Hello SOTGC community,
Can you think of friends or colleagues whose careers seem to always thrive, no matter what? As an executive coach I know that even high performing professionals bump into roadblocks. But some of them attract new opportunities and keep on moving, even during tough times. They understand that you can’t always control your career path, but you can build resilience by creating smart workplace habits that get you through rough patches.
If you are looking for simple, practical ways to develop more career oomph, a good starting point is to find better ways to communicate. Here are two simple communication habits for enhancing your work life today, while opening doors for the future.
- Say “thank you” when they praise your work.
When the boss says that you did a great job, some women feel that it’s more graceful to respond in a self-deprecating way. When I was a young lawyer and an influential partner said, “You did a great job,” I didn’t want to be a showoff. My typical reaction was to belittle my efforts by saying something like, “No big deal” or, “It was a team effort.”
That response was wrong in so many ways. For one thing, it could lower the partner’s assessment of my work. Instead of reading my mind and understanding that I’d struggled hard to produce a first class draft, he might take me at my word and regard the project as not a big deal.
Beyond that, by deflecting the compliment I drained the energy from what should have been an enjoyable moment for everyone. The partner probably felt good as he approached me to offer praise. But then my response made him feel a bit let down, instead of more upbeat. I took fun out of the exchange with my deflating comment, making him less likely to applaud me the next time.
It wasn’t until I became a manager that I understood how the compliment exchange should go. It’s an occasion for positive reinforcement all around. Not only the recipient of the praise but also the person saying the nice things should end up feeling better after the conversation.
So when you receive praise, your first impulse should be to say “thank you.” And sound like you mean it. Even if a little voice in your head says, “I don’t deserve it,” or “She doesn’t mean it,” ignore your doubt. Smile and express appreciation for the kind words.
It’s not vain to acknowledge satisfaction with your own good work. After saying “thanks,” you might extend the positive moment by adding a brief phrase like, “I’m proud of this one.” Then, if it is deserved, share credit with colleagues or offer an appreciative comment in return, like “your good advice was such a help.”
- Be prepared with smart ways to brag.
Have you ever faced this scenario: a headhunter calls with an interesting job possibility. But when she starts asking about what you’ve been up to lately, your mind goes blank.
New opportunities can pop up fast. But when you’re asked to explain what you’ve been doing on the job, you might not be prepared to succinctly describe your achievements. To keep moving ahead in your career, learn how to quickly describe where you’ve been. Even if you’re now happy in a job that feels secure, on occasion you’ll need to demonstrate your worth. Perhaps you’ll want to go after a raise, promotion or juicy assignment. Here are two techniques to help you remain ready to put your best foot forward:
* Keep a “love me” file. This is a handy place where you immediately store a copy of any document that says something nice about you. I’ve seen a few “love me” files that are full of handwritten “thank you” notes and glowing letters from grateful clients. It’s more likely that your file — whether it’s in your desk drawer or the Cloud — will be a mixed bag. From now on, routinely capture anything that commemorates good work or a positive evaluation, from casual “thanks” messages to press clips or training course certificates. A quick look at your file can help you make your case. And reviewing your file can build you up when you feel down, and inspire your future successes.
* Count activities and results. Your resume, activity reports and project summaries will be more useful and impressive if you include relevant numbers. Let’s say you’re a PR manager and a prolific writer. You can tell a prospective employer that you blog frequently and write lots of press releases. But wouldn’t it be more effective to say that in the last six months you’ve posted 60 blog items, averaging 20,000 views each? If you keep a running log of frequent and important activities, you’ll always have the metrics to show off your achievements in a powerful, streamlined way.
To get started on changing the way you accept compliments or talk about your best work, spend a week or two noticing your own communication patterns. Note how you feel and behave when someone offers thanks or kudos. And watch for occasions when you could have simply and factually mentioned your accomplishments. At the same time you are stepping back to study your own behavior, observe and learn from ways that other successful people manage praise and self-promotion. At the end of the week, set specific goals for talking about yourself in more effective ways.
Beverly Jones, MBA, JD, PCC, leads Clearways Consulting, a respected executive coaching and consulting practice. She is the author of Think Like an Entrepreneur, Act Like a CEO. Jones has led university programs for women and was also a Washington lawyer and Fortune 500 energy executive. Based in Washington D.C., Jones works with accomplished leaders in Congress, at major federal agencies, NGOs, universities, and large corporations.