Do You Want To Be Right Or Do You Want The Help?

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My father’s patience with me was a constant.  I believe he was so patient because he helped create the reason patience was needed.  The first piece of advice or words of wisdom that I remember my dad giving me was, “you can do anything a boy can do, except pee on a tree.”

That was my dad.

He instilled a sense of independence, curiosity, pride and exploration in me.  Before I took shop in high school, I was using his power tools in the basement or under the deck to build things. I loved to explore and try things and he let me, while keeping an eye on me.

There were times I wanted to do something and I was convinced I was right or knew the right way to do it. I refused his help and said I could do it myself.  He patiently watched me fail and then gently asked if I wanted to know the right way.

The pride he taught me was to have pride in what I did and not let it stand in the way of asking for help.  I learned to ask why or why not instead of challenging the right way when I thought I was right.

Asking for help is not an easy thing to do, yet it is worthless if you are not going to listen to the answer and counterproductive if you are going to argue that you are right.

In all the years I have been coaching and writing resumes, I can count on one hand the number of clients who preferred to be right rather than listen to the professional advice they had paid for.

That is the beauty of owning your own company; you can choose not to work with certain clients.  There are clients I have referred to others because it became obvious, very quickly, that they wanted to be right.  They would pay well to argue with me just to be right in their own mind.  I think that is a waste of time and money.

It becomes a detriment in the workplace.

I have a very good friend who is a director in the financial industry.  She is extraordinarily brilliant in the ways of compliance. Her opinion is highly valued and sought after.  But there are times…

There was a project that she was called on due to her expertise and asked to consult.  The gentleman that requested her help fought her at every turn.  She could back up every recommendation with rules, regulations, examples and case studies yet he refused to listen.  He had to be right.

It became obvious, very quickly, on his team that he was not willing to listen to any input that could propel the project.  His primary objective was instead to be right, no matter the cost to the company, project or his team.  His respect level from his peers, team members and leadership plummeted.

I have another good friend that owns a marketing company.  She is amazingly talented in the ways of marketing.  Her clients reap measurable and immeasurable benefits from the work she does for them.  But there are times….

She will get a client who comes to her and tells her they need a complete revamp of their company.  She and her team go to work diving in to get all the information to create exactly what the client needs based on what they want.  Then in presenting the information, the client will tell her that they don’t think they should do it that way, they think this other way is the best way.

In each case I just want to ask two questions:

If you know so much, why did you ask for help in the first place? 

What is the cost of being right?

In paying someone for assistance, you are wasting your time and money; in the workplace, you are destroying your reputation.

The two women mentioned below are very close friends and we have one thing in common – we are a bit forthright.  In other words, we do ask the above two questions to those that asked for help.  You might think that we get a nasty rebuttal; but instead we normally get surprise.

Those that are insistent on being right normally do not realize their behavior.  They may be nervous about the situation or so engrossed in doing a good job that they fail to realize they have become their own worst enemy.

When pointed out in a gentle but firm way the priorities realign and the process continues smoothly.  But there are times….

Sometimes people are just buttheads.  Let’s face it, they just are and you cannot change that.  However, it is best to know what you are dealing with – someone who is so badly wants things done right that they go a little self-centered nuts or a true self-centered jerk.

Unfortunately, this seems to be a management style.  Ask your team for help then ignore them to prove you are the leader.  If this behavior continues the team no longer gives it their A game and the manager is left as an island alone, wondering what happened.

If your team is not engaging as much as you would like, perhaps you have been behaving in a not so team-like way.   It takes a bit of clean up after being called out for wanting to be right rather than getting help, yet it can be done.

The best way to avoid this is twofold:

Listen

Ask why or why not rather than standing firm that you are right. 

You will get the expertise or assistance that you need and perhaps learn a thing or two.  You will also show your team that their input matters and you put the project before the individual.

That is called a win-win.

 

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I hope you enjoyed this article and it provided value for you. If so, please click on the follow button so I may continue to share valuable content with you or the share buttons to share with your network.

I help people identify and set a path to achieve their career goals by using the V Formula:

Your Value + Your Voice = Visibility

Visibility is the leverage to move in, move up or move on in your career; expand your book of business or territory, grow your company and strengthen your team.

–Lisa

Lisa K. McDonald, Owner and Principal of Career Polish, Inc. is a favorite speaker and seminar facilitator at companies, professional organizations and colleges speaking to leadership, sales, teams, transitioning/downsized employees and networking groups about career mobility, personal branding, networking, creating executive presence and achieving career movement success. To find out more, visit Career Polish, Inc.

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The 4 Key Combination to Effective Communication

communicatingHave you ever made a statement or a request and the result you get is completely different than what you expected?

How did that happen? How did the other person or persons misunderstand?

You were absolutely clear, crystal clear; there was no room for doubt.

Well, not exactly.

No matter how clear you thought you were, no matter how much sense it made in your own mind, you were not clear to your audience. There was a breakdown in communication.

There is a four key combination to effective communication: know your audience, know what is important to them, know how they listen and know your style.

1. Know Your Audience

If you are a parent you will or have no doubt experienced this phenomenon. When I would tell my son to clean his room I mistakenly thought that was clear. It was obvious from the result that it was not.

My best friend has two teenagers who are very close. Her son is very protective and takes a fatherly role with his sister. He mentioned not too long ago that he was frustrated because she did not open up to him as much as she used to and he felt did not listen when he gave her advice.

I had a team that was made up of a wonderful group of people all with different backgrounds, goals and stages in life. Some wanted to move up the corporate ladder, some worked to fill time, some were single parents dependent upon a paycheck, some were getting an education in a different field and some were new to the industry.

2. Know What is Important

For my son the most important item to cleaning his room is getting it done quickly.

For my best friend’s son it was being heard and appreciated for being the big brother and taking care of his sister.

For my team there were multiple factors including praise, growth, recognition, advancement or bonus.

There are no right or wrong motivations so there should be no judgement on why you need to incorporate what is important to them in your message.

If you incorporate their need into your message you are more likely to get buy in and clarity.

Although it is perfectly acceptable to give the reason “because I said so” to your children, it is not in the working world.

3. Know How They Listen

My son listens with an emphasis on omission. If I do not say it than it is not assumed or done. I learned that I had to spell out what I wanted and not assume one step logically lead to another. I made checklists. He would get frustrated and think I was oversimplifying the process; however, the result was what I wanted and the process was made much easier for him.

For my best friend’s daughter, it was triggers. Hearing her brother say things like, “You need to” or anything that took on a commanding position put up a wall. I suggested to her brother that he talk with her as her brother, from a guy’s perspective. The first time he applied this tactic she responded in a positive way saying she had not thought about the situation from that perspective and she followed his advice.

For my team the listening style varied. Some were black and white, straight to the point kind of listeners. Others were paint the picture with color and flowing lines. If I tried to use all the colors of the rainbow with the straight line listeners, I would lose them – quickly.

If I tried the black and white method with the whole picture listeners, I would confuse them and leave them without all the necessary information to complete the task. I then incorporated their needs into the communication style. In asking various team members for a report the request would vary depending upon the team member:

“We need this report to give to the management team to help them project next month’s numbers.”
“We need to get this report to management and I want you to put it together because I think it would be a great opportunity for you to learn this system, which is used a lot in the position you want.”
“We need to put together this report and I want you to lead it so management sees you as the go to person.”
“We need to get this report together and you know this system better than anyone else, I truly appreciate your skill on this.”

4. Know Your Style

I am an over-analyzer. When I look at a challenge I see it from a multitude of angles, possibilities, challenges and options. I could have several scenarios running through my head at one time. My brain takes multi-tasking to another level. If I were to verbalize my thoughts it would make other people’s heads explode.

My natural inclination is to give all the details – paint the picture with all the colors of the rainbow and every possible twist and turn. It was only from an awareness of my natural communication style that I could learn how to communicate in the straight line method.

Self-awareness gives opportunity for growth and an improved skill set. I am now able to fluctuate between the two for the most effective communication style for my audience. Yet there was one more factor that I need to add: learn to ask and take responsibility.

Learn to Ask and Take Responsibility

Sometimes just a little tweak can make a huge improvement on communication, respect, trust and results. Instead of barking orders, you engage and gain buy in. This builds respect, which in turn leads to shared accountability for the task and a greater effort for the desired result.

It is not always easy to determine a listening style and adapt your own communication style to your audience. The fastest and easiest way to do this is to ask your audience.

When I first work with a team or individuals I often will ask questions like, “does that make sense?” “what do you think?” “how do you see this?” Ask questions that will give you clues to what is important to them, if they like colors or black and white and how they listen.

I also put the onus on me. I will tell the group or individual that I know that sometimes my communication is not clear, what I think in my head is not the same that comes out of my mouth so I want to make sure they can understand me and we are on the same page. I reiterate that it is important to me that I communicate effectively without overkill.

This way I have set the stage that what they think is important, I am not trying to bully or demand rather I am looking for engagement and commitment and I am willing to change my methods for what works best for them.

I also take responsibility to get more information from them to make sure I do not drop the ball in receiving information, not just giving it. If something is said that could possibly be taken in more than one way, I ask. I preface with “I am not challenging you or doubting you, I just want to make sure I fully understand…”

Letting a boss know that I want to do a good job so I want to make sure that I am clear on expectations goes a long way and is much better than assuming and screwing it up. I have assumed, I have screwed up – it is not pretty nor is it fun.

This is in direct conflict with good ol’ Abe in better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt. I would rather look like an idiot for a moment and end up being on the same page.

Sometimes leadership feels they have to know all the answers and get it right every time. Take away that title and you are still human. People have different motivations, communication styles, expectations, fears, ambitions, goals and motives. How can you possibly know all this information without asking?

Do not be afraid to ask, to go out on a limb and tell your team that you do not always know the best way to communicate and for that you need their help. I have yet had an occasion when clarifying with a team or staff member hinders my credibility or authority. It has actually proven the opposite, it has been respected because it proves I care enough about the project, its effects and the people involved to get it right, even by admitting there are things I do not know.

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I hope you enjoyed this article and it provided value for you. If so, please click on the follow button so I may continue to share valuable content with you or the share buttons to share with your network.

I help people identify and set a path to achieve their career goals by using the V Formula:

Your Value + Your Voice = Visibility

Visibility is the leverage to move in, move up or move on in your career; expand your book of business or territory, grow your company and strengthen your team.

–Lisa

Lisa K. McDonald, Owner and Principal of Career Polish, Inc. is a favorite speaker and seminar facilitator at colleges, professional organizations and companies around the US speaking to leadership, sales and athletic teams; transitioning/downsized employees and networking groups about personal branding, networking, creating executive presence and achieving career movement success. To find out more, visit Career Polish, Inc.

Listen for the Pebbles That Can Propel Your Career

Luke on guardSome of my greatest lessons, examples and reminders come from my dogs. I have three dogs; the one pictured is Luke, the baby of the family. He is a big six year old puppy full of enthusiasm, joy, unconditional love and unbridled energy.

And the attention span of a gnat.

I discovered after Luke was a part of my family that he had special talents – being able to open doors (especially the pantry and empty the contents), figuring out child locks, putting holes in walls, leaping six foot privacy fences and major anxiety.

Luke and I have been playing new games for over a week. It is actually training, but do not tell him that or he will stop playing. In less than a week he now drops his toy for me to throw instead of drooling all over me and nipping at me while trying to get me to take it out of his mouth. Today, he dropped a toy over nine times in a row before he got bored and napped. Major victory!

We have also been working on playing nice while walking on a leash. Here is the thing – this dog could drag me all over creation without batting an eye. He weighs almost as much as I do, extremely strong and big – and don’t forget that unbridled energy. So walking nice on a leash is a big thing.

This weekend he was praised by a neighbor for calmly walking past her two yip-yip hyper dogs as they tried to tear through the fence to play with him. I was a proud mommy. Training was going well. I still have to remind him when he sees people on the other side of the street or in their yard that they are not out there to meet him.

Yes, all was going well, until that guy.

We had completed over a mile and a half at a good pace so he was happy and a bit tired and listening well when a man, his dog and his small daughter appeared at the end of the street. As they got closer, I shortened Luke’s lead and told him (in a voice loud enough for the guy to hear) “good boy, no, we are not going to play, stay with mommy”

Apparently the guy was deaf.

He kept making a bee-line right toward us. So when he was close enough, I started to take Luke off the path and told him, “He’s training, so we can’t say hi to your pup.”

Apparently the guy is really deaf.

He continued right up to Luke with his dog and said, “It’s ok, they will be fine.”

I’m sorry, what?? As I tried to pull Luke back and continue, the guy moved forward so his dog could continue to sniff Luke and then said, “See, they are doing good.”

Are you kidding me? What?? That is when I was finally able to break free of that guy and his dog. The whole time his young daughter looked on.

I am normally a very nice person, a friendly person and a happy person. However, disrespect my dogs or my kids and it becomes a different story. For the sake of the little girl, I kept my calm and walked away, praising Luke for being a good boy and muttering not nice words about the man in my head.

I fumed about this for a bit. I specifically told this guy to not bring his dog up to mine. I was nice, I was firm and I could not be more clear. Okay, maybe I could, but that might have involved words that my mother would not approve of, so yes, I was clear.

Yet he refused to listen.

It hit me later that there are a lot of people that do not listen throughout their career. Their bosses, customers or coworkers are nice, firm and clear but they just do not listen. There are so many opportunities lost because we do not listen.

If it is suggested by your boss that someone should learn a certain skill, take on an additional responsibility or serve in a certain capacity – how many times does this fall on deaf ears?

That is opportunity! More than one opportunity – a way to learn something new, let your boss know you are listening and willing to put forth effort needed and a chance to step up.

It is a pebble. The road to greatness, adventure, advancement, exploration and growth are all built upon pebbles.

If your coworkers or boss compliments an aspect your work or the job you did– those are pebbles. You have been recognized for a skill set or ability, now how can you build on it and do even more? Are you listening?

If a customer makes a suggestion or even a compliant – are you listening? It is a pebble. An opportunity to solve a problem or go beyond to create an even more memorable experience.

Often people feel stuck in their jobs or careers; yet what they do not realize is there are amazing opportunities all around just waiting to be taken advantage of propelling them to where they want to be.

Stop, listen and then take action.

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I hope you enjoyed this article and it provided value for you. If so, please click on the follow button so I may continue to share valuable content with you or the share buttons to share with your network.

I help people identify and set a path to achieve their career goals by using the V Formula:

Your Value + Your Voice = Visibility

Visibility is the leverage to move in, move up or move on in your career; expand your book of business or territory, grow your company and strengthen your team.

–Lisa

Lisa K. McDonald, Owner and Principal of Career Polish, Inc. is a favorite speaker and seminar facilitator at colleges, professional organizations and companies around the US speaking to leadership, sales and athletic teams; transitioning/downsized employees and networking groups about personal branding, networking, creating executive presence and achieving career movement success. To find out more, visit Career Polish, Inc.

The Power of the Pause

mouth taped shutWe live in a reactionary world. Immediate responses may improve speed, yet they can damage quality, content and opportunities.

One of the greatest lessons I have learned as a leader, employee, service provider, parent, partner and family member is the power of the pause. One of my greatest teachers was my father.

My dad rarely reacted, only in danger situations. While teaching or listening, he always paused before responding. He took a split second to not only listen to what we said, but to measure and monitor his response. It was a very powerful tool. It also gave us the time to reflect on what we just said – normally realizing that it was probably something we should have re-framed.

Taking a pause before answering a question allows you to do the same – think. It also conveys to your audience that you are listening to their questions with respect to them and your answer.

The dictionary defines respond as to say something in reply; it defines react as to respond or behave in a particular way in response to something.

I have different definitions.

React – to act without thinking, impulse
Respond – to act with thought or purpose

We become conditioned to react, we learn to respond.

One of the problems with reacting is that we condition our audiences on what to expect. It can be a dangerous precedent in reacting. There is normally that one person in an organization that people avoid because they react – immediately and normally in a non-positive way to news. Temper tantrums, flying objects, colorful language, fits – you name it, it is not pleasant. It creates a communication and career barrier.

My son is a react kind of guy. If it pops in his head it comes out of his mouth. He has helped me become a responder. I know how he is, therefore I have learned to modify my responses to him in order to lesson his reaction.

Oh, I am understanding, I am patient, I am kind and it gets old. That is when he started the journey of going from reaction to responding. We are not there yet, but it is a choice and a continual effort. I stopped understanding, being patient and kind and told him that I was not going to hear of it. His reaction impacted me too negatively for me to continue to be the understanding doormat.  Others are doormats for those who react. Things were more difficult for a period until we made the boundaries of respect.

When you respond you respect your audience; when you react you disrespect them.

Another challenge with reacting is that it damages your credibility, accountability and those around you. Lash out in a reaction and saying you are sorry does not take away the event. It lessons it, it is workable, but you have to do much more work to get back to where you were prior to the reaction.

A bit of bad news would send my son in a tizzy. Any future plans were immediately scrapped and the world was ending – right then and there. After calming down, the world was actually the same right place that it always was and a simple sorry was thought to be the magic ticket to erasing the tizzy.

It does not work that way. Reactionary tizzies implode the worlds of everyone involved. They have to take time out of their day to accommodate the tizzy, putting all their priorities aside to make it through the storm. How can your team count on you or believe that you are going to hold it together if you cannot handle a bump in the road?

The client wants to add this aspect to the program – the world is not over, it is called adaption. Figure it out that is what they come to you for – your expertise. Having a complete meltdown and then apologizing a half hour later is not going to instill confidence in your team. It will actually diminish their respect and level of confidence in you.

I am not throwing stones, where do you think my son learned to react? I used to react, and sometimes it just felt good. But I realized the damage it was creating to me, my family, my colleagues and my career. I learned to stop, think, listen and respond. Sometimes a very minimal response is the key to waiting for the reactionary impulse to subside.

When hearing unpleasant news, being confronted or facing a challenge, take a breath. A small count of three to five can be the difference between imploding your career and moving into the next level; between building a bridge and burning that sucker down or allowing the small, unexpected whims of misery change the course of your future.

The Lost Art of Listening

listeningOne of the most vital and under-utilized skills of business leaders is the ability to listen. This skill is imperative to those in a position of leadership to those providing service to clients. It is the foundation of engagement.

Yesterday I had to call my cell phone provider, my phone and I have a love-hate relationship. It loves to do funky things like not show calls coming through or registering voicemails and I hate it. Just to preface this, I am not a highly functioning technical phone person. When I got my phone, I handed it to my son so he could explain it to me.

I talked to a very nice technician who was extremely knowledgeable about the phone and systems but I wanted to pull my hair out during the entire conversation. Each time she would ask me a question I would begin to answer and she would cut me off midstream.

There were several times that I had to repeat myself because she assumed she knew how I was going and would take it in a different direction. When she asked me for my phone number for the fifth time, I knew the problem: she might have heard me to a point, but she was not listening.

I used to drive my son crazy, in so many ways, but on this topic frequently. If I asked him to do something the follow up conversation would sound something like this:

Me: “That’s not what I asked”
Son: “Yes it is”
Me: “No, did you listen to what I said?”
Son: (with exasperation) “Yes, Mom, I heard you”
Me: “I know you heard me, but I need you to listen to me”
Son: “It’s the same thing, Mom, I listened to you”
Me: “Then what did I say?”
Son: (eye roll)

There is a difference in hearing and listening. Too often we “listen” only to respond, not to engage or learn. In the middle of a response there is something that triggers our brain to prepare a response and we stop listening.

One way that I have found to improve my listening skills is to ask questions, with a twist.

Sometimes asking questions can be taken as being challenging by the other person. Therefore, I add a clarifier and modify it depending upon the audience.

Working in partnership with someone or gathering more information when providing service, starting the question with, “I want to make sure I understand…” can demonstrate your interest in the person and what they are saying and build upon the communication.

When talking to your boss or an alpha, you do not want to come across as though you are not challenging their authority or being submissive. Sometimes it is best to state flat out, “I am not challenging, I am clarifying because I can see this from a couple of different perspectives…” This also demonstrates that you are not only listening, you are thinking on a deeper level about what they said.

In networking it is normally a more relaxed environment and therefore with an understanding of a shorter engagement period, saying, “What does that mean…” in a nice tone can encourage the other person to elaborate and demonstrate interest.

In a personal or casual conversation the simple words, “Tell me more” can demonstrate to the other person that you are not hearing to respond, but care enough to let them have the floor.

One phrase that I think is a conversation and engagement killer is, “I hear what you are saying.” For one thing I anticipate the word “but” after that statement which totally invalidates the listening aspect and for another, it reminds me of Stuart Smalley.

I would also caution against the phrase, “Could you repeat that” as a standalone phrase. It can imply that you were not listening when in fact you perhaps could not hear or understand the person or you did not understand. Simply stating that you did not hear them and then ask them to repeat what they said will not disengage or disrupt the flow of conversation.

The lessons, most of the time, had paid off in our house. My son and I have gotten to the point that we acknowledge when we only hear and will say something like, “I heard you but I have no idea what you just said.” I do not recommend saying that to your boss, staff or clients.

One last suggestion: pause before answering. When someone response as soon as you finish that last word it is a trigger that they were preparing their answer instead of listening to you.

Listening is a skill. It needs to be practiced, repeatedly, to hone it. Keep practicing because it can always be improved upon. This morning I was talking to a client and I caught myself immediately responding. Once I recognized what I was doing I immediately shifted focus to asking questions rather than responding. It resulted in a much more rich conversation.

What are some ways that you have found that improve your listening skills? I would love to hear them, I’m listening….

Talk To Me In A Way I Can Listen To You

I had dinner with a friend of mine this weekend and had the most wonderful conversation. At one point we were going over a finer point of the discussion and it came down to one word; which he called semantics. To me that one word made a huge difference. Being a writer I think I am more sensitive to semantics and specific words than most people – or I just could be weird that way. Either way it got me to thinking – go figure.

The following night another friend mentioned something to me and when I responded he rolled his eyes. Not very nice if you ask me, and I told him so. He said it wasn’t what he meant. So I told him to just say what he meant. It seemed pretty easy to me. More eye rolling. Got me thinking so more – go figure.

When I first talk to a client I will frequently ask questions like, “does that make sense to you” just to make sure we are still on the same page. I know how easy it is to start down the path on in the same conversation and end up at two completely different destinations. This fact is complicated even more when both genders are participating in the conversation.

Men and women think, speak and perceive differently. I’m not saying either one is better or more correct than the other – just that we use different processes. I know the following are generalities, but in my experience they ring true: men tend to be more frank; women tend to see interpretations. Think of it like a Sunday drive.

Men know the end destination, they know the route they want to take, know when they need to stop for gas, don’t make additional stops or concessions – here is where they are going and here is how we are going to get there, period.

Women pack a lunch. We look at the scenery as we go, we look for additional stops that might be “fun” along the way, don’t mind taking a veer or two along the way – here is where we are going but it is the drive that is the focus and all the things along the way.

Sometimes these can be very complimentary – the attention to scenery may be necessary for someone who is very destination driven in order to not miss any of the finer points. The focus on the end result may be vital to the lollygagger in able to reach the destination on time.

The next time you are in a conversation with the opposite sex keep in mind that their mind is processing your words and message in a manner which is very different than how you are presenting them.

When listening women have to remember to try not to over-analyze what is said and concentrate on just the message before us. We can always ask a few clarifying questions but it is vital that we start with just the message as is. For men you need to hang in there through the whole message to get the meaning. Boil it down and then ask if you understood it correctly. We may sigh or roll our eyes but at least you will know if you got it right or not.

When speaking women must remember to boil down the message to the essence of importance; men must remember to make the drive a little more interesting and not just point A to point B.

Adapting your listening and speaking style to your audience will save a lot of frustration and help ensure much clearer communication. Sometimes we get frustrated because we think our message is pretty simple; however what is simple to one is complex to another. If it is truly important for your message to be understood than you must respect the other party’s comprehension process in order that you both arrive at the same destination.

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW
Career Coach-Strategist
Certified Professional Resume Writer
Career Polish, Inc.
http://www.CareerPolish.com

Try Listening

I was given a Kindle for Christmas and I’ve been having a lot of fun browsing books. I love the description of one I saw yesterday regarding dog training: “Learn how to talk to your dogs.”

Hell I have four dogs, I know how to talk to them – I need to know how to make them listen!

Then it hit me – it’s not always how we talk to people sometimes the problem is how we listen. Taking it a step further problems arise when we stop listening or never listen to begin with.

We hear what someone says and we assume what they mean. You know what they say about assuming….

One rule that I discuss in detail with my clients is to ask clarifying questions. If you are in doubt – ask! This is a limited opportunity to shine so you want to make sure you are addressing the correct ideas, issues or questions.

It is easy enough to do – simply state, “There are a couple of ways that I could interpret that question, just for clarification do you mean X or Y?” This shows that you are engaged, care about what you are talking about and give thought to your answers rather than trying to brown nose.

Sometimes when we hear a statement we assume it is a finite end. For example if an interviewer says, “Right now we are not in need of an XYZ.” It could be easy to think this is the end and walk away with your tail between your legs. However if you were listening you would have caught the “right now” part. Go ahead and ask, “Do you see that changing in the near future?” or “What factors could affect that?”

If you are listening you will know what questions to ask to get to the answers you seek.

Listen to the visual clues as well, but remember don’t assume there either. I remember seeing someone walking out of an interview and they seemed very chummy with the interviewer. I immediately thought, great, my chances are shot. I was wrong. It was their sister’s boyfriend asking for tips before he interviewed with someone else in the company.

We are so quick to misinterpret non-verbal communication because we make it a sport. It’s called people watching. I love people watching! I’m going downtown tomorrow to experience all the pre-Super Bowl festivities and you better believe half the fun will be the people watching.

Because it is a natural past-time of so many of us we regard it lightly and just assume what we see is what it is. Wrong. Making assumptions can cause you to miss out on opportunities. Sometimes it just makes you look like an ass. When in doubt – ask.

The interviewer leaning back in their chair, crossing their arms and looking at you intently after you answer a question does not necessarily mean they did not like the answer you just provided. Perhaps you said something that they had not thought of and they need a moment to digest it. For goodness sakes fight the urge to fill the empty space with more talking. Give them their moment – they will continue and then you will have clarification.

I have fun with people making incorrect assumptions. It is right up there with people watching. When I was in compliance I had several brokers assume because I was petite and a woman that I was meek and not very knowledgeable about the business.

It would have been very easy for me to go on the defense and immediately start the conversation with grand statements and bold gestures to let them know exactly who I was and what I knew. That would have been a career killer.

Instead I let them talk and assume. I let them lead the conversation and watched their body language. I let them grandstand, talk down to me, make assumptions and just waited. When they were done laying it out as to what they thought it was and would be I waited for the pause to let me know they were done.

Then I professionally and politely informed them of how it truly was, what needed to be done, the best course of action to complete it, the ramifications if it were not done properly, the benefits of doing it correctly, how I would help/guide the process and how we would start, implement and complete the process successfully. I win.

If there were a challenge that appeared later they knew not to make the same incorrect assumptions about me again and we worked beautifully together.

I get it personally, too, always have. I grew up a tomboy and most of my friends have always been men. In college I was the “little sister” to the first floor, a diverse group of great guys who looked after me as if I truly were their little sister. It scared away a lot of dates – not always a bad thing.

While my son was growing up his father and I attended every practice, program and game that he participated in together. For years most of the parents didn’t realize that we were divorced because we arrived together, sat together, talked, and left together. He lives a couple of blocks away from me so to us it made logistical sense to go together. The fact that we became good friends after the divorce meant that we could easily have conversations. And the most important fact of our son is our first priority made it all make sense to us.

Getting back to my point – be aware that it is not always that someone is not communicating clearly with you, it may very well be that you are not listening clearly to them.

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW
Career Coach-Strategist
Certified Professional Resume Writer
Career Polish, Inc.
http://www.CareerPolish.com

Effective Cover Letters/Poetic Love Letters – There is Something To This…

Beyond the obvious aspects of always being on your best behavior and trying to impress the person across the table there are interesting similarities to dating and job searching. Luckily for my boys I will not be using them as an example; instead I’ll use myself and my fiancé, Manuel.

In August of 2011 Manuel and I are getting married. This may not seem like a big deal to you, but trust me, it is. It took over twenty years, but we are back together and making those around us a little nauseous with our absolute devotion, admiration, love and respect for each other. We have even been told our pictures look like those fake ones companies put in picture frames, we just do not seem real because we are “too happy”. We courted all those years ago and continue to do so today.

When Manuel and I were dating at the ripe age of 18 we did not have cell phones or internet and we both had jobs. So when we first began to get to know each other we wrote a lot of letters. We took our time and crafted each one purposefully to share glimpses of ourselves, get to know each other; in other words we courted each other. Your cover letter should be approached in a similar way. Your cover letter is like a love letter without the ooey gooey of course.

Most people I speak to in my workshops hate writing cover letters and nine times out of ten the reason is: “I don’t know what to say.” Try thinking of the cover letter as a courtship letter or love letter to someone you do not know but that you are introducing yourself to with the hopes of getting to know them better.

If you send a cover letter that states something to the effect that you are attaching your resume because you saw their ad on Career Builder, well then you have basically said one of three things

1. “My buddy said you’re cute, want to get a pizza?”
2. “I like you, do you like me: circle Yes or No”
3. “I’m sorry to bother you, I’m sure you don’t want to go out with me anyway.”

Not too impressive.

Your cover letter must show there are similarities between the position and you. Show them that you have commonalities; you belong together – without going overboard of course. If you have nothing in common why on earth would they want to meet you? Do you have the exact qualities that they are looking for in a candidate? Then tell them, show them, explain it to them, court them.

Do they want someone with solid experience? Give them something to whet their appetite before reading your resume. Narrate an example of how you absolutely succeeded when dealing with similar situations, budgets, environments – lead them down the path to your door.

Do your homework, research the company, their core philosophies, their clients, the industry. Have they recently been mentioned in the news, expanded, reorganized, merged, had a recent success, does the company values resonates with yours? These can all be written into your cover letter. Manuel did his homework and knew yellow roses were my favorite: big bonus points when he showed up at my door with a beautiful bouquet. Research shows interest.

Do you really want to meet? Do not assume that they know you want the job and why. One of the complaints I hear from hiring managers and HR reps is that they have too many candidates that apply that do not qualify for the position. When they receive resumes, which are numerous, they are a little skeptical. They run across people that apply but only do so because they have to or just to say they did something. Make sure the recipient knows you want the date, the interview, and convince them that you are worthy.

Impress me. I am a huge baseball fan – specifically a huge Cubs fan. I’ve been a fan since Jody Davis was behind the plate, the Penguin was in the infield and Leon Durham dominated the outfield. Manuel impressed me by writing stories about when he played ball or teased me about my staunch belief that American league is not real baseball. (Pitchers should bat and National League is more defensive. But that’s another story.)

When writing your resume you should be thinking about accomplishments you can utilize to emphasize your abilities. When doing this remember to save something for the cover letter. If you give me a great example in your cover letter I am going to be excited to read more in your resume. If I am reading your resume and see the same example I will be a bit disappointed and possibly think, “This is all you have?” You are not one dimensional, neither should your accomplishments be.

Mind your manners. Use appropriate business language, remember this isn’t a note to pass in class; this is an important business introductory letter. Remember to express gratitude for the person taking the time to read your cover letter and resume. Show interest in following up with them to discuss your abilities, skills, added values in more detail at their convenience.

A well written cover letter will interest the reader into wanting to find out more about you and lead to them reading your resume. This in turn will, if written well, further intrigue or impress them to meet with you to find out more. Take your time, do your homework and remember to tailor it to each individual position for which you are applying. No one wants to receive the same love letter that their friends received! This takes time and practice. Over twenty years of writing love letters and Manuel can still take my breath away.

It’s Just Not Fair

We are used to hearing that from little ones about their older brother or sister getting to do something that they are not or not being allowed to stay up a moment past their bedtimes. Even from our teens in not being allowed to go have the freedoms of an adult without the mentality of one. But as adults, we sometimes find ourselves saying that as well. And you know what; it is okay. It is justified when we are upset about a slighting of our children or loved ones. I find that I say it more in my “momma bear” mode for my kids than I do for myself. After all, I am a grown up, I know the motto suck it up, but when it involves ones we love, well then, the rules change.

Get ready folks, football season has started and there will be a lot of analogies coming your way. This is my son’s Senior Year in High School. Big time! The season has not started and already I am biting my tongue enough where I think it will come off at any moment. First let me explain, my son is a chip off both blocks. Between his father and I – the kid is kind of ruined in terms of stubbornness, attitude and strong desire to express our opinions (in an appropriate way) when we see things that are not just. And, well, there is the attitude. He is 17, and a boy, and plays lots of sports, and has inherited his mother’s attitude. People have told me they can just look at me and know immediately if it is really a wise idea to challenge me on something at that moment. I tend to wear my heart on my sleeves. My son has also inherited my naive firm belief that things should be just, right and fair. Decisions made on the basis of merit, ethics and all the proper values. What I have seen in less than a week is testing what we are made of; but, as his father pointed out, it is just a matter of proving yourself once again and it will happen. But as a mother, it is hard. It is hard to sit back and watch helplessly while these things transpire. I want to DO something, I want to be able to make something happen, I want to make it better.

Last week I talked to a woman who is helping her husband with his resume. He is in an incredible funk and this sweet woman is carrying that burden along with the stress of trying to continually build him up and look at the bright side of things. It is killing her watching the effect the transition is having on her husband. She wants to do something, she wants to make things happen, she wants to make it better.

Another client freely admits that he is driving his wife insane because he is looking for work and is being a complete (and not my words) “nutcase” about it. He said his wife has asked how she can help (my assumption: she wants to do something, she wants to make things happen, she wants to make it better) and he tells her he does not know what she can do.

You see, the stress of transition falls not only to those that are in transition, but to everyone around them. Men, and yes I am generalizing here so forgive me, tend to merge who they are with what they do and how they can provide. When there is a chink in their armor, it drives straight to the heart. Women, again I am generalizing, want to do something for them, to make it better. It is a tough world to live in and sometimes we just do not see beyond our own frustrations.

Great, you may be thinking, you have wonderful insight to what is going on in my home but how do we make it GO AWAY??? I wish I had the magic answer to that. It simply does not go away, it eats and tears at us. Personally, I try to take a philosophical approach. This is a time that nerves are raw and we really see the ties that bind. This is the opportunity for very open communication and a chance to become stronger, even if it is not at this moment, but in time. It is also a time to make plans (a primary and back up or two), have a purpose, and go after that primary plan. And if it just so happens that it is not working out the way you want, after you have put everything you have into it, then you already have your back up ready to implement. Take control of what you can and do the best with what you have, this is no time for excuses. Now is the time to give it everything you have no matter what.

For the woman and her husband, I told her to blame me for the following: she was to go home and tell him that I would be glad to speak to him at one of my classes; however, before doing so he must come up with 25 positive things about himself. Only after I see this list would I be able to help him with his resume. I told her the point in this is to force him to see the good in himself in what he can offer not only in a job, but in other ways. It is a difficult assignment; however one which I think will be very valuable. I image that he will want to ask her for advice on the list and possibly he will get some glimpse of insight as to how much good she sees in him.

For my client, I told him he must tell his wife that he knows he is being a donkey’s rear end and he appreciates the fact that she has not smothered him in his sleep. He is not intentionally shutting her out but he honestly does not know what she can do to help him. And I told him he should tell her that as well then ask her opinion. Once he has asked for her opinion, he must shut up and listen. Not knock any suggestion that she gives but be appreciative that she gives it. And he should allow her the opportunity to tell him he’s been the rear end and offer a diversion, do something outside of transition world, even if it is a walk around the block.

For me, well, I am going to focus on the positive that my son has incredible athletic ability (this is not momma bear bragging, I have had several coaches tell me he is one of the most athletic kids in the high school) and is a strong young man able to stand up for himself and what he believes is just and right in a moral sense and not in a self-centered-the-world-revolves-around-me-teenage-entitlement sense. Yes, he knows the difference, I have seen it in action and it is those moments that my breath catches in my throat because there is an adult in there wanting to come out! Although, sometimes he just chooses to ignore it. I have to believe that when all is said and done he will be on that field kicking butt and (from my keyboard to the greater power’s ears) some college will want him to come play for them. Just on a side note, I also have game film of him, just in case any school is interested in seeing just how this kid tackles so hard he gives concussions and has hands that the ball just seems to find…

Sometimes a Good Thing Isn’t All That Great!

Last week my son sprained his ankle. Sounds like no big deal, huh? Yeah well, this is my son so it is not that simple. He sprained it Monday night, Tuesday morning it looked like it was removed, beaten to a pulp and put back on his leg crooked. So Tuesday x-rays, Wednesday an MRI and Friday a visit to an Orthopedic Specialist, a week on crutches and now he’s in a boot.

Good times had by all. At first, he wasn’t minding the crutches because, well, I can’t tell you how many cute young ladies looked at him and said (with heartfelt sympathy and “poor baby” eyes), “Oh no, what happened?” and offered to help him – with a door, with his books, if he wanted them to get him anything – yeah, it was kind of nauseating. As a 17 year old charmer, he was kind of enjoying this. Then a couple days on the crutches and he was over the whole thing. His arms hurt, he could not get around very fast and he could not work out or practice. When he was first enjoying all the attention, I just kept waiting; because I knew the day would come where he would look at me and say, “This stinks!” And it did. And I laughed, because that’s the kind of mom I am!

So where is the point in all of this today? If you have read any of my blogs then you know it takes me a while to get to the point and I normally have to tell a story before I get there. Hey, you are the one that keeps reading so don’t blame me, you should have figured this out by now!

Networking, it can be a wonderful thing or it can be an activity that sucks the life out of you. But you have control over that. I know some people who are professional networkers. They attend everything, know everyone and can tell you in great detail all about it. For those that are in business I ask them how much many leads it has generated for them. For those that are in transition, I ask how many opportunities it has brought them. For both categories those professional networkers normally answer that they have a huge rolodex of contacts.

Yeah, well, I can go to any event and get a boat load of cards but that doesn’t mean a darn thing. In fact, I do not offer my card when I network. If there is a genuine interest then the individual will ask for it. When you network you must have a goal, and it is not to get as many cards as you can at the end of the night – this isn’t business card bingo!

Let’s take a step back before we discuss an event. Before you even go to a networking event, do you know what your goal is for that night, for right now in general? What are you looking for? And those of you that answered, “a job” just to let you know, I am sending a mental head slap out to each and every one of you! NO NO NO. Not just a job, but what job; what industry; in what capacity; what skills are you wanting to utilize; what are your strengths; what makes you happy; what drives you crazy; what city, state, or side of town do you want to work in; what are your challenges that you are willing to overcome? Where are you going? If you can’t answer this, grab some happy food, a pad of paper, a comfortable chair and get to work. You are not prepared to network. Prep work here kids.

Now, to the event. Have you done your homework – do you know who will be attending? Did you know that you can call the organizer to find out more information about the event and the attendees? Really, try it! It is much better than wasting your time. Do you know who you would like to meet, either specifically or in general (I want to meet Mr. Smith or I want to meet someone who is works for X company, even better if they work in Accounting), and do you have a goal in mind? If not, go back and read my previous blog about setting goals – look here it is in a convenient link: https://lisakmcdonald.com/2010/01/17/hey-new-year-wait-for-me/.

You see, if you go in unprepared to a networking event, you are going to be like my son on crutches. You are going to get a lot of attention and it will feel great. But all those looking at you with “poor you” eyes are just trying to get names to spam with their emails or waste your time with meetings to tell you all about them. You will be bogged down with all this useless information and irrelevant contacts that will slow you down worse than if you were on crutches.

Go in with purpose, have a goal, know what you want. The event may turn out to be a bust; maybe you do not meet the right type of contacts. That is okay, you did very well in being prepared and walked out with a great practice session rather than hobbled out with arms that hurt and two to three weeks stuck in a big clunky boot. Oh wait, that is my son…

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