Networking as Leadership Development.

Learning and development is a critical way to ensure continued growth on the job. Our first thought of ways to develop our talent is to send them to a course. As an instructor myself, I’d be one of the first people to tell you the value that a seminar on communication skills, delegation skills or conflict management can bring. There is something great about getting outside the regular sphere of work to learn.

There are many other ways to continue learning that goes beyond the traditional classroom. Meeting other people outside your business or field of interest can be very beneficial. Networking events whether they are industry based or a good meetup event can be great places to learn. In those kinds of setting we have different kinds of conversations that are beneficial to the individual and the organization that have value we often overlook.

Is High Productivity a Myth?

Today we are asked to work faster and faster but at what cost? How good is the work that we are actually producing? Are we achieving quantity at the risk of quality? In some industries that could be deadly. According to a Dropbox article “ It turns out a “do more, faster” mindset isn’t actually how people want to work…61% say they want to “slow down to get things right.” What are we sacrificing for the sake of speed?

In my current work, absolute accuracy is critical for the success of my client. When I arrive after a few days away my inclination is to get stuff done fast as my desk is covered in assignments, to dos and other things that look pressing. I need to remind myself that going slow to go fast (something I learned from one of my first bosses) is actually a good mantra. I and I bet you are better off if you slow things down, get it done right the first time and achieve real success

What Makes for Team Success?

TEAM: Together Everyone Achieves More. We know it to be true but aren’t always sure how to make it a reality. There are many key traits of successful teams. Let’s just look at a few. At the start it is important to focus on roles. Be sure you are hiring the right people to help your team. You don’t want just a warm body but rather someone who can complement the skills of those people who are already making your team successful.

Get to know each other. Knowing each person’s strengths and weaknesses can help the team grow. It will also help you know who to go to for what. It has also been suggested that you get to know people on a personal level. This doesn’t mean that the person on your team has to be your best friend but getting to know them outside the restrictions of the office can build relationships. According to a recent Entrepreneur article “Getting to know the people you work with helps you understand their style of work and how to have constructive discussions with them on tough days.”

Set goals. I have written about and taught goal setting as a large part of my business. Goal setting helps you set a direction for what you want to accomplish and outlines the steps of how you are going to get there. Individual and team goals should be in alignment so everyone is working on the right things to propel the organization forward.

Probably the most important thing to do is communicate. Enough cannot be said about the importance of clear communication. Get to know each person’s preferred communication style. Is it to walk by their desk/cube and chat? Call them? Send them an email or text? Getting clarity on communication will be an asset to building team success.

What makes your team successful?

How to Solve Problems at Work

We all have problems to solve at work and sometimes get suck. So what can you do about it?

Be on the lookout for new information when you are working on a problem. Gather related data will spark a new idea. Staring at a particular problem for a long period of time can lead to frustration. Break out of the mold and try something new.

Try looking at the problem from a new perspective. What if you were someone who knew nothing about the topic? What if you were an expert on the topic? What if you flipped the problem upside down – what’s something new that you would learn?

Sometimes you just need a break. You’re working hard on a particular project and waiting for that bought of inspiration to come but it doesn’t. It can get frustrating to look at the same problem over and over again and make no progress. Fresh eyes can help. Sometimes to get that next wave of creative energy you need to take a break from what you are working on and do something else and come back to it late.

Expand your horizons. Read an article on a different topic. Talk to a colleague. Get some additional input. These ideas should help you be a better problem solver at work.

Ask Great Questions

Kids ask questions all the time. Sometimes we get tired of answering them they ask so many. But it also shows that they have a level of curiosity and openness that we sometimes lose as we get older. “Children are great questioners, and as they get older they question less. The same thing is true with companies,” says Warren Berger, innovation expert and author of The Book of Beautiful Questions.

It is important to sit back and reflect on how a good question can be helpful to us. It is important for organizations and individuals in order to stay fresh.

There are so many good questions that can help move you forward. “Why?” questions often help us to understand a problem.  “What if?” questions help to spark new ideas and various ways of seeing a particular issue. It is really a great way to brainstorm either on your own or with others. “How?” types of questions narrow the focus and help you choose a great way to implement what you are thinking of working on. Good advice I’ve read suggest that you don’t get stuck in the “What if?” stage for too long as much fun as it could be as you could stray from your main purpose.

“It’s about how human beings solve problems—first they have to understand, then imagine, then do,” Warren says. Good lessons for us all.

I’d love to know what powerful question you are asking inside your organization that will propel you forward.

Need to Have a Difficult Conversation? Prepare.

Preparation is the key to so many things in live. You wouldn’t give a critical presentation without having prepared. The same is true for a difficult conversation you may have to have with your manager or an employee.

Think carefully about your desired outcomes for the situation. Is there a particular behaviour that is getting in the way of your work? If so watch the behaviour of the other person for a while. Be sure you are able to describe what is not working for you in a calm professional way.

It is best if you can describe their behaviour as if you had captured it with your cell phone. Neutrally tell them what didn’t work in your last interaction and what would work better for you going forward. Then be prepared to listen carefully to what they have to say to be sure you hear their side of the story. Be prepared for different reactions including surprise, disbelief and anger. Being prepared will ensure you have the best conversation possible that will lead to a workable solution

Be a Better Listener

Communication is important at work and home. Everyone is asked to interact with more people (leaders, suppliers, co-workers, etc.) on a regular basis. Our interactions are more demanding (e.g., ideas for improvement, problem solving, planning). Handling interactions effectively affects how well you do your job and your home life.

What important is to be a great listener. A great listener was once described as someone who understands that listening is “a skill, to demonstrate you understand feelings and thoughts from the other person’s point of view.” The key quality to good listening is that you summarize what you think you heard in your own words, and say it back, while paraphrasing. The good news about listening, or active listening as it is also known is that you can’t go wrong. Listen and get the message wrong and the person you are talking to will correct you.

 What will this active listening do for you? It will ensure that you have heard the other person and demonstrated that to them. That ensures respect and builds relationships.

Be a better listener and see where it takes you!

Three Thoughts on How to Stay Calm Under Pressure

Do you feel stressed? Are the deadlines piling up? Are you making mistakes at work? I recently sent an email to a group with the wrong attachment and I as soon as I found out I started to worry about the ramifications of my actions – fortunately a simple apology and resending of the email of the correct attachment worked, but when I found out I had a sense of dread and panic.

If only we could stay calm under pressure! Slow down, make fewer mistakes.

There are many ways to stay calm under pressure. Books have been written about stress management – you may be under too much pressure for a whole book! Here are three ways to help you learn to stay calm under pressure.

Gratitude. Be Grateful! Studies show that people are grateful for the positive things in their lives have lower cortisol levels – the hormone associated with stress. Researchers at the University of California, Davis demonstrated that people who felt gratitude had increased energy, positive moods and an overall healthy sense of well-being. If you begin your day feeling calm, it will be easier to stay calm when stress comes your way.

Think Positively. When under pressure, if you can think of a positive situation or thought, it will distract your brain from dwelling on the negativity of the stressful situation. Stop, take a minute and breath.

William James once said: “The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.

Get offline at least for a while. With so many gadgets around the office and our homes it is tempting to be online all the time. (Try wearing an old fashioned watch – you won’t be checking the time on your phone so much so you won’t be checking in!)

Take a few hours a day to disconnect Being constantly “on” does not give your brain the opportunity to rest, de-stress and re-charge, making manageable irritations feel unmanageable.

Take these three small steps to stay calm under pressure.

Let’s Delegate!

“The secret of success is not in doing your own work but in recognizing the right [person] to do it.” ~Andrew Carnegie

Delegation is the assignment of responsibility to another person for the purpose of carrying out specific job-related activities. Delegation is a shift of decision-making authority from one organizational level to another.  It is a helpful tool for managers but not easy to do. So let’s look at some of the benefits for all involved, why we don’t do it and how to go about it.. For managers there is:

  • Reduced stress
    • Improved time management
    • Increased trust

The employee benefits as well as long as the delegated task is meaningful and a learning opportunity for them.  They gain:

  • Professional knowledge and skill development
    • Elevated self-esteem and confidence
    • Sense of achievement

Even the organization benefits. Among many things there is

  • Increased teamwork
    • Increased productivity and efficiency

So why don’t managers delegate more often? Some of the responses heard include that:

  • …it’s too hard!
  • …it takes too much time!
  • …nobody can do it as good as I can
  • …nobody else has any time either……

At first it may take more time to delegate but over time it will give a manager more time to focus on other things.

One model for good delegation involves the following steps:

  • I – Introduce the task
  • D- Demonstrate clearly what needs to be done
  • E – Ensure understanding
  • A – Allocate authority, information and resources
  • L – Let go
  • S – Support and Monitor

How can you delegate more effectively? Share your stories!

Is it Time to Leave your Job?

No one likes uncertainty and the thought of not having a steady stream of income and perhaps benefits can be a deterrent to leaving a bad job. So how do you know it is time to quit? According to Forbes there are a number of signs that it is time to do something else. Here are just a few to think about.

These include:

  • You lack passion. You use to come to work excited with new ideas that you hoped could be embedded in the workplace
  • You’re miserable every morning. You need to be your own internal compass. While we all need an income if you are miserable that’s a sign
  • You really dislike the people you work with and/or your boss. A bad work environment or worse a toxic one can leave you exhausted at the end of the day. It may be worth trying to work things out with your boss but some things can’t be changed.
  • You’re consistently stressed, negative, and/or unhappy at work. If your stress levels are out of control and you get unhappy just thinking about work it might be time to move on.
  • Your work-related stress is affecting your physical health or emotional health. If your work environment is not positive or at least tolerable it will start to affect your health and relationships. Your friends and family will be affected to. Another sign it is time to get out.

So what do you do? Some people will quit without another job lined up or be working on self-employment, others will conduct a quiet job search and quit when they have landed. However miserable you are, be sure to leave on good terms. Give appropriate notice and think about keeping your feelings about your work to yourself. It is tempting to vent in an exit interview (if your company does them) but think about what if anything will be done with the information. Leave on a good foot. You’ll feel all that much better as you start your next adventure.