Developing Charisma

Posted: October 16, 2013 in Personality Development
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Increasing Your Influence in the Workplace

Have you ever worked with a very charismatic leader?

If so, then it’s likely that almost everyone in the organization liked, trusted, and admired this person.

People listened when she talked, colleagues supported her ideas, and talented people wanted to join her team. In short, everyone wanted to be around this person!

Crayon standing out.
Charisma helps you stand out from the crowd.

Charisma is something that many people believe you’re born with. However, this isn’t the case – you can become more charismatic, and we’ll explore how you can develop charisma in this article.

Defining Charisma

Charisma is a collection of traits and behaviors that make you appeal to other people. The word comes from the Greek word “charis,” which means “grace” or “gift.”

A person who is charismatic is exceptionally engaging, likeable, trustworthy, and, in many cases, a bit “magical.” Larger-than-life personalities like Marilyn Monroe, Martin Luther King, Jr., Oprah Winfrey, and Sir Richard Branson have all been known for their charismatic personalities.

People with charisma are assertive, confident, inspiring, and warm. They make a point of listening to others, and they have an innate grace that often stops people in their tracks.

As such, it’s great to be charismatic in business, even if you are not in a leadership role. When you have charisma, people want to work with you. They’re drawn to your ideas, they trust your opinion, and they’re more likely to be influenced by you.

Charisma and Power

Charisma is a form of “referent power,” which social psychologists John French and Bertram Raven identified as one of the five bases of power. Referent power is power that you have because other people like and respect you.

With that in mind, remember that charisma can be misused. Don’t use it to manipulate others into doing something that is against their interests.

Developing Charisma

Charisma is nothing more than a set of traits and behaviors that, when put together, turn you into a magnetic, engaging personality. Plenty of research shows that you can learn and perfect these traits.

For instance, studies have shown that leaders who are willing to endure hardship are seen as more charismatic by their teams, and people who have a positive outlook are more likely to have charisma. Also, what people choose to say can affect how charismatic they are.

Tip:
A common misconception about charisma is that it is closely linked with physical attractiveness. Although this can help you to be liked in some situations, it’s certainly not a requirement for being charismatic.

Ultimately, beauty is only skin deep. Your actions and beliefs can matter far more to thoughtful people than how you look.

It takes time and work to develop charisma, so pay attention to several areas. Look at developing charisma as a personal journey, and focus on one area at a time.

Let’s look at these areas in turn:

Body Language and Presence

Body language and “presence” are important aspects of charisma. Without saying a word, the right body language can transmit strength, warmth, and likability.

Start by standing up straight, with your shoulders back and your head up. Good posture not only makes you look confident and in control, but it also makes you feel this way!

Research shows that charismatic people tend to be very positive, so do your best to maintain a positive outlook.

Presence is a bit different from body language: this has to do with the quality of your attention. When you have presence, you devote all of your attention to the person you’re with, and you don’t let your mind wander to something else. You give yourself, and your attention, solely to that person.

To develop presence, start by learning active listening skills. When someone is speaking, make sure that you devote your full attention to what the person is saying, and don’t worry about what you’re going to say next. Do your best to stay in the moment and stay aware. You may be surprised by the impact this has on your relationships!

Helping Others Feel Good

Charismatic people make others feel great. Instead of focusing on their own success, they spend a great deal of time and energy trying to lift others up. By helping the people around them, they create an environment of positive energy that others are naturally drawn to.

You can do this by giving help and expertise whenever people need it. Be humble about your achievements and give people sincere praise and gratitude when they do something good.

You can also help others by becoming a mentor, by coaching less-experienced team members, and by practicing random acts of kindness like bringing in muffins to the office or making coffee for a busy colleague.

A genuine smile, when appropriate, can also help to make people feel good.

Note:
Sincerity is incredibly important in developing charisma. People will notice if you’re just “going through the motions” or are giving out insincere compliments. Make sure that you stay authentic as you work on your skills.

Emotional Intelligence and Empathy

There is a strong link between high emotional intelligence and charisma. Leaders with high emotional intelligence are aware of their own emotions, as well as of the emotions of those around them. This awareness allows them to stay cool under pressure and give people what they need emotionally.

Empathy is an important part of this. When you’re able to understand other people’s perspectives, wants, and needs, you open the door for greater understanding and connection.

Develop empathy and emotional intelligence by keeping your emotions under control, especially when you’re tired or stressed. Also, pay attention to others – by picking up on their body language and what they say, you’ll be able to identify what they want and need, and then take the appropriate action.

Self-Confidence and Assertiveness

Charismatic people have confidence, and they know how to be assertive.

Start by building self-confidence. You can do this by using your strengths more at work, by setting and achieving small goals, and by developing the knowledge and skills that you need to do your job effectively. Also, develop your public speaking skills, so that you can speak clearly and confidently in front of a group.

Assertiveness is slightly different. When you’re assertive, you communicate your wants and needs, while still respecting the wants and needs of other people. When you’re assertive, you show personal power, but you use this power with kindness, respect, and dignity.

Assertiveness and self-confidence go hand-in-hand. Once you’ve built your self-confidence, you can work on assertiveness by recognizing your wants and needs in every situation and also by recognizing the wants and needs of others. Stand up appropriately for what you need, but do this respectfully.

Key Points

Charisma is a collection of traits and behaviors that help you appeal to other people. Charismatic people are often successful, and people are naturally drawn to them. They retain the best talent in their teams, and people listen to their ideas.

Because charisma is a collection of behaviors, you can learn it. Work on developing empathy, self-confidence, and assertiveness. Be aware of what your body language is saying, and do your best to give people a genuine smile when you’re around them.

Also, make sure that you use your charisma the right way: don’t use it to influence someone to do something that is against his or her own best interests.

In business, we seem to focus less on management skills than the more glamorous and exciting work of leadership. However, while leaders may bring us vision, inspiration and challenge, these things need proper support and efficient implementation. That’s what the practice of management is about.

Managers are responsible for making sure things are done right. Therefore, effective management is an essential complement to effective leadership – and is vital for organizational success.

How Good Are Your Management Skills? Are you getting the best out of your team?

And, just as the importance of management is wide ranging, so is its scope. Managers must have an extensive set of skills – from planning and delegation to communication and motivation. Because the skill set is so wide, it’s tempting to build skills in the areas of management that you’re already comfortable with. But, for your long-term success, it’s wise to analyze your skills in all of the areas related to effective management – and then challenge yourself to make improvements in all areas.

This quiz helps you quickly identify areas of strength and weakness, so that you can capitalize on the former and manage the latter. We then direct you to resources that you can use to develop your skills still further.

How Good Are Your Management Skills?

Take this test online by visiting http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newTMM_28.htm, or on paper by circling the number in the column that most applies. If you take the test online, your results will be calculated for you automatically.

Statement Not
at all
Rarely Some
times
Often Very
Often
1. When I have a problem, I try to solve it myself before asking my boss what to do. 1 2 3 4 5
2. When I delegate work, I give it to whoever has the most time available. 5 4 3 2 1
3. I follow up with team members whenever I see that their behavior has a negative impact on customer service. 1 2 3 4 5
4. I make decisions following careful analysis, rather than relying on gut instinct. 1 2 3 4 5
5. I let my team members figure out for themselves how best to work together – teams are a work in progress! 5 4 3 2 1
6. I wait before disciplining a team member, so that people have a chance to correct their behaviors for themselves. 5 4 3 2 1
7. Technical skills are the most important skills that I need to be an effective manager. 5 4 3 2 1
8. I spend time talking with my team about what’s going well and what needs improving. 1 2 3 4 5
9. In meetings, I take on the role of moderator/facilitator when necessary, and I help my team reach a better understanding of the issue or reach consensus. 1 2 3 4 5
10. I fully understand how the business processes in my department operate, and I’m working to eliminate bottlenecks. 1 2 3 4 5
11. When putting together a team, I consider the skills I need – and then I seek people who best fit my criteria. 1 2 3 4 5
12. I do all that I can to avoid conflict in my team. 5 4 3 2 1
13. I try to motivate people within my team by tailoring my approach to motivation to match each individual’s needs. 1 2 3 4 5
14. When my team makes a significant mistake, I update my boss on what has happened, and then I think of it as an important lesson learned. 1 2 3 4 5
15. When conflict occurs within a new team, I accept it as an inevitable stage in the team development process. 1 2 3 4 5
16. I talk to team members about their individual goals, and I link these to the goals of the entire organization. 1 2 3 4 5
17. If I’m putting a team together, I select people with similar personalities, ages, time with the company, and other characteristics. 5 4 3 2 1
18. I think that the statement “If you want a job done well, do it yourself” is true. 5 4 3 2 1
19. I talk with team members as individuals to ensure that they’re happy and productive. 1 2 3 4 5
20. I brief my team members so that they know what’s going on around them in the organization 1 2 3 4 5

Score Interpretation

Now add up the scores you’ve circled.

My score overall is: out of 100

 

Score Comment
20-46 You need to improve your management skills urgently. If you want to be effective in a leadership role, you must learn how to organize and monitor your team’s work. Now is the time to start developing these skills to increase your team’s success! Find out how below.
47-73 You’re on your way to becoming a good manager. You’re doing some things really well, and these are likely the things you feel comfortable with. Now it’s time to work on the skills that you’ve been avoiding. Focus on the areas where your score was low, and figure out what you can do to make the improvements you need.
74-100 You’re doing a great job managing your team. Now you should concentrate on improving your skills even further. In what areas did you score a bit low? That’s where you can develop improvement goals. Also, think about how you can take advantage of these skills to reach your career goals.

Effective management requires a wide range of skills, and each of these skills complements the others. Your goal should be to develop and maintain all of these skills, so that you can help your team accomplish its objectives efficiently and effectively. Read on for ideas and resources that you can use to do this.

A Model of Effective Management

Our quiz is based on eight essential skill areas where managers should focus their efforts. By covering these basics, you’ll enjoy more success as a team manager:

  • Understanding team dynamics and encouraging good relationships.
  • Selecting and developing the right people.
  • Delegating effectively.
  • Motivating people.
  • Managing discipline and dealing with conflict.
  • Communicating.
  • Planning, making decisions, and problem solving.
  • Avoiding common managerial mistakes.

We’ll explore each of these in more detail.

Understanding Team Dynamics and Encouraging Good Relationships
(Questions 5, 15, 17)

For statements in this category, fill in your scores in the table below, and then calculate your total.

Score
Statement 5
Statement 15
Statement 17
Total Out of 15

Good management means understanding how teams operate. It’s worth remembering that teams usually follow a certain pattern of development: forming, norming, storming, and performing. It’s important to encourage and support people through this process, so that you can help your team become fully effective as quickly as possible.

When forming teams, managers must create a balance so that there’s a diverse set of skills, personalities, and perspectives. You may think it’s easier to manage a group of people who are likely to get along, but truly effective teams invite many viewpoints, and use their differences to be creative and innovative.

Here, your task is to develop the skills needed to steer those differences in a positive direction. This is why introducing a team charter and knowing how to resolve team conflict (members) are so useful for managing your team effectively.

Selecting and Developing the Right People (Questions 11, 17)

For statements in this category, fill in your scores in the table below, and then calculate your total.

Score
Statement 11
Statement 17
Total Out of 10

Finding great new team members, and developing the skills needed for your team’s success is another important part of team formation.

You can improve your recruiting skills with our Recruiting Skills Bite-Sized Training pack (members), and with our articles on Hiring People – Questions to Ask (members), InBox Assessment, Using Recruitment Tests (members) and Aptitude Testing (members).

And you can develop people’s skills with our articles on, among others, Successful Induction (members), Understanding Developmental Needs (members), Training Needs Assessment (members), and the GROW Model. You’ll also find our Bite-Sized Training session on Mentoring Skills (members) useful.

Delegating Effectively (Question 2, 18)

For statements in this category, fill in your scores in the table below, and then calculate your total.

Score
Statement 2
Statement 18
Total Out of 10

Having the right people with the right skills isn’t sufficient for a team’s success. Managers must also know how to get the job done efficiently. Delegation is the key to this. Some managers, especially those who earned their positions based on their technical expertise, try to do most of the work themselves. They think that, because they’re responsible for the work, they should do it themselves to make sure it’s done right.

Effective managers recognize that by assigning work to the right people (not just those with the most time available), and clearly outlining expectations, teams can accomplish much more. But it’s often difficult to trust others to do the job. As a manager, remember that when your team members have the right skills, training and motivation, you can usually trust them to get the work done right.

Find out your strengths and weaknesses related to delegation by taking quiz How Well Do You Delegate?

Motivating People (Question 13, 19)

For statements in this category, fill in your scores in the table below, and then calculate your total.

Score
Statement 13
Statement 19
Total Out of 10

Another necessary management skill is motivating others. It’s one thing to motivate yourself, but it’s quite another to motivate someone else.

The key thing to remember is that motivation is personal: we’re all motivated by different things, and we all have different levels of personal motivation. So, getting to know your team members on a personal level allows you to motivate your people better. Providing feedback (members) on a regular basis is a very powerful strategy to help you stay informed about what’s happening with individual team members. You can test your motivation skills with our quiz, and use your answers to develop your skills further.

Managing Discipline and Dealing with Conflict (Questions 3, 6, 12)

For statements in this category, fill in your scores in the table below, and then calculate your total.

Score
Statement 3
Statement 6
Statement 12
Total Out of 15

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, there are problems with individual performance. As a manager, you have to deal with these promptly. If you don’t discipline, you risk negative impacts on the rest of the team as well as your customers, as poor performance typically impacts customer service, and it hurts the team and everything that the team has accomplished. It’s very demotivating to work beside someone who consistently fails to meet expectations, so if you tolerate it, the rest of the team will likely suffer. In our article on team management skills (members), we explore this issue in further detail and give you some examples.

Team performance will also suffer when differences between individual team members turn into outright conflict, and it’s your job as team manager to facilitate a resolution. Read our article on Resolving Team Conflict (members) for a three-step process for doing this. However, conflict can be positive when it highlights underlying structural problems – make sure that you recognize conflict and deal with its causes, rather than just suppressing its symptoms or avoiding it.

Communicating (Question 8, 9, 16, 20)

For statements in this category, fill in your scores in the table below, and then calculate your total.

Score
Statement 8
Statement 9
Statement 16
Statement 20
Total Out of 20

An element that’s common to all of these management skills is effective communication. This is critical to any position you hold, but as a manager, it’s especially important (you can test your communication skills with our quiz here). You need to let your team know what’s happening and keep them informed as much as possible. Team briefing (members) is a specific communication skill that many managers should improve. Also, develop the ability to facilitate effectively, so that you can guide your team to a better understanding and serve as a moderator when necessary.

Planning, Problem Solving and Decision-Making (Questions 4 and 10)

For statements in this category, fill in your scores in the table below, and then calculate your total.

Score
Statement 4
Statement 10
Total Out of 10

Many managers are very comfortable with planning, problem solving and decision making, given that they’re often skilled specialists who’ve been promoted because of their knowledge and analytical abilities. As such, one of the most important issues that managers experience is that they focus so intensely on these skills when they think about self-development that they fail to develop their people skills and team management skills. Make sure that you don’t focus on these skills too much!

However, if you need to develop these skills, see our major sections on Problem Solving, Decision Making, and Project Management. You’ll find many rich skills improvement resources in these areas.

Avoiding Common Managerial Mistakes (Questions 1, 7, 14)

For statements in this category, fill in your scores in the table below, and then calculate your total.

Score
Statement 1
Statement 7
Statement 14
Total Out of 15

Good communication helps you develop facilitation skills, and it also helps you avoid some of the most common problems for managers. Some of these common mistakes are thinking that you can rely on your technical skills alone, asking your boss to solve your problems, putting your boss in the awkward position of having to defend you, and not keeping your boss informed. Our article on Team Management Skills (members) highlights what to do to avoid these, and other managerial problems that you should be aware of.

As we said earlier, management and leadership are closely linked, and each complements the other. To learn more about leadership and to assess your leadership skills, complete our quiz How Good Are Your Leadership Skills?

Key Points

You need to develop and improve your managerial skills on an ongoing basis as your career develops and as you meet new managerial challenges.

Whether you manage a department or a project team, it’s important to know how to get the work done right. When you’re asked to achieve something with the help of others, it’s complex – and you spend much of your time managing relationships instead of doing the actual work. So, you must develop not only your technical skills, but your management skills as well.

Delegating, motivating, communicating, and understanding team dynamics are some of the key skills needed. With those skills, along with patience and a strong sense of balance, you can become a very effective manager.

Mentoring from a Mentor’s Perspective

Building a high-performing team is a key part of being an effective leader. And this includes helping individuals within your team learn, grow, and become more effective in their jobs; which is why mentoring is such an important leadership skill.

But what does mentoring involve? And what do you need to consider before setting up mentoring relationships? In this article, we’ll highlight some things a mentor does and doesn’t do, and we’ll help you decide how far mentoring is right for you and your team.

Motivate yourself! Mentoring is a key element in developing your people

What is Mentoring?

Mentoring is a relationship between two people with the goal of professional and personal development. The “mentor” is usually an experienced individual who shares knowledge, experience and advice with a less experienced person, or “mentee.”

Mentors become trusted advisers and role models – people who have “been there” and “done that.” They support and encourage their mentees by offering suggestions and knowledge, both general and specific. The goal is to help mentees improve their skills and, hopefully, advance their careers.

What are the Benefits of Mentoring?

Mentoring can be rewarding for you, both personally and professionally. Through it, not only can you build a stronger and more successful team, but you can also improve your leadership and communication skills, learn new perspectives and ways of thinking, and gain a strong sense of personal satisfaction.

For potential mentees, the benefits of mentoring can be huge. They get focused coaching and training from a skilled, knowledgeable and experienced individual, and they also get assistance and advice in navigating the many tricky situations that can arise in the workplace. This can help them work more effectively, overcome obstacles, and break through blockages that would otherwise slow or stall their careers.

But even if you understand the benefits of mentoring and it sounds like a great idea, you have to decide whether this sort of time-consuming, in-depth relationship is right for you and for the person you’re thinking of mentoring. If the mentoring relationship has arisen informally and spontaneously, then the chances are that things are fine. However, if you’re taking a more formal approach to mentoring, it’s worth exploring your reasons for mentoring and asking yourself whether you want to take this type of commitment further.

To do so, ask yourself these questions:

  • Is mentoring the best way of developing the knowledge, skills and attitudes the potential mentee needs? Or would other approaches be quicker or more effective?
  • How will mentoring contribute toward your own career goals, and to the goals of your team and your organization?
  • Is mentoring a particular individual a good use of your time? And are you comfortable that you’ll be able to devote time to him or her on a regular basis?
  • Do you have knowledge, skills and experience that the mentee is likely to find helpful?
  • How much personal satisfaction are you likely to get from the relationship? Does this justify your involvement? And do you like the individual enough to want to invest time in mentoring him or her on a regular basis?
  • In what areas are you willing to help? Are there any areas that you don’t want to go near?

What You Should Consider

Although you may want to jump right in with both feet, make sure that you also think about these practical considerations:

  • Formality of approach – Do you want to take a relaxed, ad hoc approach to mentoring, or do you want to approach sessions in a more structured, formal way?
  • Frequency of contact – How much time can you commit to this relationship?
    • Can you meet (however you do that) weekly? Biweekly? Once a month?
    • How long can you spend in each meeting? Half an hour? An hour? More?
    • Do you want to be available between “formal” sessions?
  • Method of contact – Would you prefer face-to-face meetings, phone calls, or emails? If you were to use phone calls, who places the call?
  • Duration of partnership – Do you want to limit the length of the mentoring partnership? Do you want to set regular intervals to review whether you’re both happy with the relationship, or do you just want to informally review progress on an ongoing basis?
  • Confidentiality – How will you approach confidential business information? Think of ways to speak about general concepts and situations while maintaining confidentiality.

Where to Draw the Line

When developing a mentoring relationship, make sure you have clear boundaries of what you can and cannot do for the mentee.

Answer the above questions to help yourself define the boundaries for the relationship. Then, when you’re meeting, you’ll better understand your own mindset – what areas you’re interested in covering, and what you will and will not do.

Take the lead on where you’ll allow the mentoring relationship to go and what ground you’ll cover. As a general guide, focus on your expertise and experience. If anything is beyond your skills and abilities, refer the mentee to another expert.

For example, if a discussion about human resources issues raises a concern about employment law, consider sending your mentee to an internal expert or attorney. If conversations about work problems lead into personal or family problems, the mentee may need more focused professional help from a psychologist or therapist.

As a mentor, you can become the mentee’s confidante and adviser. You may be called upon to be a “sounding board” for all sorts of issues and concerns. So know in advance how you’re going to deal with difficult situations.

Key Points

By mentoring effectively, you can do a lot to improve the performance of key individuals within your team, thereby helping yourself reach team and organizational goals. Mentoring can also give you a great overall sense of personal satisfaction, knowing that you’re helping someone else learn and grow on a professional and personal level.

Before you begin a mentoring partnership, it’s useful to think about your reasons for becoming a mentor and the practical considerations and logistics of such a relationship. If you decide that mentoring is right for you, the time and effort that you put into it can reap great rewards that far exceed your expectations.

Find the Drive You Need to Succeed

How self-motivated do you feel? And how hard do you push yourself to get things done?

Wanting to do something and motivating yourself to do it are two different things. So, what’s the difference between those who never reach their goals, year after year, and those who achieve one goal after another? Often, it’s self-motivation.

Self-motivation is the force that keeps pushing us to go on – it’s our internal drive to produce, develop, and achieve. When you think you’re ready to quit something, or you just don’t know how to start, self-motivation is what pushes you forward.

Motivate yourself! Find your sources of energy.

With self-motivation, you’ll learn and grow – regardless of the specific situation. That’s why it’s so fundamentally important for achieving your goals, realizing your dreams, and succeeding.

How To Boost Your Self-Motivation

Self-motivation is complex. It’s linked to how much initiative you show in setting challenging goals for yourself; your belief that you have the skills and abilities needed to achieve those goals; and your expectation that if you put in enough hard work, you will succeed (or at least be “in the running”, if it’s a competitive situation).

Four factors are necessary to build the strongest levels of self-motivation:

  1. Self-confidence and self-efficacy.
  2. Positive thinking.
  3. Focus, and strong goals.
  4. A motivating environment.

By working on all of these together, you should quickly improve your self-motivation. Let’s look at each of these factors individually.

1. Self-Confidence and Self-Efficacy

Part of being self-motivated is having good levels of self-assurance, self-confidence, and self-efficacy. More on these below!

Being highly self-assured means you set challenging goals for yourself, and it also makes you more resilient when you encounter setbacks. If you don’t believe in yourself, you’ll be much more likely to think, “I knew I couldn’t do this” instead of “This one failure isn’t going to stop me!”

Albert Bandura, a psychologist from Stanford University, defined self-efficacy as a belief in our own ability to succeed, and in our ability to achieve the goals we set for ourselves. This belief has a huge impact on your approach to goal setting, and on your choices as you work toward those goals.

According to Bandura’s research, people with high self-efficacy tend to view difficult goals as a challenge, whereas people with low self-efficacy are likely to view the same goals as being beyond their abilities, and might not even attempt to achieve them. Self-efficacy also contributes to the amount of effort a person puts into a goal in the first place, and how much he or she perseveres despite setbacks.

By developing a general level of self-confidence in yourself, you will not only believe you can succeed, but you’ll also recognize and enjoy the successes you’ve already had. That, in turn, will inspire you to build on those successes. The momentum created by self-confidence is hard to beat.

Take these steps to build your sense of self-assuredness, self-efficacy and self-confidence:

  • Reflect on the achievements in your life. Take pride in them.
  • Examine your strengths, so that you understand what you can build on.
  • Determine what other people see as your strengths and key capabilities.
  • Set achievable goals for yourself, work to achieve them, and enjoy that achievement.
  • Seek out mentors and other people who display the competencies, skills, and attributes you want to develop, and learn from them.

As you begin to recognize how much you’ve already achieved – and understand how much potential you have – you’ll develop the confidence you need to set goals and achieve the things you desire. The more you look for reasons to believe in yourself, the easier it will be to find ways to motivate yourself.

2. Positive Thinking, and Positive Thinking About the Future

“Your life today is the result of your attitudes and choices in the past. Your life tomorrow will be the result of your attitudes and the choices you make today.” - Author Unknown

Positive thinking is closely related to self-confidence as a factor in self-motivation. It’s important to look at things positively, especially when things aren’t going as planned and you’re ready to give up.

If you think that things are going to go wrong, or that you won’t succeed, this can influence things in such a way that your predictions come true. This is particularly the case if you need to work hard to achieve success, or if you need to persuade others to support you in order to succeed. In these situations, your thoughts can have a major influence on whether you succeed or fail, so make sure those thoughts are “on your side.”

Positive thinking also helps you think about an attractive future that you want to realize. When you expect positive results, your choices will be more positive, and you’ll be less likely to leave outcomes to fate or chance. Having a vivid picture of success, combined with positive thinking, helps you bridge the gap between wanting something, and going out to get it.

To apply “the power of positive thinking”, do the following:

  • Become aware of your thoughts, positive and negative. Write down these down throughout the day in a diary or log book.
  • Challenge the truth of your negative thoughts, rationally and objectively. Where they’re wrong, replace them with positive ones.
  • Create a strong, vivid and enjoyable picture of what it will be like to achieve your goals.
  • Develop affirmations or statements that you can repeat to yourself throughout the day. These statements will remind you of what you want to achieve, and why you will achieve it.
  • Practice positive thinking until you automatically think about yourself and the world in a positive way, every day.

3. Strong Goals, and Focus

As we’ve said above, a key part of building self-motivation is to set strong goals. These give you focus, a clear sense of direction, and the self-confidence that comes from recognizing your own achievement.

First, determine your direction through effective goal setting.
When you set a goal, you make a promise to yourself. Part of the strength of this is that it gives you a clear direction; part is that you’ve made this promise to yourself, and you’ll want to keep this promise; and part is that it’s a challenge, and it’s fun to try to meet that challenge!

But don’t set just any goal. According to leading researcher Edwin Locke, your goal should have the following characteristics:

  • Clarity – Effective goals are clear, measurable, specific, and based on behavior, not outcomes.
  • Challenge – Goals should be difficult enough to be interesting, but not so difficult that you can’t reach them.
  • Commitment – Goals should be attainable, and should be relevant – that is, they should contribute in a significant way to the major objectives you’re trying to achieve.
  • Regularity of Feedback – Set your goals in such a way that you can monitor your progress regularly. This helps you maintain your sense of momentum and enthusiasm, and enjoy your progress towards those goals.
  • Sufficient Respect for Complexity – If the goal involves complex work, make sure that you don’t over-commit yourself. Complex work can take an unpredictably long time to complete, particularly if you have to learn how to do the task “on the job”.

When you have a variety of goals, be sure to schedule your time and resources effectively. You can achieve the “focus” part of self-motivation by prioritizing effectively, and by establishing a schedule that will help you succeed. It doesn’t make sense to work until you’re exhausted, or to flit from one goal to another without fully achieving any.

By using tools like the Urgent/Important Matrix and the Action Priority Matrix (explained at Mind Tools), you can quickly and easily see how each goal activity fits into the bigger picture of your overall objectives. If you fully understand your priorities, you probably won’t feel as pressured to do everything at once. This can reduce stress and help you to concentrate on the most important strategies.

4. Motivating Environment

The final thing to do to maximize motivation is to put yourself into an environment that supports and reinforces success, including surrounding yourself with people and resources that will feed your motivation to succeed. These are external factors – they’ll help you get motivated from the outside, which is different from the internal motivation we’ve discussed so far. However, the more factors you have working for you, the better!

You can’t rely on these “environmental” or outside elements aloneto motivate you, but you can use them for extra support. Try the following:

  • Look for team work opportunities. Working in a team makes you accountable to others.
  • Ask your boss for specific targets and objectives that will help you measure your success.
  • Ask for assignments that you know you’ll find interesting and exciting.
  • Set up some goals that you can easily achieve. Quick wins are great for getting you motivated!
  • Buddy up with people who you trust to be supportive, and ask them to help keep you accountable.
  • Try not to work by yourself too much. Balance the amount of time you work from home with time spent working with others.

When you start your self-motivation program, you may tend to rely heavily on these external factors. As you get more comfortable and confident with self-motivation, you’ll probably use them only as needed, and for a little extra help.

Key Points:

Self-motivation doesn’t come naturally to everyone. And even those who are highly self-motivated need some extra help every now and then!

Build your self-motivation by practicing goal-setting skills, and combining these with positive thinking, the creation of powerful visions of success, and the building of high levels of self-efficacy and self-confidence.

The attitude you adopt and your belief about your likelihood of success often predict whether or not you actually succeed. Set goals, and work hard to achieve them. Examine ways to improve your self-motivation, and regularly reassess your motivation levels. After all, if you work actively to keep your internal motivation high, you’re much more likely to bring about your ideal future!

Keeping Your Team Happy Without Cash

The recession has brought many new or previously little-used terms into our everyday language – from “subprime mortgages,” “toxic assets,” and “quantitative easing” to “cash for clunkers” and, of course, “zero bonuses.”

It’s a clever phrase, because technically, a zero bonus isn’t a bonus at all. But the words give the impression that companies aren’t breaking past promises to pay bonuses (albeit bonuses dependent on company performance), while at the same time they give hope to workers that their bonuses will actually have some value in the future.

Image Cash is often no longer available as an incentive.

The practice of paying bonuses is not dead. In the financial sector, many banks have continued to pay bonuses – they use the somewhat circular argument that they need bonuses to retain good people because their competitors are paying bonuses. But in some companies and industries, bonuses are not an option.

So, if you’re a manager in this situation, what are your options for motivating people without cash bonuses?

In this article, we’ll look at some creative strategies for motivating and rewarding members of your team in a down economy.

Tip:
Some jobs attract large bonuses. Others don’t. Significant bonuses are usually awarded when an individual’s exceptional actions or initiative have a direct impact on the organization’s revenue, which is why top salespeople will typically receive large bonuses.

By contrast, even senior managers in machine organizations may receive little in the way of bonuses – the success of the organization comes from people doing their everyday jobs smoothly and efficiently, and is not necessarily attributable to the exceptional initiative or performance of any one individual.

Non-Cash Financial Incentives

One of the most common non-bonus ways to reward and retain star employees is with stock or stock options. So, what’s the difference between them?

  • Shares/Stocks – Many companies offer workers a set number of shares as a reward for good performance, or as a sign-on bonus. Workers can do whatever they want with these stocks: sell them, or hold onto them and hope that the value will increase.
  • Stock Options – Stock or share options give workers the right to buy stock in the future at a predetermined price. For instance, a company may promise to sell its people shares at a price of $45 one year from now. If they work hard and the share price is $75 after a year, then those workers can buy the stocks at the lower price – and then immediately sell them for a big profit.

Now, there are advantages and disadvantages to offering shares and options.

One of the biggest advantages has to do with worker motivation. The Employee Ownership Foundation recently conducted its 18th annual Economic Performance Survey. They found that 88.2% of the companies surveyed stated that their employee ownership programs helped the company. And, in a study they conducted with Rutgers University, they found that employee ownership programs increased sales, on average, by 2.3% per year. These programs also helped to increase staff retention compared with companies that did not have such programs. When workers feel they have a stake in the company’s future, they’re usually willing to work harder and stay in their jobs. This can be a big benefit for organizations.

Also, stocks and stock options are a great way to save money, especially during an economic downturn. Offering shares to workers allows companies to reward their teams without the financial cost of bonuses. This type of reward also helps align personal goals with company goals. After all, people get a bigger reward if the company does better, so it only makes sense that they work harder.

One big disadvantage, though, is that stocks and stock options aren’t as attractive in a down economy, simply because people are so unsure of what the market is going to do. After all, what do workers do if the company offering a $45 stock option does poorly later in the year, so that when the team is able buy the shares, they’re only worth $25? In that case, no one wins.

Another disadvantage is that existing shareholders – the owners of the company – often profoundly dislike stock grants and stock options. After all, if managers create new shareholders, they’re diluting existing shareholdings – i.e. reducing the share of any profit that the existing shareholders will get.

Existing shareholders will only be happy for managers to award stock options if they, the existing shareholders, are likely to receive more as a result than they’d lose were it not done. There are only certain types of business and certain business situations in which this is likely to occur.

Tip:
If you’d like a more in-depth look at performance management, and how to align team goals with corporate goals, see articles on Performance Management and KPIs and Understanding Strategic Compensation.

Non-Financial Bonuses

If you’re in a company that used to pay bonuses but doesn’t do so now, there are many other motivational rewards you can offer.

Start by finding out what your team members really value as individuals, because this might not be what you think. By taking the time to determine what’s really important to your people, you can offer rewards that really mean something to them.

Here are a few non-financial bonuses that companies can offer their people in this down economy:

  • Flexible scheduling – Many people, especially those with families, would really appreciate a shorter or more flexible workweek. So, consider offering people within your team the option of working four 10-hour days, or of cutting back on their hours entirely. This might be a welcome reward. Also, letting them leave early on certain days is another possibility.
  • Additional vacation time – Many companies offer their people increased vacation time, as well as extended time off (sabbaticals), instead of bonus checks/cheques. People can use this time to spend with family, take a long trip, or even go back to school.
  • Telecommuting options – If your company doesn’t need everyone in the office every day, why not allow trusted team members to work at home? Working from home is often more comfortable, and it can save workers money on gas and lunches out.
  • Additional training – Some people might really value improving their education or work skills. Offering them classes or extra training might be appreciated.
  • A relaxed environment – Some companies are starting to let their team members go without shoes. (No, we’re not kidding!) Letting workers walk around in their stocking feet (keeping their shoes at their desks in case clients come in) is not only relaxing, but it also helps them feel more “at home” with one another. You might think about relaxing the dress code as well.
  • Volunteer time – Many companies offer their team members one or more paid days off each month to volunteer at an organization that really means something to them. This is a great way to raise morale, and help your local community at the same time.

It’s important to make your team aware of the financial value of these benefits. For instance, if you offer your team an additional week of vacation, how much is this worth to each of them? Let them know the numbers so they can appreciate how much these benefits are “worth.”

When Your Team Wants Cash, But Can’t Have It

Inevitably, some team members will be really upset that they can’t have a “traditional” financial bonus, particularly if they’re depending on it financially. And while you must acknowledge their feelings, it’s important to be honest with them.

Make sure workers understand the company’s financial situation. The more your team knows about what’s going on, the more likely they’ll be to make allowances. So, communicate openly.

Work with your staff. If you really want to retain someone, then examine how you can give that person more money without a bonus. For example, could you provide a company phone or car, saving the person money?

If you have to, be totally – and brutally – honest. If people know that their bonuses will cost themselves (or one of their colleagues) their jobs, they might realize that the bonus is not that important after all.

Tip:
Be aware that you risk losing genuine star performers to your competitors if you stop paying bonuses. You either need to accept this, or you may need to fund an exceptional bonus, recognizing all of the anger and dissatisfaction that this may cause to other people. This can be a painful dilemma for managers!

Key Points

When the economy is struggling, it’s even more important to retain your best workers. Make sure they’re happy – there are plenty of ways to keep them motivated without a bonus check/cheque.

Stocks or stock options are always a great idea if your company can offer them, but this alternative might be less appealing when the market is down. Other rewards – like flexible scheduling or additional vacation time – might motivate your team more, and they won’t cost your company much, particularly if business is slow.

Identifying sources of short-term stress

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Log your stress events.

You’re tired. You’ve had a hard commute. The office receptionist was grumpy and curt when you arrived at work, and you’ve already dealt with two minor crises today. Then a member of your team spills his coffee over some important work.

Should you have snapped at him? Probably not, but it was the “straw that broke the camel’s back” at a time when you were really stressed.

So how can you reduce the levels of stress you experience, so that you can deal with problems in a calm, gracious way; and improve the quality of your life at the same time?

This is where Stress Diaries are useful for understanding the causes of short-term stress that you experience. They help you target and manage the most significant sources of stress in your life, and they help you think about how you handle stress, so that you can learn to deal with it better.

Introducing Stress Diaries

The idea behind Stress Diaries is that, on a regular basis, you record information about the stresses you are experiencing, so that you can identify repeating patterns and then manage them. This is important because these stresses often flit in and out of our minds without getting the attention and focus that they deserve.

As well as helping you capture and analyze the most common sources of stress in your life, Stress Diaries help you to understand:

  • The causes of stress in more detail.
  • How much stress you can tolerate before your performance starts to suffer.
  • How you react to stress, and whether your reactions are appropriate and useful.

Stress Diaries, therefore, give you the important information that you need to manage stress.

Using the Tool:

Stress Diaries are useful in that they gather information regularly and routinely, over a period of time. This helps you to separate the common, routine stresses from those that only occur occasionally. By targeting repeating or major sources of stress, you can hopefully significantly reduce overall stress levels with a minimum amount of effort.

Download free Stress Diary template and make regular entries in your Stress Diary, for example, every hour. (If you have any difficulty remembering to do this, set an alarm to remind you to make your next diary entry.) Also make an entry in your Stress Diary after each incident that is stressful enough for you to feel that it is significant.

Aim to keep the diary for several days or a week. Every time you make an entry, record the following information:

  • The date and time of the entry.
  • The most recent stressful event you have experienced since the last entry.
  • How happy you feel now, using a subjective assessment on a scale of -10 (the most unhappy you have ever been) to +10 (the happiest you have been). As well as this, write down the mood you are feeling now.
  • How effectively you are working now (this is a subjective assessment, on a scale of 0 to 10). A 0 here would show complete ineffectiveness, while a 10 would show the greatest effectiveness you have ever achieved.
  • The fundamental cause of the stress (being as honest and objective as possible).

You may also want to note:

  • How stressed you feel now, again on a subjective scale of 0 to 10. As before, 0 here would be the most relaxed you have ever been, while 10 would show the greatest stress you have ever experienced.
  • The symptom you felt (e.g. “butterflies in your stomach”, anger, headache, raised pulse rate, sweaty palms, etc.).
  • How well you handled the event: Did your reaction help solve the problem, or did it inflame it?

Analyzing the Diary

At the end of the period, analyze the diary in the following ways:

  • First, look at the different stresses you experienced during the time you kept your diary. List the types of stress that you experienced by frequency, with the most frequent stresses at the top of the list.

    Next, prepare a second list with the most unpleasant stresses at the top of the list and the least unpleasant at the bottom.

    Looking at your lists of stresses, those at the top of each list are the most important ones to deal with.

    Working through these, look at your assessments of their underlying causes, and your appraisal of how well you handled the stressful event. Do these show you areas where you handled stress poorly, and could improve your stress management skills? If so, list these.

  • Next, look through your diary at the situations that cause you stress. List these.
  • Finally, look at how you felt when you were under stress. Look at how it affected your happiness and your effectiveness, understand how you behaved, and think about how you felt.

Having analyzed your diary, you should fully understand what the most important and frequent sources of stress are in your life. You should also know the sort of situations that cause you stress so that you can prepare for them and manage them well.

As well as this, you should now understand how you react to stress, and the symptoms that you show when you are stressed. When you experience these symptoms in the future, this should be a trigger for you to use appropriate stress management techniques.

Tip:
You will reap the real benefits of having a stress diary in the first few days or weeks. After this, the returns you’ll get for each additional day or week will diminish.

If, however, your lifestyle changes, or you begin to suffer from stress again in the future, then it’s worth using the diary approach again, as you’ll probably find that the stresses you face have changed. If this is the case, then keep a Stress Diary again – this will help you to develop the approach you need to deal with the new sources of stress.

Taking Action

There’s no point knowing these things unless you take action on them. Make a plan for dealing with the most important sources of stress that you identify, and put the first actions in this plan onto your To Do List or Action Program. And where you find that you need to improve your stress management skills, make sure these are on the plan too.

Also, don’t feel that you’re being self-indulgent by working on this plan as part of your job: If you’re happier, your team will be happier, people will be more motivated, and everyone will be more effective and more productive.

Summary

Stress Diaries help you to get a good understanding of the routine, short-term stresses that you experience in your life. They help you to identify the most important, and most frequent, stresses that you experience, so that you can concentrate your efforts on these. They also help you to identify areas where you need to improve your stress management skills, and help you to understand the levels of stress at which you are happiest, and most effective.

To keep a stress diary, make a regular diary entry with the headings above – it’s often best if you do this every hour. Also make entries after stressful events.

Analyze the diary to identify the most frequent and most serious stresses that you experience. Use it also to identify areas where you can improve your management of stress.

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Soft skills enhance your technical skills.

In almost all jobs, your people skills – also known as “soft skills” – have as much of an impact on your success as your technical skills. That’s especially true when you’re in a management or leadership role.

The importance of having solid people skills transcends industry and profession; so, whether you lead people, aspire to lead people, or work within a team of professionals, you need to apply people skills to achieve your objectives.

So, how good are your people skills? Take this short quiz to assess your current skill levels. Once you’ve answered these questions, we can then point you toward specific tools and resources that you can use to develop and improve this important area of competency.

How Good Are Your People Skills?

Statement Not
at all
Rarely Some
times
Often Very
Often
1 I ensure that I display the same standards of behavior that I expect from other people. 1 2 3 4 5
2 When providing feedback, I wait until I’ve observed enough incidents of a behavior to make a generalized statement that is accurate. 5 4 3 2 1
3 I go along with others’ decisions rather than inject my ideas into the mix. 5 4 3 2 1
4 I say “thank you” to the people I work with. 1 2 3 4 5
5 During times of conflict I think about how to preserve the relationship and still get my needs met. 1 2 3 4 5
6 While actively talking with someone, I have composed my answer before they have finished speaking. 5 4 3 2 1
7 I look out for myself at work and do what is necessary to get ahead. 5 4 3 2 1
8 I think about how others perceive a problem or issue. 1 2 3 4 5
9 I speak first, and think later. 5 4 3 2 1
10 I collaborate with others to solve problems using a variety of problem solving tools and techniques. 1 2 3 4 5
11 I cause more harm than good when trying to resolve a conflict. 5 4 3 2 1
12 When someone gives me feedback, I ask him or her to provide examples so that I can better understand the issue. 1 2 3 4 5
13 I pay attention to other people’s body language. 1 2 3 4 5
14 Where team agreement is necessary, I figure out the best solution to a problem and then explain why it’s the right decision. 5 4 3 2 1
15 I study my audiences’ needs, decide what I want to say and then figure out the best way to say it. 1 2 3 4 5
16 I make sure everyone knows about my contribution to a positive outcome. 5 4 3 2 1

Score Interpretation

Now add up the scores you’ve circled.

My score overall is: out of 80
Score Comment
16-36 Your technical skills may have taken precedence over your people skills in your career to date. You aren’t making the most of the relationships you have at work, and this may be limiting your career growth. It’s time to assess how you can work better with others in the workplace and develop a more collaborative, understanding, and open approach to getting your needs met – while still achieving team and organizational objectives.
37-58 You recognize that working well with others in the workplace is important; and you are trying to work collaboratively while still making sure your needs are met. There is room for improvement, however, as old habits may creep in during times of stress and pressure. Make a plan to work actively on your people skills so that they form the natural basis for how you approach workplace relationships.
59-80 Your people skills are good. You understand the give and take involved in working well with other people. You might not always approach situations perfectly, however you have a sufficiently good understanding to know when and where you need to take steps to rectify things. Keep working on your people skills, and set an example for the rest of your team. And take some time to work on the specific areas below where you lost points.

The quiz assesses your skills according to the four main themes below. Review your scores for each theme, and read more where you need to.

Interpersonal Communication Skills (Statements 6, 9, 13, 15)

For statements in this category, fill in your scores in the table below, and then calculate your total.

Score
Statement 6
Statement 9
Statement 13
Statement 15
Total Out of 20

Very many people spend more time working with other people than they do working on their own. This means that they need to communicate well with others, and this means that communication skills are some of the most important skills in the workplace.

Some of the key communication stumbling blocks to be aware of include:

  • Message barriers:These occur when the person communicating fails to communicate clearly.If you find that you often confuse people, then a good starting point for fixing this is to figure out what you want to say. Do you want to persuade? Are you trying to motivate? Are you simply informing? Or are you attempting to build a relationship? The purpose of your communication will largely determine what you say and how you say it, and   article on Communications Planning shows you how to prepare for a variety of communication exchanges.
  • Receiving barriers:These barriers occur on the receiver’s end of the communication, and they typically result from ineffective listening. We hear and understand faster than we speak, and this can lead to boredom and a wandering mind when on the listening end of communication.To combat this you should try to listen actively to what the speaker is saying. When you engage in active listening, you respond in a way that makes it clear that you understand the feelings and intent of the speaker. In article Active Listening, you’ll find some useful guidelines to follow when you are on the receiving end of communication.
  • Decoding barriers:Here the real message is not fully grasped or translated because of misperceptions, misinterpretations or missing information.The most common problem here is with mismatched non-verbal communication. A lot of non-verbal communication is unconscious – meaning that the sender isn’t aware of the messages he or she is sending, yet these messages can reveal a great deal about the way that someone is thinking.If you can learn to understand people’s non-verbal communication, you can improve your people skills significantly. Article on Body Language will show you how to understand other people’s non-verbal communication – and manage your own.

Managing Differences (Statements 3, 5, 8, 11)

For statements in this category, fill in your scores in the table below, and then calculate your total.

Score
Statement 3
Statement 5
Statement 8
Statement 11
Total Out of 20

People can seem to disagree about almost anything – what caused a problem, how to solve it, what values are right, what values are wrong, what goals should be pursued; the list goes on! On top of this, you have the personal, non-job-related differences between people that lead to obvious differences in outlook and approach.

Because of this, respecting and managing the differences between people can be one of the most important skills you can develop! Indeed, it can be a huge advantage if you can learn to celebrate and enjoy differences, and make them work to your advantage.

Key to this is recognizing that, in many cases, conflict is not “bad”. In fact, conflict often causes significant, positive change. It spawns creative and novel approaches to problem solving, and can actually improve organizational performance if managed properly. In article Resolving Team Conflict, we discuss how you can build stronger teams by facing and embracing personal differences. And then, with article Conflict Resolution tool, we outline how to use the Interest-Based Relational (IBR) approach for solving interpersonal issues. Both of these articles outline how you can emerge from conflict with strong and healthy relationships.

When resolving conflict, it helps a lot if you can understand other people’s needs and points of view – this can often help you find solutions that may otherwise not have occurred to you. And when you take the time to understand another person’s perspective, you are demonstrating your willingness to work together to find a solution. Articles on Empathy at Work and Perceptual Positions can help you develop this aspect of people skills.

Finally, you need to be appropriately assertive if you’re going to manage differences effectively. Aggression is clearly counter-productive if you’re trying to resolve conflict, but also, if you fail to recognize your own needs in a situation, you run the risk of agreeing to a solution that works against your own interests. Again, it’s important to remember that differences aren’t necessarily negative, so suppressing your thoughts and ideas just to come to an easy agreement isn’t efficient. You can read more about assertiveness in the article here. And Yes to the Person, No to the Task is a useful approach to use in everyday situations where you need to manage differences assertively and effectively.

Managing Agreement (Statements 2, 10, 12, 14)

For statements in this category, fill in your scores in the table below, and then calculate your total.

Score
Statement 2
Statement 10
Statement 12
Statement 14
Total Out of 20

While managing differences may be an obvious application of people skills, managing agreement may not seem to be. However, helping people come to agreement is important, and it needs a great deal of skill!

“Synergy” is one of the most important things that you’re looking for with teamwork. This is where the team’s output is better or greater than the sum of each individual’s input. To achieve synergy, you need to get people working together collaboratively.

If you’ve ever participated in a team decision-making process, you probably realize that reaching a decision by yourself can be much more straightforward! The problem with individual decision-making, though, is that you miss out on all of the insights that other people can give. With strong people skills, you don’t need to back away from collaborative situations: you can approach team meetings with a genuinely positive attitude!

Tip:
When you’re engaging in group decision-making, make sure you avoid the common pitfalls. See article on Groupthink for more!

Part of this involves feeling comfortable with different kinds of questions, and with when to use them, and how. In article on Questioning Techniques, we look at open and closed questions, as well as other common types of question that you can use to keep conversation flowing and get the specific information you need.

As well as this, it’s useful to have a good selection of  Problem Solving Tools in your arsenal. When you are confident in your ability to find solutions you will be more likely to participate in these conversations and add value to your team. In  article Opening Closed Minds, we can see how to get your point across effectively, so that you can reach the agreement you are seeking. These types of tools will give you the confidence you need to confront differences, knowing that you can also manage the agreement side of the equation.

Another aspect of managing agreement relates to feedback. When given poorly, people reject feedback: it’s viewed as destructive criticism, and it can damage relationships. Delivered well, however, feedback can lead to an improved understanding of one another’s needs and perspectives, as well as improving performance and productivity. Look at this in detail in article, Giving and Receiving Feedback. Also, in article looking at the Johari Window we outline a great technique for increasing interpersonal understanding through self-disclosure.

The bottom line is that, to develop strong people skills, you need to be able to accept what others are saying and learn from this. Not only will this help you personally, it will help you relate openly and honestly with others.

Personal Integrity (Statements 1, 4, 7, 16)

For statements in this category, fill in your scores in the table below, and then calculate your total.

Score
Statement 1
Statement 4
Statement 7
Statement 16
Total Out of 20

Integrity is the cornerstone of people skills. Integrity means basic honesty and truthfulness when dealing with others. It also means working with people openly, and in such a way that people’s interests aren’t compromised for the sake of the team or the organization.

Basic courtesies like saying “thank you” often, and giving credit where it is due, are the types of people-oriented behaviors that can make all of the difference to other people. Whether you are in a leadership position or not, recognizing your teammates’ contributions and acknowledging their efforts will go a long way towards creating a positive, harmonious, and productive team climate.

Articles on Rewarding Your Team and  Leading by Example are great resources that help you learn how to behave with integrity on a daily basis.

Key Points

With well-developed people skills, you can communicate effectively on an interpersonal level; manage conflict positively; work productively with others to find solutions and reach agreement; and work with integrity and ethics to motivate and inspire others.

These are all skills that can be learned and developed. As such, even the most technically-oriented worker can begin to incorporate people skills in his or her work setting.

Best of all, people skills are not limited to the workplace. When worked on actively, they will enrich all aspects of your professional and personal life.

Restoring Commitment to Prevent Resignations

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Be alert for signs of unhappiness.

Which members of your team would you miss most if they left tomorrow? And what makes them so valuable?

Chances are, they’ve been there long enough to know exactly how the organization works. Highly competent at what they do, efficient, organized and with excellent soft skills, they know who to talk to in other departments to solve major problems. As such, they’re the “go to people” whenever things get difficult.

When you’ve got these kind of people around, your team achieves more – not only through their direct contribution, but because they set the standard in attitude, behavior and results for everyone else.

As a manager, you really want to keep these valued players happy, so that your team continues to benefit from their exceptional performance.

But what if you notice signs that some of your leading people may feel that their futures lie elsewhere? If you get to the point where you receive their resignations, your team is likely to be in trouble. Just a few of the consequences are loss of knowledge, disruption, lower collective morale, and the time and effort wasted recruiting and training replacements. All in all, it might take months – or years – to rebuild your team.

Understanding how to handle this sort of situation, or even better, being able to avoid it happening in the first place, is critical to keeping valued team members happy, effective and engaged.

This article helps you to recognize and avoid the issues that might push a team member to leave. Use step-by-step approach to help avoid potential pitfalls, so that you can continue to get the best from your team’s star players.

Step 1: Identify the Warning Signs

The sooner that you detect that someone might be thinking of leaving, the better chance you have of changing their mind. This is why you should always be on the look-out for significant changes in the behavior of members of your team.

The kind of signs that you might need to be concerned about include:

  • Impatience, either with people or tasks.
  • Disengagement from the team, perhaps by being “absent” mentally, or using increased sick leave.
  • The venting of negative feelings in “water cooler conversations”.

Be aware that any change in behavior may be significant when it comes to making sure that valued team members are happy. In some cases, a seemingly positive change may be just as much of a warning sign as an obviously negative one. For example, a team member whose productivity suddenly increases may perhaps see this as a way of impressing a potential new boss in another department, or she may be anxious to leave with a clear desk and a clear conscience.

Similarly, a colleague who used to stay focused on his work, but who begins to chat at colleagues’ desks, may be avoiding doing work that he no longer enjoys.

There’s no need to become cynical about such changes, but do consider them in the context of that team-member’s performance and behavior. Then you can decide the best way to sustain that person’s contribution to the team.

Seasonal Factors
There are particular times in the calendar year when you need to be especially alert to changes in people’s attitudes. When people have longer periods away from their jobs, such as during summer or end of year vacations, they may be prompted to rethink their situation.

Such “moments of truth” can also occur at the signing-off of long projects, or even at the end of the financial year. Team members who’ve been in their role for some time may feel a responsibility, or even a moral obligation, to make a move only when one activity is finished and the next hasn’t yet started.

Step 2: Understand Possible Problems

Of course, it can often be difficult to link the symptoms of unhappiness with their underlying causes. For example, one team member may withdraw from office chit-chat because she feels overworked. Another with the same problem – feeling overworked – might take refuge in muttered discussions at the coffee machine.

However, there are several tools that can help you understand why someone might want to leave a job.

  • Herzberg’s Motivators and Hygiene Factors
    According to influential researcher, Frederick Herzberg, people become dissatisfied with their jobs when certain “hygiene factors” are not being fully provided.

    Salary is traditionally given as an example of a job hygiene factor. However, in an economic climate where people’s pay expectations have decreased, other hygiene factors – such as good relationships with supervisors – will often be more important.

    Herzberg’s model also states that, even when there are no hygiene factor problems causing a team member to be dissatisfied with their job, they won’t necessarily be satisfied with their work. To experience job satisfaction, “motivating factors” need to be in place. Typical motivators are the content of work itself, recognition of effort, and the availability of growth opportunities.

    Often the reasons for a valued team member “wanting out” involve a combination of inadequate hygiene factors and missing motivators, so make sure that you consider both when looking for early warning signs that someone might be considering leaving.

  • Expectancy Theory
    This states that people are motivated to work harder when they feel that the effort they put in will lead to a certain performance level, and that this performance level will, in turn, lead to a desirable outcome.

    So, when you’re considering someone who appears to be de-motivated, look for situations in which the link between effort and outcome has been broken. Was a project they were working on cancelled just before implementation, for example? Are results no better, despite the team member working hard to implement new initiatives? Or has the bonus pot been slashed?

Although this step involves “guessing” what the problem is, when it would clearly be more efficient to ask this straight out, it helps to spend a little time up front to consider what might be going on: this gives you the opportunity to prepare responses. Time is often of the essence in fending off a resignation – especially if the person involved is already interviewing elsewhere. You want to avoid having to say “I see, well, let me go away and think about how I can help with that, and we’ll talk again next week.”

Step 3: Talk to Your Team Member

Once you’ve thought about what the issues might be, it’s time to have a friendly chat with your team member to see if anything’s troubling him or her. Use informal, open questions, in a private, one-to-one session.

Sometimes all it takes is a question like “How’s it going?” or “How do you feel about project X?” to get the person to open up. Make sure that you listen carefully, and that you both have enough time for everything that needs to be said.

Step 4: Fixing the Issue

Work on a plan to improve the situation together.

Depending on the situation, you should be able to find some helpful suggestions in Mind Tools articles on Dealing with Poor Performance and Re-engaging Team Members.

Try to find a solution which plays to your valued team member’s particular strengths. This can often be more profitable for both the person and the organization than focusing on eradicating weaknesses in performance. Using the Reflected Best Self™ Exercise is a good way to help team members define exactly what their strengths are, helping them to go even further with their current job.

Prevention is Better Than Cure

In the long term, remember that there are a number of things you should be doing on an ongoing basis to keep people engaged, productive and happy. These include:

Tip:
At the end of the day, you need to accept that there will be some factors that you just can’t influence. For example, a team member may wish to work in another city or country for personal reasons. Or someone may accept a career promotion, which means a move to a different part of the organization, because your department simply can’t offer a similar opportunity right now.

Understanding that these kinds of factor do exist, and that you can’t do anything about them, will help you manage these departures so that they minimize the impact on other key players. Explain the situation to your team, and use the methods outlined in this article to keep the rest of your valued team members on board.

Key Points

Keeping valued team members means not only maintaining the right work environment, but also being sensitive to signs of change. You can avoid resignations by paying attention to factors like team trust and job satisfaction. By appropriate monitoring of changes in employees’ behavior, and careful analysis of the possible causes, you can handle problems with less effort and more success.

A tested approach for building good team relationships

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Closing the gap successfully.

Reflect for a moment: have you ever seen a situation where a simple disagreement between people has flared up into a bitter dispute?

If you’re like most people, your answer is probably “YES!”, and you’ll have seen this often! In a personal context, these disputes can lead to ill-feeling and feuding that lasts a lifetime. In a professional one, they can sabotage your team’s mission, or can split good teams apart.

This is why you need to manage these situations within your team. You need to defuse the negative effects of conflict before they damage your team, at the same time that you learn from and correct the underlying causes of conflict.

The problem with this is that it’s easy to believe that others are at fault where relationships turn bad, and to ignore the problems that we ourselves may be causing. This is why, while we each have the right to present our own viewpoint, we need to be equally receptive and respectful to the views of others as well.

The CONNECT Model is an elegant tool for dealing with this problem. Developed by Frank LaFasto and Carl Larson in their book, When Teams Work Best, it’s a proven approach for building and sustaining healthy relationships between the members of a team.

This approach is used to improve relationships between two members of a team, and has been tested and used by more than 5000 people in about fifteen different organizations. Before we start explaining the CONNECT Model, a small word of caution: the conversations that emerge when you use the tool may sound a little weird, and you might feel uncomfortable about using it (in practice, you may want to follow these steps informally). However, rest assured, you’ll find that this is a powerful and useful relationship improvement tool!

To improve a sour relationship, follow these steps:

  1. Commit to the Relationship: This is where the people experiencing relationship difficulties commit to one-another to talk about how they will improve the relationship between them.
    Here, you would invite the other person to talk using the CONNECT approach. Assuming some level of goodwill, the other person should agree to take part in the conversation – this gives a measure of commitment from both sides to improve the relationship. When you are both ready to talk, explain to one-another why you think it is important to give the relationship a try, what is it worth to each of you, and why you are both willing to put effort into it.
  2. Optimize Safety: Next, create a feeling of safety for each other. Tell each other, in so many words, that you will do your best to not put each other on the defensive, and that you will make an effort to be more open to understanding and appreciating each other’s views. You might feel a little awkward in talking to each other in this manner, but once safety is established, the rest of the process becomes easier to manage.
  3. Narrow Down to One Issue: Now that the stage is set, you can identify the real issue that brought you to loggerheads with each other. Remember, you should conduct this discussion in the same manner as you would conduct conversations in a meeting. Communicate on an adult level, treat each other with respect, give out all of the necessary information, seek participation from each other, and so on. Also, remember to use a lot of “we” instead of “I” in your conversation: this will reiterate the fact that you are both in this discussion because you are part of a team, and team’s interest should not suffer because the two of you are not on the best of terms with one another.
  4. Neutralize Defensiveness: In your preparation for the conversation, try to come up with a list of words, phrases, or comments, which could put the other person on the defensive. Avoid these when you talk. Also, when you begin the conversation, ask the other person if any of your actions or words in the past have upset him or her, and avoid these when you talk. In the same way, explain to the other person how his or her behaviors have put you on the defensive in the past. The idea here is that you should both avoid doing and saying things that upset the other person, so that you can discuss the issue as constructively as possible.
  5. Explain and Echo: Also in your preparation, think carefully about what you think caused the problem. Then, when you reach this stage, explain to the other person your observations, say how you felt about this, and describe any long-term impact that may result, or may have resulted. Once you have explained this, ask the other person to “echo” what you have just said, which means that he or she needs to rephrase what you just stated from his or her understanding. Once the other person has done this, ask for his or her perspective on the issue, and echo this perspective yourself. This will help you both understand one another’s viewpoint while, at the same time, promoting mutual understanding.
  6. Change One Behavior Each: Now that you have both understand one another, it’s time for action. Discuss how you want to move forward with things now. What improvements are required? Choose one of these each, put your egos aside, and work to resolve these for the interest of your team.
  7. Track It: Once you’ve made commitments, it’s time to honor them, and this step is focused on tracking the commitments. Set a future date to meet with one another to discuss how things are going, and see if you can improve things still further.

By going through this exercise, you’ll find that this effort has helped:

  • Bring rationality to the situation: Since this approach asks participants to be well prepared for the CONNECT conversation, it gives people the time and space they need to think calmly about the situation.
  • Bring issues out into the open: CONNECT helps you bring emotive issues out into clear sight in a controlled way, so that these can be addressed.
  • Promote team spirit and mutual accountability: As team members resolve issues that previously disrupted their working relationship, this helps you improve the team climate.

Next time you run into a serious conflict, whether at work or at home, try using CONNECT. It’s a great way of helping people to be happier – and of boosting teamwork at the same time!

Using Time Effectively, Not Just Efficiently

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It’s urgent, but is it really important?

We’ve all been there: The project is due for today’s meeting and we are only three quarters done. Our anxiety is at its peak, we can’t concentrate, everything is a distraction, and then, finally, we blow!

Time stressors are some of the most pervasive sources of pressure and stress in the workplace, and they happen as a result of having too much to do in too little time.

With this kind of pressure all too common, effective time management is an absolute necessity. You probably use a day-planner and to-do list to manage your time. These tools are certainly helpful, but they don’t allow you to drill down to one of the most essential elements of good time management: distinguishing between what is important and what is urgent.

Great time management means being effective as well as efficient. Managing time effectively, and achieving the things that you want to achieve, means spending your time on things that are important and not just urgent. To do this, and to minimize the stress of having too many tight deadlines, you need to distinguish clearly between what is urgent and what is important:

  • Important activities have an outcome that leads to the achievement of your goals.
  • Urgent activities demand immediate attention, and are usually associated with the achievement of someone else’s goals, or with an uncomfortable problem or situation that needs to be resolved.

Urgent activities are often the ones we concentrate on. These are the “squeaky wheels that get the grease.” They demand attention because the consequences of not dealing with them are immediate.

The Urgent/Important Matrix is a useful tool for thinking about this.

The idea of measuring and combining these two competing elements in a matrix has been attributed to both former US President Eisenhower and Dr Stephen Covey.Eisenhower’s quote, “What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important,” sums up the concept of the matrix perfectly. This so-called “Eisenhower Principle” is said to be how Eisenhower organized his tasks. As a result, the matrix is sometimes called the Eisenhower Matrix.

Covey brought the idea into the mainstream and gave it the name “The Urgent/Important Matrix” in his 1994 business classic, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

How to Use the Tool:

The Urgent/Important Matrix is a powerful way of thinking about priorities. Using it helps you overcome the natural tendency to focus on urgent activities, so that you can keep enough time clear to focus on what’s really important. This is the way you move from “firefighting”, into a position where you can grow your business and your career.

The matrix is drawn as shown in figure 1, with dimensions of Importance and Urgency.

The steps below help you use the matrix to prioritize your activities:

  1. Firstly, list all of the activities and projects you feel you have to do. Try to include everything that takes up your time at work, however unimportant. (If you manage your time using an Action Program, you’ll already have done this.)
  2. Next, assign importance to each of the activities – you can do this on, say, a scale of 1 to 5: Remember, this is a measure of how important the activity is in helping you meet your goals and objectives. Try not to worry about urgency at this stage, as this helps get to the true importance.
  3. Once you have assigned importance to each activity, evaluate the urgency of each activity. As you do this, you can plot the listed items on the matrix according to the assigned importance and urgency.
  4. Now study the matrix using the guidelines below, and schedule your work according to your priorities.
Figure 2: Strategies for Different Quadrants of the MatrixUrgent and Important (“Critical Activities”):
There are two distinct types of urgent and important activities: Ones that you could not foresee, and others that you have left to the last minute.

You can avoid the latter by planning ahead and avoiding procrastination.

Issues and crises, on the other hand, cannot always be foreseen or avoided. Here, the best approach is to leave some time in your schedule to handle these. Also, if a major crisis arises, some other activity may have to be rescheduled.

If this happens, identify which of you urgent-important activities could have been foreseen and think about how you could schedule similar activities ahead of time, so they do not become urgent.

Urgent and Not Important (“Interruptions”):
Urgent but not important activities can be a constant source of interruption. They stop you achieving your goals and completing your work. Ask yourself whether these tasks can be rescheduled, or whether someone else could do them.

A common source of such interruptions is from other people coming into your office. Sometimes it’s appropriate to say “No” to people, or encourage them to solve the problem themselves. Alternatively, try allocating time when you are available, so that people only interrupt you at certain times (a good way of doing this is to schedule a regular meeting so that all issues can be dealt with at the same time). By doing this, the flow of work on your important activities will be less disrupted.

Not Urgent, but Important (“Important Goals”):
These are the activities that you can plan ahead for to achieve your goals and complete your work. Make sure that you have plenty of time to achieve these, so that they do not become urgent. And remember to leave enough time in your schedule to deal with unforeseen problems. This will maximize your chances of keeping on schedule, and help you avoid the stress of work becoming more urgent that necessary.

Not Urgent and Not Important (“Distractions”):
These activities are just a distraction, and should be avoided if possible. Some can simply be ignored. Others are activities that other people want you to do, but they do not contribute to your own desired outcomes. Again, say “No” politely and firmly where this is appropriate.

If people see you are clear about your objectives and boundaries, they will often not ask you to do “not important” activities in future.

Key Points

The Urgent/Important Matrix helps you look at your task list, and quickly identify the activities you should focus on. By prioritizing using the Matrix, you can deal with truly urgent issues, at the same time that you keep on working towards your goals.