Posts Tagged ‘soft skills’

How You Can Profit From Being Kind

Thursday, October 1st, 2015

36062000_sThe single most important aspect of business is the finesse you exhibit when you are with your “audience.” In coaching and teaching communication leadership, I often remind learners to “be kind to your audience.” And I constantly remind them to, “Take responsibility for your audience’s experience of you.”

Who is your audience? Everyone around you.

Whether you are sitting with your boss having a one-on-one conversation, texting a friend or standing on stage in front of 10,000 people: you are with your audience.

Consider how profound your silence is, if you aren’t active on social media. Consider the cost to you, if you are not treating other people like your audience.

Consider the consequences of being aggressive, withholding, menacing, lazy, jealous, insensitive or crazy (even momentarily).

Consider the power of communication with the intention to help your audience move forward – while you are also serving your own goals. Consider how that gives you a competitive advantage in a job interview, the chance for a promotion, and a referral from someone who simply knows you online, or any other situation that matters.

The terrible truth is: every word, every image, every frame of video, and even silence lifts you up or tears you down in the eyes of your audience.

This might include the people who share air with you, like at the office. It includes all your social media posts and comments, all the book reviews or LinkedIn messages you write and all the Periscope, YouTube, and Sooth you create. All the Skype, Facetime, and other relatively real time communication channels you use.

Got it? Anyone who can hear you, see you or otherwise catch your drift: those people are your audience.

The good news is: your greatest, fastest, and most profitable way to reach your desired outcomes is completely in your command. Your success depends on the next word you say, and the word after that, and so on.

Finesse in communication isn’t something tricky like it is in billiards, baking bread or doing anything that demands extraordinary skills.

Communication done with finesse kindly takes into account the ability of your audience to understand and focus on your message, and responsibly putting it in words your audience will embrace because they see evidence you are trustworthy and caring.

With everything you might do to create wealth and profit, consider how simple and productive it is to be kind and responsible.

Those two qualities drive offers and referrals to you, give evidence you are the most attractive candidate or partner, and give people the faith to sign contracts and do deals with you.

If you would like to become a communication leader – and you will be in Southern California on October 10 and 11: join me at my Personal Branding Boot Camp at UCLA Extension. Use Promo Code: W7199 to get 10% off PLUS an hour with me one-on-one (a $495 session FREE).

If you have a question I can answer: email me at [email protected], and I will do my best to move you forward. Just put Boot Camp in the subject line, so I know to look for you.

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What to Do with Labor Day Blues

Wednesday, September 9th, 2015

Interview Stress

The workplace is a lot like high school. It’s fraught with angst about being in or out, being smart or not, and being liked or not liked.

According to new research, employees are not into liking each other. They are not making any effort to build relationships with each other.

They are there to do a job or at least put in the time, go home and maybe find something better while grazing on LinkedIn or dozens of other job sites.

It turns out the workplace has become “transactional” for almost all employees. There’s an expectation that it’s simply a matter of time before you leave voluntarily or are asked to leave. So there’s a disincentive to build real relationships with your co-workers, to dig in and really get to know one another.

Back in the day, there were bowling leagues, picnics, families becoming “family friends,” and a kind of comfort in seeing the same folks everyday. In essence, the workplace was a second home for many employees.

Now, the expectation is that you will be at that job for a limited time, until something better comes along. Or, it’s a matter of time before you are told your job is no longer part of the strategic vision. “You are out,” to quote Heidi Klum.

It’s hard to be a free agent, in essence signed to a day-to-day contract. It’s hard to bond, and become an enthusiastic team member. It’s even harder if you are working from home or a remote location.

BTW, it’s equally hard to lead under those circumstances, although I bet you find it hard to sympathize with your boss.

There’s something even more insidious about this new relationship to work – or more aptly: the lack of a secure relationship to work and co-workers.

Stress. Impermanence. Insecurity. Instability. Resentment. Anger.

The best way to assuage these very real feelings is to make the effort to bond to your co-workers. Say hi and really find out how they are doing. Ask what they did over the weekend. If they live in proximity to you, ask if they want to shoot pool, grab coffee or take a yoga class with you next weekend.

Build your network of people, and I don’t mean just on social media. Build relationships with people who work with you.

This will raise your emotional state, and create a personal sense of stability. Real relationships with co-workers make any kind of work more satisfying and stabilizing. Make and keep ties with those who come and then go. And those at all levels.

Almost every night that I work late enough to see our maintenance staff, I feel better. They are a father and son team. I always ask how they’re doing, we talk about stuff, and they always play with my monster-sized dogs (yes, my dogs come to work). The son always tells me to be safe on the road home when we pack out for the night.

Over the holiday weekend we ran into each other, as I was heading for the beach. I felt like I was seeing family. That sense of surprise, a happy jolt, a hug and on with the day, feeling tethered to such nice people.

Consider hugging a co-worker today. Just a side-hug: in an appropriate gender neutral way. Or, at least give a fist bump when you hear what they did when they weren’t laboring on Labor Day.

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Top Ten Traits of Creative Leaders

Wednesday, August 12th, 2015

40254041_sCreativity, innovation and adaptability are the hallmarks of today’s best leaders. Not CEOs mind you, leaders. Don’t confuse a title like CEO with the reality that most of us will lead from the back of the pack, or somewhere in the middle.

Creativity is a calling. Innovation is a burning desire. Adaptability is personal trait.

CEO, COO, president and general manager are just job titles.

Most top officers find it difficult to be creative. There are too many responsibilities and constituencies to look after. Focusing on squeezing out profit every 12 weeks. Cutting costs to keep shareholders happy. When you are watching your back, it’s hard to keep your eyes on the road ahead.

A job title does not imbue the individual with courage or charisma. Those are personal traits. Creativity takes many forms, so don’t count yourself out because you are in accounting, operations, human resources, logistics, project management or any other field or specialty.

Employees, consultants, coaches, freelancers and suppliers: the opportunity to transform an organization (and with that your own career) is yours for the doing.

How do you start? It helps to hold a deep affection for your company and clients, since creativity is a gift you give. Think about the impact your company could have and the growth your clients could enjoy.

Creative leadership makes your job more meaningful and gives you visibility. Do something small at first – deliver a project early, come up with alternative courses of action, and whenever possible deliver unexpected added value. A bit of qualitative research or sentiment analysis (collecting comments made on forums or social media) is a good example of providing new perspectives that lead to new solutions.

David Ogilvy, one of the original Mad Men, a real ad man, espoused ten qualities he saw in creative leaders. They are:

  1. High standards of personal ethics.
  2. Big people, without pettiness.
  3. Guts under pressure, resilience in defeat.
  4. Brilliant brains — not safe plodders.
  5. A capacity for hard work and midnight oil.
  6. Charisma — charm and persuasiveness.
  7. A streak of unorthodoxy — creative innovators.
  8. The courage to make tough decisions.
  9. Inspiring enthusiasts — with trust and gusto.
  10. A sense of humor.

Do you want to increase the reality of possibilities in your career or business? Then pick one of these qualities each week for the next ten weeks. Find every way you can to demonstrate the quality you’re working on. Add them up and in ten weeks you will have transformed yourself, and perhaps the organization and clients you serve.

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How to Reduce Stress and Avoid Burnout

Wednesday, July 29th, 2015

23723300_sI had the unfortunate experience of reading a list of the top stressors in human life. You may have seen that list. Death of a loved one, divorce, losing a friend, major illness, moving, caregiving … the usual suspects. Then, thanks to grazing on brainpickings.org, I discovered the link between unrelenting stress and the deleterious effect on your memory, physical well-being and emotional stability. What a bummer. All bad news.

Well, there was a bit of good news. In the moment, a sudden stressor shuts down any unnecessary bodily function so the organs, systems and limbs you need get fully funded by your central nervous system. Plus they get first priority on blood flow and other physiological processes.

That’s why the caveman wasn’t standing at the sink eating a sandwich when the saber tooth tiger roared outside the opening of his cave. Caveman was suddenly in the mood to flee, or if necessary, fend off the beast. He got super focused in a hurry. Tunnel vision. Got his priorities in order.

The occasional rush deadline or your boss screaming about a missed delivery isn’t in that league of stressor. Most of us turn a blind eye, a deaf ear, or claim we were hacked so we didn’t get that email.

It’s when unrelenting problems meet unsympathetic responses that stress tears you down. It’s physiological, not a character issue. It’s your chemicals: hypothalamic, pituitary, and adrenal hormones that over time cause inflammation in the oddest places. Arthritis, colds, migraines … almost any ailment you can imagine may be triggered by stress.

So that creates more stress. Unmitigated, ongoing stress leads to a kind of numbness. We call that burnout.

The cure doesn’t seem obvious. “Gutting through it” isn’t a long term strategy. Running away isn’t always possible.

Probably the least obvious stress reliever is helping someone else. We’ve known for a long time that altruism benefits the giver more than the receiver. There is something about doing service for someone who could use your help that breathes new life into your worn out soul.

Maybe it’s walking shelter dogs. Lending your couch to someone who is temporarily displaced. Washing your roommate’s dishes. Reconciling a checkbook, doing the weekly shop or whatever else you can for a disabled or elderly neighbor.

Giving the gift of yourself reminds you that you are a gift.

Don’t do the old “give ‘til it hurts.”

Think: If it hurts, give.

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Are You Talking Stupid?

Wednesday, March 18th, 2015

authenticity, nance rosen, Personal Branding, soft skillsTurns out you are what you talk about.

If you fat shame yourself, then your brain lays down a new set of neural pathways to ensure you feel fat – even if you aren’t. Then, as you repeat your so-called problem to your friends or yourself, you develop even greater dissatisfaction with your body. The final gift from your lips? An increased potential for an eating disorder. That’s why you can no longer “feel fat” on Facebook. At least officially. Because it causes you to harm yourself.

So, let’s say your okay with your fat situation. Your body is okay. And you just said,

“Wow, I’m such an idiot in math. I am dumbfounded by Excel. I never really understood it, and the latest update is beyond me. ”

“Geez, I cannot write this report on time. I am awful at reports. I don’t even know where to start on these things.”

“Gosh, I am such a procrastinator. I keep putting things off. Then, I get so nervous I just rush to get them done. It’s never right, but I settle for done.”

“Man, I am always lost. I could have a GPS, a satellite helmet and a self-driving car. I would still get lost.”

“ Argh, I will never date again. I will never find one decent human being on this planet who loves me. I hate this whole relationship-thing.”

Ta da! You have just created your own life. These negative meditations are laying tracks in your brain, and your train of thoughts know exactly where to go: again and again. You trash talk yourself silently. Your trash talk yourself with friends.

In just a sentence or two each day, you trash your possibilities, your confidence and your happiness.

Next time you call yourself stupid? Stop. Then tell yourself why you are not stupid. Give yourself evidence when you have been just fine, maybe brilliant.

Whatever mantra you’ve been using to cause a lifelong problem, be it about fat, math, software, writing, procrastination, navigation, relationships or more? It is literally all in your head, because it’s been on your lips.

Coach yourself to success!

  1. Identify the personal traits you want to keep building into your personal brand and your personal intelligence.
  2. Find an affirming sentence.
  3. Set your brain to work finding the evidence of how great you are.
  4. Then lather, rinse and repeat.

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7 Ways to Innovate and Prove You’re Worthy

Wednesday, February 25th, 2015

job search, nance rosen, soft skillsThe terrible truth of work is that almost anyone can do anything. I don’t want to make you paranoid, but open up the UCLA Extension course catalog, a MOOC or watch a few “how-to” YouTube videos, and you get my drift. Education and skills are the easiest things to acquire.

Leaving out advanced neurosurgery, the super-tasking executive producer of major live sports events on television, and maybe engineering stem cell regeneration of body parts: it doesn’t take long to come up to speed on most job requirements. That’s why this quote from Carnegie Institute of Technology rings so true:

85% of your financial success is due to your personal traits and ability to communicate, negotiate and lead. Shockingly, only 15% is due to technical ability.

When you consider how you are spending your time in preparation for a career or the advancement of your career, do your priorities make sense?

It may occur to you that you know less about your excellent personal traits than you know how to use Excel. You probably have spent more time setting margins of documents and unjamming your printer than you have working on the type of traits that actually matter to success.

You never regret a day of education; it’s simply the type of education that I am cautioning you about. Communication, negotiation and leadership flow from personal intelligence, which is the ability to self-regulate. That is, manage yourself and manage your interactions with others.

Part of self-management is gaining or polishing the one-of-a-kind traits you possess, so you can express them to the people around you. Of course, that is largely what personal branding is, although there’s a bit more to it.

Visibility and promotions largely come from being more of yourself, or as I said to Claire my teaching assistant: get bigger. You be you, just be more of the best of yourself. Become formidable, a force, and a monument to what your most valuable traits are. She is an elegant and intelligent person with a sharp wit, on her way to becoming a commander-in-charge.

That is the extraordinary magnitude of expression that you must exert for us to see you and respect you; then feel compelled to ask you to ascend over others in an area of your expertise, function, or team. That outsized version of yourself is what puts our trust into you. That’s how you create a positive reputation, really an uproar about how valuable you are to our organization.

If you know nothing else about yourself, consider that anyone can be a force of innovative ideas. Innovation is a process, more than it is an ability or knack. It takes external stimuli, which isn’t hard to get given the world at your fingertips via the web. Harvard Business Review recently added its seven ways to innovate, and any one of them will set you apart from your co-workers or other job candidates.

  1. Look for differences. Before you interview or attend a meeting, contrast what a competitor’s product does that is remarkably different from the company’s offering.
  2. Trend spot. Look at Instagram or Pinterest and see what colors, images, words, attitudes and photos are beginning to dominate the consciousness of the people who matter.
  3. Assess angry words. Read the hashtags, comments, and blogs for what is going wrong. In every problem of reasonable size, there are great opportunities.
  4. Question everything. Most businesses are way past the NIH (not-invented-here) mentality, and are actively seeking ways to modify the way people work, the way products are developed or distributed and the way messages are crafted.
  5. Look at the deviants. There are always “outliers,” as Malcolm Gladwell calls the fringe elements. What workarounds, avoidance behavior or personalized adjustments are people making?
  6. Go away. Take a field trip or informational interview to a place that does nothing like anything you are familiar with. The natural history museum, planetarium, or Bloomingdales can refresh your brain and ignite your creativity.
  7. See what’s working in other industries. Are hardware companies selling spare parts with new machines, so there can be on-the-spot repairs? Is deflating a football by the weight of a paperclip the key to winning the big game? How can you apply that in your field?

If you have not a thing to offer that is so much more magnificent than other candidates or competitors: these are seven ways to use your brain in a novel way. Think new. Think innovation. Think for yourself.

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Have You Graduated…From Childhood?

Thursday, December 4th, 2014

group-of-business-people-laughingIf there were one question I wish I could ask prospective employees, it would be: Have you graduated from childhood yet? Then, I would hire the people who said yes and could prove they graduated from childhood.

It’s not that I don’t love children. I have one and love her more than life itself.

It’s just that the demands of my workplace involve employees using the kind of grown up thinking and behaviors that only childhood graduates can muster.

By graduating, I mean you have resolved the big issues of the surreal experience that was your childhood. Everyone’s childhood is surreal. Think about it. During the first several years of your life, giants surrounded you while talking in indistinguishable sounds.

Without notice, people picked you up off your back or feet. For no apparent reason, they smiled at you. Or smacked you. All decisions were made for you. You were constantly being coddled, trained, regarded, disciplined or painfully ignored.

Put in a couple of years like that or 18 of them, and you have a lot to get over.

And yet, the workplace that you enter after those years – or the stay of execution that is college and graduate school – only rewards people who have the skills of an adult.

Work demands you make decisions about your loss of freedom. It’s almost always a trade-off between doing exactly what you’d like to do versus doing what needs to be done. Rarely do those things match up perfectly. Adults have to see potential choices, use self-determination, make commitments, manage anger or disappointment, and exhibit a surfeit of self-control.

When you feel lost, under-utilized, left out, over-burdened, angry or clueless about what your boss or colleagues are doing – and what you should be doing given their actions, it’s simply a sign that you haven’t yet graduated from childhood.

Most employers are looking for grown-ups. And most employees haven’t had the guidance to truly graduate from their childhood.

This graduation isn’t the walk across a stage or a piece of paper with fancy writing. You probably have a good bit of reading and writing to do, to sort out who you are and what your purpose is. You probably need to ask and answer some big questions to get you started on self-determination, self-reliance and resilience.

Let me know if you’d like a list to get you started. Email [email protected], subject line: Graduate.

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Caution: Giving Thanks Can Be Self-Defeating

Friday, November 28th, 2014

111122124201-thanksgiving-dinner-horizontal-gallery

In the US, the upcoming national holiday is called Thanksgiving, which infers you should be thanking someone for something you valued. Thanks for what?

None of us are the original Pilgrims and very few of us are having dinner with Native Americans, who deserve a whole lot more than thanks. You may be sitting down to eat with your family and close friends or perhaps you are doing a pot luck with acquaintances or even having an HGTV marathon alone. I’m not sure it matters, except to say that I hope you’re doing what you want to do and eating what you want to eat.

In effect, most of us have morphed this holiday into a day off from work and discounted shopping.

I say this with some regret, because Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I love to cook the meal, decorate the house, and generally treat family and friends (and a few strays who have no where to go) to a festive day.  I have a ritual where I clean for a week, get the house organized and buy a few new things to spruce up the place.

In other words, Thanksgiving is a luxury for me. I focus intensely on something other than work and school.

So however it is you take this day, I hope it’s the same kind of joyful destination for you. In other words:

Let Thanksgiving be whatever YOU want it to mean.

I think a fixed day and time for gratitude may be dangerous. Similar to a day of religious confession, atonement or writing in your gratitude journal every morning: a forced ritual of emotional work can suck the meaning out of your life.

The scientific literature now shows that being grateful lowers your blood pressure and is a good stress reliever. So, certainly I don’t recommend against feeling grateful. Gratitude is a great way to reframe negative experiences. It’s a way of getting over trauma. Gratitude gives you a way to acknowledge and leverage what happened in a positive way, since you learned a lot from a bad experience. But you don’t want to try to feel grateful before you have digested what happened and expressed how you felt about it.

Do be careful about manufacturing gratitude in the face of bad circumstances or to people who aren’t really rooting for you. Be sensitive to your true feelings and express them. Then, you may genuinely feel like you have want to express gratitude for the learning or growth you have experienced, and the people who really helped you.

And, when you are ready to be grateful and give thanks: make sure to include yourself at the very top of the list. You have been there for you all along.

Have a great day doing what you want to do: eat, sleep, binge watch or indulge in a favorite book or hobby. I’ll be doing the day my way, and thanking the people who help clean up!

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