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Business Tip #11: Always Say Thank You

Giving-praise-to-employeesI get a lot of emails every single day. They come from a variety of teams and usually people would like me to do something in each email. On the flip side, I also send out a lot of emails and I rely on others to help me do things to make my job go smoothly. With all of the requests that we can get inundated in, it’s always great practice to always say thank you when you both ask someone to do something and when a person does something for you. It doesn’t matter if it’s a small thing like your co-worker pulled some information for you from Google or a big task like finish delivering a project, every person likes to hear a simple thank you for an activity.

I’ve found that in my line of work, it’s so very important to build relationships. I actually really struggled at first because I was on a global project and I really didn’t understand how to communicate and get things done. My strategy in previous years was to simply be as organized as possible and shoot off many emails and expect that things get done. Things got real though, very quickly.

People don’t respond back to you very quickly or very enthusiastically if you don’t say thank you. Those two words do a lot to assure the person that you actually care about what they are doing. They even assure the person that you care about them and you’re not just using them for your own means. Once I was able to realize this, I began to say thank you to everyone. If you start saying it in conference calls as well, you can just hear the person on the other line genuinely receive the thank you and start acting a lot nicer towards you.

So my business tip for today is to always say thank you for everything you ask people to do (thanking them in advance) and for everything that is done for you. It’s two small words that can make a world of difference!

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Business Tip #10: Listen…No really listen

How many times have you gone into a meeting and not known at the end what was discussed and what the next potential action items were? I would need more than my fingers on my hand in order to get an accurate count for this. It’s hard for us sometimes to focus for hours at a time in a meeting. There is just so much to accomplish most of the time that you think of the next deadline you need to hit so your hands move to your keyboard and your mouse and you pull up Microsoft Word or Powerpoint and start working on something else. Effectively, you start to multitask.

I think that this is one of the deadliest things you can do if you really want to retain what happens in meetings. By shifting your focus on multiple other things while on a call, you have a strong tendency to not hear key things in the meeting that you could need. Small details such as a date or a proposal might be among the things you lost while you were creating tables on Excel and running reports.

I think there are a few things you need to consider when going into a meeting.

1.) Do you actually need to be there? Is it absolutely critical and a priority over everything else you have going on right now.
2.) Are you important? Are you a stakeholder in the discussion? Or are you merely an FYI type person who should hear about the details but not necessarily be a big influence on them. If the answer is the latter, consider just looking for the meeting notes that come out at the end of the meeting.

If you’ve answered these questions and determined you are a critical part to the meeting success, you should consider putting everything aside and just listening.

– Don’t answer Instant Messages from coworkers
– Don’t answer other calls. The only exception I would give to this is if someone calls you multiple times in a row and leaves a message that it is important.
– Don’t pull up any other programs on your computer
– Don’t check your email.
– Close your office door and don’t accept anyone coming in
– Try to reiterate what others are saying on the call so that you have full understanding of what is said
– Push for an action item list so that it neatly summarizes what needs to be done

If you can follow these steps you will find that you have your full focus on meetings. They will run more efficiently and you will see that people take notice of how you present yourself. You will be classified as a listener, someone who actually takes the time to hear everything and take action on it. So just remember, when you are a listener on a call, do just that… listen

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Business Tip #9: Be respectful of everyone’s time

Time is a precious commodity. Especially when you spend most of the day in business meetings, it is hard to find the time to get everything you need done. I go through so many meetings during the day where I really don’t have a free spot to focus. It’s always about picking up the phone and listening to a variety of different topics. I am not discrediting the need for online meetings, but more often than not, these meetings go over the allotted amount of time. Instead of a half hour meeting, it extends into a 45 minute meeting. Instead of an hour meeting, it can turn into an hour and a half. Because of this, other meetings might be moved or maybe because you don’t show up to another important meeting, it gets cancelled.

All of this confusion can easily be avoided if we remember to be respectful of everyone’s time. When a meeting is only scheduled for half an hour, timebox the agenda items and at the half hour mark politely interrupt everyone and ask first if it is ok to extend the call. This simple courtesy goes a long way for all members involved because it gives them the option to choose which meeting is the most important to them instead of just keeping everyone on a call and making it a sort of obligation to stay on. The more we can be respectful of everyone’s time, the more productive everyone can be.

Another helpful tip is to make sure that in meetings that you try to invite only those that are absolutely necessary. There is nothing more counter productive than to be on a meeting with 20+ people only to say the occasional “Yes I agree” in the conversation. Keep the individuals to a minimum but do send out meeting notes to anyone that could find use from them. In this way, you can spend less time in the call too since you will have the most important people there to drive the conversation quickly and you will find less people multitasking on the call.

With these tips, you might be able to make your coworkers a bit happier in the day when they can spend less time in a meeting and more time getting work done 🙂

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Business Tip #8: Don’t let fear of failure hold you back

Failure will happen. It happens to the best people. There is a website that shows many famous celebrities who have dropped out of either high school or college and in conventional terms would be considered failures:

http://collegedropoutshalloffame.com/

Yet all of these individuals did not let that failure get to them. They all had dreams and aspirations and reached for them. You can do the same too if you focus clearly on what you want to do.

In business, what I’ve found is that if you don’t speak up for what you believe in, no one will endorse you or give your thoughts a second opinion. You have to be confident in your ideas. You have to be confident that you have the answer or the spark your team needs. By showing that confidence, you show that you get what the business needs.

With that confidence however comes failure ultimately. There will be a time you make an incorrect decision. You might even get fired. However, you have to take those steps in order to learn from them. Each mistake you make is an opportunity to learn. You can learn what to not do the next time you’re in the same situation. You can learn a better way to approach a problem. You can learn a lot of things from making a mistake.

However, if you don’t even take that step and learn to embrace a potential failure, you will not get those lessons. You won’t get wiser. You won’t have that experience.

I can guarantee you that CEO’s of companies were not perfect in figuring out how to mold their companies. They made mistakes in their team structure. They made mistakes trusting in certain people. They probably made mistakes in what they wanted to accomplish and what the vision of their company initially was. From each mistake they made, they grew more experienced and more ready to take on any challenges that came their way.

Just look at that website I had earlier in this post. They all didn’t let failure hold them back. Look at where they are at now. That can be you if you just make sure to not let fear of failure hold you back.

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Business Tip #7: Don’t Underestimate the Power of Relationships

Working on a team is hard. At some point in your career you will run into team members who just don’t see eye to eye with you. They might try to resist your ideas. They might be stubborn and always pushing just their ideas. They may seem like a pain to work with and it’s not worth the effort to get to know them because they are just such negative people.

I think this is the wrong way to approach things. Getting to know people, even the ones that are not cooperative at first is the best way to understand how to frame things in their minds in order for them to understand. Many times in my experiences the right message is not given when writing emails or on phone calls. Unless you have a relationship with the person you are talking to, they are more than likely going to write you off if they don’t understand what you are saying.

To prevent this, everyone should strive to get to know the people around you better. It can be as easy as asking about someone’s day. Maybe you can find common interests. Maybe you can start to go to lunch with the person or grab a coffee at the morning. It doesn’t take much to show people you care. Be genuine about it and really listen to others. You will find that they will return the favor and will be more understanding!

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Business Tip #6: Be comfortable having no direction

One thing I’ve learned in my role as a project manager is that sometimes things just don’t go the way you plan it out. Yes it is very good and recommended to plan as carefully as possible. However, there are just so many different variables that can happen in a project that can derail the team. Whether there are resource problems, motivation problems, scope creep, they’re all there and waiting to doom a potential team. Being a leader of a team means being able to feel comfortable when things get out of control. When there doesn’t seem to be a way to do something or a timeline seems impossible, you have to be able to deal with adversity.

The important thing to do in these situations is to always assess where you are and what you still need to do to get across the finish line. Control what you can and do your best to help the team mitigate risks. Always keep your calm and keep a positive attitude in order to project that across to the team. If you do this, anyone can be more comfortable at having little attention and thus help the team succeed in the face of any adversity.

Business Tip #5: Know at the end of the day, you did your best

I don’t know how many times in my short career I’ve asked myself if I really did the best that I could during the day. However, you should always remind yourself that you have made your best effort each and everyday. I don’t believe that people each day think to themselves I’m going to have a bad day and purposely mess up. Each and everyday is full of challenges and it’s up to us to react to them.

Sometimes it’s hard because you just have a bad day. Things go wrong. You may get yelled at or criticized by coworkers. You might even be questioned in your abilities. However, my advice and tip to everyone that goes through this is to keep working hard. Keep pushing through and keep a positive attitude in saying that you did your best. Even on the worst days if you can manage to complete one or two tasks or help a few others along the way it’s not all bad. You did your best to react and you will learn a lesson from the experience.

That’s my approach to day to day life and it has helped tremendously change my attitude at work and keep me going through some of the toughest days!

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Business Tip #4: Remember to Reward Your Employees

In my limited experience working, I’ve talked with a lot of people and gotten their opinions about rewarding employees. The tip I have today is to always remember to reward your employees. There are a variety of ways to do it but it helps a lot for morale.

I’ve developed into the type of leader that is results driven but caring. Of course you need to make sure you are strict and get to the timelines that you need but once your team gets there, you need to be sure that you reward them appropriately.

There are a few ways you can reward your employees:

  • Send an email communication from one of the top managers on the project. This acknowledges the team from top management and signals that the work is really appreciated and is being tracked.
  • Have a personal conversation with them and congratulate them in person. It’s always good to have acknowledgment of good work and doing it in person gives an even better sense of accomplishment.
  • Take your team out to dinner. This gives you the opportunity to reward the whole team and use it as a socializing opportunity and morale booster for the team
  • Give your team a day off. Your team needs to recharge and what better way than to have the day off. They can spend it with family or just sleeping.
  • Negotiate a bonus for the team. Money isn’t always the best motivator but it is a classic one and does help out.
  • Ask your employees what you can do. This is the best way because everyone has different needs. Whether it’s vacation or money or anything else. Let your employees decide what they need.

With these tips, you can ensure that you keep a happy team. If it’s not in your power, you should try your best to convince your managers to do this for the team. Remember, completing milestones and jobs are things to be rewarded for a job well done!

Business Tips #3: When Someone Makes a Mistake, Don’t Just Ask Why… Help

In the business world, there are a lot of deadlines to hit and many times there just is not enough people to go around to finish things. Sometimes mistakes get made and sometimes team members are reluctant to share that something is going wrong in fear of getting yelled at or feeling singled out. There are some simple ways that you can help out when there’s a mistake to grow from the experience.

Don’t point somebody out. When there’s a mistake made on your team and you’re the manager or the project manager, the responsibility really falls to you to bear the burden. You should not point out that so and so made a mistake and put all the blame on that person. Do your best to explain the situation and instead move to say, we’ll get it fixed by so and so date
Ask why. In mistakes it’s important to figure out the whole situation and why exactly it happened. Ask the person what happened and what can be done in the future to improve the situation. You definitely don’t want to dwell on bad situations but you want to improve and make sure it doesn’t happen in the future.
Simply help out. The best thing to do when someone makes a mistake is help fix it. If you share the burden it shows your willingness to back the team. This will help lessen the blow.

~The Lermz