Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Are You Working Hard or Smart?

She worked very hard, she stayed late every evening, she hardly ever took lunch breaks; she always seemed overwhelmed and overworked. She was working so hard that she generated a good deal of sympathy. “Poor Susie, I feel so bad for her. She has so much to do and never gets out of here on time.” Those were typical comments her coworkers made about her.

I was one of those coworkers, often feeling guilty myself for not working as hard or as long as Susie did. However, after getting to know the situation better, I began to see that Susie did indeed work long hours and expended a great deal of energy, but many of us were accomplishing the same amount of work in much less time because Susie did not use any discipline in planning her work, scheduling her time, or controlling her energy.

Sometimes I even got the idea that she was trying to solicit those expressions of sympathy. It made Susie feel good about herself to be able to say how late she worked last night, to remind us that she didn’t have time to go to lunch today, to be there at the office every morning before the rest of us. I concluded that Susie was doing this in part to convince herself that she was important and valuable.

Many times in my career I’ve worked with people who worked hard but not smart. People who really thrive on their jobs are ones who know how to use that eight- or nine-hour day really well, completing assignments and keeping up with the work in a fairly normal schedule, leaving time for the rest of their lives and achieving a balance in lifestyle.
Have you heard the slogan “Plan your work and work your plan”? I remember having that drilled into me early in my career, and there’s an awful lot of good advice wrapped up in those few words.

Time is our most valuable resource – the one we can never replace once we use it. God will hold us accountable for our use of time. We’ve each been given twenty-four hours each day, but some use those hours more wisely than others.

Time management is a topic that has been covered in depth by many other people, yet few of us really manage our time well. Certainly we cannot say it is from lack of information or help, because most any bookstore or library is a resource for good help in how to plan your work and work your plan. Mostly it’s a matter of just making up your mind to do it. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

What is Your Telephone Image?

A Manager in a large company had hired me to train his department in better customer service skills. He was particularly concerned with improving his employees’ telephone skills. But when I called him, he answered his phone in a very abrupt tone giving only his last name.

After getting to know him, at lunch one day I ventured to suggest that it would be a good idea if he worked on improving his telephone greeting since we were strongly emphasizing the right way to answer the phone in the training sessions. He laughed and said, “Oh, Mary, I’ve answered the phone this way for years; I’m not going to change now.”

I’ve often wondered if the training I did for his employees really made any difference. If he was not willing to work on his own telephone skills, how could he expect those who worked for him to get serious about improving theirs?

What is your telephone image? Have you ever thought about it? You have one whether or not you realize it. Given the amount of time all of us spend on the telephone, you cannot overlook your telephone image if you really want to thrive on your job. A person who creates a consistently professional impression on the telephone is valuable to any organization and has a very marketable skill.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

What are Your Nonverbal Skills Communicating?

“What’s bothering you, Mary?” “Is something wrong? Can I help you?” “If you need someone to talk to, I’ll be glad to listen.”

These were the kind of comments I received as I was walking around my college campus – many years ago! It was my first introduction to the power of nonverbal communication. Gradually after receiving so many of these kinds of comments, I realized that when I was thinking or concentrating on something, I looked worried, bothered, upset, and troubled. I didn’t feel worried, bothered, upset, and troubled, but that was the message I was sending by the look on my face, the way I walked, and other body language.

All of us communicate very loudly without ever saying a word. Think about it: As soon as you see someone, you start to form a strong impression based on what you see before he or she ever says a word to you.

Often we don’t even realize that we have these nonverbal skills, but they can cause perceptions that are not complimentary. Nervous habits make you appear to lack confidence or be inattentive and take away from your professional image. It’s good to check yourself in these small areas because they become part of your overall image. As we know image equals perception, and perception equals reality. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Are Your Vocal Skills Hurting Your Sales?

“But Mary,” he said to me, “I’m the most enthusiastic salesperson in my office. I’m the first one here, the last to leave – I really like my job!” Allen was trying to convince me that he was truly an enthusiastic person even though he didn’t sound enthusiastic. In fact, he sounded like death warmed over because his voice had no inflection to it whatsoever; rather, it was a dull, droning monotone sound.

“I believe you, Allen,” I said, “but I’m not your prospect on the other end of the phone. Those people do not know you are enthusiastic, and when they hear your voice, they are going to jump to the conclusion that you are lifeless and unenthusiastic about your job. That means you start with a mark against you in a business that is competitive and tough at best. Can you afford to do that, especially since your income is based on your sales record?”

You see, Allen had made the same mistake many people make, and that was to assume that he sounded the way he felt. Furthermore, when he sat through my classroom training and I pointed out the need for more enthusiasm in his voice, I could sense that he failed to see the importance of it. However, when he heard a tape recording of his conversations with some of his prospects, his eyes got wider, his mouth dropped open, and that was when he tried to convince me of his enthusiasm.

Allen had never before heard himself the way others hear him. After being confronted with the reality that he had a very unenthusiastic tone of voice, he said to his father, “I couldn’t believe how I sounded in that recording. I really have a monotone voice.”

“You’ve talked like that all your life, Allen,” his father replied.  Allen was shocked.

Allen learned a good lesson that day: People hear the tone of your voice before they hear your words. You can say all the right words in the world, but the wrong voice, those words won’t get you very far. 

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Improving Your Verbal Skills by Choice of Words

I settled into my assigned seat on the airplane – a bulkhead seat, which meant I had no seat in front of me. The flight attendant advised me to put my attaché underneath my seat, which I did. Just as I was buckling up and getting ready for takeoff, a man took the seat behind me. Seeing my attaché, he stood over me, hands on hips, and said in a loud voice, “Move your attaché. It doesn’t belong there, and I don’t want it there. Move it right now!”

I moved my attaché. Actually I wanted to hit him with it, but somehow I resisted.  For the remainder of that flight, however, I sat there with smoke coming out of my ears because of the way this passenger had spoken to me.  Fifteen minutes later I was able to think of some wonderful retorts for him, but I had no opportunity to use them. (I can always think of good lines fifteen minutes late!)

The man’s choice of words had made me angry. I didn’t mind moving my attaché. All he needed to say was, “Would you mind moving your attaché so I can have more foot room” I would have done so gladly and never given tit a second thought. So, it wasn’t the message - “move your attaché” – that bugged me. It was the choice of words.

This kind of scene happens on a regular basis in each of our lives, and particularly in our working worlds. We throw messages around carelessly without thinking about the impact those words will have on the other person and, all too often, without caring about the impact.

Thriving on our jobs will require close attention to our choice of words. Proverbs 21:23 says, “He who guards his mouth and his tongue keeps himself from calamity.” In other words, we save ourselves large amounts of trouble and grief as we get better at choosing words that go down easy and not works that cause others to be upset, defensive, or negative.