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Posts Tagged ‘teamwork’

Set Expectations and Be Happier at Work

People are not us; they do things their way, not ours. This is so obvious. Yet violated expectations are consistently a source of lots of frustration and upset, both personally and professionally. “How could you not check your work before submitting information to a client?” “What do you mean you didn’t call that person back?” “You said what?!”

The most frequent request we get at Candid Culture is for feedback training. The call usually goes something like this, “The Set expectationscommunication isn’t great at our company. Managers don’t give a lot of feedback. People don’t talk directly to each other when there are problems, they talk about each other. Can you help?”

Sure, we can help. But once we’re having this conversation people are already frustrated. Trust has been violated and relationships and reputations have been damaged. Instead of waiting for problems to occur, expect the unexpected. Set clear expectations before people don’t proofread reports, miss deadlines, and do other things you wouldn’t dream of doing.

How to avoid violated (often unstated) expectations? Ask more questions.

Here are five questions you should ask every person you work with to set expectations. And if you do, your workplace will have fewer frustrations and violated expectations:

  1. What’s most important that you’re working on right now? What are your goals this quarter?
  2. What are we both working on that we can work on together? Or what should one of us stop working on?
  3. How do you like to communicate? Phone, in-person, by appointment or drop by’s.
  4. How do you like to receive information – email, voicemail, text message or instant messenger?
  5. If I need information from you and I haven’t heard back from you, what should I do, and is it ok to do that?
  6. What are your pet peeves at work? How will I annoy you and not even know it?
  7. How do you like to be interrupted? (You’re going to be interrupted. You might as well have a preference.)

I know. That was seven questions, not five. I could keep going. But this is a good start.

Here’s the philosophy and practice: People aren’t you. Anticipate challenges, breakdowns, and violated expectations, and talk about them before they happen. Make requests. Ask questions.

It’s always easier to ask for what you want than to give feedback.

set expectations


Manage Up Better to Get More at Work

Fourteen years ago, during my annual performance review, my manager said, “You had a great year. You rolled out 18 new training programs and got more participation in those programs than we’ve ever seen in the past. But you’re all substance and no sizzle. You’re not good at sharing the work you’re doing, and as a result my boss doesn’t know enough about what you’re doing and to support a large raise for you, so I can’t even suggest one.”

Manage up

That happened to me ONCE, and I swore it would never happen again.

Too many people believe that if they do good work, the right people will notice and they will be rewarded appropriately. Part of this thinking is accurate. To be rewarded appropriately, you need to be doing good work. But the people in a position to reward you also need to know what you’re doing and the value you’re adding.

You need to find a way to share the value you’re providing without going over your boss’s head, sucking up, or alienating your coworkers.

Here are four ways to manage up while strengthening your business relationships:

Manage up tip number one: Ask your manager’s permission to send him a weekly update of what you accomplished during the week. This should be a one-page, easy-to-read, bulleted list of accomplishments or areas of focus.

Your boss is busy and most likely doesn’t follow you around all day. As a result, you need to let him know about the work you’re doing. Don’t make him guess.

Manage up tip number two: Periodically share what you’re doing with the people your manager works for and with. That can sound like, “I just wanted to share what my department is accomplishing. We’re really excited about it.” Ask your manager’s permission to do this and tell her why you want to do it (to ensure that the senior people in your organization are in-the-know about what your department’s accomplishments).

If you’re not sure who can impact your career and thus who you should inform about your work, ask your manager. She knows and will tell you, if you ask.

Manage up tip number three: Use the word “we” versus “I.” “We accomplished…..” “We’re really excited about….” Using the word “we” is more inclusive and makes you sound like a team player versus a lone ranger.

Manage up tip number four: If you work remotely and don’t see your coworkers and manager often, make sure you’re keeping people informed about what you’re doing. Likewise, if you work flexible hours – leave early, come in late, and work at night – people will assume you’re working fewer hours than them and will talk about it to whoever will listen. So while the hours you work shouldn’t be anyone’s business, people in organizations talk about stuff like this.

Don’t assume that people know what you’re doing or the value you’re adding to your organization. Instead, assume people have no idea and find appropriate ways to tell them. You are 100% accountable for your career.

Manage up


Five Ways to Improve Workplace Communication – Share Ideas and Work Less

I’ll never forget sitting in a meeting with other department leaders, at my last job, and hearing that another department was working on the very thing that my department had been working on for months. We were a lean organization. No one had time for unnecessarily redundant work. And yet there were two departments working on the same project without knowing it.

workplace communication

As crazy as it sounds, this isn’t uncommon. People often know very little about what others across their organization do. Sometimes people on the same team don’t even know what type of work fellow team members are doing. This lack of knowledge can lead to conflict (i.e. get off my turf), wasted resources, and stale ideas. If you know two departments are working to solve similar challenges, sharing ideas is likely to generate better solutions.

Friday is National Swap Ideas Day. This sounds like a cheesy, invented holiday, but we’ve all been frustrated or constrained by a lack of sharing of ideas in our workplaces. So in honor of this invented holiday, here are five ways to find out what others in your organization are doing in the hopes of sharing more ideas and resources.

Workplace Communication Tip #1: This will sound basic, but be sure to let the people and departments impacted by your work know what you’re doing. I.e., if you’re advertising a new product, let the folks in fulfillment know they need to staff up the day the advertisement hits prospects’ and clients’ offices or they may not have enough people to fulfill orders. I’m embarrassed to admit we’ve made this mistake at Candid Culture. Oops.

Workplace Communication Tip #2: Create opportunities for departments who impact each other to communicate on a regular basis. Either literally get teams together quarterly to discuss what they’re working on, or if that’s not feasible, select liaisons from each department to meet regularly and discuss current and upcoming projects.

During the discussions, ask these questions:

  • What are you working on?
  • What challenges are you having?
  • What are you trying to change?
  • How can we help you?
  • What are you working on that we could do together?
  • How could our departments work better together?

Workplace Communication Tip #3: Widen your net and ask people you typically don’t have a lot (or any) contact with for their ideas on something you’re working on. Someone doesn’t necessarily need deep knowledge or expertise to offer a suggestion, they just need to think differently than you do.

Workplace Communication Tip #4: Be open to help, new ideas, and sharing projects. It’s easy to feel threatened and territorial at work, thinking that if someone else can do what you do, that you become extraneous. It’s not easy to find employees who are hardworking, reliable, effective, and low drama. Bring all of those qualities to work, and you have nothing to worry about. So start sharing.

Workplace Communication Tip #5: Keep up whatever idea-sharing practice you start. It’s common to try one of the ideas suggested above and then let the practice lapse when things get busy. Put processes in place to make sharing ideas the normal way that you work.

You likely have enough to do. You don’t need to be working on projects that someone else is working on. And sometimes hearing how a coworker would approach a problem will give you a solution you need. Share ideas. Work together across teams and departments and maybe you’ll end working less.

workplace communication


Set Expectations and Be Happier at Work

People are not us; they do things their way, not ours. This is so obvious. Yet violated expectations are consistently a source of lots of frustration and upset, both personally and professionally. “How could you not check your work before submitting information to a client?” “What do you mean you didn’t call that person back?” “You said what?!”

The most frequent request we get at Candid Culture is for feedback training. The call usually goes something like this, “The People don't do things the way we do. communication isn’t great at our company. Managers don’t give a lot of feedback. People don’t talk directly to each other when there are problems, they talk about each other. Can you help?”

Sure, we can help. But once we’re having this conversation people are already frustrated. Trust has been violated and relationships and reputations have been damaged. Instead of waiting for problems to occur, expect the unexpected. Set clear expectations before people don’t proofread reports, miss deadlines, and do other things you wouldn’t dream of doing.

How to avoid violated (often unstated) expectations? Ask more questions.

Here are five questions you should ask every person you work with. And if you do, your workplace will have fewer frustrations and violated expectations:

  1. What’s most important that you’re working on right now? What are your goals this quarter?
  2. What are we both working on that we can work on together? Or what should one of us stop working on?
  3. How do you like to communicate? Phone, in-person, by appointment or drop by’s.
  4. How do you like to receive information – email, voicemail, text message or instant messenger?
  5. If I need information from you and I haven’t heard back from you, what should I do, and is it ok to do that?
  6. What are your pet peeves at work? How will I annoy you and not even know it?
  7. How do you like to be interrupted? (You’re going to be interrupted. You might as well have a preference.)

I know. That was seven questions, not five. I could keep going. But this is a good start.

Here’s the philosophy and practice: People aren’t you. Anticipate challenges, breakdowns, and violated expectations, and talk about them before they happen. Make requests. Ask questions.

It’s always easier to ask for what you want than to give feedback.

communication tip card


Manage Up Better to Get More at Work

Fourteen years ago, during my annual performance review, my manager said, “You had a great year. You rolled out 18 new training programs and got more participation in those programs than we’ve ever seen in the past. But you’re all substance and no sizzle. You’re not good at sharing the work you’re doing, and as a result my boss doesn’t know enough about what you’re doing and to support a large raise for you, so I can’t even suggest one.”

Manage Up

That happened to me ONCE, and I swore it would never happen again.

Too many people believe that if they do good work, the right people will notice and they will be rewarded appropriately. Part of this thinking is accurate. To be rewarded appropriately, you need to be doing good work. But the people in a position to reward you also need to know what you’re doing and the value you’re adding.

You need to find a way to share the value you’re providing without going over your boss’s head, sucking up, or alienating your coworkers.

Here are four ways to manage up while strengthening your business relationships:

Manage up tip number one: Ask your manager’s permission to send him a weekly update of what you accomplished during the week. This should be a one-page, easy-to-read, bulleted list of accomplishments or areas of focus.

Your boss is busy and most likely doesn’t follow you around all day. As a result, you need to let him know about the work you’re doing. Don’t make him guess.

Manage up tip number two: Periodically share what you’re doing with the people your manager works for and with. That can sound like, “I just wanted to share what my department is accomplishing. We’re really excited about it.” Ask your manager’s permission to do this and tell her why you want to do it (to ensure that the senior people in your organization are in-the-know about what your department’s accomplishments).

If you’re not sure who can impact your career and thus who you should inform about your work, ask your manager. She knows and will tell you, if you ask.

Manage up tip number three: Use the word “we” versus “I.” “We accomplished…..” “We’re really excited about….” Using the word “we” is more inclusive and makes you sound like a team player versus a lone ranger.

Manage up tip number four: If you work remotely and don’t see your coworkers and manager often, make sure you’re keeping people informed about what you’re doing. Likewise, if you work flexible hours – leave early, come in late, and work at night – people will assume you’re working fewer hours than them and will talk about it to whoever will listen. So while the hours you work shouldn’t be anyone’s business, people in organizations talk about stuff like this.

Don’t assume that people know what you’re doing or the value you’re adding to your organization. Instead, assume people have no idea and find appropriate ways to tell them. You are 100% accountable for your career.

Manage Up


Corporate Team Building Activities Don’t Include Bowling

About fifteen years ago, I worked with a woman with whom I didn’t get along. We were on the same team and had the same job, but didn’t see eye to eye on how to approach work or solve problems. And when we didn’t agree, things got ugly. I have to admit to being afraid of her. She was nasty when things didn’t go her way.

corporate-team-buildingThe odd thing is that socially, we did fine. When our team socialized outside of work, we had fun and got along well. That’s when I realized that there was no correlation between getting along outside of work and working well together.

Lots of teams go bowling, to baseball games, and out for happy hour as corporate team building activities. And while team members may enjoy being together at these events and get to know each other better personally, they don’t learn team members’ working style preferences, the work others are really good at, and the things at which team members are not as good.

Go bowling or out for happy hour, just don’t expect people to work better together after doing those activities. If you want to do corporate team building activities, give team members a chance to learn about each other and themselves, and make agreements of how team members will work together in the future. Create occasions for candor.

When I lead corporate team building activities, I put people in small groups, give the group a box of Candor Questions to Say Anything to Anyone, and time to answer the questions. One person in the group asks one question from the box. Everyone in the group answers that person’s question. The person who asked the question then answers his own question. Then another person on the team asks a question and so on. A great conversation always ensues.

People talk about things they should have and wished they’re talked about when they started working together. Team members learn about each others’ work style preferences and what each person needs from both the job and each other. But most importantly, team members have permission to talk about things they normally don’t, and begin to create a climate of candor, which is essential for any group of people working together. For a team to work well together, it must be safe to tell the truth. Teams need to talk about the things that impact them most –each other.

So go bowling and out for happy hour. But also create opportunities for team members to talk about the things that matter most –how they impact each other at work.

corporate team building


Tell your coworkers you appreciate them – Valentines for coworkers

valentines for coworkersWhenever I leave a job, the thing I take with me are the relationships. The projects and deliverables quickly become distant memories, but the people and the experiences we shared together stay with me. Some of my closet friends and the people most important to me in the world are the people I’ve worked with. It makes sense that we make friends at work; it’s where we spend a lot of time.  And the people we work with make work fun or miserable.

There is a considerable amount of research citing the connection between having good business relationships and employee engagement, retention, and high performance. When we feel we belong and have good relationships at work, we are happier and do better work. It makes perfect sense.

As I’m writing this, I’m thinking about my coworkers with whom I spent weeks on the road, who endured a presentation, practice session for an upcoming town hall meeting that lasted until 1:00 am, and the coworkers I worked with in the World Trade Center. As much as I appreciated and cared about the people I worked with, I not sure how often I told them that they made my work world better.

Valentine’s Day is a day we express appreciation for the people closest to us. Don’t limit your appreciation to your loved ones at home; include your coworkers who make your work fun and who help you get things done. Of course, I hope you’ll tell express appreciation more than once a year, but Valentine’s Day is an occasion not to miss.

Write the people you work with, who matter most to you, a handwritten note that they’ll keep for a long, long time. You can see our assortment of greeting cards for the workplace here. I’ll admit that I collect stationary and love giving and receiving handwritten notes. I suspect the people you work with will appreciate receiving a handwritten note too.

Click here to see all of our greeting cards:

Write handwritten notes and tell the people you work with (who you like) that each day is better because of them.


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