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.
The Power of Positive Feedback
Many business leaders miss a key opportunity to recognize great work and provide positive feedback. Why is it so easy to see what’s not working and so hard to celebrate when people get it right? Recognizing team members will not only enhance your organizational growth; but also helps retain great employees. Regardless of business size, correctly given; recognizing others early and often can help improve job performance, promote professional and personal growth, and ultimately increases overall morale.
Here are some tips to help you along the way
- Never hesitate. Share encouraging words often and loudly. Believe it or not… It is often worth more than money.
- Make it public. Constructive feedback can be given privately. Recognition is often more powerful when given in public.
- Be specific. Focus on exactly what was done right. We all know it is easy to call people out when they do something wrong, but what about calling out people when they do something right?
Positive feedback goes along way to growing and reinforcing any relationship. And, like smiling, it cost nothing.
Feedback Do’s and Don’ts
- Be Specific. What did the person actually say or do? Was the statement or action was effective or ineffective?
- When offering developmental feedback; provide or seek alternatives the person can use in the future. Discuss why the alternatives might result in enhanced performance. Provide support, but allow responsibility for developing to remain with the person.
- Provide feedback on both the “what” and the “how”. What are the results? What did the person say or do to achieve or not receive the results?
- Think of feedback as a learning opportunity that can lead you and others to better performance.
- Listen with full attention to the feedback people provide. Focus more attention on understanding their perspectives and suggestions than on defending your action or behaviors.
- When receiving feedback, ask for specific examples of what you did well and what you could have done better.
- Watch for trends in behavior to focus on high-payoff development areas.
- Don’t assume you are the only and best source of feedback. Encourage people to seek feedback from peers, internal partners, customer and other leaders.
- Don’t give vague feedback or feedback that cannot be supported with data or examples.
- Don’t say someone did something well when you don’t believe it.
- Don’t guess at someone’s motives.
- Don’t become defensive about your actions.
Feedback – What Works and What Doesn’t?
Do you like receiving feedback? How do you prefer to get feedback?
Think of a time when someone gave you helpful feedback. How did the conversation go? What did the person providing the feedback do to make it a productive conversation?
My guess is that you appreciated feedback that was:
- Timely – We tend to be more willing to accept suggestions that are timely. When we face difficult or challenging situations, we usually want to know how we are doing, and what we can do to develop. On the other hand, no one wants to hear what he or she could or should have done long after the fact.
- Balanced— I am sure you appreciated getting some positive feedback as well as suggestions for development.
- Beneficial— We think of feedback for development as information that helped me be the best I can be, not just comments that pointed out a performance problem.
- Sincere— The most effective feedback that I ever got was from someone that I knew really cared about me and took the time to share specific changes that I could make to be more effective.
- Engaging—They encouraged me to take responsibility for my own growth and learning by actively creating an environment that constantly helped me seek feedback from my leader, peers, and customers.
- Ongoing— Feedback shouldn’t be a one-time event. For top performers (like us!), ongoing feedback can address new challenges and achieve success FASTER!
Now, flip it and think of a time when you received feedback and you got defensive… why did that happen? How was the message delivered?
Next steps: Take 10 minutes to create your own list.
First, think about the best feedback you ever received and model that style. Then, think about what not to do… and don’t do it.
Believe me … it’s easier said than done.
Simple Ways to Use Recognition to Power and Reinforce Success
With so many ways to recognize people for their contributions, we need to mix it up. Avoid getting stale and keep it engaging. As effective as it can be, this might go beyond a simple “thank you.” There are many ways to recognize people. You will find many ideas laid-out below.
General Approaches to Ensure Effective Recognition
Be timely–Recognition that has the most impact is timely and comes in close proximity to when the performance happened.
Be specific–Share specifics related to the accomplishment by telling the person what was done and why it was effective.
Link the recognition–Mention the specific performance or behavior that you want to reinforce. It is important that people know why they are being recognized.
Avoid multi-tasking when you talk with employees–Especially when the discussion is about their accomplishments and contributions.
Make recognition a set agenda topic–Place recognition on the schedule during team meetings. Make sure the recognition is meaningful or it will start to have no meaning.
Reward effort as well as success–Not everything is successful. Reward people for the obstacles and barriers they overcame or fought against.
Oh, Let Me Count the Ways to Recognize
Leverage the customer–If a customer says something good to you about your employees or a project. Invite them to share in-person or remotely with your team, particularly the people involved.
Utilize social networks–Post recognition on social networks. Before you use an outside site, check first to make sure it is company approved.
Grab It–Start building a supply of token gifts, such as candy bars, protein bars, etc. Place them in a box, or grab bag. When you recognize someone, let the person reach in and grab something, sight unseen. Add to the fun by mixing in coupons. For example, give coupons for a free lunch, or one item from the vending machine. If it works in the environment, you might even be able to wrangle a coupon for the parking space next to the door, or an opportunity to leave the facility an hour early.
Match the reward–The significance of the achievement should match the reward. The larger the accomplishment, the more significant the reward should be.
Make the recognition public–If others can learn from the accomplishments, or the employee would feel a greater impact from sharing the recognition publicly, by all means, don’t keep it a secret.
Chalk It Up–On a chalkboard, white board, parking lot, or driveway, write a message of appreciation.
Flip It Up–Write a thank you on a flip chart paper. Post it in the hall or on the person’s car.
Snack out–Supply the team with healthy snacks and juices for a week.
Get Symbolic—Find something that has meaning within the group to pass around. Use a super-hero for the person who really came through on a project. Or the “rock” for a person who has been impeccably dependable.
Make them laugh–Support a local artist or an art student by asking that person to draw caricatures of your employees during their break/lunch hour and display them in your facility.
Create a traveling trophy— Select an unusual item to use as a recognition award. The person recognized can display the trophy for a select period of time. Or the awardee can recognize someone within the team and pass it on. Consider an item that each recipient can autograph before it travels on.
Write a thank you note–Deliver this note to your employees’ spouse or children.
Spread the news–Place employee recognitions on your intranet. Share the news with higher-level leaders, or in a team management meeting. Arrange for your team or a member of your team to present an innovation or continuous improvement idea that has worked in your area to other facilities.
Perform a service–Take somebody’s laundry to the dry cleaners or wash the employee’s car in the parking lot.
Gift it–Create a basket linked to an individual’s interest. For example, if a person like to garden, create a basket with some gardening tools, a gardening book or magazine. If the employee likes to fish, put in a thermos, some fishing lures, etc.
Swap a task–Do another employees duties for a day. Let him or her decide.
Nominate the employee— Pick various employees for either a company or community award.
Provide points–Set goals for employees. If an employee reaches a goal, let them turn in their accumulated points for prizes or awards.
Create a space–Create a celebration board in the break room or team area. Post recognitions and thank-you notes. At a periodic meeting, count how many notes are on the celebration board.
Take the person into consideration–Don’t give a book to someone who doesn’t like to read. Avoid public recognition for someone who tends to get embarrassed. Tailor your form of recognition to meet the individual’s needs.
Are you concerned about your employees’ work ethic and do you wonder how to build it?
Go one-on-one. Managers should work to create the relationships needed to encourage employee engagement. Understand employees’ goals, aspirations, needs, home life, social circles and even hobbies to find ways to relate on an individual level in a way that increases trust.
Establish a target. If your front-line employees cannot articulate the core values of the business, everything else falls apart. Core values should be brief, bulleted statements that define the values each employee must hold dear, rather than long, jargon-laden mission statements.
Make instruction matter. Consistency in employee expectations is a key factor in successfully igniting the work ethic. Training programs designed around teaching expectations, organizational values and what happens when expectations are not met are critical to success.
Make your success their success. Get creative with public appreciation, incentives, perks and compensation that can be tied to shared goals to give employees a sense of achievement, which in turn increases their engagement on the job.
Listen, respond and engage. Continually ask for employee feedback on what will help them deliver better results for the brand and customers. Follow through and take action on their requests.
Light the path. Make the case that your business should be seen as not just a job, but a place to have a career. Communicate to employees about their opportunities for growth within the brand. Establish programs that guide high performers along a path that helps them to reach high status, responsibilities and compensation in the organization.
Always be canvassing. Managers should be able to articulate their ideal employee profile. Create a workforce with your ideal work ethic. Identify and reach out to potential employees by communicating benefits. Entice high-performing employees to identify others similar to them and communicate the brand promise.