Improved Communications Skills should be a Goal that lasts your entire Career

One of my current clients has a goal to improve her communication skills. I hear this goal from almost every one of my clients in every stage of their career. It demonstrates self-awareness that even professionals at the top of their game want to be better communicators.

Being a better communicator can be broken down into multiple SMART goals throughout your career around presentation skills, active listening skills, emotional intelligence and more. Over the last six months, my client has increased her confidence contributing in meetings, tailors her emails to her different audiences, and even joined a group to improve her presentation skills.

As we talked each month, she was shocked to realize that even people she considers great communicators still have goals to improve their communication skills. Just knowing that almost every self-aware professional is working on their communication skills gave her the confidence to go outside her comfort zone and push herself.

The Reciprocity of Empathy will improve your Professional Development

Perception is Reality;” I was frustrated the first time I heard this quote. My manager was sitting down to talk to me about some negative feedback about my teamwork and attitude. It didn’t feel good because that negative feedback came from people that didn’t understand my intention. I have a strong work ethic, and I wanted what was best for the work. However, I sometimes forgot to consider other’s feelings and goals in my communications and comments with my peers. I wanted them to have empathy and understanding for me, but I wasn’t reciprocating.

This was a big revelation for me: that reciprocity of empathy. Here are some thought starters to think of others and some self-reflection for you.

Others:

  • What are their big motivators/goals?
  • Do they understand how their work contributes to the bigger goals?
  • How do they feel about work currently/in the future?
  • What can they do to make the team/work/process better? Do they have ideas they want to share?

You:

  • Have you clearly articulated the bigger picture/big goals?
  • Have you shared their purpose beyond their tasks? Can you help them see how their actions are contributions to the big goals? Are you acknowledging and celebrating those contributions?
  • Are you using the appropriate tone and language when giving direction/sharing the plan?
  • Are you allowing for time and space in conversations and relationships for others to share ideas/suggestions?
  • Are you acting in ways that support the culture you want: high-performing, collaborative, efficient, autonomous, effective, fun?

Be sure you are aligning your actions to your aspirations. Empathy can be a significant factor in improving your professional reputation. How do you want people to describe your professional reputation? Are your actions supporting that reputation? What’s missing? What can you improve? We are all evolving to be better peers, managers, and leaders. Keep working at it!

Prioritize Your Purpose; Not Your Tasks

Since 2009, 24% of professionals spent some time working from home according to the US Department of Labor; thanks to our connectivity through smartphones and an increase in flexible work schedules.  This connectivity also has burnout on the rise. Sometimes your job can seem like a loop of mundane tasks.  To reduce the chance of burnout, prioritize your purpose, not your tasks.  Your role is critical to the success of your team’s or company’s goals.   When you focus on your contributions to the greater team and goals, it’s easier to be excited and motivated about the work on your plate.

Here are two examples of how changing your mindset and language can help. 

I am a copywriter.  I write multiple articles each week for clients.  >>> I craft messages for clients to connect with their audience to be informed, inspired, and motivated. 

I am a salesperson; I work to hit my sales goals and thresholds.  >>> I connect our clients with valuable services/products to help them reach their goals.  I get to brag about our awesome team/product and help our company grow. 

Take a minute to think about your role and contributions.  Shift your mindset to focus on your purpose and not your tasks. 

Align your Actions with your Leadership Aspirations

Who is that leader you emulate? What does your leadership style look like when you are at your best? Which adjectives would you use to express the leader you want to be? How would you want others to describe your leadership? Think big: Sheryl Sandberg, MLK Jr., Bill & Melinda Gates, your parents, a mentor, your best boss ever.

Now think about all the work they invested in becoming that leader. They all successfully aligned their actions to their aspirations in authentic ways. They learned to walk the walk.

I’ve worked with leaders who shared in 1:1s that they care about their people but then on stage at an employee meeting, they felt they had to talk about themselves and almost justify why they have their job. We collaborated to figure out their aspirations and priorities, then aligned their actions and messages to push them to be the best leader they can be. It’s incredibly important and rewarding working. I love doing it.

What are your leadership aspirations? What is your action plan to get you there? Let’s connect to brainstorm actions that align with your aspiration and develop a robust action plan you can start with today.

Equal Pay Day: Ask For It

I love helping clients ask for the raises they have earned. And I love even more when they get them! I helped clients successfully negotiate raises, promotions and additional benefits. Here’s one of my favorites.

A client worked for a company that gave a modest Cost of Living raise each year. We were preparing for her performance review, and she had the best year ever. We crafted a story which allowed her to articulate the value (both quantitative and qualitative) she contributed to the company that year. She was ready with what she wanted to ask for: a raise, a promotion, and additional responsibilities.

In her performance review, her manager sang her praises and thanked her for a great year. Then offered her a $1500 raise. She was prepared and replied, “Thank you, I love working here, but that raise is not in line with the value that I bring to our company.” After some back and forth, her manager said he was only authorized to give her a raise of $3000, and it was more than the raises others were getting. If she wanted more, he would have to talk to the boss. She said, “Great, and if there are any details I can share with you to present a strong case, I’ll give you what you need.”

A month later, this client earned a promotion and a pay increase of $20,000.

Know your worth! Track the contributions you are making to your company and be prepared to tell your story. Finally, don’t be timid. Keep pushing! If your company can’t give you the raise immediately, schedule a timeline and clear milestones/actions for you to earn that raise.

I would love to help you earn what you deserve! Let’s set up a coaching session to prepare you for that ask. Get it, girl!

Thank you Adam Grant, You Explained Why I Wander the Aisles of Target So Often

Last year, I took on a new freelance project and was out to lunch with my new colleagues.  Because this group travels quite a bit for work, we were discussing how/where we do our best work.  Both of my colleagues described a quiet room with few distractions where they could put their head down and work.  My answer was entirely different; I do my best work wandering the aisles of Target.

I often like to start things, walk away from them, think about them when I’m driving in my car, wandering the aisles of Target, or other free-thinking spaces, then come back to the assignment to edit and finish.  I couldn’t explain why this worked for me until I was recently reminded of Adam Grant’s book Originals and this excellent TEDTalk.  Procrastination is valuable.  Stepping away from a big idea or task can make it better.  He talks about it better than I ever will; so watch this video.  And if you only have a little time to procrastinate; start at 1:42.

The surprising habits of original thinkers | Adam Grant

 

How to Evaluate Your Work in the Gig Economy

The Gig Economy: it’s sexy, liberating, and scary. So how do you know if you’re doing it right?

I recently went through this three-step exercise with a client to create a clear understanding of how she is currently spending her time and effort and shift to spending if more effectively.

1 – Establish Clear Career Objectives.
We have to identify objectives for so much of our traditional full-time work; don’t give that up when you transition to Gig work. Some Career Objectives that may have you shifting to Gig Work could be location independence, work you are passionate about, additional income while starting your business, or reduction of hours working.

Keep these objectives front and center through this exercise.

2 – Create a List of each Gig with your pay information.
Pay. Your pay may be a flat fee or hourly rate.
Time. How much time do you actually spend to earn this money? Consider unpaid travel time, how often you wake up in the middle of the night with racing thoughts, preparation time before a meeting, completing time sheets or invoices. My former manager in my agency life would ask, “If you weren’t on this project, what would still be doing this (driving, prepping, etc)?” Consider how much time you are spending if this is ongoing work. While you can include any upfront costs of sales efforts to get this Gig or administrative work; I generally look at those at sunk costs. I consider them in my annual analysis but not in this snapshot.
Actual Hourly Rate. Divide Your Pay by your Time.

3 – Identify a Value for each Gig.
Value. On a scale of 0-10, how much value do you receive from this work? Your cost is the more qualitative side of your Gig. Value can come from your passion for the job, whether you are building foundational content that can be resold or reused if this Gig gets you closer to your goals, and any other considerations while thinking of value?
Considerations. Is there anything else you can to note about this Gig? All the factors will roll up into the score you select for value, but this is a pause point for you to get out anything else that is on your mind about this Gig.

4 – Visualize Your Gigs on a Scatterplot
Whether you use excel or paper and pen, see where your Gigs land.
The X-axis: Your Actual Hourly Rate
The Y-axis: Your Value Score
This Scatterplot will show you your High Pay, High-Value Gigs. How do you do more of that? Should you stop any of the Low Pay, Low-Value Gigs? Can you adjust your expectations and stress for the Low Pay, Low-Value Gigs to remind yourself these are temporary and helping pay the bills for now while making your energy is going to grow your High Pay, High-Value Gigs.

The Gig Economy is varied and messy. There’s not one path where you are solely doing your High Pay, High-Value Gigs. Having clarity and awareness of your current situation is essential. And be deliberate in moving towards your goals in the future. If you are stuck on this exercise and want to complete it together or if you finished this exercise and want to create a plan to move forward, contact me for a 1:1 Coaching Session.

Photo: SELF Journal by Best Self Co.  Check out their amazing tools.  Use code BGSDSelf to get 15% off your order!

4 Lessons from a High Performing Team

“Teamwork doesn’t seem like work.” Early on in my career, a friend used to say this all the time usually while playing teams in Halo. But it has become one of my top 5 sayings while working on teams. Probably because people find is so cheesy they can’t help but smile when they hear it.

It seems almost everyone is on a team at work. I’ve had the great fortune to be part of several great teams. There is one team that has stood out for me in my career. We were a high performing team, and it was fun. Years ago, I was in a focus group on high performing teams. While the facilitator was asking questions, I was able to reflect on how special it is to be a part of a top performing team. Here are a few things that I learned.

Respect: when developing a team, start with the confidence that every team member is here for a reason. There is something you can learn from them, and they can add value to the team.

Shared Goal: our shared goal was always more important than personal goals or roles. We were four people working together to solve X. We all had valuable skills and knowledge to contribute to the shared goal.

Listen & Pause: we did more listening than talking and we were comfortable in the silence. Sometimes we needed to pause and allow an idea or perspective to settle. We respect each other to listen to everyone’s opinions and created a safe space for people to speak up and be heard.

Effective Communications: we provided clear status reports and action items. We didn’t spend hours on conference calls or holed up in a conference room. We connected when we needed to but gave each other time to complete action items.

What are some of the key lessons you’ve learned while being on teams?

It’s Not You; It’s Me Resignation Letter

A resignation letter is meant to achieve two objectives:
1 – Provide HR with the details they need to complete their paperwork.  Namely, identify your last day.
2 – A thank you letter to the company that you are resigning from.

As you prepare to leave your current company, take some time to reflect on what your current company has done for you: What skills did you build?  In which areas has your confidence grown?  What experience did you get?  How did your professional network expand?

As tough as the end of your time at a company can be, there have been positive moments.  Focus on those when writing your resignation letter.

It’s okay to leave a company and for neither party to bad or wrong.  You may have outgrown your potential growth, want to take a turn in your path, learn new skills, make more or work with people with a new perspective.  Growth is good!  Who knows, maybe you’ll go get experience somewhere else and come back to your current company to contribute more value?

Use this opportunity to craft a resignation letter to celebrate the good times, thank your company for their investment in you, and maintain relationships with your coworkers.

Spare 5 Minutes to Achieve Your Goal

With two and a half months left in the year; identify that 2018 goal you still want to achieve. It may be a written goal at your company or a personal goal you’ve been procrastinating about moving forward.

Assign five minutes at the start or end of every day on your calendar. Write down three things you did yesterday or today which help move you towards your goal. And one missed opportunity where you could have worked towards your goal.

It’s best if you can have a SMART goal; see this blog article about SMART goals. Here are some ideas for SMART goals.

– By the end of the year, I want my contributions at work to be more strategic thinking vs. tactical thinking.

– I will reduce my daily sugar intake to 20g for the next two weeks.

– I will find a new job in the next six months by focusing on expanding my network, updating my resume and cover letter, and applying for three jobs per week.