Workplace relationships are critical to any leader's ability to influence and execute against a strategy. The quality of of those relationships rely on our ability to build trust with those we lead and others throughout the organization. Whether we're speaking or not, we're always saying something. The challenge with non-verbal communication is that it's hard to know how it was interpreted! If you're regularly late to meetings, don't call others back when you said you would, or initiate conversation without asking if it's a good time, then you need to keep reading! Personal branding is critical to the success of any leader, but especially for executives. The most common challenge I find that hinders those I work with is an inability, or unwillingness, to be assertive with others. Keep reading to find some simple ways to practice being assertive along with other tips to let everyone know you care.
Whether we’re speaking or not, we’re always saying something.
Time is the most valuable resource we have! A willingness to allow your behaviors to waste the time of others is the fastest way to say "I don't care". How can we effectively build trust, create high quality workplace relationships, and influence when our actions say "I don't care"? Learning to be assertive will help greatly with this situation. Often times it's the previous engagement that's causing us to be late, so be assertive and let others know you have another commitment to get to.
If you've heard this from others, then you may need a strategy and system to get organized. If you already have one, then it's letting you down and you may need to change it. A personal branding strategy would help motivate the actions needed to stay organized, but it can wait. For now, just know you need a way to make sure you don't drop the ball. To have influence, we have to build trust, and effective follow-up is a sure way to get this done. Read my recent post on time management for more tips.
How do you know if it's a good time to talk if you don't ask? Asking before you go on about how the meeting went, or what someone said, is a great way to say "I care". Most people in the workplace are not sitting around doing nothing. This does not mean they're unwilling to talk either, but give them the choice and the opportunity to defer! You'll have a lot of high quality workplace relationships when interruption is not part of your brand. Read this article from Forbes to find more tips on how to manage interruptions.
Most people in the workplace are not sitting around doing nothing.
If you don't already have a personal branding strategy, then you should create one and I'm happy to help with this. Until you have a personal branding strategy, just avoid sabotaging yourself. That said, here are some simple actions you can take to let everyone around you know that "you care"!
Consider reading my series on self-awareness and learn how to manage this stuff on your own!
I won’t be home on time for dinner. I’ll try to make it, but this meeting may run long. I know we had plans for the weekend, but it’s due Monday morning. There’s no time for the gym with a sixteen hour day! Any of this sound familiar? I listened to this throughout my career in the corporate world. I found executives who maintained a great work life balance, but not that often. Line and middle management are better, but the ambitious ones struggle. The same applies to individual contributor SME’s serving as the last escalation point. Fear, lack of time management, and digital distraction are the three reasons I encounter most that kill the work life balance we deserve. Learn to “say no” and stop giving into fear, practice time management, and guard against digital distraction. Read on to find tips that will help you make this a reality.
Fear is our biggest challenge. Today’s common acronym FOMO, or the Fear Of Missing Out, is applicable in this discussion. In this case we’re afraid of missing out the following:
All of these are legitimate reasons, because they can affect our livelihood, but do we have a strategy or filter on when to say no? Can we create strategies to guard against being in these situations in the first place? If you’re promoted because you work twenty hours a day, then that’s the ongoing expectation that will be set. This is not sustainable nor healthy.
commit to prioritizing your life over work
Focus on promoting by adding more value. Create a sound plan around doing it with a healthy balance of time. Commit to prioritizing your life over work and especially outside normal business hours. Start practicing a new skill…”Say No” when someone asks you to work when it would compromise your life. You can always get to it the following day or someone that cares less about balance can work on it.
Any high-performing individual without a high-performing system is leaving a lot of time on the table. Time management and discipline are critical parts of any organizational system. They help set and maintain your brand with respect to being on time, following up, never dropping the ball, and more. You may be getting it done, but at what cost? Most likely your own life and sharing it with your loved ones.
You may be getting it done, but at what cost?
Effective time management will help even the most effective professional either get more done or find some much needed rest. A calendar is not just for tracking meetings. Commit to tracking your work there as well and you’ll find less conflicts for your time. Complete your work during business hours with this practice. Leverage the practice to free up your time for life. Read more on time management in my post on how to find more time in your day.
In our always-on world, most people will not turn it all off. They’ll look at the last email, or text, or notification. I’ve certainly been guilty of looking at email right before going to bed and taking another thirty minutes to research and respond. Learning to turn it off did wonders for me. I was more engaged with my family, got more sleep, read more, and enjoyed other hobbies. Who does not want or deserve this!?
Learning to turn it off did wonders for me.
We only have one life and you’ll want to say you filled it with much more than a career, email, and sixteen hour work days seven days a week. Turn off notifications and use your new time management skills to schedule time to review all of these “important” things. Communicate your new practices to others to make sure they know to call for emergencies. Read more on how to manage distraction in my post about cognitive junk food.
Work life balance is available to those willing to practice some new skills. Contact us today to help you achieve this sooner than later!
“When this project is over”, “when the kids are out of school”, or how about “after I get settled from…”? These are examples of the many “reasons” I hear that prevent people from doing something important to them. More often than not, we don’t start at those “opportune” times and our goals continue to slide. Anyone that has spent enough time around me has heard me say “we don’t find time…we make time”. We’ll never find more hours in the day, but we can create them with new habits and improved self-awareness. The good news is it does not have to be a struggle! Learn and use these basic time management tips and you’ll be able “find time” the time to accelerate your career or learn something new that will add value to your life. This is your opportunity to recover from your busy life and get organized again!
Most of what we experience throughout our day is engineered to grab our attention and hold onto it. What are we being pulled away from and for how long? Aside from the obvious time loss of being pulled away, there’s a high cost to context switching. According to a study from Inc., it takes an average of 25 minutes to resume a task after interruption. If we’re focused on the slides our boss needs to review before the big presentation, then do we really need to see the latest email? Is it best for our career to be constantly distracted by notifications or to stay focused and on task? Can you really be organized if your attention is constantly being pulled away? Read more on this topic in my post about cognitive junk food.
Can you really be organized if your attention is constantly being pulled away?
When I ask my clients what will happen if they ignore the email I usually hear silence followed by “I don’t know”. The reason they don’t know is because they’ve never really tried to find out. After a bit more discussion and logical thought, most people realize they’ll receive a phone call if it’s truly an emergency. From this realization it’s just a matter of learning a new way of operating. For this situation we can take advantage of “do not disturb” features on smart phones that will allow some calls through and block the rest. This allows us to disable email and instant messaging notifications. By disabling these kinds of notifications we can stay on task longer with no distraction. What other notifications can you disable? This time management tip will help you “find time” that you did not realize was lost.
Most of us have very busy calendars packed full of meetings. A typical corporate culture assumes you were doing nothing if your calendar showed to be open. It’s hard to argue against attending that meeting when you look and show the time to be free. How would you feel if it showed a conflict with “Create outline for the biggest presentation of my life”? Two things happen here and the first is you’re feeling conflicted, because you know how important the presentation is. Here’s the second critical benefit to being organized in this way. Everyone scheduling meetings will now see these kind of conflicts and look for another time!
Management and executives tend to to be in more meetings than most, but that does not mean they don’t have other stuff to do. Do yourself and your career a favor and “MAKE THE TIME” to do it, before someone else takes it. My experience inside and outside of large companies is that many people are not great at planning ahead and those around them suffer from their last minute meetings. If others are not going to be organized, then you really should be. Protect your ability to execute against your priorities and goals by scheduling the time to do the work. Using this simple time management practice, you’ll “find time” to focus more on your career and ability to learn.
When I ask my clients where their time goes, I usually hear the normal stuff like meetings, phone calls, kids, etc.. If I ask more specifically “how much” time goes to each of these areas, the answers are not so clear and confident. It’s hard to drive from Texas to California without knowing how much fuel you have, how fast you’re going, or if you’re going the right direction. We’ll slow down when we know that we’re speeding. If we’re running out of fuel, then we’ll stop for gas. We change our course when we realize we’re going the wrong direction. The critical point here is that we will make good decisions when we have the information to guide us. What could you be doing with your career if you knew your time was not aligned to your goals?
The critical point here is that we will make good decisions when we have the information to guide us.
If you find difficulty in explaining how much time you spend in the various areas of life, then start logging it. This information adds value to everyone that’s willing to take the action. Rarely have I worked with someone that did not see a trend they could change to free up needed time. Using a calendar as part of your time management practice will do most of the work for you. If you’re already organized and have this information, then use tip 2 to make sure you’re getting all of it. It does not take much time to log your hours and you only need to do it long enough to learn from the trends and take action. There are hours in your day just waiting to be “found” with this tip. Commit to log your time today and “find time” you’re desperately looking for!
This tip improves the probability that we’re working on the right tasks and less distracted by the potential tasks we could work on in the moment. We can always spend our time doing something and in the office we will find something to do that feels productive. The question is if it’s going to make the most impact? Using a list to guide where we’re investing time is invaluable. Do this to stay organized and free up time by helping you not spend it in areas that do not add the most value.
It’s not good enough to have a list. You have to review it regularly, or it will not serve you. The same problem exists with your speedometer. If it only showed your speed once an hour, then you would stop looking at it. The information we use to make decisions needs to be ready when we’re ready. This means it has to be granular enough and available when the time comes or we will ignore it.
If you’ve not figured it out yet, you need to schedule this on your calendar with tip number 2 “Schedule Your Work”. If you learn to make time to review your lists you’ll “find time” that you did not realize was there. This is more of an organization activity for me, but it helps avoid wasting time as well as some of the best time management practices. My career trajectory changed and never looked back when I made this part of how I operate and I’ve watched it work for many others as well.
Can you come to this meeting? Help me work on these slides? Will you make this call for me? Can you help me learn…? Any of these sound familiar? In coaching I often find many managers and executives don’t know when or how to say no. The question to ask yourself is what’s at risk if you say yes? The power of no can free up vast amounts of time. We all enjoy helping others, pleasing our friends, being available to our boss, etc.. I’m not telling you to say no to everyone, but start getting into the habit of questioning whether it’s the best use of your time. How will your calendar be impacted if you say yes? Is there room or do you need to make it? What can be pushed and what cannot?
Delegate to your directs if you’re a manager. If you’re an individual contributor, then negotiate other times or look for alternatives. Regardless of your role, consider just saying “no”. This practice becomes very powerful as you become more organized from using the other tips. An old manager of mine once told his peers and boss that nobody told him no more than myself. I always explain the risks if I say yes, so he and I were able to have an informed conversation weighing the pros and cons together. You’ll “find time” little by little as you learn to effectively use this tip. Including this benefit, Entrepreneur Magazine has a good list of five benefits from this practice alone. This is a critical time management practice and one that any manager of people needs to adopt now! Do your career a favor and practice using “No” starting this week.
I can't claim credit for the phrase "Cognitive Junk Food", but I knew exactly what it was when I heard it! There have been plenty of articles on the distraction of web browsing and social media. The problem has become even worse with the advent of the smart phone. We've are a society that's addicted to distraction, but at what cost? Often we struggle to be present with our families or at work. We're unable to focus on important tasks for long periods of time. We're wasting time that we could be using to make a difference. Do you find yourself distracted or is any of this starting to sound familiar? How much time do you spend on social media? What does your time management practice look like? Keep reading to get tips on how to address this.
This magical phrase came to me while listening to Cal Newport on episode 9 of Chandler Bolt's self-publishing school podcast. Cal has a Ph.D. in Computer Science from MIT and also studies the impact of technology on how we work. I've not read his recent book, Deep Work, but it's now on my list after listening to him on the podcast. In general I find most people struggle with distraction and it has become much worse with smart phones and social media. I coach many people seeking to improve focus and be better at execution. The majority of the time those sessions turn into time management strategies to prevent my clients from being distracted.
It's never just Facebook. After that it's Twitter, Snapchat, Youtube, Reality TV, and the list keeps going. We can't just put it down either! I recently had to put my foot down when my own family sat down to watch a movie together. At the beginning of the movie my kids were distracted responding to messages, snaps, etc.. The initial distraction turns becomes an endless chain and it just goes on and on. With my children, it was during the early part of a drama where the plot and characters were still developing. This means it was not exciting their brains yet and it craved distraction!
The question worth asking is how much time do we spend eating cognitive junk food?
That's the big deal! Our brains crave short term gratification and excitement. We live in a day and age where there's no limit to the distractions, but also the energy invested by companies to capture our focus. All of our experiences are engineered to captivate our time and money. The question worth asking is how much time do we spend eating cognitive junk food? What else could we be doing with that time? What would your time management strategy look like?
Create a time management strategy to stop the madness! This problem stops you from living the life you deserve to experience. Worse than that, the others around you are losing out as well. We only have one life to live and you deserve to say you did more than spend hours upon hours distracted liking posts and snap'ing your friends. Here are three quick tips to help you take your life back from the genius marketing people taking advantage of how your brain is wired. These will serve as the start of your time management strategy that will prevent you from living a distracted life.
The call to action is to be deliberate with your time and make sure it's not floating away in an ocean of distraction.
I would say Cal has rare discipline and some would say he is extreme in his practice, but it's serving him in the way he wants. I'm just to the left of his practice and that it's also serving me in the way that I want and need for my own life and goals. I'm not saying you have to give it all up, nor is anyone better or worse based on where they are with their practice. The call to action is to be deliberate with your time and make sure it's not floating away in an ocean of distraction. Do yourself a favor and create a time management strategy that prevents you from living the "distracted life".