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Category Archives: Better Business

It wasn’t long ago that networking meant going to a physical location—an event center, a restaurant/bar, a clubhouse—and hobnobbing with strangers. You made small talk, you asked about others’ expertise, you asked for and handed out business cards.

For some, this experience was energizing and exciting—a chance to meet and mingle with potential clients or collaborators. For others, it was uncomfortable or downright terrifying. Regardless of which camp you fell into, the reality is, networking is changing (and has been for years).

Today, more than ever, our communication happens in a virtual space. We log into meetings on Zoom, Hangouts, or Skype. We send information through email. We chat with co-workers through platforms such as Slack or Discord. As this has become the new normal, so too has networking shifted into a virtual space.

There are both advantages and disadvantages to this virtual shift.

One huge advantage is that virtual networking is more accessible for more people. In the past, it was difficult for many groups of people to attend an in-person networking session—parents with small children, people who are unable to drive, those with a demanding work schedule, those who live far from typical networking locations. So, even though we may be sacrificing the “in-person feel,” we open the door for a whole new set of people.

Today, networking may lean more towards online presentations or programs than a “let’s mingle and get to know each other” session. So…how do you get to know others and make valuable connections?

Hopefully, the program monitor will facilitate some icebreaker activities or small group break-out sessions. If that’s the case, be sure to be personable and make yourself memorable. Tell others a quirky fact about yourself or slip in a relevant achievement. You could even wear colorful clothing or accessories to make yourself stand out a bit more.

Another thing you can do during online sessions is to ask thoughtful questions. I am a huge proponent of asking questions, whether they are clarifying questions, questions that expound/expand upon the topic, or questions that invite a dialogue. Being engaged, in general, is always a good idea.

Toward the end of the session, if the monitor hasn’t mentioned anything about exchanging contact information, be sure to (politely) ask about it. You might even ask others for their contact info if you’re in a small break-out session. Don’t force it, but if you’ve established a good connection with others and it seems natural to ask for contact info, go ahead! It doesn’t hurt to ask.

As with any other kind of networking, it’s a good idea to follow up with potential connections afterwards. Add them on LinkedIn and send out an email to anyone who might be a valuable connection. You might even discuss meeting up in the “real world,” or you might plan to attend a similar virtual program together in the future.

The future of networking is virtual, so we might as well learn to adapt and embrace it!

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 
CHECK OUT MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE. 

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Work relationships are important, and yet, how often do we truly offer others our thanks and appreciation? Oftentimes, we take for granted the little things people do to make our lives a bit easier. And then there are the big things–the time a co-worker stepped up and covered your work when you had an emergency, the co-worker who took on extra work so the team would succeed.

How can you show your super star co-workers your gratitude? It’s not always as easy as showing appreciation to a friend, a significant other, or your child. Relationships with co-workers are (usually) different, even if you consider them friends. Even so, there are several ways to recognize a co-worker’s good deeds.

Here are 10 ideas:

1. Send a hand-written thank you card

A thank you card is a simple, classic gesture that I’ve used many times. Be sure to make note of something specific your co-worker did and don’t just give a generic “thank you.”

2. Give a car wash punch card

This is a practical gift that almost anyone could use. Especially appropriate for the co-worker who does a lot of driving.

3. Recognize them during a team meeting

Unless your co-worker doesn’t like being singled out, it can be fun and uplifting to be recognized in a team meeting. Keep your statements brief and, if you’re not running the meeting, make sure to get permission for your shout-out.

4. Treat them to lunch

Express your thanks by taking your co-worker to their favorite lunch spot. Be sure to let them know why you’re treating them and make it clear that the tab is on you!

5. Recommend them for a reward

If your workplace gives annual rewards, consider nominating one of your co-workers. Unless the co-worker asks, there’s no need to let them know you were the one who nominated them. After all, this is about them, not you!

6. Fill in your boss

Send you boss an email to let them know about the stellar work your co-worker is doing. Be sure to mention specific instances when your colleague truly shined or went the extra mile.

7. Offer to help

A simple offer to help a co-worker can convey your appreciation for them. Don’t make a big deal about helping. Just help.

8. Say thank you

Really. It’s as easy as it sounds and it doesn’t happen often enough. Simply giving someone a sincere ‘thank you” can be powerful, especially if the “thank you” is followed up with a specific reason for showing your appreciation. For example, “Thank you, Sam, for working late yesterday and making sure our sales figures matched the spreadsheets. I appreciate it.”

No matter how you choose to show your gratitude, it’s important to DO IT. Your appreciation can make a big difference in someone’s day.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 
CHECK OUT MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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As your workplace begins to reopen its doors, you’ll probably be met with a variety of emotions and perspectives. Some people (the extroverted, yellow-energy-leading folks) may be thrilled at the prospect of working with others face-to-face. Others may dread returning to the office and are able to be much more productive at home. Still others fall somewhere in between—they enjoy the flexibility of having a choice to work from home or come into the office, and they want to maintain control over their schedule.

With such a wide range of opinions and points of view, it might seem like an impossible feat to make everyone happy. You can, however, take steps to achieve the best possible setup for the majority of your team members.

Start with these 7 tips:

1. Get Employee Feedback

Involve as many people as you can in the planning process. That doesn’t mean putting together a 100-person Zoom meeting where everyone shouts their opinions! What it DOES mean is surveying or talking with people on a one-on-one basis and gathering information. Ask open-ended questions and encourage candid responses. Some questions might include:

  • What would be an ideal work setup for you?
  • What excites you about returning to the office? What are you dreading?
  • What steps can we take in the office to make sure you feel safe?
  • How can we support you and the rest of the team to make this transition as smooth as possible?

2. Review Your Communication Tools

This past year, we’ve had to get creative and adapt to new forms of communication. As we begin to return to the office, some people may continue to embrace these new communication methods, while others will be eager to return to the old methods. It’s a good idea to see if people are burnt out on virtual chats, or if they don’t mind them. For some, virtual communication is more welcoming and accessible (some services provide captioning options, for instance), while others might be better able to read body language and mood in a face-to-face setting. It’s possible that your communication methods will be somewhat of a hybrid, with occasional virtual meetings interspersed between in-person ones.

3. Maintain Team-Building Efforts

Many teams have gotten creative over quarantine time with virtual happy hours, check-ins, or online team games. It would be a shame to lose those team-building activities once you’ve all returned to the office. Make an effort to stay connected as a team, and keep engagement high, even as we return to the physical workplace.

4. Stock up on Patience and Flexibility

Protocols and practices may change over time. New information and changing conditions will require additional shifts and plenty of patience. It’s important that you practice flexibility and be a role model for others. Convey that things are bound to continuing changing and evolving. This doesn’t reflect incompetence, but a willingness to learn and improve as circumstances change or new developments are brought to light.

5. Be a Source of Joy

One of the best ways to make the transition smoother is by finding ways to make it better for others.  Create a sense of lightheartedness—the unexpected delights of working from home, the mishaps that took place that cracked you up. Show sensitivity to those still working from home and do whatever you can to help them feel included. When you make an effort to be cheerful and buoyant, others will follow suit. Even when things are tough, this type of attitude will help get you into problem-solving mode instead of “woe is me” mode.

6. Stay Focused on the Bigger Story

There will be bumps in the road. There will be difficult stretches of days (or weeks!). That’s inevitable. Instead of getting hung up on small setbacks or difficult events, it pays to focus on the big picture. How can you move forward? What can you do to best serve your team and keep them safe? What are the main goals for this year? By taking a step back and examining the bigger story, you can gain a better perspective when it comes to dealing with everyday annoyances or snags.

7. Manage Expectations

Unless you have a crystal ball, you can’t know what lies ahead. Make sure you convey to your team that you’ll all need to be flexible and roll with the punches for the foreseeable future. Procedures and operations may change (possibly multiple times), and it will take a good amount of teamwork and positive attitudes to move forward. Even though we can’t always manage situations, we CAN manage our response to them.

The transition back to the workplace will inevitably be laden with bumps and obstacles…but it will also present possibilities. This is an opportunity to reinvent the workplace so it is better and more inclusive than before. Keep that in mind as you go forward, and remember to be as open and honest with your team as possible. You’ve got this!


MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 
CHECK OUT MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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