Career Management Archive

How to Say No

Saying no is hard. We don’t want to disappoint or let people down. And yet, you can’t say yes to everything. You can say no and still sound like a responsible, easy-to-work-with, accommodating professional.

Here are four techniques for how to say no:

  1. Thank the person for asking. “Thank you for asking me.”

Saying “thank you” acknowledges the other person and buys you time to think about his request.

2.  Tell the person you need some time to think about his request. Ask, “Can I have a few days to think about it? I’ll get back to you by Friday.”

You don’t need to reply in the moment. I often regret things I agree to without thinking through the request thoroughly.

3.  Consider what you really want and are willing to do. It’s much worse to over commit and under deliver than to simply say no or renegotiate requests.

4.  Get back to the person in a timely way (when you said you would) and tell him what you’re willing to do.

How to say no at work

How to Say No Option One: Simply say no.

Example: “I really appreciate you asking me to write the proposal for the __________ RFP. I’m not able to do that. Can I recommend someone else who has the expertise and will do a great job?”

Don’t give a bunch of reasons for saying no. People aren’t interested in why we can or can’t do something. They just want to know if we will do it.

How to Say No Option Two: Agree and negotiate the time frame.

Example: “I’d be happy to do that. I can’t do it before the last week of the month. Would that work for you?” If the answer is no, negotiate further. Ask, “When do you really need it? I can certainly do pieces by then, but not the whole thing. Given that I can’t meet your timeline, who else can work on this in tandem or instead of me?”

How to Say No Option Three: Say no to the request but say what you can do.

Example: “I can’t do _______. But I can do ________. How would that work?”

A review of how to say no:

  1. Acknowledge the request by getting back to the requestor within 24 hours.
  2. Give yourself time to think about and respond to requests.
  3. Negotiate requests to your and the requestor’s satisfaction.
  4. Agree on what you can and are willing to do.
  5. Keep your commitments.

Saying no is always hard. But it’s always better to say no than to ignore requests, or to say yes and do nothing.

how to say no at work


Ask Team Building Questions and Be Less Frustrated at Work

We added to our team at Candid Culture a few weeks ago, so we did what I teach other organizations to do –use Candor Questions to onboard our new team member, and help the entire team get to know each other better.

I sent my team the Candor Questions below and asked them to pick a few additional team building questions for everyone on the team to answer.

  • What will keep you working here and what would make you leave?
  • What’s the best way to get information to you – voicemail, text, or email?
    • What time is too early?
    • What time is too late?
    • Do you leave your email and/or text alerts on at night/when you go to sleep?
    • Would you prefer I send all emails and text messages during regular business hours?
  • What frustrates you at work?
  • What are your pet peeves?
  • What’s something you want to learn, skill or business wise, that you haven’t had a chance to do?
  • What’s something you wish I would start, stop, or continuing doing?

We run so fast at work and are so focused on completing goals, we often don’t take the time to really get to know the people we work with. I feel very strongly that asking the team building questions above will help people work better together. We’ll make fewer ‘mistakes’ with each other, and get more done with less stress and more ease. As William Ury said in his book, Getting to Yes, “Go slow to go fast.”

team building questions

How many times have you sent someone five emails and become frustrated when none were returned? Or you thought an employee was happy, only to be surprised when she quit? Or you needed to talk with someone but couldn’t get her attention, so you walked by her office throughout the day, wondering if it was ok to knock? Working with other people doesn’t have to be so hard.

Taking the time to ask team building questions is much faster than recovering from missteps with other people. Ask the questions at the beginning of anything new – when you hire a new employee, get a new customer, or start a new project. And keep asking the questions as you work with people.

Asking questions about working style preferences and goals is an ongoing process, and it’s never too late. You can ask the team building questions during meetings or just slip them into your conversations. The process doesn’t have to be formal or time consuming. The point is simply, don’t guess what people need and are expecting from you, ask.

team building questions


Retaining Employees by Setting Clear Expectations

Organizations are working hard at retaining employees. Employees are watching how their organization’s leaders and managers work, and often make career decisions based on the hours the most senior people keep. Not a recipe for retaining employees.

Many employees pay particular attention to how often managers and senior leaders take vacations and whether or not leaders attend meetings and respond to emails while they’re ‘off.’ Employees observe the late nights leaders and managers put in and the emails sent at 11:00 pm and on the weekends. I’ve heard lots of employees say, “If I need to work like my boss works to get ahead in this organization, I’m not interested.”
Retain Employees

Managers, the key to retaining employees is to communicate expectations. If you’re available while you’re on vacation, but don’t expect your employees to do the same, set that expectation. If you send an email outside of regular business hours but don’t expect employees to respond until the next business day, tell them so. They don’t know. Many employees assume that if you email them at night, you expect a reply.

Instead of allowing employees to make assumptions about what managers do and don’t expect, set clear expectations. Be overt and clear. Tell employees, “I work most evenings and weekends, but don’t expect you to do so. And I work these hours because I enjoy it, not because I have to. If I email you outside of regular business hours, I am not expecting you to reply.” Retaining good employees begins during the interview process, when initial expectations are first set.

Managers, if you expect employees to check and respond to emails outside of regular business hours and to be available while on vacation, tell them. If working long hours is a criteria for promotion, set that expectation preferably during the interview process. It’s completely fine to expect long hours and for employees to be accessible outside of regular business hours. There is nothing wrong with either expectation. There is only a problem if employees don’t know that’s the expectation.

Employees, if your manager emails you outside of regular business hours and she doesn’t tell you whether or not she expects you to reply, ask. Simply say, “I often receive emails outside of regular business hours. How will I know when you need me to reply?” Likewise, if you notice your manager emails you on vacation, you can say, “I typically hear from you when you’re on vacation. Are you expecting me to check in while I’m off?”

The need to ask questions and set expectations goes both ways. Don’t wait to be told. Ask.

Managers and employees, ask these Candor Questions about working style preferences to aid in retaining employees:

  • How do you feel about being contacted outside of regular business hours?
  • If I need to reach you over a weekend or in the evening, what method is best?
  • Would you prefer I text you so you don’t have to check your email outside of business hours?
  • What time is too early and too late to call, text, and/or email?

Ask more. Assume less and make retaining employees easier.

Retain Employees


Help an Underperforming Employee Move On

underperforming employeeBeing in the wrong job feels terrible. It’s not unlike being in the wrong romantic relationship, group of friends, or neighborhood. We feel misplaced. Everything is a struggle. Feeling like we don’t fit and can’t be successful is one of the worst feelings in the world.

The ideal situation is for an underperforming employee to decide to move on. But when this doesn’t happen, managers need to help employees make a change.

The first step in helping an underperforming employee move on to something where  s/he can be more successful is to accept that giving negative feedback and managing employee performance is not unkind. When managers have an underperforming employee, they often think it isn’t nice to say something. Managers don’t want to hurt employees’ feelings or deal with their defensive reactions. In fact, when we help someone move on to a job that she will enjoy and where she can excel, we do the employee a favor. We set her free from a difficult situation that she was not able to leave out of her own volition.

I get asked the question “how do I know when it’s time to let an employee go?” a lot.

Here’s what I teach managers in our managing employee performance training programs: There are four reasons employees don’t do what they need to do:

  1.  They don’t know how.
  2. They don’t think they know how.
  3. They don’t want to.
  4. They can’t. Even with coaching and training, they don’t have the ability to do what you’re asking.

Numbers one and two are coachable. With the right training and coaching employees will likely be able to do what you’re asking them to do.

Numbers three and four are less coachable and are likely not trainable.

When you’re confronted with someone who simply can’t do what you need them to do, it’s time to help the person make a change.

The way you discover whether or not someone can do something is to:

  1.  Set clear expectations
  2. Observe performance
  3. Train, coach, and give feedback
  4. Observe performance
  5. Train, coach and give feedback
  6. Observe performance
  7. Train, coach and give feedback

Welcome to management.

After you’ve trained, coached and given feedback for a period of time, and the person still can’t do what you’re asking her to do, it’s time to make a change.

 Making a change does not mean firing someone. You have options:

  1. Take away responsibilities the person can’t do well and give him other things that he can do well.
  2. Rotate the person to a different job.

Firing someone is always a last resort.

Sometimes we get too attached to job descriptions. The job description outlines a specific responsibility that the person can’t do. So we fire the person versus considering, who else in the organization can do that task? Be open minded. If you have a person who is engaged, committed, and able to do most of her job, be flexible and creative. Give away parts of the job to someone who can do them well. I’ve also seen employees who were failing, thrive in a different job. Organizations that are flexible survive; organizations that are rigid do not.

underperforming employee

Let’s say you’ve stripped away the parts of the job that an underperforming employee can do well and she still can’t perform effectively. Now it’s time to make a change.

Here are some words to use when having the difficult ‘it’s time to move on’ conversation:

“I really want you on my team and to be successful in our organization. Over the past six months, we’ve had several conversations about the parts of your job that are a struggle. We’ve taken away responsibilities that aren’t a fit for you and have replaced those responsibilities with things that seemed like a better fit. And yet I can see that you are still struggling. I’m very sorry to say that it’s not appropriate for you to continue to working here. Today is your last day.” Depending on your organizational culture, can also say, “How do you want to handle this? You can resign or we can let you go. I’ll do whatever feels more comfortable for you.”

This is a difficult conversation that no manager wants to have. Yet I promise you, this conversation feels better to your employee than suffering in a job in which s/he can’t be successful. After you’ve set expectations, observed performance, and coached and given feedback repeatedly, letting someone go is kinder than letting the employee flounder in a job in which he cannot be successful.

underperforming employee

 


How to Interview Well – Try the Job Shadow Interview

Figuring out if a candidate will like and can do a job is fairly straight forward, figuring out if a candidate will like working in your organization is much harder.

A clear and specific job description should tell a candidate whether or not a job’s responsibilities are things she can and wants to do. What’s much harder to determine is whether or not the candidate is a good culture fit with the organization. Will she be comfortable working with the organization’s employees and in the organization’s culture, and will other employees be comfortable working with her? It’s hard to figure that out during a 60 or 90-minute conversation, during which both interviewers and interviewees are on their best behavior.Job Shadow Interview

Some companies use personality assessments to assess culture fit. Others have lots of people meet with candidates. I’m fond of the job shadow interview, which very few companies do.

If you’re really serious about a candidate, why not invite her to spend a day or a half day in your office participating in a job shadow interview. Candidates can attend meetings, have lunch, hang out in the break room and hallways, and meet fellow employees during the job shadow interview. Candidates and employees are more likely to let their guard down and be themselves outside of a formal job interview. You want to know the person you hire as well as possible. You don’t want to hire someone who turns out to be very different once she actually starts.

Hiring and training new employees is the most costly thing most businesses do, so slow down and invest more time. Before you make a candidate an offer, ask the candidate if she would be willing to spend half a day in your office participating in a job shadow interview. That invitation could sound something like, “We really like you and think you’d be a great fit. Before we make you an offer, we wonder if you’d be willing to spend an afternoon (or a day), sitting in on some meetings and job shadowing a potential peer. Would you be interested in doing that?”

Candidates, you’re interviewing and assessing an organization just as the people in the organization are interviewing and assessing you. You won’t be successful or stay in a job very long if you don’t feel at home in the culture. If a hiring manager makes you an offer and you are seriously considering it, ask to job shadow interview for a half or full day. That request could sound something like, “Thank you so much for the job offer. I’m very excited about the possibility of working for you! I want to be sure that I’m a great fit and vice versa. How would you feel if I spent a morning or afternoon attending a few meetings and job shadowing someone on the team? This will give me an even better sense of the organization and make sure this is a great decision for both of us. What do you think?” I can’t imagine any employer outside of those working on government, classified information saying no.

Taking the wrong job and hiring the wrong candidate is costly. Slow down and make better hiring decisions by giving candidates a chance to experience your culture with a job shadow interview, when people aren’t on their best behavior. You’ll make better hiring decisions and save lots of time and money in the process.

Job Shadow Interview


Don’t Get Defensive When Receiving Feedback – Even If It’s Negative

ReceivingFeedbackThe people you live and work with are hesitant to give you negative feedback. They’re afraid you’ll freak out, and they don’t want to deal your freak out. It’s easier to say nothing.

When I started teaching how to give and receive feedback, I provided elaborate explanations as to the predictable response to feedback and the rationale for that response. Now I’ve boiled the natural response to receiving feedback into three words: The Freak Out.

Every person you know personally and professionally wants to be liked and approved of. Even the people in your office who you think are lazy want you to think they do good work. And when anyone calls another person’s competence into question, that person is likely to freak out (become defensive).

It’s very difficult not to get at least a little bit defensive when receiving feedback. A defensive response often sounds something like, “Thanks for the telling me that. Can I tell you why I did it that way?” The problem with that slightly defensive response is that what the other person hears is, “You’re not listening. I am wasting my time talking to you.” Then the conversation quickly ends. People want to feel heard. And when the feedback recipient becomes defensive, the person giving feedback doesn’t feel heard.

Don’t feel badly about becoming defensive when you receive negative feedback. Becoming defensive when receiving bad news just means you’re a living, breathing human being with feelings. That beats the alternative. But The Freak Out scares people. They don’t want to deal with your mild, moderate, or very defensive reactions.

Because people want to avoid The Freak Out, they keep negative feedback to themselves or worse, tell someone else. If you want more truth, you need to make it clear there won’t be negative repercussions for speaking up.

Here are seven steps to get others comfortable giving you negative feedback:

1.  Ask for feedback
2.  Be specific about the type of feedback you want.
3.  Tell the person from whom you’re asking for feedback when and where she can observe you in action.

  • A bad example of asking for feedback:  “I really want your feedback. Feel free to give it anytime.”  This is too vague and doesn’t demonstrate seriousness on your part.
  • A good example of asking for feedback:  “I really want your feedback on the pace of the new hire orientation program. Will you sit through the first hour next Wednesday at 9:00 a.m., and tell me what you think of the pace and why?” This request tells the person specifically what you want and demonstrates you’re serious about wanting her feedback.

4. When you receive feedback say, “Thank you for telling me. I’m going to think about what you’ve said and may come back to you in a few days to talk more.”
5.  Don’t respond to negative feedback immediately. Walk away instead of responding.
6.  If you’d like more information or want to tell the person you disagree with what she said, wait until you’re calm to have that conversation.

7. You can express a counter point of view, you just can’t do it immediately after you receive the feedback.

No matter what a person’s role in your life – your boss, a peer, external customer, or even spouse – it takes courage to give you feedback. When a conversation requires courage, the speaker’s emotions are heightened. If the feedback recipient’s emotions rise in response to the feedback, conversations escalate. This is how arguments start. If you want to put the other person at ease and get more feedback in the future, do the opposite of what she is expecting. Rather than getting even the slightest bit defensive, do the opposite. Say, “Thank you for the feedback. I’m sorry you had that experience. I’m going to think about what you’ve said, and may come back to you to talk more.” Then walk away.

Walking away, when all you want to do is react, is very difficult. Walking away will require a good deal of self control, but the rewards are great. You will build trust, strengthen your relationships, and get more information than you have in the past, information you need to manage your career, reputation and business.

Receiving Feedback

 


Don’t Give Unsolicited Advice

Etip6.2.14tipIt’s hard to watch people do things that damage them – personally or professionally. And yet, if they haven’t asked for feedback, people likely won’t listen to unsolicited advice, so don’t bother giving it.

If you really want to give unsolicited advice, ask for permission and make sure you get a true “yes” before speaking up.

The conversation could go something like this:

“I noticed we’re getting behind on the XYZ project. I have a couple of ideas about what we can do. Would you be interested in talking about them?” Or, “That Monday meeting is rough. I feel for you. I used to run meetings like that. Would you be interested in talking about some meeting management strategies? I’d be happy to share what I’ve learned.”

After you offer to talk (aka, give your opinion), listen and watch the response you get. Does the person’s words and body language portray a true “yes, I’d like your opinion” or what seems like an “I’m supposed to say yes” reply? If you get the latter, you’re likely just giving unwanted advice that won’t be heard. If that’s the case, let it go. But if the person appears generally interested and open, proceed.

You could also say something like:

“Last week we were talking about your frustrations about not being promoted. I have a couple of ideas about that. Do you want to talk about them? Either way is fine, but I thought I’d offer.”

Or, “That was a tough conversation during today’s staff meeting. It’s hard to present ideas and not have them be embraced. I have a couple of thoughts about ways you can approach the conversation during the next meeting. Want to talk about them?”

If you make the invitation to talk, the other person has to be able to say no. An invitation is only an invitation if no is an acceptable answer. You can’t ask if the person wants your input and then keep talking even if he verbally or physically said no.

Be brave. If you care about someone personally or professionally and you see him doing something that gets in the way of his success, ask permission to say something. If you get the go ahead, proceed. If you get a “no thank you,” accept that and move on. You’ve done your part.

Read How to Say Anything to Anyone, and get the words to have even the toughest conversations.

Read How to Say Anything to Anyone


Five Keys to Employee Engagement and Employee Retention

Employees leave managers not jobs. We’ve all heard this 100 times.

One of the most prevalent reasons for employee turnover is boredom and lack of growth. We’ve also heard this many times.

We know why employees leave jobs. The question is what must managers do to engage and retain their best people. The answer is actually quite simple, although possibly not easy to execute.

employee retentionEmployees want to know that their manager:

  • Knows them
  • Cares about and is invested in their careers
  • Gives feedback so they can improve
  • Provides opportunities so they can develop

In other words, employees need attention, and attention requires time, time many managers may not feel they have.

Here is a five-step formula for employee retention and employee engagement:

  1. Get to know employees better and differently
  2. Have meaningful, one-on-one meetings [at least] monthly
  3. Give feedback every time you meet
  4. Ask for and be open to feedback
  5. Create opportunities for employees to do the work that interests them most

Managers, how do you make time for these meetings when are busy and have several direct reports?

  1. Meet for 15-30 minutes
  2. Meet over the phone while commuting or waiting for flights
  3. Ask direct reports to create an agenda and run the meetings
  4. Ask direct reports to send follow-up notes of decisions and plans made during meetings. Give some of the accountability away.
  5. If meetings get cancelled, reschedule as soon as possible. Direct reports take cancelled meeting personally. Cancelled meetings, that are not rescheduled, send the message that managers don’t care about employees and their careers.

Employees, if your manager doesn’t schedule meetings with you:

  1. Ask permission to put a monthly meeting on your manager’s calendar
  2. Provide rationale for why you want to meet–to get your manager’s feedback and ensure you’re focused on the right work
  3. Ask permission to reschedule meetings when they get cancelled
  4. Don’t take cancelled meetings personally
  5. Offer to meet with your manager via the phone when it’s convenient for him/her. Leverage commute and travel time.

Employees need time with their managers. Meaningful discussions and work result in employee engagement and employee retention, so managers, make the time, even when you don’t feel you have it. Ask questions you don’t ask now. Give feedback, even if it’s uncomfortable. Give your employees an opportunity to do the work that interests them most. And watch your employee engagement and employee retention improve. And if your manager doesn’t do these things, politely and persistently ask. You won’t get what you don’t ask for.  We are all 100% accountable for our careers.


Get What You Want at Work – How to Face Your Fears

How to Face Your FearsWhen I landed my first ‘real’ job after graduating from college I was so scared, I almost turned the job down. It took me five years to finish my first book, How to Say Anything to Anyone, in part because I was afraid no one would like it.

It seems anything worth doing is worth fearing.

I’m not talking about taking risks for the sake of risk –driving as fast as your car can take you, not paying your bills to see what will happen, or offering a counter point of view at work for the sake of doing so. I’m talking about pursuing the things you really want, that speak to your true purpose.

Being afraid doesn’t mean you can’t do something, nor does it mean that you shouldn’t. Feeling some fear just means what you want is outside of what you know you can do. But it’s the edge and the unknown that is juicy and rich.

During the past two years I’ve been pursuing things I’m terrified of, that I don’t know I can do. Yet I want these things, so I pursue them in the face of fear. And I have to admit, that as I get closer to getting what I want, the fear doesn’t dissipate, it actually gets worse . As I can almost taste having what I want, I get more scared. And sometimes I pull back, thinking, maybe I don’t really won’t those things. Maybe I was wrong. Then I remember why I want what I want and step back into the pursuit, despite the fear.

Don’t misinterpret fear as a reason not to do something.

A few suggestions for how to face your fears at work:

1. Write your desires down and/or tell people what you want.

  • You’re more likely to get what you talk about having.

2. Take one step towards having what you want.

  • Talk to someone who either has what you want or can help you get what you want.

3. Put yourself in the place of most potential, where you can get what you want.

  • If you want to work in a certain department, express interest in working on a project that serves that department.
  • Tell your boss and people in leadership in your desired work area of your interest.
  • Apply for a job in that area.

4. Be positive and persistent.

  • No one wants to give a complainer an opportunity, and takes time to make a shift.

The key is to take one step, then another, then another. And when you feel fear, don’t let it stop you. Fearing the next job or opportunity doesn’t mean you can’t do it well, it just means you haven’t done it yet.

When you need encouragement to face your fears, hang our inspiring magnets at your desk. You have to believe in yourself just as much as the people around you believe in you.

How to Face Your Fears


Send Short Emails and Get Your Communications Read

Send Shorter EmailsPeople are drowning in data, more specifically in email. If you want people to read your communications, send short emails and fewer of them.

How often do you open an email, see its daunting length, close the email promising you’ll get back to it later, but don’t. Then you bump into the sender a week later and he asks, in an annoyed tone, “Did you get my email?” And you attempt to conjure up the email, distinguishing it from the 1500 you’ve received since.

Some people like receiving lots of information, others don’t. Ask your internal and external customers how much information they want to receive, in what format, how frequently, and with how much detail. And when you can, accommodate their preferences.

I’m a big picture person. For me, more information is not necessarily better. I’ll read five bullets. I won’t read five paragraphs. I’m frequently guilty of opening a long email, becoming overwhelmed, deciding I don’t have time to read  the entire message, promising to read it later, and by the time I go back to the message, I’ve typically missed a deadline.

You can say it’s my problem that I don’t read long emails, not the sender’s problem. And you’d be right. I should read every email I get in full. But when I don’t give the sender something she needs, because I was overwhelmed by the length of her email, it becomes her problem too. If you want people to respond and do what you’re asking, communicate how they like to communicate, whenever possible.

I’d like to say that people are so used to reading short text messages and Facebook and Twitter updates that they’ve been trained not to read anything longer than a few sentences.  And there may be something to that. But the truth, is there are detail people who like a lot of data and there are big picture people who don’t. If you provide a high level summary – just what recipients need to know – followed by more details or information on where more details can be found, you accommodate both the detail and the big picture people.

When you write your next email or any other type of communication, consider, could this be said with fewer words? Do the recipients want or need this level of detail? Then, shorten your communications and accommodate both the big picture and the detail people. And you’ll be amazed at how quickly you receive the things you’re asking for.

And if that’s not working, go old school and use our greeting cards to write a note, because no one can resist and handwritten note.

Greeting Cards for Work


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