May 2, 2016
One of the most painful mistakes of leadership is choosing the wrong leaders. The difference between success and failure begins with choosing the right leaders. (And ejecting the wrong.)
It’s foolish to define leadership as getting things done. The focus of leadership is people. You earn leadership opportunities by getting things done. You become a leader when you get things done through others. When someone steps into leadership they leverage the talent of others:
- How do they make people feel?
- How do they maximize the skills and talents of others?
- How are they instilling a sense of mission?
- How are they developing others?
- How are their values, not urgencies, guiding decisions?
10 Questions to Ask and Answer…
- What is their definition of leadership?
- How are they expressing curiosity?
- Where do they fall on the scale of optimistic vs. pessimistic?
- How are their values?
- How do they appreciate the impact of their behaviors on others?
- What makes you believe they can focus on “what” needs to be done without getting lost in “how” things get done?
- How are they able to see the world through the lens of others?
- How are they including others in decision-making?
- How do they respond to failure or correction?
- How do they respond to authority?
Bonus: Do they aspire to lead?
Exploring the answers to these questions, will provide you insight if you are choosing the right leader of people (and not a ‘boss’).
Excerpt from Leadership Freak – April 20, 2016
“What is your number one secret to productivity?” Kevin Kruse, NY Times Bestselling Author, Entrepreneur has asked this question of over 200 ultra-successful people, including 7 billionaires, 13 Olympians, and a host of accomplished entrepreneurs, yielding some fascinating suggestions. What follows are some favorites from Kevin’s findings.
- They focus on minutes, not hours. Most people default to hour and half-hour blocks on their calendar; highly successful people know that there are 1,440 minutes in every day and that there is nothing more valuable than time.
- They focus on only one thing. Ultra-productive people know what their “Most Important Task” is and work on it for one to two hours each morning, without interruptions. What task will have the biggest impact on reaching your goals.
- They don’t use to-do lists. What task will have the biggest impact on reaching your goals? Instead schedule everything on your calendar and live by that calendar. It turns out that only 41% of items on to-do lists get done.
- They delegate almost everything. Ultra-productive people don’t ask, “How can I do this task?” Instead, they ask, “How can this task get done?” They take the ‘I’ out of it as much as possible, eliminating the control issues, and they are not micro-managers.
- They make it home for dinner. Intel’s Andy Grove, who said, “There is always more to be done, more that should be done, always more than can be done.” Highly successful people know what they value in life. Yes, work, also life outside of it.
- They use a notebook. Richard Branson has said he wouldn’t have been able to build Virgin without a simple notebook – he takes it with him everywhere. Free your mind by writing everything down as the thoughts come to you.
- They process e-mails only a few times a day. Schedule time to process emails quickly and efficiently, versus checking often throughout the day.
- They touch things only once. How many times have you opened a piece of regular mail or even email —only to deal with it again later? Highly successful people try to “touch it once.”
- They practice a consistent morning routine. Most of these highly-successful people nurtured their bodies with water, a healthy breakfast, and light exercise; they nurtured their minds with meditation or prayer, inspirational reading, or journaling.
- Energy is everything. You can’t make more minutes in the day, but you can increase your energy to increase your attention, focus, and productivity. Food is viewed as fuel, sleep as recovery, and breaks as opportunities to recharge in order to get even more done.
You might not be an entrepreneur, an Olympian, or a billionaire, yet their secrets may help you to get more done in less time and help eliminate that feeling we can get of being overworked and overwhelmed. What do you do to stay productive?
Excerpt from Dr. Travis Bradberry, TalentSmart, April 2016
Certain aspects of thinking and behaving like a good leader can be tough for many leaders. The best leaders who grasp concepts like influence, vision, listening, and delegating with relative ease arrive there through hard work and practice and taking responsibility to own up to “our stuff” when “our stuff” is at fault. Remember the old saying, “for every finger you point, there’s three pointing back at you”?
How a leader thinks and acts can no doubt impact a team for better or worse. Better = high-functioning leadership fostered by mutual trust and accountability. Worse = dysfunctional leadership hampered by poor decision making and weak social/emotional intelligence.
How to think and act as a leader is as much about what you should do, as much as what you should not do. Our goal is intentional leadership – Being conscious and intentional about how you lead others and yourself.
These 10 common thought patterns hold leaders back, destroy their self-esteem, and damage relationships in the workplace. Do you see yourself? Being aware is the first step to change.
- Extreme – seeing things in black and white, and blowing things out of proportion.
- Broad – generalizing from a specific; labeling people rather than their behaviors.
- Negative – seeing the glass as half empty and dwelling on the worst possible outcome.
- Demanding – wanting things their way and having expectations that cloud a sense of reality.
- Judgmental – condemning others for their shortcomings and being unable to forgive.
- Obsessed – getting on a track of being unable to budge or view things differently.
- Confused – having pictures in their heads that do not match the “real world”; feeling that they don’t get what they think they’re “supposed to” get.
- Intolerant – having a need to have things the way they “should be”; finding it difficult to have patience and tolerance for differences that don’t fit their needs and expectations.
- Perfectionist – having a need to be “right” and not make mistakes.
- “Shoulding” on Self and Others – placing expectations of how one “should” be, thereby limiting their ability to accept self and others without judgment, leading to negativity and tendency to criticize.
Which of the above resonates with you as a leader? What may be the hardest distorted thinking pattern to overcome? Or even accept that it’s dysfunctional? Which may be the easiest to overcome? We would love to hear from you – firstname.lastname@example.org
Reference: Article Lead Change Group, March 18, 2016
The further along we are in our career, the easier it is to fall back on the mistaken assumption that we’ve made it and have all the skills you need to succeed. We should never stop learning – The act of learning is every bit as important as what you learn.
Mahatma Gandhi says it well…“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”
Our time is finite, so focusing on these nine skills will yield the greatest benefit as will always continue to pay dividends.
- Emotional intelligence (EQ). EQ is the “something” in each of us that is a bit intangible. EQ is your ability to recognize and understand emotions in yourself and others and your ability to use this awareness to manage your behavior and relationships – it is what sets star performers apart.
- Time management. Learning to manage your time effectively frees you up to perform at your absolute highest level, and it does so every single day of your life.
- Listening. True listening is about understanding, not rebuttal or input. Learning how to suspend judgment and focus on understanding the other person’s input is vital to our success!
- Making decisions. Learning to make sound decisions and move forward. We will not always have all the facts, but to know when you have enough to base a decision and not be crippled by fear of making a decision or a wrong decision.
- Asking for help. The ability to recognize when you need help, summon up the courage to ask for it, and follow through on that help is an extremely valuable skill.
- Getting high-quality sleep. When you don’t get high-quality deep sleep, the toxic proteins remain in your brain cells, wreaking havoc and ultimately impairing your ability to think—something no amount of caffeine can fix. This slows your ability to process information and solve problems, kills your creativity, and increases your emotional reactivity.
- Knowing when to stop talking. When you read and respond to your emotions, you’re able to choose your battles wisely and only stand your ground when the time is right.
- Taking initiative. You have to take risks and push yourself out of your comfort zone, until taking initiative is second nature.
- Staying positive. The real obstacle to positivity is that our brains are hard-wired to look for and focus on threats. We have to train our brain to make it a habit.
In Summary, this is by no means an exhaustive list – what else do you believe should be included? Please email me at email@example.com. I would love to hear from you – Robyn
Reference exerpt – Dr. Travis Bradberry/Forbes Mar 7, 2016
Podcasting is a great way to learn and be inspired through the stories that are shared. Storytelling is a powerful tool and a central component of leadership. Want to understand why Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, Bill Clinton or Barack Obama became national leaders? A big part of it lay in their ability to tell effective leadership stories.
If you have an interest in entrepreneurship, tech, leadership, business, creativity, or just learning and expanding your mind, here are 100 podcasts that can help you bring your best to all you do.
Pick out a few to start with, then get ready to listen and learn while you’re in the car, on the treadmill, or during your morning commute.
# 27 is my personal favorite!
To view the list, please click here….and get ready to be inspired! – Robyn
Are you working effectively as a leader with your team? With your peers? With your leader? These key relationships don’t just happen…effective relationships are built over time. Let us help you improve your impact with others.
Using a customized Everything DiSC® assessment, a research-validated learning model, participants learn to understand and appreciate the ‘styles’ of people they work with. The result…is more effective and productive working relationships, communication and business results.
You can use Everything DiSC® to:
- Build Strong Teams – Understanding each team members’ communication preference and work better as a team.
- Communicate More Effectively – The tool provides customized strategies for approaching others you want to develop or deepen a relationship, when problems need to be solved or when things get tense.
- On-board New Team Members –Understand the communication style of your new leader and to learn about how to work effectively with your new teammates.
- Improve Communication Between Two Very Different People – The Everything DiSC® comparison report provides a direct comparison between two team members that may not see eye to eye.
- Motivate, Delegate to and Develop Team Members – Leaders learn specific strategies for working with each person on their team.
- And so much more….
WHY is it so effective? Click here to watch a video (4 minutes).
It’s Impactful…What Our Clients Say
- “Gives great insight as to what makes others tick and to help understand how to work better with
- “I will be more observant of others attributes – I will learn to communicate better with others.”
- “Good things come from knowing more about people surrounding you.”
- “I will adapt my interactions based on the other person’s style. Focus on increasing workplace effectiveness.”
- “Very helpful to understand how people think in order for us to efficiently achieve our common goal.”
- “Wow! This was really eye-opening!”
To learn more about customizing a development program for you…
Contact Robyn Marcotte at 248.882.2354 or Robyn@ahaleadership.com.
Ask and answer these questions regularly to get laser focus clarity around your team’s productivity and you can improve goal-setting, and more effectively lead and inspire performance among your team.
Question #1: Do I have the right talent?
Great leaders are purposefully and strategically surrounding themselves with talented people. These employees are working alongside their leaders and behind the scenes, driving productivity, profitability, and overall success. Studies have shown that 80% of turnover is directly tied to bad hiring decisions—and turnover is expensive!
Question #2: Ask ‘What’s the goal?’ often
Starting with you and then moving out to the frontlines of your team, determine whether everyone’s has a good grasp of their major goals. Pull employees aside and ask “What are your goals?” or “How are you performing against your goals?” If individuals struggle with articulating their goals, describing activities they are doing instead, you’ve got your answer – not clear!
Goal clarity is vital – cultures that embrace a “What’s the goal?” mindset are more productive – ask often… It’s powerful!
Question #3: Do we have goal alignment with other departments?
High performing companies are strategically aligned through goal alignment across departments. EX: goal is to reduce overtime so you cut customer service hours, yet the customer service department gets flooded with more calls during its fewer open hours, hurting the customers’ experience and productivity. This is goal misalignment.
Question #4: Are we holding people accountable?
Real accountability requires sheer discipline if it is going to work. Regularly scheduled accountability meetings where performance is discussed, reported (and measured progress) is an excellent to keep everyone focused on the goals. These meetings also provide insight into what is and is not working and who needs coaching.
Question #5: How are we performing against the competition?
Knowing your competition gives you an opportunity to create a competitive advantage. Ask your team to explore how they’d feel if they could do something new or different relative to the competition. Then inspire their productivity, giving your employees the freedom and support necessary for developing cutting-edge solutions that align to the company’s goals
As we head into a new year and for many companies as you create new goals, this is an opportunity to embrace these concepts and put into action regularly.
Source: “The Disciplined Leader: Keeping the Focus on What Really Matters” by John Manning
Personal Learning Strategies
If you’re a leader, you know how important it is to ensure your team is given plenty of training and development opportunities. However, it’s just as important to focus on your own learning and development. Why?
When you make learning a priority, you increase your value – You’re more marketable as a professional, and you’re in a better position to get that promotion or challenging project. Continuous learning also helps you develop expert power where others are far more willing to respect your opinion and follow your lead.
To do this, it’s essential to set aside enough time…..but how can you make time?
1. Set Learning Goals
Identify your learning objectives, and visualize how these will help you achieve the other professional goals you’ve set. What do you want to get from your learning? And why are you making time to learn? Break the goals down into chunks that you can add to your daily/weekly to do list.
2. Identify Obstacles
Come up with strategies to overcome obstacles that most likely will come up. Example – you’ve committed to spending half an hour reading a book when you get home. What do you need to plan for to ensure this time is not pushed off?
3. Think Small
Many assume that we’ll need large chunks of time to devote to learning. However, short blocks of time can be just as effective, if you focus. Look at your To-Do List, and see what you can achieve in the time available.
4. Learn at Your Best
Many people schedule their learning for a time when they’ve completed everything else. However tempting this may be, think about how you feel when you’ve accomplished everything on your to-do list. You’re usually exhausted, right? Everyone has different peaks and valleys in their energy levels. Find yours.
5. Make Learning a Habit
You’ll only be able to sustain your learning if you make it a habit. Developing any habit takes work, at least 21-days of repetition and self-discipline. To build a habit, look at your schedule and see how you can work time for learning in every day.
6. Choose the Right Learning Style
Do know how you learn best? Some people learn and retain information best when they can read and take notes. Others are active learners; they need to learn by doing something themselves. Find yours and resources to embrace your style.
It’s often easiest to learn in collaboration with others; when you join a community that makes learning a priority, these people can also hold you accountable for your learning goals. Perhaps colleagues with the same goal of learning?
8. Delegate Tasks
Your day is likely full of tasks that you’re responsible for. So, how are you going to fit learning in? Is there anything you can delegate with your professional or personal responsibilities? Even a half hour cleared in your schedule can then be used to work on your learning goals.
Lifelong learning is essential if you want to stay “in demand” in a changing business world. Will you devote the time in the coming year?
Research has shown that thanking others and explaining why we’re grateful, is one of the most powerful ways of spreading happiness. In fact, the study showed that if you write one letter of gratitude to just one key person in you life, experience a months worth of happiness.
In spirit of “Merry” Christmas and “Happy” New Year, I want to thank all of you…thank you for your business, sharing yourselves, and being open to new ideas and ways of leading others. We learn as much from you with your passionate stories, challenges and opportunities as you learn from us!
Okay, now it’s your turn – who are you going to thank? Go ahead, see how this is the gift that gives back. You will make their day…and yours.
Robyn Marcotte, Aha! Leadership
Why servant leadership is vital to leading effectively
I often here people share how they want to do more charity work and wish they had more time to do outside of work. The reality is we DO have the opportunity to do service work with our colleagues every day.
You may have heard the team a servant leader. The idea of servant leadership is that the typical hierarchy where employees are supposed to serve their leaders is turned upside down. Instead, leaders serve their people. The word ‘servant’ has traditionally been depicted as a lowly, negative position, yet as Meriam-Webster dictionary defines it, it is a person who is devoted to or guided by something.
What employee would not want to work for a leader that is devoted to helping them and the company? I believe that truly is the difference between a leader and a boss.
In his book, The Culture Engine, organizational consultant S. Chris Edmonds says that servant leadership is the foundation for leading others effectively.
According to Edmonds, “servant leadership is a person’s dedication to helping others be their best selves at home, work, and in their community. Anyone can serve–and lead–from any position or role in a family, workplace, or community.” Culture drives everything that happens in an organization and team day to day – having a leader with the mindset and action that serves others, the company, customers, etc. promotes a great culture that drives performance, helping to attract and retain talent.
All servant leaders share two fundamental beliefs about the people they lead, and engage in five practices that put these beliefs into action.
Servant leaders believe that…
- Every person has value and deserves civility, trust, and respect
- People can accomplish much when inspired by a purpose beyond themselves.
According to Edmonds, the five practices of servant leaders include…
- Clarify and reinforce the need for service to others – Servant leaders educate the members of their team through their words and actions, and they encourage their people to set aside self-serving behaviors in favor of serving others.
- Listen intently and observe closely – Servant leaders really listen to people, and they actively solicit their participation, their ideas, and their feedback. In time, they get to know the perspective of each one of their employees, and they tailor their leadership approach accordingly.
- Act as selfless mentors – Servant leaders know that by helping to guide the people who work for them, they will help their employees learn vital skills that will both improve their performance, and improve them as people.
- Demonstrate persistence – Servant leaders realize that one or two conversations may not have the desired change in an employee’s assumptions or mindset. So they are tenacious and invest whatever time it takes to educate and inspire servant leadership practices in the members of their team.
- Respectfully hold themselves and others accountable for their commitments – Servant leaders know that no one is perfect, and everyone makes mistakes–including themselves. With that in mind, they push for high standards of performance, service quality, and alignment of values throughout the team, and they hold themselves and their people accountable for their performance.
At Aha! Leadership, we are proud to serve you… our clients, colleagues and friends. We are thankful for the opportunity to do so!
Source: “The Culture Engine” by S. Chris Edmonds
You’ve no doubt heard it a million times: Career advancement is as much about who you know as what you know—and that’s exactly why being a powerful networker is so important.
And mastering this crucial skill requires more than just schmoozing over cheese platters and exchanging business cards. There’s actually an art to it. True networking in its purest form, it’s about people enjoying other people, communicating passions and connecting with others who share those passions.
It’s about listening, figuring out what others need and connecting them with people you think can help, without any designs for personal gain. The most successful networkers build genuine relationships and give more than they receive.
They go beyond thinking, “What’s in it for me?” to ask “How can I help?” This is applies to both formal networking events as well as in our one-on-one conversation with another person.
So you have the desire to network? Below are ways to network successfully and have fun doing it.
- Start networking before you need it. Networking when you have no ulterior motive, you can begin to build relationships and a reputation for being generous rather than self-serving.
- Have a plan – of who you are. Since every person has value, it’s essential that you know what yours is. Get clear on what talents, strengths, skill sets and connections you can bring to the table. Map out what you want to talk about, particularly how you may be able to help other people, either now or in the future.
- Have a plan – Schedule time. Aside from formal networking events, think about who you would like to reach out weekly, monthly, etc. and make a plan to do it. Set time for lunch or send an article that is relevant to something they are interested in – show interest.
- Deepen Your Network Pool. Birds of a feather flock together – the more similar someone is to you, the more comfortable it feels to connect. We tend to hang out with people like ourselves—the same gender, ethnicity and academic background, etc., yet diversity is key to growing a strong personal network. So seek relationships with totally different people who can introduce you to brand-new social clusters.
- Never dismiss anyone as unimportant. Make it your mission to discover the value in each person you talk to. Ask questions and listen with interest. Don’t make the mistake of discounting people due to their titles – they may have valuable connections or knowledge you’d never learn about if you’d dismissed them. Then, when the conversation ends, remember what that person has to offer. This will help you in the next bullet.
- Forget your personal agenda and connect the dots. While you may be tempted to network just to land a job or talk to people you normally wouldn’t have access to, that’s a mistake. Instead, make it your goal to be open, friendly and honest, and to forge connections between people who may be able to help each other. Generosity is an attractive quality and it’s something special that people will remember about you.
- Figure out how you can be useful. Before any conversation ends, be sure to ask, “How can I help you?” Because it’s done so rarely, you may encounter a surprised look, but it will most likely be accompanied by an appreciative smile. People will remember you as helpful and in turn may be more apt to help you in the future.
- Follow up and follow through. If you told someone you’d get in touch with them, do it and reaffirm your intent to assist in any way you can. It takes no more than a minute to shoot off an email to introduce two people you want to connect. They can take it from there and do the work — just enjoy being the bridge. Little things like that mean a lot to people.
- Believe in the power of networking. When you believe that the true value of networking lies in helping others and you do your part, you’ll soon discover magic happening all around you. The beauty of this approach is that you never know when that magic may cast its spell on you.
What are those areas you would like to expand or learn more about? Are there events you could attend? Or someone new to have lunch with? The more you do it, the easier (and more enjoyable) it becomes.
Excerpts from Secrets from Power Networking Pros, Forbes 2014
How many hours do you spend communicating by email every day? Most of us would answer, “Too many!” People spend 28% of their working week reading and replying to emails (study by McKinsey® & Company). Yet, despite the risk of becoming overloaded with messages, it remains one of the most powerful and efficient communication tools.
Using email is a quick and easy way to stay connected; however, it can be very easy to send ineffective emails, create the wrong impression, or even damage your reputation with sloppy practices. Below are 10 common mistakes people make when sending email, and outlined steps you can do to avoid them.
Mistake 1: Using the Wrong Tone
You might be tempted to send emails quickly when you’re in a rush, without thinking carefully about your audience, what you’re saying, or how your message might come across. So, it’s important to consider who you’re “talking” to and what action you want them to take, before you start writing.
A good rule to follow is to address people in an email as you would in person. For example, making a quick request or providing instructions without a “hello” or “thank you” will likely come across as rude, regardless of how busy you are. So, make sure that all of your emails are courteous and respectful, and avoid typing in capitals, which implies anger or aggression.
Mistake 2: Hitting “Reply All”
How often have you been copied into an email exchange that’s not relevant to you, and doesn’t require you to take any action? Chances are, it happens regularly, and you know how frustrating it can be.
“Reply all” is a useful tool for keeping multiple team members in the loop but it can be distracting and time consuming; and becoming known as the person who always hits “reply all” can potentially damage your reputation , as it can appear thoughtless, rushed and unprofessional. It might also suggest that you’re not confident making decisions without input from senior managers.
So, consider whether you should “reply all” or respond only to the email’s sender. And, think about whether using “cc” (carbon copy) to include selected team members is more appropriate, and outline why you copied others and what is expected of them.
Mistake 3: Writing Too Much
Brief and succinct emails that contain only the important details are much more effective than long or wordy ones.If you’re struggling to keep your message short, consider whether the subject matter is too complex. Would another way of communicating it be more effective? Would a face-to-face meeting or telephone call make it clearer? Should you put your information in a procedure document instead?
Mistake 4: Forgetting Something?
How many times have you sent an email without attaching the relevant document? Perhaps you included a link that didn’t work? Or even attached the wrong file? Consider attaching files as soon as your start drafting your message, and always check all of your links carefully.
Mistake 5: Emailing the Wrong Person
Today, email providers increasingly use “auto-fill,” predictive text and “threads” (or “conversation view”), which can all increase the risk of you sending your message to the wrong person. So, always pause to review your email before you send it. When you reply to or forward an email within a thread, make sure that all the messages contained within it are appropriate for the recipient. Is there any sensitive information? Are there any personal comments or remarks?
Mistake 6: Being Too Emotional
One of the main benefits of email is that you don’t need to respond immediately. Delay your response when you’re stressed, angry or upset. These emails could damage your working relationships, or even be used as evidence against you. Wait until you’ve calmed down and can think clearly and rationally.
Mistake 7: Not Using “Delay Send”
It can be satisfying to send an email as soon as you finish writing it, so that it’s “off your desk.” However, many email clients now provide a “delay” or “scheduled send” function, which can be particularly useful.
For example, imagine that you’re catching up on your emails late at night or during the weekend. What sort of impression will this give clients and stakeholders? How will they view your time management? Will team members feel that they should take action out of working hours? Alternatively, imagine that you’re working on a project, and you want to provide your team members with information at a specific point. Scheduling an email to arrive at a certain time is a good way to do this, and it can help you manage your time and organize your workload.
Mistake 8: Using Vague Subject Lines
As we’ve said, email is most effective when your message is concise and to the point (but not abrupt). So, it’s important to start with a clear subject line, so that people know what to expect when they open it. What is your email about? Is there an important deadline date? Do you want people to take action before a certain time? Is it urgent or non-urgent? Tailor your subject line accordingly, so your recipient can give the email the right level of priority and attention.
Mistake 9: Not Reviewing
Proofing your emails is one of the most important things you can do. It only takes a few minutes, and it helps you to pick up poor grammar, spelling mistakes and punctuation errors, which look unprofessional and sloppy
Finally, don’t add the recipient to your email until the last moment. This ensures that you can’t accidentally send your message before you’ve finished writing it, have added your attachment, checked the email, and spotted any errors.
Mistake 10: Sending Unnecessary Emails
Because email is so quick and convenient, it can easily become your default communication method with your team. However, it’s important to remember that email is also impersonal, and you risk losing touch with people if you rely on it too much. It’s certainly not a substitute for face-to-face or even phone communication.
Email can be a quick, efficient and effective way of communicating if it’s used properly. However, think carefully about how you use it, and how reliant you are upon it.
- Get into the habit of reviewing and re-reading your emails before you send them – you may be surprised by what you pick up.
- Think carefully about how you use “reply all,” cc and bcc.
- Take time to consider whether you are spending too much time communicating by email. Do you rely on it too much when managing your team?
Working from home can be a welcome change – whether your workplace offers a flexible workplace schedule, allowing you to work from home some days while the kids are off for the summer, or this is your official office workplace.
While it has many benefits to you and your employer, be careful not to fall prey to distractions – One scenario….He sets his computer up on his dining room table, and is ready to get to work. Three hours later, however, he’s shocked to realize that he’s completed very little. What’s he been doing? Well, he had to make coffee. Then he did a load of laundry, took a phone call from a friend, and sorted through the mail when it arrived. One thing led to another, and now he’s really behind!
Working from home can be incredibly productive. But it’s also full of distractions. If you work from home, it’s up to you to make sure you’re doing a full day of focused, productive work. Below are some benefits and challenges to working from home and tips to help you be at your most productive during the day.
Benefits and Challenges
There are many benefits to working at home. For instance:
- You can be more productive when you’re not distracted by casual phone calls, impromptu meetings at your desk, or interruptions from other team members.
- You can be more relaxed and have better morale because your schedule is flexible and fits your needs. This can lead to less stress.
- You can save money, including the costs of commuting, lunches out and work clothes.
- You’ll have more time, as you won’t need to commute to work.
Of course, for all the benefits of working at home, there are also a number of challenges:
- Working at home can be incredibly distracting if you’re not self-disciplined, especially if family members are also around during the day.
- Without interaction with team members, you can feel isolated.
- You may find it more difficult to be productive when you’re unsupervised. (This also includes “supervision” by the people you manage!)
- Working from home can make it hard to separate work hours from off hours, causing you to work more.
- People at the office can forget that you exist, meaning that you’re not selected for interesting or high profile projects.
Working at home is definitely not for everyone. Some people love the freedom and have the required self-discipline, while others need supervision to be effective, or yearn for the energy and camaraderie of a busy office environment.
Tips for working from home, whether temporarily or as part of your regular schedule:
Workspace – Having a productive and comfortable workspace is particularly important when working from home:
- Have a dedicated workspace –preferably not your kitchen table! Ideally, this space should be a separate room with a door that you can close to shut off distractions. The more you make it feel like a real “office,” the more productive you’ll be and able to close the door after you, means you’re “off work.”
- Get an ergonomic office chair – If your chair is uncomfortable, you’ll probably find plenty of reasons to get up and go somewhere else.
- Make sure your “office” is a place where you enjoy spending time – Put some effort into making your working area appealing to you.
Organization – It’s important to keep your home office organized:
- Make sure your desk is big enough – This will vary, depending on the type of work you do. Keep essential tools in an area that you can reach from your desk; this reduces frustration, and avoids the need to get up repeatedly when you need something.
- Tidy your desk daily – Spend a few minutes at the end of each day clearing off your desk and filing papers.
- Organize your information – If you work on several different projects at once, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and disorganized because you’re handling so much information. Pull out what you need as you work on it; everything else, file until you are ready for it.
Time Management – Good time management skills are essential for productive working at home:
- Create structure for your day – Get up, take breaks, and quit working at the same time you would if you were at the office. This helps create a rhythm for your day and a sense of normalcy.
- Prioritize daily tasks with a to-do list – Knowing that certain items must get done by the end of the day will help you avoid distractions.
- Make a to-do list of “in between” items – These are tasks that won’t take more than 10 minutes to complete. For instance, if you have a conference call 15 minutes from now, you can choose one of these shorter tasks that you can complete quickly.
- Keep a timesheet – It’s easy to lose track of how much time you’ve spent on a certain project or client. Avoid this by keeping detailed timesheets. By tracking your time, your organization will be able to see how you’ve spent it. You can also identify when you are most productive.
Communication-As you’re not “visible” in the office, communication is especially important when working from home:
- Communicate effectively with your managers and co-workers – They need to know that you are, indeed, working productively and available, even when you’re not at the office! If possible, redirect your office phone extension to your home phone.
- Use tools like Skype or instant messaging – These allow people to check in with you during the day if they have questions or need an update. You can always set your status to “busy” or “unavailable” if you want to focus on a particular piece of work.
- Go into the office on a regular basis – Where possible, do make the effort to go into the office one or more days each week. Not only will this help you remind others that you exist, it helps with the social relationships
- Train your children to let you work – Working from home with young children in the house can be especially challenging, and it’s almost impossible to do work of any quality while you’re looking after them. Make sure that you have appropriate childcare in place, and teach your children that when you’re in your office, you’re “away.” Put a sign on the door to help them remember. Although don’t be too rigid here: one of the real joys of working from home is, for example, being around to welcome your children home from school. Make sure that you take a little time to enjoy simple pleasures like these!).
- Beware the Internet! – If you find yourself drawn, for example, to Internet news sites, use some of the time you save commuting to read these in-depth before the start of the working day. They’ll have little attraction if you’ve already read the most interesting content. And if you’re still struggling, you can use tools like Freedom and Anti-Social to block Internet or social media access for a pre-determined length of time.
- Set alarms – If you tend to waste too much time on the Internet or with other distractions, then set an alarm clock or kitchen timer for one hour at a time. Do one hour of focused work – and when the alarm goes off, reward yourself with 5 or 10 minutes of doing whatever distracts you. Then set the timer for another hour of work.
- Dress in work clothes – You’ll probably feel more productive if you dress just as if you were going into the office.
Home working is becoming more and more common. Make sure you have a dedicated, comfortable workspace that you like. Schedule your day just like you would at the office. If you often lose focus, identify what’s distracting you and try to eliminate it from your day. And, if possible, get involved socially with your team. Working from home can be isolating, so you need to make an extra effort to build your work relationships.
Disengaged employees bring down morale, productivity and cost money – replacing an employee can set a company back more than three times the employee’s annual salary, according to a Gallup report.
Many companies have discovered a surefire way to increase employee engagement – corporate volunteer programs. These programs allow employers to connect with their employees by supporting charitable pursuits important to them.
How does workplace volunteering translate into better workplace engagement?
1. Employee volunteer programs lend purpose and meaning.
Commitment to one’s work gives employees a sense of purpose, and companies are learning that an excellent conduit to this feeling is involvement in cause. Seventy-one percent of employees who participated in an LBG Associates survey about employee volunteer programs indicated that they felt more positive about their company as a result of these programs. Many business leaders find that purpose-driven work through cause is linked to boosted morale and productivity, which inevitably affects corporate bottom lines. Organizations are realizing that if you give employees the opportunity to give back, they’ll have a renewed appreciation for the importance of their jobs.
2. Employee volunteer programs are a critical tool for employee recruitment and retention.
Employees want to take pride in their work and company, and when they do, they tend to stay. Volunteer programs are a superb channel to create an engaged corporate culture that attracts top talent and keeps them on the job. Corporate volunteerism report by Deloitte showed that workplace volunteer programs are important even to those who don’t typically volunteer in their private time; 61% of millennials who rarely or never volunteer would consider a company’s commitment to the community when making a job decision.
3. Employee volunteer programs provide strong platforms for leadership and skills development.
An employee volunteer program allows workers to expand skills, build upon strengths and connect with their community. Indeed, 90% of human resources professionals say that pro-bono volunteering is an effective way to develop leadership skills. Volunteering can also develop soft skills that are instrumental in a business environment, such as problem-solving, mentoring and communications. That’s why these programs are excellent breeding grounds for new talent, allowing a neutral space for employee training and growth at a relatively low cost to the company.
Some other important benefits include:
- Employee development
- Encouraging teamwork
- Improved communication
- Building brand awareness
- Improved employee retention
- Providing subject matter for corporate content creation
While company volunteer program strategies may vary, one thing is certain: engaging employees through volunteering infuses jobs with purpose-filled work that increases workers’ chances of remaining happy, productive and loyal.