Thursday, May 30, 2019

3 Ways to Stand Out at Work

It is graduation month and it always makes me think of all the fresh new employees who will be entering the workforce in the coming months. It’s not always easy to get on the shortlist or stay on the short list of most valued employees. This week we offer three ways to help yourself stand out at work.

The national unemployment rate remains very low so most everyone who wants to work is working. On top of that, the US has another 1 million+ college graduates entering the workplace this year. All of this makes for a crowded talent pool that might bring challenges when you are trying to stand out. So what can you do to differentiate yourself?

First, if you are a new employee who is just starting in a job, check out these tips for Onboarding Yourself Using EQ. Employees who are recognized as invaluable and indispensable enjoy several benefits, some of which include faster promotions and better bonuses. Some have more influence over their work conditions and resources. Many have more opportunity to grow and succeed in a career. Being smart or having technical competence is not enough on its own, here are three things you can do to be unforgettable:

1. Think continuous improvement. Job skills have shelf-life and employers value employees who are keeping their skills current. They attend company provided training, they are active in their industry associations and keep up with trends. The most valued employees are seen as coachable. They are open to feedback and make behavioral changes as a result. They understand that jobs change, competitive landscapes change, and expectations change and they must adapt accordingly.

2. Don’t be high maintenance. High maintenance employees end up in conflicts with supervisors or coworkers. They drag others into their drama. They play the victim when they don’t get the promotion/raise/transfer they want. If you want to be considered a low maintenance employee you will need to show some resilience. Don’t be easily offended, don’t let your emotions undermine you, don’t get caught up in gossip. Do your job earnestly and be accountable and conscientious.

3.  Own your work. Some people worry that by publicly sharing their contributions or accomplishments they will come across as arrogant. Others take credit for others’ work without giving it a second thought. There is nothing wrong with taking credit for your own work, being proud of what you have done, and not being afraid to let others know what you are capable of. When people mention you, you want them to think “confident," “well qualified," and “self-aware."

Any one of these traits can help you stand out from the crowd, but by demonstrating all three you really set yourself apart. It doesn’t matter what industry, job role, company size or length of service, you can begin using these techniques today and enhance the perception about how valuable you really are.  

Thursday, May 23, 2019

4 Things Highly Self-Aware People Do

Many people ask us about the easiest way to a higher EQ and honestly, it all starts with self-awareness. People with high self-awareness are clear about their strengths and weaknesses. They know how they "tick,” so they can put themselves in situations that bring out the best in them while minimizing the worst of them. This week we will discuss four activities you can do to increase your own self-awareness. 

Self-awareness is the foundation of emotional intelligence. Those who maintain self-awareness are seen by others as connected, in-touch and humble. They often demonstrate the type of confidence that resides on the healthy side of ego and leverage their strengths, but they are also able to recognize when their own behavior is inappropriate or having a negative impact on others. They tend to get more done, take more accountability, and are enjoyable to work with.

1. They take assessments.
There are several good assessments available to measure personality, communication style, business acumen, and emotional intelligence, among other things. All of them help you get to know yourself, your tendencies and instincts, and how other people are perceiving you. This information helps you pick better careers, recognize suitable organizations to work for, and appropriate people to spend time with.

2. They practice mindfulness.
Give yourself opportunities throughout a day to assess your mood. Pay attention in meetings to how you're reacting to others and why. Keep track of when you are at your best and your worst. We find most people have patterns of behavior and by paying a little more attention you will recognize your own. People with the presence of mind are able to stay clear-headed in high-pressure situations and avoid difficult conversations when they know they are not in the right frame of mind.

3. They hire a coach.
Business coaches can give you feedback that no one else will give you. Even when practicing mindfulness, we all have blind spots so a professional coach can recognize behaviors you may not even realize you are doing and if they are ineffective, suggest alternatives. They provide you will valuable insight to see yourself from the point of view of others which can be incredibly valuable information to better influence or motivate coworkers, clients or colleagues.  

4. They identify their reactions.
We are all very busy and often we just know something feels good or bad, but we rarely stop to analyze what we're feeling and why. Throughout the day pause, and ask yourself, "What specific emotion would use to describe how I am feeling right now?" This habit gives you a new language to use when communicating with others, and when people see you as transparent and can track with your thoughts and feelings, you save time from less miscommunication and get better outcomes.

Self-awareness can be achieved by practicing these four actions, which become more natural over time. And just remember when your self-awareness goes up, your EQ does too. And then, you can bet that a lot of other good things are waiting for you!  

Thursday, May 16, 2019

4 Things Emotionally Intelligent Leaders Should Never Delegate

There is a common complaint from followers that their leaders don't delegate enough and create bottlenecks that slow everything down. I often write and speak about the risks of maintaining control of too much, heck, one of my ego traps is "Not Letting Go of Control.  But there are a few things that emotionally intelligent leaders know they shouldn't delegate. Read on to find out what they are.

It should be the goal of every employee who leads either people or a function to build a team of trustworthy, competent employees that they can delegate not only tasks to but also decision-making rights. However, those with high EQ understand that not everything can be delegated. There are a few scenarios when things must be done by the senior leader(s):

1. Bad news.

Leaders with EQ understand that when things are bad (revenue is down, profit is in the red, the loss of a big customer) it's important to be with employees in person to communicate information and show support. They don't chicken out or pass the buck.

2. Changes in someone's pay.

If an employee, contractor or vendor is going to be impacted by a wage freeze, a smaller bonus, a pay cut, or a change in payment terms, emotionally intelligent leaders understand that their credibility takes a huge hit if they delegate the conversation to HR, administrative support people or front-line contacts.

3. Modification of employment conditions.

Things like announcements of layoffs, reduction in hours, relocations, and changes in reporting structure are all examples of things that emotionally leaders understand have to be done by them, and in person. And they also get that they should never be communicated by email or text.

4. Big changes in the organization's structure.

It never feels good to find out your employer is getting bought out by first reading it on the Internet. Emotionally intelligent leaders recognize the importance of being visible and available when big announcements are made. And they don't call an "All Hands" meeting, give the announcement, and then leave for the day (or worse, go golfing). They stay and answer questions. If there are other locations that need face time, they leave a 2nd in command available to the workforce.

By demonstrating a sense of accountability to doing some of the dirty work, it shows employees that no one is above the difficulties of running an organization. A strong leader understands that everyone has their own version of grunt work, and doing it keeps them grounded and humble. Over the years, we have seen leaders lacking in emotional intelligence delegate all of these things and they always misestimate the fallout. The negative results include employee turnover, bad press, lower morale, disengagement and lack of respect for the executives. Although these scenarios are difficult and uncomfortable, it's vitally important to step up and face the music instead of delegating them to others. Employees don't just need their leaders to show strength and accountability on the best days, but even more on the worst.   

Thursday, May 9, 2019

The Perils of a Feedback Free Culture

There are many reasons that managers avoid giving relevant feedback to employees. Surprisingly, even "easy" feedback that comes with positive praise is often watered down to "Good job!" However, a feedback-free culture in the workplace can only lead to discouraged employees and diluted performance. This week I will give you a list of the perils of working in a feedback-free culture. 

The Perils of a Feedback Free Culture

Without feedback, everyone works from individual vs shared agendas.

A feedback-free culture can destroy a team's ability to achieve a shared vision. If employees are left to use their own opinions of what "good" and "bad" performance looks like, these assumptions may be way off base and misaligned with what you are trying to accomplish in the long-term. Clearly, there is no way for an employer and an employee to share a common goal if performance is judged by different scales. Additionally, when employees are left in the dark about how they are doing, it's too easy to get complacent or comfortable.

Star performers feel neglected.

As mentioned in "Thanks for Being A Star Performer, Now I Will Ignore You," article, too often, we forget about creating a feedback dialogue with our best employees. Unfortunately, without any feedback, top performers won't know they are considered by you to be a top performer. This leads to eroding engagement and loyalty. Even high-performers may need the occasional correction to their performance. This kind of feedback exchange should not be avoided for fear of demotivating a star employee, however.  High-performers will have plenty of positive aspects which you can emphasize to balance the negative feedback. In the end, every strong performer wants feedback on what can be improved so the discussion serves only to help them self-adjust and move on.

Underperformers are unaware.

In a feedback-free work culture, underperformers are not given timely performance feedback and continue to make mistakes or flounder in ambiguity. Lack of feedback can lull an underperformer into thinking their below-average work is sufficient, thus stunting any motivation they may have to improve. On the other hand, without direction underperforming employees may feel lost regarding their work, unaware of whether their efforts are on-target or not. Constructing feedback that addresses poor performance is vital, and while it may be difficult to tell your employee their performance is lacking, it will dissolve any issues of ambiguity and pave a path towards reaching common goals.

Managers spend more time correcting outcomes than managing human capital.

Managers waste valuable company time correcting, explaining, improving, and/or changing work products of their employees, instead of spending that same time giving specific guidance and performance input. It is a better use of everyone's time to check-in with employee progress throughout a project's development so that mistakes are caught early on and can be corrected by the employee himself. Effective managers don't have to manage results because they have already put the effort into laying a strong foundation by communicating what is expected and making sure those expectations are consistently met.

Employees become stagnant.

When feedback is absent from the creative and planning processes, employees get stagnant and don't develop new skills or better techniques. This stifles the entire experience, halting an employee's ability to innovate because they have no idea that their work needs to be refreshed. Address your employees' weaknesses directly and give them a chance to strengthen their skills or learn new methods of delivering on assignments. Where there is a culture of open and reciprocal feedback, there is room to expand both personally and professionally.

Not just for middle management.

A feedback-free environment is not just the ailment of young, inexperienced managers but we see it at the executive level too. Often, executives will say that their direct reports are mature or experienced enough that they don't need candid feedback. Ignoring your senior employees is insulting and kills the credibility of the leader if they are seen as conflict avoidant or too hands-off.

Take the time to consciously create a culture in your company where feedback is not just present, but an integral part of your employer-employee relationship and how dynamic those working relationships become. By making the time to address the strengths and weaknesses of your team, you will not only reinforce your top performers but guide and motivate your underperformers, build trust along the corporate ladder and establish a structure that encourages self-improvement and creativity.

Friday, May 3, 2019

Month in a Minute

Clockwise from Top Left: Me and Steve at Eaton Vance in Boston; Me and Steve in San Fransisco;  Me and Joseph Kamel from Highgate Hotels; Speaking at TALA in Galveston; Steve and Me with the Civitas crew at TALA. 

March and April took us across the country and back more than once: working in the Bay Area twice, in southern California twice, in Texas twice, in Salt Lake City, in Scottsdale AZ and in New England twice. We are surely racking up the air miles this year! Our clients have requested our content on the applications of EQ across multiple disciplines – interviewing and selection, managing change effectively, giving feedback that changes behavior, for leadership, to improve internal investigations, in providing quality of senior care, and for individual contributors who have high leadership potential. We are continually impressed with the relevancy of emotional intelligence and the many ways it can be incorporated into existing workplace processes that ensure higher productivity and employee effectiveness. 

Angela also had the opportunity to attend a program provided by one of our strategic vendors to learn more about some of the new assessments and related content we are now offering. We continue to develop new content and customize our programs to meet multiple industries and role nuances. We love the variety of work we do and encourage you to consider ways to bring EQ to your current professional development offerings, perhaps giving a fresh twist on a classic topic.