Category Archives: Blog

Bridging the Gap Across Generations

In order to be successful bridging the gap across the generations, you must find common ground that enables you to close the gap and effectively reach your opposing generation.

Adopting a Communication Style

Being sensitive to the way you communicate will help you bridge the generation gap at work. Understanding that the older generation prefers face-to-face communication and the younger prefer electronic methods should give you a base to form a flexible communication style that reaches all generations at work.

Here is an easy way to adopt your communication style. Use the TAP method for communicating. You will have to think a little before you communicate to someone, but the investment is well worth it. TAP stands for the following components:

  • To-the-Point: Make your communication brief and succinct. The older generation will appreciate the clarity and the younger generation will appreciate the brevity.  
  • Adapt: Change the method of communication for your audience. If you are going to engage an older worker, make the effort to either call them or better yet, see them in person. They will feel respected and valued. For the younger generation, use email or instant messaging, etc. to reach them. They will feel independent and not micro managed.  

If you need to address the entire group, younger and older, in an email, make yourself available for follow-up by telling the group to reply, call or see you in person if they have questions.  

  • Professional: When in doubt, communicate professionally. Avoid jargon and text abbreviations in your communication. Use salutations and close your communication properly. You will show the older generation that you respect them and set the example for the younger generation on how to communicate professionally.  

Creating an Affinity Group

Affinity groups are groups of people sharing common interests. You can create such groups at work that give different generations a chance to work with each other with an activity, which is not directly work related.  

These groups provide a way for the generations to learn more about each other’s interests and values. You can create several affinity groups, promoting cohesion among the various generations. Affinity groups are usually non-hierarchical. They are typically small and do not require centralization.  

Affinity groups could tend to become closed. That is why allowing groups that focus on non-polarized topics are the best way to introduce affinity groups in your workplace.

Sharing Knowledge

The lack of knowledge could breed fear between generations or lead to misinterpretations. Sharing knowledge helps to break down barriers and create an understanding and collaborative environment. There are many ways knowledge can be shared.  

Here are some ways to share knowledge at work:

  • You can set up a blog where a topic is introduced and then the team can submit comments.  Blogs provide a safe and open structure to hold discussions.  If you use a blog, be sure to set up clear rules of what and how to share.  You want to avoid sensitive topics for discussions.  This can undermine the sharing process.
  • Form focus groups to resolve an issue or generate new ideas.  Focus groups containing various generations is a great way to get different perspectives from your diverse work group.  Read up on how to facilitate meetings so you can better manage the dynamics in such a meeting.
  • Create a newsletter where employees get to share their thoughts in an interview.  This can be a creative way of sharing knowledge.
  • Place an ideas box where employees can submit ideas for review by you team.  This can be a real box or an electronic version via email or other form of communication.

This post is from November’s topic on Generation Gaps.

Generation Gaps in the Workplace

The term generation gap is a term used to describe the different values and attitudes between one generation and another. This term is typically used to describe the gap between parents and their children.  

Since the 1960’s, the term generation gap has also been used to describe the clash one age group has with another in various settings. The workplace is such an environment where different generations must intermingle and deal with each other’s way of thinking.

What Generations Exist in the Workplace

Today’s workplace presents many challenges that are based solely on meeting goals, business objectives, and project deadlines. Threaded throughout the normal business activities are dynamics that could present issues and conflicts if left unchecked.

Since many older workers remain on the job longer and younger workers are entering the workplace right out of college, the work environment is fragmented into various generations. In order to understand this eclectic environment, it is necessary to understand what generations are present in today’s workplace.

Because humans live on average 77 to 80 years, four potential generations may exist in the workplace today.

The four generations that could be present are the Traditionalist, Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Generation Y.

Understanding the background, attitudes, and work styles of each generation is essential for a manager or supervisor. If they want to effectively coach and communicate then understanding these differences is paramount in creating a respectful and peaceful work environment for all employees.

What Defines a Generation

A generation is a group of people born during the same period and shares the same attitudes and values. The period is the factor to dividing the generations into groups. The four generations mentioned in the previous section have time ranges that define their period.

For example, the Traditionalist Generation represents people in a generation born before 1946. The Baby Boomers are people born between 1946 and 1961. Generation X represents people born between 1962 and 1980 and Generation Y represents people born in the 1980s and 1990s.

In each period are experiences that shaped the attitudes and values of each generation. In addition, the interaction between generations is also a factor in shaping the subsequent generation. For example, Generation X sought to be different by the larger more influential Baby Boomers. This thinking affects their behaviors and preferences.

What this Means in our Workplace

When groups have the same values and attitudes, communication and other dynamics typically go smoother. When there are multiple groups and each group brings their own style, values, and attitudes, this could create tension and other issues if not paying attention.

Multiple generations in the workplace presents challenges in many areas. Let us review two perspectives that must be managed.

First, the employee-to-employee perspective is critical; it shows how different generations interacting with each other may lead to miscommunication or misunderstanding. Furthermore, the way each generation handles confrontation may also be a point of friction.  

The generation gap between employees could be seen more in the modes of communication, the words, and gestures used.

The manager-to-employee perspective is another sensitive area. Generation gaps in this situation could be difficult if the relationship starts on the wrong foot. For the manager, knowing that there are differences in the way generations communicate, view authority, life-work balance, and relationships is just the beginning.

The manager must also plan how to address these issues proactively, avoiding difficult or tense situations. Having difficult situations at work could lead to poor morale and productivity, which will reflect on the manager’s performance.  

Generation gaps at work means more work is needed to cultivate an environment that respects each generation’s perspective and way of life. This also means the manager has to be observant and knowledgeable of the various traits associated with each generation.

This post is from November’s topic on Generation Gaps.

Delivering Your Speech

A few simple steps can help you improve the delivery of your presentation:

  • Start off strong by preparing an opening that will capture the audience’s attention.
  • Learn how to use visual aids effectively.
  • Check the volume of your voice.
  • Practice beforehand – to check running time, but not to the point where it is automatic.

As long as you have the confidence to use the room to your advantage, and have your ideas straight in your head, the presentation really will take care of itself for most of the time. You will find that, simply through saying it and hearing it often enough, your speech will evolve to a point where you can make slight adjustments on the spot as and where necessary without it becoming confusing.

Starting Off on the Right Foot

The opening of a presentation has two purposes:

  • To capture the audience’s attention.
  • To introduce the subject of the presentation.

The opening should be very brief, in most cases one to two minutes. In that short span of time, you need to present yourself and your topic in a way that will make your audience want to pay attention. In planning your opening, go back to your analysis of your audience. 

An effective opening convinces your audience that what you are going to say will be worth their time and attention. If you lose them in the first two minutes, there is not much you can do to get them back with you. In some ways the presentation’s most important element is its introduction.

There are many things you can do to catch the audience’s attention. Taking into account that a presentation is generally a quite formal setting, this number is maybe slightly reduced in terms of what you can do to catch the audience’s attention and keep your job. However, if you work on getting the opening right, you will find that your presentations receive the attention they deserve, and that you will be able to hone them to the point where you become a very skilled presenter.

It is worth opening with a bold statement. The statement may be controversial – to the extent that it is something you believe and that some in the audience may disagree with. “Controversy” in this case is more to do with slight differences of opinion than saying something which will offend people. But it is fine to open with a statement along the lines of “X is something which is absolutely essential to the running of a business”, where “X” stands for something that, up to now, many people may not have agreed was essential. Follow this up by saying “I know, many of you may not agree with me, but this is what I plan to prove to you here and now”.

Making a statement which requires backing up will draw the attention of the audience, as they listen in to see how you will back it up. You will also have introduced your subject, and can then follow up with a few lines about how opinions have differed on the subject, but people with more years in the business than you have had very positive, complimentary things to say about it. In some cases, it may be beneficial to write the opening statement for your presentation after you have written the rest of it, as this allows you to make your statement chime with what you are going to say.

This post is from October’s topic on Public Speaking, which is also a course on our Executive Mini-MBA program online from Harvard Square.

Preparation is Key for Public Speaking

The key to effective public speaking is preparation. The better you prepare, the more confident you will feel.

Preparation begins with identifying your audience. What do you know about your audience? What do they care about? What’s important to them? Do they have any misconceptions about your topic? These are the kinds of questions you should ask as part of your preparation. Sitting down and listing the questions, and your answers to them, will give you a basic structure for your speech, around which you can add things and take them away as you see fit.

Holding the attention of an audience and speaking to what interests them is the most important thing about any public speech. It is not merely about what you say, but also how you say it. If you have a message you wish to get across, then think of how that message will communicate itself best to the audience you are speaking to.

Performing a Needs Analysis

Preparing for a speech should begin with thinking about the wants and needs of the audience. What are they interested in? What do they care about? No matter how entertaining a speaker you are, people will not give you their full attention unless you are talking about something that is meaningful to them.

You should try to let the audience know early in your speech that you are going to try to address their concerns. Too often a speaker starts out with a lengthy discussion about the history or background of a topic. That is usually not what the audience cares about!  They want to know how this topic will affect their lives.

A needs analysis measures what skills employees have — and what they need.  It indicates how to deliver the right training at the right time.

The method can be simple observation, careful note taking, and asking questions.

Creating an Audience Profile

The audience’s familiarity with an interest in the topic will also be of importance. You may be seeking to educate your audience on the topic in hand, or to communicate your own ideas to an audience who is already familiar with the topic. Deciding between these will help shape your speech – if they are familiar with the topic then it does not hurt to include some jargon, as this may even make your speech that little bit more dynamic – if you don’t need to keep explaining things, you can communicate ideas more effectively.

The mood and opinion of your audience is also important. It will influence the tone and content of your speech, as a nervous or worried audience will require an element of comfort or reassurance, while a celebratory audience will want to share a positive, electric atmosphere and possibly hear some congratulations.

One person speaking to a large crowd is in a unique position – they have the attention of many people and the power to get ideas across that will change mindsets and behavior on a large scale. It is therefore important to consider how you phrase things, and that you correct any persistent misconceptions of which you are aware.

Identifying Key Questions and Concerns

If you have a good understanding of your audience, you can probably predict the key questions and concerns they are likely to have. You may not be able to give the audience the answers they would like to hear, but at least you should be ready to discuss the things they care about most.

Many speeches these days are followed by a question and answer session which allows the audience to raise any issues they do not feel have been fully dealt with by the original speech – but it is better for the audience if the original speech deals with those concerns, as it shows that they have been thought through rather than addressed “on the hoof”.

Predicting questions and concerns should be straightforward. If you are in a position to address a larger group of people, then the chances are that you have knowledge of the issues that affect them and how these can be addressed. It is also possible to take a sounding from people “on the ground” as to what is concerning them. It may well be that you share those concerns and have given some thought to addressing them.

If you can speak intelligently and emotionally about the issues that concern your audience, they will have a lot more trust that you can help provide solutions to problems, and that their position is understood and respected.

It may help before delivering a speech or presentation to make a list of the five most searching questions you expect people to have. Your presentation should then concern itself with answering those questions as well as delivering your own standpoint.

When delivering the speech it is helpful to pay tribute to the fact that these concerns exist, by saying something along the lines of: “And before I go any further, I would like to raise an issue that I know has been foremost among the minds of many here…”. As the audience is giving you their attention, it is simply reasonable that you make clear that they, too, have yours.

This post is from October’s topic on Public Speaking, which is also a course on our Executive Mini-MBA program online from Harvard Square.

Influencing Change through Appreciative Inquiry

Influencing other people can have a ripple effect – it can start small but then the efforts begin to grow and grow. Of course we want to influence other people in a positive manner, not a negative one. Through Appreciative Inquiry, we can influence others by not only being positive ourselves, but helping other people make changes in their lives and be a more positive person too.

Using Strengths to Solve Challenges

Every problem or challenge is different. Some of them we can handle on our own. Some of them require help from others. Whatever the case, we know that we can solve the problem the best way we know how by using our inner strengths. Maybe you think well when you look at the big picture or you take a step-by-step approach toward any solution. 

They key is to find what your strength is and use it to your advantage. Use Appreciative Inquiry to ask yourself what kind of strengths have worked for you before. Ask yourself how you felt when you used them to solve a problem and remember how confident you felt afterwards. These Appreciative Inquiry exercises will help you get to the root of your problem and then help you determine how to solve it! 

Confidence Will Promote Positive Change

The perception you have of yourself not only affects how other people see you, but it can affect how you view the world and act in it. Sometimes we can’t control these things, such as embarrassing moments or recent mistakes, but there are many things we can do that can boost our confidence. When we remember our earlier successes or imagine a goal we want to achieve, we get an instant confidence boost and can feel better about the choices we make. When we are confident in ourselves, we are more apt to make positive changes without being fearful and without our own criticism.

Inquiry is a Seed of Change

Many things in our lives have changed so much and continue to grow over time. But what makes them change? What steps do they take to make something different? We’d be surprised to know that the simplest way to make changes is to ask a question. Inquiry is the seed of change because it brings up the mental question of “what if?”.

Through Appreciative Inquiry, anyone can ask a question that seeks to find another type of thinking. When different types of ‘thinkers’ come together, it can create various types of changes that can alter how we view many things in our lives.

People Will Gravitate Towards What is Expected of Them

When you look for a job opening in the want ads, what type of ads do you notice first? Chances are you read the ones that mention your type of skill set, such as a secretary, a chef, or even a construction worker. You feel confident reading these ads first because you know that they are in your area of skills and you’re confident you can do the job. 

The same effect is true for anyone else. When people have an idea of what is expected of them, they are more likely to drift toward that persona. If we are positive and helpful in our own actions, people will naturally want to join in when we encourage them to feel the same way. They feel as though they are expected to feel more positive, upbeat or confident, so they begin to review how they do things and ‘gravitate’ towards a different way of doing things.

This post is from September’s topic on Appreciative Inquiry, which is also a course on our Executive Mini-MBA program online from Harvard Square.

Changing the Way You Think

One of the simplest ways to relieve stress and feel better about ourselves is to change the way we think about things in our lives. Having a positive attitude allows a person to change their own lives because it shows that they have an understanding of their surroundings and feel confident enough to use them to their advantage. But if we hide behind negative thoughts and allow our environment to make us sad or depressed, we may never have the drive to reach for our goals and ambitions.

Shifting from “What’s Wrong?” to “What’s Right?”

One of the first things that can ruin a positive attitude is looking at a situation and only noticing the negative aspects, or the “What’s Wrong” side. Since the main focus of appreciative inquiry is being positive and aiming towards goals, a pessimistic attitude won’t get anyone very far. When presented with a problem, take a few minutes and look at both sides of the problem. Make a mental list of everything that is positive about the situation before touching on the negative aspects. You’ll find that any situation won’t appear as bad as we think when we notice the positive first.

It’s Not Eliminating Mistakes-It’s Holding up Successes

A common misconception that people make is that being positive or progressive means they cannot make mistakes nor have faults. This, of course, is untrue. Mistakes happen all the time, and although they can sometimes be prevented, they cannot be stopped altogether. They key is to learn from your mistakes and then focus on the successes that follow them. 

When a child falls off their bike before learning to ride, we do not focus on how many times they fell, but celebrate when they ride down the sidewalk on their own. Being positive doesn’t mean we eliminate mistakes or problems, we just learn to focus on the achievements we reach. Success leads to more success when we are focused on the positive. 

Positive Language Will Affect People’s Thinking

From a young age we have learned that positive language has more effect on us than negativity. When we tell ourselves “I can’t do that” or “I’ll never finish this”, we normally find ourselves to be right. But if we use more positive and influential phrases and language, we find ourselves feeling more confident and ready to handle any situation. Positive words encourage positive thinking, so add some “I can…” and “I’m great” phrases to your vocabulary! Positivity is contagious, so don’t be afraid to share it with others and encourage them to think positive too.

Limit or Remove Negative Phrasing

As we’ve said before, positive words encourage positive thinking. The same goes for negative phrasing – when we allow ourselves to use negative language, our thoughts become negative.

This post is from September’s topic on Appreciative Inquiry, which is also a course on our Executive Mini-MBA program online from Harvard Square.

Recognize When You Can Step In

When taking initiative, it is important to understand timing. You need to know the correct time to step up, and when to know your place. If you can make a situation better, you should. Take initiative when you can. Try to make a difference. 

Know Your Strengths and Skills

It is beneficial to your personal and professional self to understand your strengths. Everyone has strengths, and sometimes you just have to explore your natural talents to find them.  To help identify what you have strengths in, you should identify what you enjoy doing. The more you enjoy an activity, the more likely you will perform it to the best of your abilities. You should also take the time to notice what you do differently than everyone else. Determine what makes you stand out from a crowd. Take advantage of your strengths and put them to good use.

Go the Extra Mile

Part of initiative is going the extra mile. Take the step of going above and beyond your usual tasks. This will make you stand out, and show motivation. Going the extra mile can be as simple as offering another employee help. Every little bit helps in the workplace, so if you can help out, you should. It will not go unnoticed. Going the extra mile will motivate you and make you feel good about yourself. A little initiative goes a long way.

Listen Carefully

Take the initiative and be an active listener. Never be a passive listener, it will only make you a passive person. Part of effective communication is listening. A conversation cannot carry on if the parties involved do not hear each other. It is important to listen to the words being spoken, and think about them. Effective listening occurs so we can obtain information. We do it to understand and learn. Effective listening should not only occur in the professional setting, but also personal/home setting.

Fill in the Gaps

As an effective employee, you want to step in when you can and help out the workplace. At times you may notice gaps that need to be filled. Gaps can be in a group that needs an extra person to help out to an employee being absent from work and you need to step up and help out with their duties for the day. Helping fill in the gaps shows initiative. Do what you can when you can. It will show your co-workers and superiors that you are an effective worker. It will make a positive difference in the workplace and in your personal life.

This post is from August’s topic on Taking Initiative, which is also a course on our Executive Mini-MBA program online from Harvard Square.

What is Initiative?

Initiative is something we can all use in our careers. It is what sets us apart from others and our competition. Many people are afraid to take the initiative, but if you can, you will stand out. Initiative is deep down inside all of us, but the successful ones are the ones who use it.

Definition

It is important to know what initiative is to properly utilize it. Initiative is defined as the ability to assess and initiate things independently. In other words, it is taking advantage of the opportunities in front of you. It is stepping up, and going beyond your typical duties. Take charge of situations before others do. You may not want to step out of your comfort zone, but usually you will be rewarded for doing so. It is thinking outside the box, preparing for success, capitalizing on opportunities. It is making changes to take a step forward and being persistent.

Benefits, Personal and Professional

In life, taking initiative offers many benefits. It is a positive step that anyone can take for themselves. Only you can take the initiative for yourself, so ensure you do it. Taking the initiative provides individuals with a sense of self-control both in their personal and professional lives. No one is going to offer you opportunities if you do not deserve them, so stepping up will make all the difference in your life.  In your personal life, it may benefit you by helping you feel more confident with yourself. In your professional life, it may help you get that coveted promotion. In either aspect of your life, it will promote better things.

Why People Do Not Take Initiative 

Not everyone is comfortable with taking the initiative, or even knows how to do so. It is something that is developed mentally and takes strength to do. Some individuals have a bounded rationality. These individuals are unable to see past what they currently know. They cannot see the benefits of stepping up. Typically, the individual has never thought about it. Also, individuals do not take the initiative due to a lack of capability. Outside their general knowledge, some individuals do not possess the expertise to take the initiative for a more difficult task. Execution over innovation is also another popular reason that individuals do not take initiative. These individuals only focus on their own work, and do not have concern for any new tasks.  Finally, some individuals are too busy to take the initiative. There is already too much on their plate, and they physically and mentally cannot process anymore work. 

Make Initiative a Priority

It is our duty to make initiative a priority in both our professional and personal lives.  To make initiative a priority, we must first understand what it is and what its benefits are. Once we understand this, we can take the leap forward. To make taking initiative a priority, we must watch for opportunities. We must be aware of our surroundings, and what can potentially be a fantastic opportunity to do so.  In your professional career, if you see that your boss needs help with something, offer it! Show that you are a go-getter.  Take the extra step when you can! People will take notice of your initiative, and you will be rewarded positively.

This post is from August’s topic on Taking Initiative, which is also a course on our Executive Mini-MBA program online from Harvard Square.

Insight on Behavior

Behavior can be a complicated concept to try and master, much less understand. Every person is different and can interpret behaviors differently. In social groups, there is a wide range of behaviors occurring, which can seem overwhelming at times. But by having a little insight on not only the behavior others, but our own, we are able to better understand what is going on around us and how to navigate through the situation.

Perception

Perception can be a hard aspect to learn from since most of the time our perception can only be drawn from our own experiences – and we’re pretty biased when it come to our own thoughts. Perception is an important tool in controlling behavior because it helps us determine how we can appear to others and how other people’s behaviors can influence us. Your belief in yourself can affect your perception and can in turn affect your outward behavior. 

We may not always know exactly how people perceive us since many will not say these things out loud, but we can make our own conclusions based on our perception of their behavior. Do they come close when they speak to you or do they try to move away? Do they smile and interact with you or do they seem withdrawn? Do you use these thoughts when you perceive people and their behaviors? It is likely you form some of the same conclusions and determine how to respond to the behaviors they are displaying. 

Facts vs. Emotions

The main difference between facts and emotions is that facts are based on definite results while emotions are often involuntary and one-sided. But both facts and emotions can affect our behaviors and change how we act towards others. Facts can drive a conversation and allow people to connect on a logical level. Emotions are involved in everything we do, but sometimes they can affect the impact of our behavior and the information we are talking about. 

Any social situation is most likely driven with emotions, and sometimes this can cause facts to become irrelevant and even misconstrue the information given. For example, a male speaker may not be taken seriously at a feminism rally, or a group full of teachers may not listen to a group of school board members. When you recognize that emotion may be driving the situation, it’s time to reflect back on the situation and rediscover the facts and figures of the information. You may have to be a leader in the group and remind everyone to focus on the facts and save the emotions for later.

Online Communication

Online communication can be a hard concept to conquer since it can cover a wide range of areas. In our ever-growing world of technology, online communication can include emails, instant chats, video calls, and even text messages. While this form of communication can be a quick and easy way to connect with someone and cut out the need to physically see them or pick up a telephone, it can cause misconceptions in the process. 

It is difficult to convey feeling, emotions, or even tone in online communications, so the use of particular words is important to remember. People may not be able to hear the light-heartedness in your words or the stern demeanor in our office warnings. Additionally, online communication can often seem impersonal, since you do not have to take the time to contact someone and speak to them personally, which can cause people to feel insulted or even slighted. When possibly, speak to the person face to face or by phone in order to get your message and feelings across. Save the electronic communications for quick and impersonal messages.

Listen and Watch More

One of the best ways to monitor your behavior and the behavior of others is to learn to listen and watch more than you participate. When listening to others talk, focus on their words, not necessarily the person saying them. Don’t get caught up in one or two things they say and try to stay focused on the topic at hand. Even though you want to chime in, avoid making your own predictions and assumptions and continue to listen until the end. By watching and listening more, we are able to better to monitor the behaviors of other as well as our own since we are not focused mainly on ourselves. By focusing on the other person and their actions, we can develop better listening skills and catch more information than if we tried to assume it all ourselves.

This post is from July’s topic on Social Intelligence, which is also a course on our Executive Mini-MBA program online from Harvard Square.

Active Listening

It is not always enough to simply listen to a person and have the sense of ‘waiting to speak’. This type of listening will cause us to lose out on important information and deny us the chance to make any real connection. By using active listening, we are better able to learn about other people and take an active interest in what they have to say and offer. This concept can not only improve your overall listening skills, but your overall connections with other people as well.

Attunement

Attunement is defined as being aware and responsive to another person. When developing active listening skills, this tool is used to better connect with the person and become more ‘in tune’ with what they are saying. Since attunement relies heavily on nonverbal communication (such as body language), it is important to pay attention to the signals that the other person gives off, as well as the ones we use. Key gestures such as smiling, hand gesturing, eye contact and body movement can signal a connection or a break in communication. When we use these gestures toward other people, it can make them feel more connected with us and continue to open up with us. These connections can form bonds that can benefit the both of you and build networks for the future.

Don’t Jump to Conclusions

It’s a common gesture to hear something or witness someone do something and try to jump to a conclusion about it right away. Maybe you didn’t like what they said or heard something you didn’t think was appropriate, so you reach conclusions that the person has poor speaking skills or doesn’t know how to communicate with others. But this quick acting judgment can only harm your business relationships and misses the chance to really listen to someone and make a connection. While you may believe you have all the facts and have reached a final decision, always remember there is another side of the coin and most likely more information to know.

Even if you in fact do have everything you need, you may still not be able to process his thought in way that can be productive or even helpful to anyone since it is based on negativity.  If someone says something that makes you jump to a conclusion, ask them to repeat it or clarify what they said. Then take a few minutes to reflect on what was said or done and take enough time to form a logical conclusion about it. Taking a little extra time may seem like a chore at times, but it can save you from jumping to unnecessary conclusions and ruining the chance to build a relationship with another coworker.

Shift Your Focus

Naturally, we often think of ourselves as Number One. We’re the first person we try to take care of and try to guard ourselves when necessary. But when it comes to active listening, the role is often reversed in order to focus on the other person. In order to actively listen, we must shift the focus from ourselves to the person speaking at the time and become attune to what they are saying. Steps should include turning to face the person and making eye contact with them. During the conversation, nod your head periodically and give them time to pause or rest before talking yourself. 

When they have finished, stay focused on them by asking questions about what they have said. Don’t be afraid to ask them to clarify something you didn’t catch or something you may have missed. By shifting your focus to them instead of on your thoughts, you should be able to remember and comprehend most of what was said. From here you can be able to offer suggestions or opinions and engage in open conversation with the person. They’ll be more likely to openly share with you if they feel as though you can focus on them as well as yourself.

Don’t Discount Feelings

One of the biggest faults many of us have is the need to ‘fix’ things when we hear something that has gone wrong. When we get some bad news or information about a bad situation, we often try to follow it up with “It’s not so bad” or “It could be worse”. While this may seem like a helpful gesture, it can actually cause more damage than good because it makes the other person feel as though their feelings about the situation are invalid or void. 

It gives the impression that you are not necessarily listening to the problem, but imply trying to brush it over and discount their feelings altogether. When a person is speaking about something they feel strongly about, whether it is about work or personal situations, it is important to recognize that it is the way they feel and that they are entitled to feel that way. Instead of trying to smooth the problem over, listen to what the person is saying and how they are feeling and offer support. Let them know you are there to help and can always lend an ear. They will appreciate the gesture much more than any half-hearted solution or smooth-over phrase.

This post is from July’s topic on Social Intelligence, which is also a course on our Executive Mini-MBA program online from Harvard Square.

Lure in Great Candidates

One of the first steps to finding great employees is determining what type of person will fit into the new position and the company. But finding the right way to lure in candidates can be difficult if not done properly. The key is to reach out locally as well as outside the region to reach a range of people and a range of talent.

Advertise Where Candidates Visit

When planning to advertise, it’s important to put your company name where you want to get candidates attention. Industry specific sites are an ideal place to post job openings or opportunities to hand in resumes. These sites can appeal to candidates currently looking for work or those simply interested in the particular type of industry and line of work. Online job websites are a large source for job seekers, which make them a great place to advertise and seek new candidates. 

In print, trade magazines appeal to a large group of magazine buyers and often cater to a focused group of job seekers. Although newspapers are decreasing in popularity and readers, advertising with posters or newsletter articles are a great place to start looking for new recruits, especially since college students and graduates will be looking for work. Increasing exposure to the growing public will increase chances of finding more candidates and increasing company exposure.

Develop Corporate Citizenship

Developing a corporate citizenship is a phrase used to describe the process of a corporation working together to share responsibility and initiatives. Also known as corporate social responsibility, corporate citizenship can cover a wide range of services and processes, including charity works, business plans, and office procedures. Developing a corporate citizenship among employees helps them become engaged with each other and hold each other accountable for their own actions. 

When a company utilizes this citizenship, it helps draw in talent and potential candidates since it can make employees feel like they are part of a team and feel better about working with each other. Utilizing corporate citizenship can also help retain current employees because employees feel like they are part of a family and feel supported by the rest of their team when a problem arises. 

Treat Your Candidates Well

Any company knows that if the employees do not feel as though they are treated fairly and are respected, they will want to leave. Happy employees become loyal employees. However, it’s important to treat new hires as well as the candidates you choose not to hire with respect. Any candidate who comes in contact with the company, whether by interview, resume, or simple phone call, that is not treated respectfully, could not only lose interest in your company, but can share their mistreatment and cause other candidates to lose interest as well. Be honest with everyone you choose not to hire and offer advice and feedback before letting him go. Keep job seekers up to date and notified of interview processes and potential open positions. You don’t have to kiss the feet of the candidates you meet just to make them happy, but it is always good practice to be nice and treat them with respect. They will return the favor.

Look at the Competition

Competition is not always clean, and sometimes you can find the perfect candidate by playing a little dirty. While your company should not go nosing around to rival companies, sometimes they have talented candidates that may not be happy and are looking for a change. Don’t try to up sell your company or exaggerate what it has to offer, but be truthful about what you can give them and what kind of position you have open. Sometimes the employee just needs to know what’s out there, and with a little nudge, they can make the decision to join your company. Always use a level of caution and finesse when trying to recruit from other companies because you don’t want your company to get a bad reputation as an employee stealer, nor do you want to open the door for other companies to poach your employees. 

This post is from June’s topic on Hiring Strategies, which is also a course on our Mini-MBA program online from Harvard Square.

Hiring Strategy

Developing a hiring strategy may seem a little extreme, but it is actually a helpful tool when preparing to hire a new employee. When an opening comes available that you will need to fill, there are often several steps to take and follow in order to obtain the best workers. Many companies develop a standard hiring strategy for their open positions, but it is always a good idea to adapt your strategy to your company and its business needs.

Company Information

You cannot hire an employee to join your team if you don’t know anything about your own company. You know that having an adequate staff can make the difference in how your company performs and can affect its growth. So when you are preparing to search for ways to fill an open position, take a minute to analyze how your company has changed, and is changing. Based on the company’s history, predict any changes or growth surges ahead of time, which can help you determine what kind of staffing needs you will have. Will you need more than one person for now? Maybe you only need someone short term? Knowing this information before beginning the candidate search can reduce the amount of stress and headaches you’ll have later.

Salary Range

Money is a large driving force behind job descriptions and finding new employees. While many candidates may love the job they are coming into, the pay and salary will usually be a major deciding factor. As a hiring manager or recruiter, it is important to know the salary range the position offers and what kind of compensation the new employee will be worthy of. Many companies offer higher starting salaries for employees with more skills or with cross-training abilities, which can help draw in qualified candidates. Research the history of the position and the department it is in to view what kind of salary range has been issued for previous employees. Is this range suitable for the next employee? Will it need to be increased or decreased? Look into similar positions offered at different companies to see if they offer a similar range or if they differ, and why. The point is not to ‘beat their price’, but you want to ensure your company is fair and staying competitive with other businesses.

Top Performers

Every company has top performers that often out-shine the rest of the team. These employees often show great initiative and strong work ethic, which would make them an asset to almost any company. Top performers are generally hard workers with great qualities, such as being on time, finishing work on time, and even helping other employees with their work. Observe your employees and designate which of them are considered your top performers. Then determine what makes your top performers so great and why it works for the company. What skills do they possess? What actions do they normally make? What qualities do they have as a top performer? When hiring for an open position, try to pull in candidates that can mimic and adopt these characteristics once they join the organization. Base your strategy on the goal of hiring new employees that can come into work and learn to adopt some of these better qualities and become one of your top performers.

Be Prepared

Productivity can be affected when a position is open, leaving more work for other employees to take on along with their regular duties. While we can’t always predict when a spot will open, we can prepare ourselves for when it does happen. If you try to fill the spot in a hurry, you may not find the best person for the job and will more than likely have to repeat the process if the employee doesn’t work out. While every company should develop a standard hiring strategy, an emergency hiring strategy is always recommended as well. An emergency hiring plan consists of steps and processes to follow when a position needs to be filled in a hurry, but can still assure that the right person is hired. Partner with other managers and gather information about their positions and what kind of person they would need to fill them. Work together to build a process that can help streamline the hiring process and find qualified candidates – even in a pinch.

This post is from June’s topic on Hiring Strategies, which is also a course on our Mini-MBA program online from Harvard Square.