Say Thank You

Problem:

You get the feeling that people don’t have a good opinion of you.  Or, you don’t know what people think of you.  Or, you don’t have really good relationships that you can count on.  Or, you don’t feel that you’re a smooth, dynamic, charming speaker or conversationalist that people are attracted to.

Solution:

I know it sounds simple, but this is really the key to developing good relationships.  It is so easy to do.  The hard part is swallowing your pride.

Say ‘thank you’ often.  And mean it.

When you say ‘thank you’ to another person you are recognizing their contribution, you are saying that they provided something valuable to you and others.  You are humbling yourself because you are saying that you needed whatever they provided.  You might even be saying that they produced something better than what you could have produced.

Think deeply about the reasons why you wouldn’t say ‘thank you’ to someone and you’ll find that it is rooted in selfishness and pride.  Even if you didn’t think whatever they did was very useful, you can always learn something, maybe even how not to do it.  So the person should be thanked for their efforts.

Showing appreciation not only makes the recipient feel good, but it shows that you were paying attention, especially if you’re specific about what you liked.  So be specific.  It will help them do that part more.

And it’s easy.  Especially in online transactions. You can say it in emails, comments, and other various online discussions.  It spreads goodwill and builds your reputation as someone people like, because you’re always making people feel good.

So don’t worry about being a charming, dynamic personality.  Just be thankful and appreciative, and show it, and people will be drawn to you.  You’ll have more friends. 

And real friends are exactly what you need out there in the tough corporate world.

Be Patient

Problem:

Things aren’t changing fast enough for you. Your efforts seem to go unnoticed or without any impact.  The bureaucracy causes everything to take so much longer to get done or implemented.

Solution:

Be patient.  Just because the change is not occuring according to your paradigm doesn’t mean it isn’t occuring.

Have you ever watched a tree grow?  If you sat there and watched it you could get pretty frustrated.  But if you do the things that you know are necessary for it to grow, provide good soil, sunlight, and water, and wait patiently, over time, a nice large tree will appear.  And while one tree is growing, if you do that same work in multiple places, eventually you’ll have a forest.

The problem is that our paradigm or worldview is different than the corporation.  Since it is such a large entity, its perspective of time is much slower.  Just like a fly probably thinks we move really slow.  Its whole life starts and ends in a few days.  You are a fly compared to the corporation.

So don’t get discouraged when things don’t happen at the speed you’d prefer.  If you keep up your effort, keep making a difference, and keep fighting the status quo, eventually you’ll begin to notice the leaves on the tree.  You’ll have developed a reputation of someone to be sought after, a linchpin.  And the corporation will be a little different because of you.  

(pesky little fly)

Grow a Powerful Corporate Network (without leaving the office)

Guest post by Jodi Kaplan. Visit her blog at Fix Your Broken Marketing.

When I was back in the corporate world, my job required me to work with people all across the company. I was in marketing, but had to rely on people from graphics, events, product development, membership (for a non-profit), and IT to get my job done.

In one case, I had a brand-new position, so there was no guide to show me the ropes.  Since I couldn’t ask for help, I came up with an “evil” plan. 

Bribery!

I had a two-part plan.  The first part: bribery.  I put a big bowl of candy on my desk.  After a few days, I had lots of new friends.  People would also stop and chat, so I got all the latest news and project updates.

Let’s Do Lunch

Part two of my plan was sitting down for lunch.  I’d go into the company lunchroom and sit close to people outside my department.  Occasionally, they’d ask me a question or I’d chime in.  I gradually built up a friendly relationship,  and we started eating lunch together and having real conversations.

We were technically all isolated in our own different corporate silos – reporting to different people with different lines of command.  In some cases, we really weren’t intended to have anything to do with each other. 

However, when you have lunch with people over weeks and months, regardless of whether you’re talking about food, TV, or company goings-on, you start to bond.  

You also start to learn things you’d have never known about otherwise  – what bothers them, what problems they’re having doing their jobs, how you can make their jobs easier, and how they can help you. 

For instance, I found out that graphics would rather have plain text files instead of heavily formatted Word files.  Or, that it’s easier if you mark where you want headlines or photos to be inserted. 

These cross-departmental connections also came in very handy during reorganizations, since people from other departments  already knew and liked me.  In fact, some of them are still my friends.

So, next time you don’t have plans, ask someone from IT or accounting to lunch.  Or, go sit at a different table.  You might learn something. You might even make a friend.

Develop Meaningful Relationships (through bribes)

Guest post by Regine Albrecht. Visit her blog at: www.expatlinq.wordpress.com

Problem:

You frequently need help, assistance or just plain favors from people in other departments than yours.

Solution:

The way to a colleague’s heart is through their stomach.

In one of his last blogs Rex talked about “Go on a Field Trip” as a nice way to meet your colleagues from other departments. Back in my “corporate” days I had to work with several other departments and I remembered how I connected with them. Instead of calling my colleague(s) to ask for anything, I went on that field trip mentioned by Rex and introduced myself. It wasn’t really common for women to go to the manufacturing level so it was a little unusual, but I did it anyway.

I didn’t go only once, but almost every time I needed something or had a question, especially if it was something out of the ordinary (which happened quite often). Often times I would take some treats with me such as home baked cookies, chocolate, or some other candy to share with them.

OK you got me, I have a sweet tooth and yes, you may call this “bribing”.  I totally agree, but it worked miracles.  It opened so many doors for me and helped me a lot when I needed their support. Even if I had a request on VERY SHORT NOTICE they would do everything they could to help….which of course lead to another visit with a big thank you of some kind.

Where’s your guest post?

Mix Up Your Meetings – part 3 (start times)

Problem:

People are late for your meeting. They usually wander in 5 minutes late, using some excuse that their previous meeting ran late.

Solution:

Start your meeting 5 or 10  minutes later, after the hour or usual start time.  Then actually start the meeting exactly at that time.

At school there was always some kind of travel time between classes to allow you to get to your next class on time.  Sadly, some work environments cause people to have back to back meetings scheduled by different sources with no break time in between.  You either have to leave your preceeding meeting early, or show up to the next meeting late.

Well, you can’t control everyone else’s meetings, but if you’re in charge of one you can give people at least one break during the day.  Schedule your meeting at precisely five minutes after the hour, like 10:05 am, or use some odd number like 10:07.  Make sure the time is clear in the meeting announcement and that you will start on time.

If you make this a habit – using odd times and starting on time – then you’ll be known and appreciated for giving people some breathing room between their meetings, and they’ll start showing up on time if they don’t want to miss anything.  (And make the beginning of the meeting really good so they won’t want to miss it.)

If people like it, the practice might just spread.

(When we implemented this in a whole organization, it changed the culture of how they interacted with each other.)

Do you have any meeting tips?  (I know it’s a topic with lots of room for improvement.)

Harness Serendipity

Problem:

You never get what you want, nothing ever exciting happens to you, and you don’t make connections with the right people.

Solution:

Put yourself in places where you just might meet someone important, or might learn something that can help you in your effort, or find someone who might be a key contact later on in life.  Go wander around in the places where the people you might need to connect with will be located.  This means physically and virtually.

It can be certain office buildings, lunch hang outs, the factory, or mail room.  You can also  ‘wander around’ on social networks, twitter, online communities and such.  Be attentive, friendly, helpful, and find out about other people and what’s going on.  You just never know when you’ll make a connection that will be really important someday.

Of course, you can’t do this all day, or for extended periods of time because it may not be the most effective use of your time.  But serendipity can happen.  And it will if you are prepared for it.  Amazing opportunities can fall right into your lap if you’re open to them and are able to recognize the possible opportunities when they cross your path.

But first, you need a goal.  You need some overarching purpose or strategy or direction that you want to move in.  Serendipity is finding something valuable while seeking something else – a happy accident.  So you do need to be seeking something.  You may not know exactly how you’ll find or accomplish that thing you’re seeking, but if you have that goal in mind, then you’ll notice things that happen to you that might be an indirect or unique way that will help you accomplish your goal.

Life will be exciting, you’ll get what you want, and you’ll make connections with the right people if you just learn how to…

…harness serendipity.

Do you have a serendipitous moment you’d like to share?

Share Tools

Problem:

Everyone has their own way of doing things and usually has a simple little tool, checklist, program or method that they use that most people don’t know about.

Solution:

Share your tool with others.  Maybe only engineers do this, but if I broaden the definition of a ‘tool’ to mean any tactic or method you use to stay organized or get things done, then I think that could apply to almost anyone.  Engineers are famous for creating little Excel programs or otherwise to help organize data or automate a process, but they usually don’t think it’s polished enough to share with others, or that others won’t understand it, or it will take too much work to fix it for public consumption so they just kind of keep it to themselves.

I think non-engineer types do the same thing with the little tools they use.  So what happens is that all these great time-saver tools, methods or techniques don’t get maximum leverage by being used by many people, and a whole lot of duplication goes on by people creating their own thing instead of using what’s already out there because they don’t even know about it.

Now you don’t have to be a braggert about it or a pushy salesman, you just have to say here is something that works for me, maybe it’ll work for you too.  There are multiple ways to share.  I would start with your own local group and then branch out from there to people who you think might be interested. 

Don’t try to sell it to the big boss and make it the standard that everyone has to use.  You’ll gain a lot more credibility if it’s something that gets spread around because everyone wants to use it, not because it was forced on them by management.  It makes a difference how an idea is presented or where it came from.

So share your stuff.  Maybe you put it all on a web site, blog, wiki, SharePoint, server, or other location, but make it easy to find and spread, and you’ll be helping out a lot more people, and maybe even the company.

What’s your tool?

Mix Up Your Meetings – part 2 (The Talking Stick)

Problem:

Your meetings are dominated by a few people who talk a lot, and there’s not a lot of listening going on.

Solution:

Use an ancient Native American tradition called “the talking stick.”

How it works is that you have some kind of decorative stick (or it could be a ball, bean bag, or bobblehead, doesn’t matter, just some kind of ‘thing’) and whoever is holding the stick has the floor to talk.  No one else can talk, they just have to listen.  When the person with the stick is done talking, they offer it up to the group and whoever wants to talk next will take the stick.  A person can keep it as long as they want, but they can’t abuse the power, if they are stingey with it and talk for too long, people are going to stop listening to them.

This helps your meeting be more controlled, relaxed, and eliminates people talking over each other and not listening.  After using the stick a few times, people will begin to pick up the habit, and they’ll start listening to each other more, even without the stick.

Is this something that might work for you?  Do you have one of those meetings in mind where you could really use something like this?

Just try it.

Go Get Certified

Problem:

Your company doesn’t support getting professional society certifications.

Solution:

So what?  First, get a group together and start studying for one of those certification exams.  For example, the Project Management Professional (PMP) Certification, or the Business Analyst (BA) Certification, or the TOCICO Certification (Theory of Constraints International Certification Organization), or the Six Sigma Black Belt, or Quality, or whatever you’re interested in that might be somewhat relevant to your industry.  There are a myriad of them out there that I don’t even know about.

All you have to do is raise your hand (or notify people by email, blog, or otherwise) and let people know that you’re studying for this exam and that you’d like a few friends to study with you.

Once you have a group, and you’ve arranged to take the test on a certain day, then maybe you can ask the company if they would foot the bill, but don’t count on it.  You may have to pay the fees yourself to start, but once you get some momentum and more and more people want to take the exam, then you might have a case for more company support.

But don’t do it just to see what you can get out the company.  Do it because you really want to know more about that topic and you want to spread those ideas to others.

What other certifications do you know about that would be useful?

Don’t let anyone stop you from learning.

Mix Up Your Meetings – part 1 (Darkness)

Problem:

Your meetings are boring, painful, and woefully dreaded.

Solution:

Create excited anticipation for the meetings you organize by mixing them up with a creative twist.  Do something completely unexpected and off-the-wall so that they are fun and memorable, or at least eagerly anticipated because people don’t know what you’re going to pull next.

Since I could probably start a whole separate blog on unique meeting ideas, I’m not going to burn them all in one post, so I’ll just share one at a time as part of a ‘Mix Up Your Meeting’ series.  Plus, I know you’ve done some crazy things too, so share them with me and you can write your own ‘MUY Meeting’ post.

Here’s my first idea (and they are in no particular order.)

Start your meeting in the dark.

This only works in a room with no windows that you can get dark enough to be uncomfortable.  Be aware of safety issues, help them get to their seat without tripping, or wait until everyone is seated before turning out the lights.

The idea is to turn off one of the senses so they can focus on something else.  Let them just listen to your voice for a little while so they can really pay attention to what you are saying.  Or use an analogy for darkness that relates to whatever you’re meeting about.  Maybe you’re ‘in the dark’ regarding a particular problem you’re facing and you need everyone’s participation to help ‘shed some light’ on the subject.

After a while you could start showing images or words on the screen using a standard projector, or you could gradually turn on the lights as you are more ‘enlightened’ by the group discussion.

Or you could keep the whole meeting in the dark. I don’t care. Use your creativity.  The point is to use the contrast of darkness and light to bring home a point or to provide a sensory experience that is unique in the workplace (and maybe for good reason, so don’t stay too long in the dark or make it a habit, you don’t want any danger or funny business going on.)

What do you think?  Are you bold enough to try it?

You’ll be remarkable. 

People will remark about you and your meeting for sure.