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The Seven Worst Communication Habits

January 1st, 2013

The quality of your communication is always important, and increased skillfulness offers many benefits. Yet in more difficult times, such as when the economy is in recession, the quality of your communication becomes even more important. Sometimes the cost of poor communication is immediate, and sometimes it takes a bit longer for the negative consequences of unmindful communication habits to become evident.

The good news is that if you know what some of the nastier, poor-communication habits are, you can become more mindful and look for ways to increase your skillfulness. The positive results can be seen in interpersonal interactions as well as improvements in the quality of your marketing communications and networking.

So what are some of the worst communication habits? Here are seven candidates:

The Big Seven

The seven worst habits of communication are bad enough when they happen occasionally. They become “big and bad” when they’re practiced habitually. And they do, ultimately, exact a cost, whether it be in miscommunications, lost projects, lowered productivity, missed opportunities, or poor relationships. The Big Seven bad habits are:

Contacting Others Only When You Need Something.
You’ve no doubt experienced this, or perhaps (if you’re honest with yourself), you can recall doing it yourself. Maybe it’s even one of your own bad communication habits. The person who perpetrates this bad habit is the one who routinely surfaces when they’re job hunting, when they’ve got a problem, when they need a reference, or when they want ideas from you. Between their “periods of need,” you don’t hear a peep from these folks, and they might not even respond to your communications. Telephone and email messages go unreturned. Ick! Whatever the reason that people do it, it’s unpleasant for those on the receiving end. Let’s face it–no one likes feeling that they’ve been used. What’s more, as the pattern becomes evident, more and more of “the used” become reticent, if not resentful, and reach a point where they don’t care to be used any longer.

Not Following Up, Or Closing The Loop.
This is a sibling habit of the aforementioned, and is pretty much self-explanatory. This is when someone asks for your advice, requests a reference for an upcoming job interview, seeks out contacts for their job search networking, or asks for (or receives from you) a referral for a new project. You get the gist. These are all normal enough activities, but where this habit goes bad is when the person fails to follow up or close the loop by letting you know how things turned out, or even saying “thank you.” In the worst cases, the next time you hear from this person is when they need something from you again.

Not Returning Telephone Calls Or Email Messages.
As with other breached hallmarks of civility, this bad habit is becoming fairly typical. In some corporate work cultures, it’s actually a norm. But that doesn’t make it anything other than what it is: A nasty, inconsiderate communication habit. Just to be clear, we’re not talking about returning automated sales calls here, which one can be forgiven for ignoring. Rather, we’re talking about telephone messages, personally written notes, and email messages from real, live human beings, that go unanswered and unacknowledged. Nasty habit!

Foregoing Basic Courtesy.
At its most simple, this nasty habit shows itself in an individual’s failure to say “please” and “thank you” when requesting and receiving something. They might not send a thank you after being treated to lunch, or they might send a snappish email that is more of a demand than a request. The three previous nasty communication habits are also examples of discourteous behavior. Basic courtesy goes by the wayside for a number of reasons: people are in too much of a hurry, they might have an attitude of entitlement or self-absorption, or they might not have ever been taught basic courtesy. But each failure to be courteous contributes to an uncivil workplace and community, and exacts a cost because people don’t tend to like being treated rudely, and are less likely to extend themselves on behalf of someone they consider rude.

Not Listening.
You’d be shocked at how many unpleasant and costly situations arise from a failure to listen. Medical malpractice suits often cite poor listening skills as a key problem, for example, when physicians fail to listen to what a patient is saying, and allow their own egos and assumptions to prevent them from truly hearing crucial information. A similar pattern can be found in other types of work environments, too. One hallmark of poor listening is a person who won’t ask any questions. Another hallmark is that he or she might repeatedly paraphrase incorrectly, or “put words in your mouth” that you neither say nor agree with. On an interpersonal level, poor listening skills result in miscommunications, lost opportunities, lower productivity due to mistakes or redundant efforts, employee turnover, and other costly scenarios.

Telling Lies.
Intentions for and examples of lying run the gamut from telling “little white lies” to avoid hurting someone’s feelings (something few people like to do to others) to purposely misleading whole groups of people for the purpose of one’s individual material gain (something we saw en masse during the dot-com boom and subsequent string of corporate ethics and accounting scandals). The former is often deemed understandable, if not optimal, and the latter is seen as unforgivable. Both are examples of someone not being truthful. Truthfulness requires courage and, ideally, skillfulness. With courage and skillfulness, and a bit of self-awareness, we can find ourselves telling the truth in both cases, and all of the cases in between. The truth may occasionally hurt, but lies tend to be far more destructive.

Spewing Chronic Negativity.
Everyone can see and point out flaws, which is an essential element of problem solving. And we all entertain opinions that are focused on or sharpened by things we don’t like. But the chronic negativity spewer takes it to a more toxic, less discerning level. He or she is ardently negative–about a lot of things–and delivers his negative opinions energetically and regularly. Imagine meeting with such a person, who from the first to the last minute of your time together has nothing positive to say about anyone or anything. He might use powerfully angry, negative language, and repeat phrases such as, “I hate…” or “…stupid idiots.” When you’ve had an interaction with negativity-spewing Ned or Nellie, you feel like you’ve been slimed, and may even feel a bit in shock from the sheer force of their negative energy. A chronic Negative Ned or Nellie can have a dampening effect on his or her whole work group.
Fortunately, these and other nasty communication habits can be averted or changed by cultivating habits that are nasty-habit opposites–meaning, in this case, more skillful and considerate. For example, in order to enjoy the many benefits of more positive, skillful communication, you might commit yourself to speaking honestly, cultivating “right speech,” treating others more courteously, and so on.

Copyright © 2002-2003. Reprinted with permission from Ivy Sea, Inc., San Francisco, CA (www.ivysea.com).

Making LinkedIn Work for You – TIPS FOR GETTING NOTICED AND CONNECTED

November 30th, 2012

With roughly one new member joining per second, LinkedIn has rapidly developed into a global professional networking superpower. But with so many people competing for attention on the site, it’s easy to get lost in the crowd.

Here are a few quick tips to help you get noticed (in the right way) and get connected to potential employers:

Include a professional-looking picture. Even if you believe you’re not the most photogenic person in the world, you should still include a profile picture. Why? It shows that you’re comfortable with yourself, and it makes your profile a lot more personable. Like it or not, your picture is one of the first things people (read: potential employers) notice on your page. So, make a good first impression by uploading a headshot with adequate lighting and a fairly neutral background.

Maximize your professional headline. Your professional headline is a piece of prime real estate on your profile. If you just enter a job title here, you’re missing an important opportunity to market and distinguish yourself. Write something catchy and specific to show others who you are (e.g., instead of “Project Manager for XYZ Company,” try “I manage complex projects involving IT and marketing.”)

Note: If you’re in between jobs, it’s okay to lay your cards on the table (e.g., experienced administrative professional looking for my next role in the Chicago area). Or, if you prefer, you can leave your employment status out of your headline and simply focus on the competent professional you are. Either way, think of the professional headline as a ten second pitch to sell your abilities to a potential employer.

Create a vanity URL. Most LinkedIn profile URLs contain a bunch of ugly code and numbers with a slash and then your name at the end. If you have a common name, or want to use the URL on a business card, stand-out from the crowd by customizing your LinkedIn URL. Just go to the “public profile” section to create a more concise and self-explanatory locator.

Consider upgrading to a premium account. LinkedIn offers paid accounts that help job seekers reach out to hiring decision makers and manage their job searches more effectively. For a monthly fee, you are moved to the top of the hiring manager’s list as a “featured applicant” when you apply to jobs on LinkedIn. Your listing is highlighted and displayed in a more eye-catching way, showing hiring managers that you’ve invested extra time and money to make your job search successful. The paid account also allows you to send emails directly to hiring managers’ accounts, without waiting for an introduction from one of your contacts.

Leverage the new “network activity” section. LinkedIn expanded the functionality of the old “network updates” section. It now supports posting links that include images and article excerpts. So if you find an industry article that your LinkedIn connections (or potential employers) might find interesting, post it here. Posting links to timely, relevant information demonstrates that you stay on top of news and trends affecting your industry.

Adopt a smart connection strategy. LinkedIn connections are a reflection of you professionally–so choose them carefully. If you feel the need to decline a connection, it’s polite to explain why. Likewise, it’s good form to customize your invitation when sending a request for a connection (as opposed to the canned “I’d like to add you as a connection.”). Finally, make your connection list public. If you don’t, you essentially defeat the purpose of LinkedIn. Unless showing connections undermines your company’s competitive advantage, you should display your contacts and encourage them to connect with one another.

Take advantage of new real-time profile matches. LinkedIn has free feature, allowing hiring managers to search profiles that best match their job descriptions. If you’re looking for a new job, there are two things you can do to ensure that your profile appears as an appropriate job match. First, be sure that your profile is up to date and complete (i.e., fill out the experience, summary and professional headline sections, and include comprehensive details about your past and present work positions). Second, utilize the “status update feature,” which can alert your network that you’re job searching and inform a job poster that you’re an available candidate.

Garner a variety of recommendations. LinkedIn’s “recommendations” give readers a third-party perspective on you and your work. If possible, include recommendations from a variety of sources–managers, co-workers, subordinates, satisfied clients–to give a “360 degree” view of you as a professional. In all cases, recommendations should come from people who know you well and can really speak to your competencies.

Make your summary SEO friendly. An employer’s ability to find you depends on LinkedIn’s search engine linking your name to certain search keywords. As a result, the “summary” section of your profile should contain keywords relevant to your preferred line of work. You have 2,000 characters to use in this section, so make the text work double-duty. Balance your SEO goals (the need to be found by search engines) with “readability” goals (the need to be understood by real human beings). As a general rule, “problem/action/results” stories that demonstrate your problem-solving ability work well to achieve both ends.

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Sources used to write this article:

Lynch, C.G. (3 December 2008) LinkedIn Etiquette: Five Dos and Don’ts. CIO.com. Retrieved from May 2010.

Lynch, C.G. (13 May 2009) LinkedIn Profiles: Avoid the Six Most Common Mistakes. CIO.com. Retrieved from May 2010.

Lynch, C.G. (20 May 2009) Social Networking Etiquette: How to Introduce Yourself and Others Politely. CIO.com. Retrieved from May 2010.

HR Relief Million Dollar Jobs Stimulus Package  

July 12th, 2012

 At HR Relief we understand that HR Departments and HR Professionals are operating at maximum capacity in this current economic climate.  We want to do our share to match open HR positions with qualified individuals while relieving the sourcing burden for the HR Department.

During the next 12 months we will provide our services for placing HR Professionals free of charge at Arizona corporations.  Our goal is to place individuals in positions that will result in an aggregate annualized salary of $1,000,000.  In doing so, we will forgo $200,000 in placement fees.  Search for our information at #EmployAZHR on Twitter.

At HR Relief we offer a full spectrum of staffing solutions for a variety of industries.  We are locally owned and operated.  When you work with us you are supporting a local business entity.  Find out more about our business at
www.hrrelief.net .  Access us on LinkedIn, Twitter and FaceBook from our home page.

Here are the particulars for Employers to participate:

HR Relief will offer a 1 placement maximum per company

Offer applies to HR positions only

Must supply job description and pay range for position

Confirmation of the annual salary for individuals placed (to measure against our $1,000,000 goal)

To inquire about our program please follow this link http://hrrelief1.wpengine.com/contact-us/ .

#shrm

The Benefits of Workplace Humor

June 20th, 2012

It seems that humor is serious business. According to a report published in Science Daily, it’s ok — and even encouraged — to have a little fun at work!

Chris Robert, who is an assistant professor at the University of Missouri (MU), along with a business doctoral student collaborator, Wan Yan, analyzed hundreds of sources on the theories of humor. Robert professes that humor in the workplace isn’t just clowning around, but has a powerful impact on workplace cohesiveness and the quality of communication among workers. Robert, who teaches psychology at MU, says that laughter actually causes people to bond more because of the physiological effects on the body. Other benefits of workplace humor include its ability to reduce job stress, spark creativity, boost morale, relieve burnout, energize, and put things in perspective.

So, what happens physiologically when we laugh? In the short-term, when we laugh, blood flow and oxygen is increased throughout the body. When you take in more oxygen-rich air, your muscles, lungs, and heart are stimulated. Laughter also helps to increase endorphins released by your brain, which makes you feel good. In the long- term, it’s thought that positive thoughts can improve your immune system and ability to fight off illness, reports the Mayo Clinic.

But implementing humor in the workplace isn’t without its caveats. Humor shouldn’t be used to poke fun at someone, but rather to laugh about things or events. Nor should you joke about very serious subjects that may be painful to someone else, like physical disabilities, illness, or death. Be careful about humor in multi-international organizations where differences in sensibilities and senses of humor may be present, as Robert and Yan note.

All-in-all, humor in the workplace can be a powerful tool to inspire people to creativity and greatness by working in an environment where people can feel free to let loose, but also valued and trusted.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/10/071031130917.htm      http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/stress-relief/SR00034

Impressing Executives: Four Ways to Build Credibility and Influence

May 21st, 2012

 

  • Don’t agree to do a task unless you are absolutely certain you will follow through. Overpromising and under-delivering is a credibility killer. The phone call you promised to make, or the data you promised to send, may have fallen off your to-do list, but they won’t fade from the other person’s memory.
  • Learn the fine art of pushing back tactfully. For example, “I understand the outcome you’re shooting for. Are you open to some other ways to get there?” Or, “I see where you’re going with this idea, but I’m concerned about a couple of potential barriers we could run into…” In both examples, affirming the other person’s idea before posing alternatives is a good way to offer opposing views to someone in power. Position yourself as someone who is thinking through their idea with them.
  • Help the person who is delegating to think through projects on the front end–don’t just be a pair of hands. Executives are busy people and they will often delegate a project without completely thinking it through. Ask questions such as, “If this project is successful, what will it look like when it’s finished?”, “Who will be impacted by this (and who should I involve)?” or, “What concerns you about this project–how are you/others at risk if it isn’t successful?” Questions such as these add value because they will inevitably shape and clarify the steps required for the best outcome. Often, I have found that the original solution morphs into a better solution.
  • Say “no,” but explain why. This is an option that should be rarely chosen, so make it count. In my prior corporate life, I was asked to head a task force to create a “company-wide recognition program.” After diligently researching many available options, the group concluded that formal, company-wide programs had limited value and short life-spans. The task force had been conceived to create more appreciation and job satisfaction for employees. We kept coming back to the ideas that most job satisfaction came from things like personal recognition from their boss/team and empowerment to have some control and influence over their own work. When the group was asked to present its findings, we opened our presentation with, “We recommend against creating a company-wide program and here are the reasons…” We recommended a solution that would get the desired results. We were a little nervous, but in the end, our “personal stock value” went up.

Joan Lloyd

 

How to Select Good References

November 14th, 2011

Many job candidates are so busy polishing their resume, creating the perfect cover letter, applying for jobs, researching companies, and preparing for interviews that they fail to put much thought into choosing their references. While selecting good references may seem like icing on the cake, choosing and using the wrong one can mean a job that was essentially “in the bag”, surprisingly fell out of reach.

1. Think strategically before choosing. Choose references that will be your strongest advocate, which doesn’t necessarily have to be a former boss. Sometimes colleagues in other departments may be the better choice.

2. Choose references from various areas. Your goal should be three to five references, but don’t choose references from only your former employer. While two or three references from former employers who can speak highly of your work ethic and accomplishments are advised, add an education (i.e. professor) and character reference who can speak about your educational background and personal attributes. Former coaches, business acquaintances, and customers are also fine choices. Avoid listing family members; although we’re sure they would say nice things about you.

3. Skip the letter of recommendation. Most hiring managers don’t put as much weight on those “to whom it may concern” letters of recommendations. In the communication age that we’re in, most would rather speak with your reference directly.

4. Ask before listing. You must get permission before listing anyone as a reference. While most people will be flattered to be asked, you need to be sure.

5. Keep your references updated. Your references should have a current copy of your resume, and be knowledgeable about your accomplishments and key skills. Inform your references of the types of jobs you are pursuing, and specific positions if possible.

5 Ways to Help Your Job Search Before You Get Out Of Bed

November 7th, 2011

Job-hunting is stressful, and sometimes it makes you want to just hide under the covers. Luckily, there are still productive things you can do even while cowering in bed. While you sit there in your pajamamas, beef up your job search with some of the following:

1.) Polish your LinkedIn profile. You should have a clear and professional headline. Completely fill out your education and job history. Complete the skills section, so that potential employers looking for your skill-set can find you. Make sure you’ve included your resume, and that it is up to date.

2.) Are you skills a little rusty? Get back up to speed with free online tutorials. There are tutorials online for all kinds of skills from typing to PowerPoint to programming or learning a second language.

3.) Get on Twitter. No, we don’t want you to give a play by play of your breakfast and coffee. Instead, post links to informative articles about your industry, and tweet hellos to professionals in your field.

4.) Read the whole business section of the paper, not just the classifieds. Stories there can tell you what companies are new to the area and who might be expanding. These are companies that might need new employees soon. Most job openings are never posted. By researching on your own, you can find potential openings.

5.) Beef up your job search with Google. Do a search for "Your City" plus "jobs" or "your profession needed". The results may contain blog entries, news stories and other results you won’t find on the job boards.

Eliminate Burnout

October 21st, 2011

Has your life become too complicated? Between telephones, cell phones, voicemail, e-mail, and text messaging, we’ve never been more accessible–and more prone to interruption. Add job and family responsibilities, and it’s enough to make you feel overwhelmed!

Here are some ways you can eliminate burnout and get back on track:

1. Practice extreme self-care. When you take good care of YOU, the people and situations in your life will get the “best” of you instead of what’s left of you! Give yourself permission to make self-care a priority. Practicing self-care will show others how to love and respect you by valuing and appreciating who you are.

2. Set strong boundaries and keep them. Practice saying “no” more often, especially when saying “yes” would be dishonest to yourself.

3. Delegate things that need to be handled. Superheroes aren’t real! If you “have to do it all yourself”, it is time to consider help. Be willing to give up some of your control to decrease all the things on your “to-do” list. Recognize when you have a need AND ask for help (when help is available). Remember, the most successful people work with teams–they don’t succeed alone.

4. Decrease and eliminate energy drains. Get rid of clutter, people, situations, and things that sap your energy. Energy drains include: everything unresolved, undone, incomplete, or avoided. Examples: clutter, unanswered correspondence/phone calls, unfinished business, repairs, unpaid bills, avoided conflicts/confrontations, negative thinking.

5. Schedule fun! We all need a bit of downtime so mix some fun into your life—you’ll be much more productive!

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