Why Incentives Help You Achieve Your Goals

When it comes to making goals, we often forget an important aspect: the reward. You can argue that achieving the goal in and of itself is the reward, and in most cases, I’d agree. However, there are some goals where having an additional incentive may encourage you to stick it out longer, than if you were doing it just for the goal achievement itself.

If the goal is going to take time and focused effort to achieve, then setting incremental benchmarks can be useful. The concept is similar to how you create your 90 Day Plan, and in fact compliments your endeavors. Identify your long-term goal, and then figure out what you can do in smaller, bite-sized chunks. Then choose things from your bucket list (i.e. fun things you desire to do/see, but you never seem to have the time to do) that would match the effort it is going to take for you to reach each of the milestones.

For example, getting a promotion at work that you know you should go for soon, but that you are not that motivated to try right now. True the benefit is a pay raise, but if you are holding yourself back, because you are listening to negative tapes in your head telling you that you are not good at test taking, studying, or paperwork, then an outside incentive linked to something you very much want to do or have may help you achieve this goal. And, achieve it sooner, rather than later.

So, in this promotion example, as you identify if you have the pre-requisites and find out what training you will need to take, link a reward to passing the tests or the actual promotion itself. If you’ve always wanted to go scuba diving, spend a day at a spa, or ride a dirt bike, then promise yourself that you will do it once you’ve achieved your goal.

The key is to plan out how long it will take you to achieve your goal. If it is going to take longer than a week or even 3 months, then it is a good idea to celebrate your small victories along the way as well. So, for example, if it is a big step for you to approach your boss and let her or him know you’re interested in more responsibility, then celebrate on a smaller scale after you’ve sat down with your boss—buy a snorkel, get the helmet, or pick out what treatments you want to get done at the spa. Just remember, if the step that you need to take needs external motivation to get you started, then attach a reward to that step.

Pasting visual pictures of what your goal will look, feel, smell, taste, and sound like once you’ve achieved it—right next to the picture of you on the dirt bike or at the spa can help you on the rough days when you don’t feel like going after your goal. When you’re tired of being just outside of your comfort zone, and are happy to slide back into what you had been doing—look and visualize what you have to gain.

And, by all means, when you’ve hit the milestones, don’t forget to cash in on your reward. Celebrate. If you keep plodding on to the finish line without picking up energy boosts, then it may seem a lot further to go than the actual distance you have left to achieve success.

Lyndsay Katauskas, MEd
Mars Venus Coaching
Corporate Media Relations

Eight Ways Goofing Off Can Make You More Productive

Susan Adams, Forbes Staff 6/18/2012

One of my colleagues used to head to the men’s room and brush his teeth every time he felt a surge of writer’s block. He swears it did the trick. Another exits the building and walks around the block to clear his head. I like to take advantage of the mid-day yoga sessions that Forbes offers in the gym on the ninth floor. When I return to my desk, my body is relaxed, my mind is clear, and I attack my work with new energy.

A growing body of research suggests that the longer you keep your rear end in your chair and your eyes glued to your screen, the less productive you may be. Getting up from your desk and moving not only heightens your powers of concentration, it enhances your health.

A story in Sunday’s New York Times quoted two sources who have studied productivity. John P. Trougakos, an assistant management professor at the University of Toronto Scarborough and the Rotman School of Management describes how concentrating on one task is like using one muscle for an extended period. The mind needs a break, to rest and recover before it can exert again. Among other things, Trougakos recommends that workers take serious lunch breaks, to recharge with food and a change of scene.

James A. Levine, a professor at the Mayo Clinic, agrees that we don’t take enough breaks. Sedentary work habits are as dangerous as a sedentary lifestyle at home. Levine likes the idea of your standing or even walking while you’re working, including during meetings. If you feel sleepy during the day, you should be allowed to take a nap, he says.

Levine suggests that you work in concentrated 15-minute periods, divided up by breaks. “The thought process is not designed to be continuous,” he tells the Times. He points out that efficient, productive work is much more valuable than long hours of wasted or partially productive time.

Then there is the power of daydreaming, described in science writer Jonah Lehrer’s new book, Imagine. Many of our most creative, productive thoughts come not while we’re trying to force them during long sessions at our desks, but at odd moments outside the office. For instance, Lehrer describes how Dan Wieden of advertising giant Wieden+Kennedy found the inspiration for the famous Nike “Just Do It” tag line late one evening, after reflecting on a conversation he had had with a colleague about the novelist Norman Mailer, who had written a book about convicted murderer Gary Gilmore. Gilmore’s last line before he was executed, “Let’s do it,” popped into Wieden’s head. Back at his desk, Wieden tweaked the phrase. But the idea had come in his off hours.

Many of us feel we shouldn’t waste time chatting with co-workers during the work day. But my colleague Andy Greenburg has written about research showing that talking with colleagues can increase your productivity. Specifically, a team of MIT researchers led by Professor Alexander “Sandy” Pentland discovered that call center workers who took the time to converse with their co-workers, instead of just grinding away, got through calls faster, felt less tension and earned the same approval ratings as their peers who didn’t schmooze at the office.

Finally, there is the increasing evidence for the importance of physically moving around during the day, and how it enhances productivity. My colleague Alison Griswold just wrote about Jack Groppel, a co-founder of a division of Johnson & Johnson called the Human Performance Institute. Groppel, who holds a Ph.D. in exercise physiology from Florida State University, insists that stretching and walking around once every 30 minutes throughout the day stimulates blood flow and leads to a burst of hyper oxygenation in the brain, increasing energy and attentiveness.

After canvassing my colleagues, I offer this list of productive ways to goof off during the day and evening. They will boost your productivity and sense of well being. But beware not to overdo any of them. Take too many breaks and you may enter the realm of procrastination.

1. Take a walk around the block.
Fresh air combined with a change of scene can boost productivity.

2. Take a nap.
Some offices offer this as a perk. Closing your eyes for a 15-minute catnap can be hugely refreshing.

3. Chat with a colleague.
Even if you only make small talk, a fresh perspective on your day can help you get a new perspective on the task at hand.

4. Run an errand
Like walking around the block, getting out of the office and taking care of business can give your mind a break and the exercise will get your blood flowing.

5. Brush your teeth.

The symbolism of removing decay and plaque can be especially potent when you are feeling sluggish.

6. Spend ten minutes checking Facebook, Twitter or other social media sites.
This is not as good for you as leaving your desk, but the mental distraction can offer a helpful break. Monitor your time however and don’t let yourself be distracted for more than five minutes.

7. Go to the gym
If your company has an exercise facility, take advantage.

8. Go out to lunch
Judging from the habits of my colleagues, lunch out of the office is a dying American habit. But a healthy meal and good conversation can be nourishing on multiple levels.

4 Networking Mistakes You Don’t Know You’re Making

Daily Muse, Contributor , Forbeswoman, 9/30/11

Whether you’re looking for a job or not, you’ve probably been encouraged to “network, network, network!” more times than you can count. Are all those conferences and

Photo courtesy of Jodi Womack.

events you’re attending leading to new connections or opportunities?

No? You’re not the only one. Many networking newbies have tendencies that actually inhibit building real relationships with their new contacts.

The good news: it’s not that hard to fix. Here’s what you might not even realize you’re doing wrong—and what to do about it.

Mistake #1: Talking about Yourself—All the Time

You’re talented! Eager! Ambitious! You have lots of ideas to share! And you want to make sure that every person you meet at the event knows who you are and what you do!

We get it. And yes, sharing your story with new contacts is important. But sharing your life story is overkill: Nothing can set a person off more than an aspiring professional who takes no interest in anything beside her own ambitions.

The Fix: Take Some Interest.

Stop highlighting your latest accomplishment and start listening instead. Find people with industries or careers of interest to you, and ask them questions: How did they get their start? What do they love about their jobs, and what do they wish they could change? By taking an interest in your contact, you will make her feel valued—and hopefully interested in continuing the relationship. And you’ll likely gain some new insights, too.

Mistake #2: Expecting a Job

You’re looking for a new job, so you hit the circuit of industry events every week, asking every person you meet to help you find your new gig—after all, it’s not what you know, it’s who.

Well, yes. But give people some credit: If you pursue networking opportunities purely for the job prospects, your contacts will figure you out. You will leave them feeling used, and they will be less likely to recommend you for an opportunity.

The Fix: Provide Some Value.

If you’re looking for a job, don’t ask for it—work for it. Do some research into what your contact does both in and out of work and find ways that you can contribute your time or support.

Perhaps you could volunteer your expertise in social media for the big convention she’s heading up, or offer your accounting knowledge for her non-profit. Provide some opportunity for contacts to see you in a working light, and you’ll be that much closer to a good referral.

Mistake #3: Not Saying Thanks

You attended a large event last week and grabbed coffee with one of your new professional contacts afterward. And then—the week got busy, and you didn’t get around to saying thank you. She’ll understand, right?
Maybe. But if you don’t show gratitude, even in the smallest (or largest) event, you risk leaving a negative impression—probably not the desired outcome of your meeting.

The Fix: Just Do It.

Whether you pack notecards in your purse for post-meeting scribbles, set yourself a reminder on Gmail to send off a quick note, or just insert a quick “thanks for taking time to meet with me!” at the final handshake, you must say thank you. Not only will you solidify your reputation as a courteous individual, but you won’t be leaving your contacts with a bad taste in their mouths. Always say thank you, and your good impression will last until your next meeting.

Mistake #4: Forgetting to Follow Up

You meet someone over a networking happy hour and tell her you’ll send her your portfolio. But as the night goes on, she has a few drinks and meets a few dozen more people. You’re sure she’s forgotten all about you, so you decide it’s not even worth emailing her the next day.

Bad idea. Meeting someone is just the first step in networking. In order to forge a lasting relationship (and make sure people don’t forget you), you need to follow up, every single time.

The Fix: Stay Accountable.

If you told a networking contact that you would do something, do it. Even if you’re not sure she remembers you, you can bet that she will be grateful that you took the time out of your day to send her what you had discussed. If you’re worried about forgetting, keep a pen near your business card holder to quickly scribble out what follow-up actions you have for that contact, and review your cards after the event.

Above all, keep in mind that networking isn’t about short-term gain, but about learning, growing, and forming connections. Adopt good social habits, and you’ll see your skills and comfort improve, your opportunities increase, and your relationships grow—for the long haul.

The Most Annoying, Pretentious And Useless Business Jargon

My Say , Contributor, Forbes Entrepreneurs, 1/26/2012

The next time you feel the need to reach out, touch base, shift a paradigm, leverage a best practice or join a tiger team, by all means do it. Just don’t say you’re doing it.

If you have to ask why, chances are you’ve fallen under the poisonous spell of business jargon. No longer solely the province of consultants, investors and business-school types, this annoying gobbledygook has mesmerized the rank and file around the globe.

“Jargon masks real meaning,” says Jennifer Chatman, management professor at the University of California-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. “People use it as a substitute for thinking hard and clearly about their goals and the direction that they want to give others.”

To save you from yourself (and to keep your colleagues and customers from strangling you), we have assembled a cache of expressions to assiduously avoid.

We also assembled a “Jargon Madness” bracket—similar to the NCAA college basketball tournament—featuring 32 abominable expressions. Each day, for 32 days, readers will get to vote, via Twitter, on one matchup. The goal: to identify the single most annoying example of business jargon and thoroughly embarrass all who employ it and all of those other ridiculous terms, too.

Core Competency

This awful expression refers to a firm’s or a person’s fundamental strength—even though that’s not what the word “competent” means. “This bothers me because it is just a silly phrase when you think about it,” says Bruce Barry, professor of management at Vanderbilt’s Owen Graduate School of Business. “Do people talk about peripheral competency?  Being competent is not the standard we’re seeking.  It’s like core mediocrity.”

Buy-In

This means agreement on a course of action, if the most disingenuous kind. Notes David Logan, professor of management and organization at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business: “Asking for someone’s ‘buy-in’ says, ‘I have an idea.  I didn’t involve you because I didn’t value you enough to discuss it with you.  I want you to embrace it as if you were in on it from the beginning, because that would make me feel really good.’”

S.W.A.T. Team

In law enforcement, this term refers to teams of fit men and women who put themselves in danger to keep people safe. “In business, it means a group of ‘experts’ (often fat guys in suits) assembled to solve a problem or tackle an opportunity” says USC’s Logan. An apt comparison, if you’re a fat guy in a suit.

Empower

This is what someone above your pay grade does when, apparently, they would like you to do a job of some importance. It’s also called “the most condescending transitive verb ever.” Says Chatman: “It suggests that ‘You can do a little bit of this, but I’m still in charge here.  I am empowering you.’”

Open the Kimono

“Some people use this instead of ‘revealing information,’” says Barry. “It’s kind of creepy.” Just keep your kimono snugly fastened.

Bleeding Edge

Someone decided that his product or service was so cutting-edge that a new term needed to be created. It did not. Unless you are inventing a revolutionary bladed weapon, leave this one alone.

Lots of Moving Parts

Pinball machines have lots of moving parts. Many of them buzz and clank and induce migraine headaches. Do you want your business to run, or even appear to run, like a pinball machine? Then do not say it involves lots of moving parts.

Corporate Values

This expression is so phony it churns the stomach. Corporations don’t have values, the people who run them do.

Make Hay

This is jargon for being productive or successful in a short period of time. The phrase ‘to make hay’ is short for ‘make hay while the sun shines’, which can be traced to John Heyward’s The Proverbs, Epigrams and Miscellanies of John Heywood (circa 1562). A handy nugget for cocktail conversation, but that’s it.

Scalable

A scalable business or activity refers to one that requires little additional effort or cost for each additional unit of output. Example: Making software is a scalable business (building it requires lots of effort up front, while distributing a million copies over the Web is relatively painless). Venture capitalists crave scalable businesses. They crave them so much that the term now has become more annoying than the media’s obsession with celebrity diets.

Best Practice

This refers to a method or technique that delivers superior results compared with other methods and techniques. It is also perhaps the single most pompous confection the consulting industry has ever dreamed up.

Think Outside the Box

This tired turn of phrase means to approach a business problem in an unconventional fashion. Kudos to a Forbes.com reader who suggested: “Forget the box, just think.”

Solution

This word has come to mean everything from the traditional way to solve a mathematical proof to a suite of efficiency-enhancing software–and it is the epitome of lingual laziness. Says Glen Turpin, a communications consultant: “It usually refers to a collection of technologies too abstract or complex to describe in a way that anyone would care about if they were explained in plain English.”

Leverage

Meet the granddaddy of nouns converted to verbs. ‘Leverage’ is mercilessly used to describe how a situation or environment can be manipulated or controlled. Leverage should remain a noun, as in “to apply leverage,” not as a pseudo-verb, as in “we are leveraging our assets.”

Vertical

This painful expression refers to a specific area of expertise. For example, if you make project-management software for the manufacturing industry (as opposed to the retail industry), you might say, “We serve the manufacturing vertical.” In so saying, you would make everyone around you flee the conversation.

Over the Wall

If you’re not wielding a grappling hook, avoid this meaningless expression. Katie Clark, an account executive at Allison & Partners, a San Francisco public relations firm, got a request from her boss to send a document “over the wall.” Did he want her to print out the document, make it into a paper airplane and send it whooshing across the office? Finally she asked for clarification. “It apparently means to send something to the client,” she says. “Absurd!”

Robust

This otherwise harmless adjective has come to suggest a product or service with a virtually endless capacity to please. A cup of good coffee is robust. A software program is not.

Learnings

Like most educated people, Michael Travis, an executive search consultant, knows how to conjugate a verb. That’s why he cringes when his colleagues use the word “learning” as a noun. As in: “I had a critical learning from that project,” or “We documented the team’s learnings.” Whatever happened to simply saying: “I learned a lesson from that project?” Says Travis: “Aspiring managers would do well to remember that if you can’t express your idea without buzzwords, there may not be an idea there at all.”

Boil the Ocean

This means to waste time. The thinking here, we suppose, is that boiling the ocean would take a long time. It would also take a long time to fly to Jupiter, but we don’t say that. Nor should we boil oceans, even the Arctic, which is the smallest. It would be a waste of time.

Reach Out

Jargon for “let’s set up a meeting” or “let’s contact this person.” Just say that—and unless you want the Human Relations department breathing down your neck, please don’t reach out unless clearly invited.

Punt

In football, to punt means to willingly (if regretfully) kick the ball to the other team to control your team’s position on the field. In business it means to give up on an idea, or to make it less of a priority at the moment. In language as in life, punt too often and you’ll never score.

Impact

This wannabe verb came to prominence, says Bryan Garner, editor in chief of Black’s Law Dictionary, because most people don’t understand the difference between the words “affect” and “effect.” Rather than risk mixing them up, they say, “We will impact our competitor’s sales with this new product.” A tip: “Affect” is most commonly a verb, “effect” a noun. For instance: When you affect my thinking, you may have an effect on my actions.

Giving 110%

The nice thing about effort, in terms of measuring it, is that the most you can give is everything—and everything equals 100%. You can’t give more than that, unless you can make two or more of yourself on the spot, in which case you have a very interesting talent indeed. To tell someone to give more than 100% is to also tell them that you failed second-grade math.

Take It To The Next Level

In theory this means to make something better. In practice, it means nothing, mainly because nobody knows what the next level actually looks like and thus whether or not they’ve reached it.

It Is What It Is

Thanks. Idiot.

4 Networking Mistakes You Don’t Know You’re Making

Daily Muse, Contributor , Forbeswoman, 9/30/11

Whether you’re looking for a job or not, you’ve probably been encouraged to “network, network, network!” more times than you can count. Are all those conferences and

Photo courtesy of Jodi Womack.

events you’re attending leading to new connections or opportunities?

No? You’re not the only one. Many networking newbies have tendencies that actually inhibit building real relationships with their new contacts.

The good news: it’s not that hard to fix. Here’s what you might not even realize you’re doing wrong—and what to do about it.

Mistake #1: Talking about Yourself—All the Time

You’re talented! Eager! Ambitious! You have lots of ideas to share! And you want to make sure that every person you meet at the event knows who you are and what you do!

We get it. And yes, sharing your story with new contacts is important. But sharing your life story is overkill: Nothing can set a person off more than an aspiring professional who takes no interest in anything beside her own ambitions.

The Fix: Take Some Interest.

Stop highlighting your latest accomplishment and start listening instead. Find people with industries or careers of interest to you, and ask them questions: How did they get their start? What do they love about their jobs, and what do they wish they could change? By taking an interest in your contact, you will make her feel valued—and hopefully interested in continuing the relationship. And you’ll likely gain some new insights, too.

Mistake #2: Expecting a Job

You’re looking for a new job, so you hit the circuit of industry events every week, asking every person you meet to help you find your new gig—after all, it’s not what you know, it’s who.

Well, yes. But give people some credit: If you pursue networking opportunities purely for the job prospects, your contacts will figure you out. You will leave them feeling used, and they will be less likely to recommend you for an opportunity.

The Fix: Provide Some Value.

If you’re looking for a job, don’t ask for it—work for it. Do some research into what your contact does both in and out of work and find ways that you can contribute your time or support.

Perhaps you could volunteer your expertise in social media for the big convention she’s heading up, or offer your accounting knowledge for her non-profit. Provide some opportunity for contacts to see you in a working light, and you’ll be that much closer to a good referral.

Mistake #3: Not Saying Thanks

You attended a large event last week and grabbed coffee with one of your new professional contacts afterward. And then—the week got busy, and you didn’t get around to saying thank you. She’ll understand, right?
Maybe. But if you don’t show gratitude, even in the smallest (or largest) event, you risk leaving a negative impression—probably not the desired outcome of your meeting.

The Fix: Just Do It.

Whether you pack notecards in your purse for post-meeting scribbles, set yourself a reminder on Gmail to send off a quick note, or just insert a quick “thanks for taking time to meet with me!” at the final handshake, you must say thank you. Not only will you solidify your reputation as a courteous individual, but you won’t be leaving your contacts with a bad taste in their mouths. Always say thank you, and your good impression will last until your next meeting.

Mistake #4: Forgetting to Follow Up

You meet someone over a networking happy hour and tell her you’ll send her your portfolio. But as the night goes on, she has a few drinks and meets a few dozen more people. You’re sure she’s forgotten all about you, so you decide it’s not even worth emailing her the next day.

Bad idea. Meeting someone is just the first step in networking. In order to forge a lasting relationship (and make sure people don’t forget you), you need to follow up, every single time.

The Fix: Stay Accountable.

If you told a networking contact that you would do something, do it. Even if you’re not sure she remembers you, you can bet that she will be grateful that you took the time out of your day to send her what you had discussed. If you’re worried about forgetting, keep a pen near your business card holder to quickly scribble out what follow-up actions you have for that contact, and review your cards after the event.

Above all, keep in mind that networking isn’t about short-term gain, but about learning, growing, and forming connections. Adopt good social habits, and you’ll see your skills and comfort improve, your opportunities increase, and your relationships grow—for the long haul.

How Are Your Relationships At Work?

Regardless of whether you sell a product or a service, how are your relationships at work? Do you spend time getting to know your clients, your employees, and your vendors? In a technology-driven, fast-paced world, taking the time to connect with the people involved in every aspect of your business will pay off in the long-term.

1. Be Genuine

People automatically take in both verbal and nonverbal body language when they interact with you. If your words are not congruent with you nonverbal body language, then people will pick up on the inconsistencies and when they do, then it makes it twice as hard for them to trust in you. This can affect your sales and the office atmosphere.
When you are being genuine, you connect with the other person by making direct eye contact, by engaging in back and forth conversation that does not get off topic, and by tending to their needs. If your mind is wandering or your feelings do not match with what you are saying, then it can also prolong figuring out if everyone’s needs were met in the interaction. When you are focused on someone and in the present moment, not thinking about the past or future, then your thoughts/feelings/actions are all on the same page. Even if the other person is scattered, your presence can help calm, re-center, and re-orient them to solving the issue at hand.

2. Smile

Both men and women respond to being smiled at in a friendly, engaging, professional manner. A smile does not mean you are flirting with the opposite sex. When you have a pleasant smile on your face you broadcast that you are at ease, approachable, and if someone wants to talk to you or ask a question, they know you are present and ready to help them out. Smiling at other people, and just because you are happy, also causes a chain reaction. Just try not smiling at someone the next time they smile at you.

3. Play

I love the Pikes Place FISH! philosophy and culture. One of my favorite tenets is: play. And, yes, I just said play at work. Why not? When you are playful with your co-workers, and with your customers it is almost impossible to be insincere or to frown. When you play at work, something beautiful occurs: you enjoy being at work. A dose of silliness does not mean losing your professionalism, but what it does mean is that your office climate is conducive to productivity. A byproduct may be increased efficiency and sales, just because people love what they do and are having fun with their jobs.

4. Acknowledge

While acknowledging and recognizing people for their work is germane to everyone, it’s especially meaningful when you publicly recognize women’s efforts. Women are not recognized enough at work, partly because they do not self-promote according to what John Gray, PhD, found and book, How to Get What You Want at Work. Women do not naturally boast or tell others about their accomplishments; partly because social conditioning tells women that it is uncomely to brag.

John Gray, PhD, talks in this book about how showing appreciation to men about their efforts and results may work more to their benefit rather than showing respect. Whereas the opposite tends to be true for women at work; they would rather be shown respect over appreciation for their accomplishments. If you’re interested, then you can also take a quick Mars Venus Coaching online workshop on just these differences between men and women.

5. Praise

I believe as a culture we tend to focus on the bottom-line and what’s not going well compared to how much time is spent praising and encouraging one another on what we are doing well. A simple, “hey, Joe, you did a great job on that presentation,” or a quick note will work wonders. Positive reinforcement will always net you positive results, because people like and want to feel good about themselves and their work. Therefore, if you spend more time praising people at work, regardless if they are co-workers or customers, then you will have more satisfied people at your place of work.

Enjoy placing value on your relationships to make them work at work!

Lyndsay Katauskas, MEd
Mars Venus Coaching
Corporate Media Relations

5 Ways to Determine If Your Communication Style is Hurting Your Career

Kathy Caprino, Contributor – Forbes Magazine

Our communication style and approach speak volumes about how we view ourselves and others. It also reveals important clues about our sense of worth, power and ability to lead and manage effectively. Everything we do is communication – we can’t NOT communicate.

Unfortunately, for a large number of professional women, communicating powerfully and authoritatively in the workplace and in their professional endeavors is a deep challenge.

Why do so many women struggle to be confident and authoritative communicators?

There are numerous colliding factors that contribute to women’s communication challenges in the workplace.

First, gender stereotypes abound. For instance, research shows that success and likability in the professional arena are positively correlated for men and negatively correlated for women. This means that the more “successful” or assertive a woman appears, the more she is judged negatively and disliked for it. Being criticized harshly for success consciously and subconsciously impacts how strident, self-assured and successful a woman wishes to appear.

Secondly, as senior leadership remains the bailiwick of men (women make up only 16% of senior corporate leadership in the U.S. today), a more “male” style of communicating remains dominant and is more accepted and understood. Recent research findings have shown that men and women’s communication approaches differ in 10 important ways. Further, men and women are culturally encouraged and trained (from early childhood on) to focus on different outcomes and tasks through their communication (and brain anatomy plays a part as well). These core differences in style and approach affect how women’s communication is received and perceived.
Women can use the above realities as excuses to hold them back, or they can navigate through them, and insist on nothing less than powerful and authoritative communication.

Does your communication approach need modification? Here’s how you can determine if your communication style is hurting your career:

1) People don’t respond well to your words and actions
In a seminar I gave last week at Pepperidge Farm on Fostering Collaboration in Communications and Relationships, we discussed how you can see, immediately, without question, how well you communicate by the outcomes you receive.

When you speak, or present at a meeting or run your staff meetings, what happens? Do your colleagues respond positively? Do they want to follow-up on your initiatives and suggestions, or shoot them down? Do they support you, or criticize your contribution? In the end, do you engender loyalty, support and trust, or do people walk over you or put you down when you communicate?

2) Your point doesn’t get made
Another indicator of your communication effectiveness is if you feel you get your point across, and that your input is considered. When you speak, do others listen well, and get what you’re saying? Does the conversation build on what you’ve offered, or does it veer off immediately to focus on another topic, or another person’s input?

3) You’re not taken seriously
You can’t grow your career and advance to leadership if you’re not taken seriously. Do you communicate in a way that makes people believe that you know what you’re talking about? Have you mastered the necessary information/skills/material you need to be an expert in what you’re sharing? And can you communicate in a way that demonstrates your intellectual and professional abilities? Have you developed the personal clout that will ensure you’ll be listened to, even if you don’t have the necessary data to support you at that moment?

4) There’s backlash from your words
If there’s negative backlash every time you offer a suggestion or initiative to consider, then it’s time to look at how (and why) you’re presenting your ideas. Perhaps you haven’t considered the ramifications or repercussions of your ideas, or are threatening others without knowing it. A powerful communicator knows his/her audience well, and understands the hidden agendas there. S/he knows what to do to neutralize the fear others may have. The effective communicator knows what emotions and thoughts her words will elicit in the mind of the listener.

5) Nothing is remembered from what you’ve shared
Finally, do you feel invisible? Do you contribute at meetings or in conversation but simply get talked over, and no one recalls that you spoke? If so, this is a sign that your internal and external “power” as a contributor and a player isn’t sufficient to hold others’ attention. You can change your power quotient, but first you have to acknowledge the power dynamic at work.
If any of these outcomes describe your experience, it’s important to become accountable for what’s happening and not blame others. After all, if you’re not getting the outcomes you desire, you have to look inward and own your part of it.

4 To-Dos for the “Someday” Entrepreneur

By Adelaide Lancaster, Forbeswomen, 3/7/12

I talk with a lot of people who want to start a business “someday.” And as a result, I often think about the factors that determine which “someday” entrepreneurs will actually become business owners, and which will continue to say “I wish” for years to come.

Surprisingly, the ability to take the plunge has a lot less to do with people’s personalities, and a lot more to do with how accessible and familiar the experience of entrepreneurship is to them. Those who can picture themselves running a business often do. And those who continue to think of entrepreneurship as a big, scary thing that other people (perhaps more gregarious, sales-oriented, or risk-tolerant people) do tend to never move forward.

So, if you, too, dream of someday being your own boss, an important first step is just getting acquainted with the nature of the beast. Here are four things that will help you do just that.

1. Make New Friends
One of the best ways to learn what entrepreneurship is really like is by getting to know some entrepreneurs. Not necessarily the fancy, media darling types, but just normal, low-key people who work for themselves. To start, connect with entrepreneurs who match your own demographic—it helps you to start thinking “hey, if they can do it, so can I!” But be sure to branch out from there, and also to meet people in a wide variety of industries. There are lots of styles of entrepreneurship, so the more diversity you can experience, the better!

If you don’t know any entrepreneurs, just start asking people to make some introductions. Or, join groups on LinkedIn or Facebook, and start paying attention to the discussions that are happening. Ask someone you find interesting to have coffee and take it from there. Pick their brain about useful resources, groups, or meetings, and see if they can introduce you to even more entrepreneurs.

2. Pick Some New Role Models
In addition to making some new pals, it’s important to identify role models who are a little more established in the business world. You might not be able to take them to coffee, but you can learn a lot by observing them and their companies from afar.
Select three brands or companies that you like and admire. Find as many ways to follow their leaders as possible—be it their blogs, articles, or Facebook profiles. Read their books if they have them. Read their press and interviews that they’ve done. Think about how their personalities and leadership styles have shaped the brands and the companies they run. Stay abreast of their company news, and take note of what they share about their own experience.

3. Fall in Love with Small Business as a Customer
There’s a certain romance to small business. As a customer, there’s always something more special about the experience. Sometimes it’s witnessing changes over the years, other times it’s the connection to the owner, others it’s the attention to detail that’s given to the product or service.

And there’s a lot to learn from that! So, in addition to making friends with entrepreneurs themselves, it’s important to also make relationships with some actual businesses. Think about the small businesses that you currently patronize, or the new start-ups whose products you love. What do you know about their owners or story? What are their goals and where are they going? What do they do that’s memorable, distinct, or unique? What do they do particularly well? Thinking about your own experiences as a customer will give you tons of insight into running your own show.

4. Demystify “Business” Speak
Most would-be entrepreneurs get scared off by the “business” side of things. They overestimate the skills and knowledge that are needed to run a business and assume that there are huge mountains to be climbed and learning curves to overcome before even getting started.

But it’s important to confront the monster under the bed—it’s not as hard as you might think, and you certainly don’t have to have an MBA to do it. Pick a small business magazine like Inc. or Fast Company and invest $15 to get a subscription. Peruse it each month, but feel free to read only what’s interesting to you. You’ll soon see how un-mysterious business can be. From behind-the-scenes business profiles to questions about how to handle particular challenges, you’ll begin to learn a lot about the experience of entrepreneurship.

As you start talking to people, expanding your reading list, and thinking more and more about the what it’s like to be an entrepreneur, you’ll soon see that it’s not as big and scary as you might think. And that “someday” will inch a little bit closer to today.

How To Succeed In Business By Really Trying

Victor Lipman, Contributor , Forbes Magazine 5/13/12

No sugar coating here. Unless you’re fortunate enough to be born to take over a thriving family business or to get in on the ground floor of the next Facebook, the road to business success is seldom a simple one.

In my experience and observation, success is much less the product of one brilliant idea than of a great deal of hard work, well-executed and sustained over a long period of time.

Even in the best of times, no one will just hand you a position of great value for nothing. If your goal is vice presidency or partner or managing director or the c-suite, or whatever role has captured your imagination, no one can guarantee you’ll attain it. But if hard work is the currency of success, there are things you can do to make that effort work as hard as possible for your up-and-coming career. So with a tip of the cap to one the greatest musicals ever (“How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying”), here are five activities that can be worth really trying to put extra time into.

Learn the business – If you work for a sizable organization, and perhaps if you don’t, chances are your business has considerable complexity. Take time to learn not just your particular role (that’s “table stakes”- you have to know it), but also to gain a broader understanding of the business: the competitive environment, the market forces at play, the company’s value proposition, sales model, pricing model, etc. No one’s expecting you to become expert in all these fields, but gaining at least a working understanding of the key macro-level issues is always helpful. Familiarity with these larger issues senior management is grappling with will only enhance your decision-making capabilities in your own role.

Make yourself indispensable – Take time to really understand what your manager needs. Not just what is needed from you in your current role, but what are the troubling problems that keep him or her up at night? Is it help with PowerPoints, an upcoming presentation to a hostile audience, delicate personnel problems, or dealing with regulators… to name just a few of a thousand possibilities. Try to see things through the eyes of others. The more substantive assistance you can provide, the more gaps you can fill, the more valuable you’ll be to an organization.

Provide solutions, not problems – The normal state of senior management is too much to do in too little time. When wrestling with difficult issues in your own area, naturally you can’t always solve all the problems yourself. But it definitely can be worth the extra time to not simply make your problems your manager’s. Instead, present your manager with a carefully thought out range of viable options – ideally including your recommended solution – rather than just posing a vexing, time-consuming problem. This approach demonstrates your critical thinking capabilities, and can be an appreciated time saver for a person with little time to spare.

Be a great collaborator – Good team players are valued. Large complex projects always require people with diverse skills. Attitude matters; effective collaborators often find themselves in demand. Consider taking the time to volunteer for a large project that may be understaffed, even in an area outside your core expertise. This can be a way of broadening your skill set and business knowledge, plus demonstrating your motivation. Management appreciates self starters who ‘play well with others.’

Come early, stay late – The best point I can offer here is a story of my own. While I’m an advocate in theory for as much work-life balance as possible, the fact is, if you want to get ahead, there will be periods in a career where there are no substitutes for grindingly long hours. There was a period in my own career where I was especially motivated by the prospect of advancement and all that went with it, and had great respect for the organization and the work we were doing. Accordingly, I resolved to myself that no one in the 20-person department I worked in (including the SVP who managed the operation) would come in earlier or work later than I would. Did I always achieve that? No. But did my diligence catch the attention of senior management and ultimately help my career? Yes. (The assumption here of course is that you’re not simply sitting around long hours playing video games or writing to your aunt… but doing real work and adding value!)
In the end of course, occupational success is preordained for no one. Many talented people compete for relatively few coveted positions. But you can take certain actions to improve your odds. And if you do, regardless of how things turn out in a particular instance, at the very least you’ll have the benefit of broadening your skills and the satisfaction of knowing you gave your very best effort.

Work Place Commincation Skills

By Arjun Kulkarni

It is well-known that before you come to work, you have to leave your informal self back home. In the office, you’re an employee, someone who’s supposed to go about his work in the most professional manner. There is a way to talk to your superiors, to your peers and your subordinates. This mode of communication is known as workplace communication and is typically formal and to the point. So how does one get the required workplace communication skills and what is the importance of communication skills in the workplace?

Communication Skills in the Workplace

What are the good workplace communications skills?
Courteousness: A person should always be courteous while speaking to anyone in the workplace, whether senior or junior. One should not speak disparagingly with juniors, while speaking in a laudatory way with seniors. Courteousness should be maintained in the workplace irrespective of rank.
Precision: You’re not supposed to sit and chat in the workplace. Workplace communication facilitates necessity and should be completed as quickly as possible. Workplace communication mostly consists of delegating tasks and reporting results. So keep it short.
Language: One should never use any slang terms while at work. Business communication should be crisp and clear so that everyone understands what you’re saying. Slang terms bring in the eventuality of misunderstanding and also look unprofessional. So one should avoid using slang in office.
Low Speaking Volume: One comes across so many loud-talkers. Perhaps they are naturally so or do so deliberately to drive some point across. But speaking loudly is disturbing to other people around you hence, a low speaking volume should be maintained.
Clarity: It is also essential to ensure that the person you are speaking with has completely understood what you have to say. Hence, one should speak very slowly and clearly. If you have a strong ethnic accent, you should make sure that you talk slowly so that the other person gets what you have to say. It is always good to ask, “have you understood?” just in case someone doesn’t get what you have to say.
Listen to Others: Most people think of effective communication as a one-way thing. But it is very important to also be a good listener and not just a good talker. Others too often have something to say or to contribute to a discussion hence, listening too, is one of the effective communication skills at work.
Posture and Body Language: They say actions speak louder than words and the same can be considered to be true at the workplace. The body has a language of its own too, and at the workplace, the body ought to be courteous. There are simple things to keep in mind, whether it is wishing everyone ‘good morning’ at work, or having a courteous smile on your face, being well-dressed in office or sitting erect when someone is talking to you. All these things too are included in the superset of workplace communication skills.
Written Communication

Modern methods allow the least use of the written mode of communication (less than before). Today, we use emails, service forms, report sheets and the occasional sticky note. Your skills should extend to this area as well. Do not drone on about things in your emails. In fact, an email is the perfect excuse to make it short, simple, quick and effective. While filling reports on any projects or for employee appraisals, keep the language clean and simple. It reflects on as you as someone who is hard working and prompt.

Importance of Communication Skills in the Workplace

If one understands the significance or importance of something, then I feel that they do that thing better. So instead of just dishing out all the important workplace communication skills, I feel it is equally important for people to understand, what is the big deal about it! It is important to be formal and cordial in the workplace for several reasons. Firstly, you are viewed by everyone in the office as someone who has a positive influence in the workplace. Such people are always desired by companies. Secondly, you learn to get your point across effectively and ensure that the work is done the way it should be. And thirdly, (I’m being a bit informal here) it makes you look like a team player and makes you more loved by the company overall!

So this was all about the workplace communication skills and their importance. Now you know how to communicate effectively in the workplace and why. So get on with the job!