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Category Archives: Communication

How many times has a project or a meeting broken down because of either A) a lack of communication or B) a miscommunication? Unfortunately, this is commonplace and can completely derail conversations, relationships, or projects. What’s more, in the era of work from home, effective communication is getting even trickier. It can be difficult to read body language over Zoom and it’s no longer possible to pop into someone’s office to ask a quick question (thus, making communication that much harder).

How can we strive to improve communication this year? Here are 3 ideas:

1. Practice active listening

There’s a difference between hearing and listening. Hearing is physiological and can be passive—we can hear sounds or sentences without bothering to interpret them. Listening, however, is active. It involves hearing and interpreting what you hear. Practice active listening by paying attention and absorbing what others say without formulating a response. Too often we’re so busy thinking about what we want to say, that we do not truly pay attention to the speaker.

2. Ask good questions

Even if you think you understand what’s been said, it’s a good idea to ask clarifying questions. Make sure you understand the who/what/where/how of something, before moving on to the next subject. You might try using the “I think I heard” approach. This approach involves repeating back what you think you heard, and asking if that is correct. For example:

“Just to clarify, it sounds like we are going to be prioritizing XYZ this quarter, is that correct?”

For more on asking good questions, please see this blog post all about clarity.

3. Keep meetings to a minimum

You may already suspect this, but it is NOT necessarily a good thing to have more meetings. People are suffering from meeting burnout (especially lately, with so many video chats). What’s more, according to Harvard Business Review, “meetings have increased in length and frequency over the past 50 years, to the point where executives spend an average of nearly 23 hours a week in them, up from less than 10 hours in the 1960s.”

That’s outrageous, and it’s completely unnecessary. Instead of focusing on meeting frequency, focus on meeting quality. Create specific meeting goals, make sure everyone knows their roles and responsibilities, and set a time limit for the meeting. If the meeting involves gathering feedback from your team, try challenging everyone to summarize their thoughts in a minute or two. Concision is key!

Lastly, ask yourself if a meeting is actually necessary. What needs to be accomplished? Can it be achieved through a few quick emails? If so, consider skipping the meeting.

Good communication is often hard to come by. Practice good listening, keep an honest and open line of communication, and work to avoid meeting burnout. Effective communication can be truly transformative for a workplace.


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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woman thinking

With more and more people working from home (WFH), we’re spending a whole lot more time on our own. In this atmosphere, where we’re expected to get things done without anyone looking over our shoulders, it is more crucial than ever to develop a deep understanding of yourself, your strengths, and your preferences, and your limitations. In short, it’s essential to develop a keen self-awareness.

What Are the Components of Self-Awareness?

A self-aware person understands the many facets of their personality and how they can operate at their very best. These facets include:

Strengths:

Getting to know the areas in which you excel can help you capitalize on and emphasize your skills. Your innate abilities are an asset to your work, and it pays to take advantage of them. Take the time to consider which tasks come easily to you. What are your top skills? When do others praise you? What do you enjoy doing?

Your strengths may range from IT prowess to sociability to the ability to analyze complex data. And don’t discount so-called “soft skills!” Effective communication, for instance, is key to an effective workplace.

Once you have a good grasp of your strengths, leverage them! If you know you excel at writing, lean into that part of your career. If you know you’re skilled at brainstorming new, creative ideas, don’t hold back at your next meeting! Be bold and embrace your strengths.

Limitations:

Just as it’s important to understand your strengths, so too is it important to get to know your limitations. Where do you struggle? Which assignments give you difficulty or are unenjoyable for you? When do you feel frustrated? When have you fallen short of expectations?

Begin to notice your limitations. Do you struggle, for instance, to pay attention during Zoom meetings? What can you do to stay present?

Another WFH example: Do you find it difficult to stay on task, when it’s now incredibly easy to drift off into social media land or YouTube? Recognize this limitation and strategize solutions. Would it be beneficial to block certain websites on your work computer? Is it possible to do some tasks in airplane mode, so you’re not tempted to browse the web?

When you understand your limitations, you can work to correct them.

Preferences:

Another component of self-awareness is understanding your personal preferences. We all have them. While some people thrive in the mornings, others enjoy working later at night. While some benefit from regular video check-ins, others prefer communicating by email. Some like a silent workspace, others like background music or chatter. Some prefer collaborative work, others like working solo. The list goes on.

Paying attention to your personal preferences can help you set realistic expectations for yourself and help you improve communication with others. For instance, when someone asks you to tackle an assignment by yourself, you might counter with, “I could do that, but I know from experience that I work better when I’m collaborating with others. Would this assignment warrant teamwork or, at least, an accountability partner?”

Your preferences may also include communication. Do you recognize that you are good at responding to emails, but often let voicemails linger for days, or even weeks? Communicate that preference to others!

Communicating your preferences–the way you operate, think, and communicate–can significantly help both your personal and professional relationships.

Building self-awareness can help bolster your success, lead to better relationships, and improve communication. If you’re unsure how to start improving your self-awareness, consider looking into Insights Discovery or sending me a message.

Take the time to develop your self-awareness, and see how far it will take you!


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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Roaring river

For months, I’ve heard many people say, “I can’t wait until the elections are over.” While I understand the sentiment (it’s been an exhausting political season), all the rifts and hard feelings have not magically mended with the conclusion of the presidential election. If anything, the nation is as fraught as ever. How can we possibly bridge the gulf between people and start working together once more? What can you, as an individual, do?

I have a few thoughts:

1. Focus on People

No matter how different someone’s ideology is from your own, there’s a person behind the ideology. Start seeing that person as someone who loves and is loved–someone who has a family, friends, hopes and fears, financial troubles, and health issues. This is a person who pays a mortgage or rent, occasionally burns the pizza, and gets annoyed when their socks get wet from the rain.

In short, see the human behind the ideology. If we all started to do that, I guarantee our conversations would become more civil and we would find some common ground.

2. Focus on the Work

When it comes to co-workers, you may not agree 100% of the time, but you can always turn your attention to your common work assignments. When we collaborate with others and focus our energy on a shared project or initiative, we can set aside political differences for a time and start seeing others as co-workers, collaborators, and co-brainstormers. Recognizing that we CAN work alongside others and agree on certain things (no matter how trivial) is a big step toward mending larger rifts.

3. Spend Time With Individuals

One way to bridge a gap between yourself and someone with whom you do NOT see eye-to-eye is to meet with that person individually. In my experience, when you’re sitting across the table from someone, it is easy to find at least a few things you have in common, and focus on those things instead of your differences. You might talk about your family, your pets, the latest book you’ve read or show you’ve watched, or even the weather. Though you might think such surface-level conversations are meaningless, they’re truly not. Bridging gaps takes time, and it starts with individuals seeing the humanity in one another.

4. Find Commonalities

Instead of focusing on the things that divide us, focus on what unites us. At our core, most of us want the same things: Clean air and water, a healthy family, safety, good schools for the next generations, a decent job, affordable housing…the list goes on. Though many of us agree on the big picture goals, we get bogged down by how to meet those goals. THAT is where much division comes into play. We disagree about the methods for reaching those universal goals.

Once you realize that, you begin to see that “the other side” might not be so different from you after all. They probably want the same things in their lives, they just disagree on the means to get there.

Yes, I DO understand this is an over-simplification. Some differences between people and parties are significant, and it may be nearly impossible to reconcile them. However, I still think we can find commonalities between ourselves and those on the other side of the spectrum. We just have to look for them.

Though you may be feeling like a small fish in a wild, raging ocean, take heart! If we all decide to work toward relative harmony and understanding, we can get there eventually. Start recognizing the human behind the ideology, and go from there. Your example CAN make a difference.


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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