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.

How will you pay it forward for someone else’s career?

Who do you wish you had in your career – a mentor, an influencer, a teacher, a networker, a challenger? Be that person for someone else!

Consider a few points in your career where some gave you advice or took a risk on you. Who were they? What did the do for you? Are there people you see in your professional circles that could benefit from something similar?

Professional Women: This is a particular call out to you. How are you going to help another professional woman break the glass ceiling or get off the sticky floor?