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Category Archives: Tips for Improving Interactions

In the past, I’ve discussed the importance of gratitude (in short, it’s can make a HUGE difference in your productivity, work and personal relationships, and mentality), but this week I wanted to focus on gratitude ACTIONS. What are some ways you can show gratitude to others?

First of all, WHY is it important to show gratitude to others?

According to David Horsager, author of The Trust Edge, gratitude is the number one magnetic trait that attracts others to you. Additionally, when you show others gratitude, they feel appreciated and are more likely to want to help you in the future. This may seem obvious, but it’s a simple truth we often forget. People appreciate visible signs of gratitude.

Get started by trying out any of the 5 approaches below:

1. Say (and Write) Thank You.

Even if you act grateful (enjoying your meal, praising the work someone did, etc.), that’s not quite the same as actually saying, “Thank you.” These two words are worth a lot, especially when said with meaning. And don’t forget the power of a handwritten thank you note. It’s a gesture that shows you care enough about the other person that you took time out of your busy day to write something thoughtful.

During my career at 3M, I occasionally wrote thank you notes to the members of my sales team. I figured they would read them and eventually toss them, but one day I learned that one of my team members kept the thank you notes in his vehicle and glanced at them when he needed a morale boost. I knew thank you’s could be powerful, but this blew me away! You never know what your thank you might achieve.

2. Listen

Too often, we are so busy with all the thoughts in our own heads that we miss what others are saying. Show the person across the table from you that you are grateful for their presence. Sincerely listen to what they have to say before jumping in with your own story or opinion.

3. Extend an Invitation and Follow Through

If there is someone at the office (or perhaps an old friend or relative) with whom you’d like to connect, reach out to them! Too often, we become comfortable in our own cozy bubbles and forget the people at the peripheries of our lives. It’s as simple as asking someone to lunch or a quick cup of coffee. It’s not as scary or awkward as it sounds—turns out, people are almost always receptive to connecting with an old acquaintance.

4. Lend a Hand

Whether it’s cleaning up the dishes after a friend’s holiday party or offering to help your administrative assistant prepare for the next office get together, it’s always nice to give others support by helping out. (Bonus points if you also thank them for their hard work.)

5. Acknowledge Others’ Successes

It could be a co-worker, it could be your son or daughter—practice showing gratitude to others by acknowledging their good work. You could do this publicly (i.e. in a company meeting or when you’re gathered together at lunch) or privately. Share a specific example of what that person did or accomplished and let them know you appreciate their excellent work.

During this holiday season, let’s make an extra effort to show others gratitude—be they co-workers, family, or friends. Not only will your efforts be appreciated, you’re also helping to strengthen bonds, improve relationships, and set the tone for a positive path forward.

THANK YOU for taking the time to read this post. I appreciate it!

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 

HER NEW EBOOK IS CALLED A QUICK GUIDE TO COURAGE

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We’re now two and a half years past the beginning of the COVID pandemic, and the business landscape has been forever altered. One of the most obvious changes is the amount of time we spend in virtual meetings. With many people working at home either full- or part-time, it makes sense to connect in a virtual space. But we all know this way of working can have its pitfalls.

Staring into a screen can be draining (or even anxiety-inducing), it’s more difficult to read body language or have side conversations, and the flow of conversation isn’t always natural. On top of that, many of us are experiencing the phenomenon of “Zoom Fatigue,” where we feel burned out by (seemingly endless) virtual meetings.

How can you create an engaging virtual meeting?

As a leader, it’s highly likely you’ll have to lead virtual meetings. Despite their bad rap, you can make online meetings engaging (and maybe even fun!). I suggest trying the following:

1. Keep them short

Studies show that people begin to experience Zoom Fatigue after 30 minutes of constant screen time. Keep that in mind when you’re prepping a meeting. If the meeting will last longer than 30 minutes, consider building in a stretch break or encouraging everyone to shut off their screens for a couple minutes to regroup.

2. Start strong

If you start the meeting by being unenthusiastic or long-winded, people will quickly lose interest and it will set a bad tone for the rest of the meeting. Instead, try kicking off your meeting with an activity. This could be an icebreaker question, a brief round of trivia (think, five questions), or a game (a word search, “spot the differences” pictures, a collaborative round of Wordle). Get everyone’s energy and enthusiasm up.

3. Make it interactive

Whenever it makes sense to ask for input or feedback, ask it. You might hold a brief brainstorming session, ask for ideas/opinions, or simply ask, “Does anyone have any questions so far?” When you ask for feedback, don’t forget to give people time to answer. One or two seconds is not enough for many people. When you sit in silence for 10 or 15 seconds, you’ll find that people will muster up the courage to speak up.

4. Collaborate

Look for opportunities to include your team in the meeting planning and execution. Perhaps it makes sense for someone to deliver an update, or for someone to give a brief tutorial. Adding in another presenter is a great way to keep people’s interest and help them feel included in the meeting.

We all know virtual meetings can be a drag, but they don’t have to be! Take a little time to prep, get creative, and be mindful of when your team needs a break. By emphasizing interaction and team involvement, your meetings might become something people look forward to—a rare thing in the era of Zoom Fatigue.

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. 

HER NEW EBOOK IS CALLED A QUICK GUIDE TO COURAGE

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In recent years, workplace vulnerability has become something of a trend. Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly, Tommy Spaulding’s heart-led leadership concept, Daniel Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence and other similar publications have opened the door for more vulnerability at all levels of the workplace, including leadership.

On the surface, that’s great! I fully support heart-led leadership and maintaining an open, honest relationship with team members. Problems can arise, however, when displays of emotion are not authentic.

A couple weeks ago, a CEO was given flak on social media for posting a picture of himself in tears, after he fired two of his people. Questions were immediately raised about his authenticity. The guy does run a social media company, so did he know this image would likely generate a buzz? And, most importantly, why was he turning the spotlight on himself, instead of centering his message on the two employees he let go? And why go public with his tears, instead of only sharing his sadness with his team?

These are all valid questions, and they led many people to distrust the CEO’s intentions. Some began labeling this “performative empathy.”

To me, performative empathy means putting on a show, rather than conveying true emotions. You might fake or exaggerate your sadness, anger, or frustration in order to win vulnerability points from your people. This isn’t true empathy, but a performance.

True empathy comes from a place of genuine concern. As a leader, you should authentically care about each person on your team. That care will naturally bubble up from time to time…but do you need to post about it on social media? That’s really not the point. The point is to be a genuine, caring human being with your team. The point is to see them as people—with very real struggles, emotions, and needs—and care about their wellbeing.

To avoid performative empathy, ask yourself:

  • How am I really feeling?
  • Is it appropriate to share these feelings?
  • Does my team need commiseration right now? Motivation? Simple understanding? (Make sure you’re acting in a way that’s appropriate for the situation.)
  • Has enough trust been established so that it feels natural to share my genuine emotions?
  • Does anyone outside of the team need to know how I’m feeling?

Authentic, heart-led leadership is a powerful thing. As long as you, as a leader, are coming from a place of genuine concern, you won’t have to worry about performative empathy. You’ll be practicing actual empathy.

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. 

HER NEW EBOOK IS CALLED A QUICK GUIDE TO COURAGE

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