Call Shari 303-863-0948 or Email Us

Contact us for virtual speaking and training!

Business Relationships Archive

Set Yourself Up to Win – Ask More Questions

A professional athlete would never get on the court or field without knowing exactly what will score them points and penalties. But many of us go to work every day without knowing how we’re being evaluated.

If you’ve ever had a performance review or received feedback that caught you off guard or have completed a project and were told your work wasn’t quite what was expected, you didn’t have enough information upfront. Don’t wait for people to tell you what they need and expect (which often happens after breakdowns occur), set clear expectations at the beginning of anything new and ask for feedback as you make progress.

The people you work for and with should tell you what they expect. They should give you feedback along the way. And many won’t. Your career management is in your hands, and that’s a very good thing.

When you start a new job, project, or any responsibility ask the person delegating the work some of these questions:

Career Management Question one: What does a good job look like?

Career Management Question two: What’s the criteria for success?

Career Management Question three: How will you know you picked the right person for the job?

Career Management Question four: Why is this project a priority right now? How will it impact the organization?

Career Management Question five: What kind of updates would you like? In what format, how frequently, and with what level of detail?

Career Management Question six: How often do you want to review my work?

Career Management Question seven: Who in the organization should I work with on this project?

Career Management Question eight: What history, pitfalls, or landmines do I need to be aware of? Has anyone tried to do this before, and if yes, with what outcomes? Who in the organization supports this project? Who doesn’t?

If you’ve been in your job for a long time or have been working on a project for a while, it’s not too late to ask these questions. Simply approach the person with whom you’re working and say, “I want to be sure I’m doing great work on _____________ project. Can I ask you a couple of questions about the desired end results and how we should be communicating as I make progress?”

Lots of people aren’t the best delegators. They give us a project, ask if we have any questions, and provide a due date. Don’t fall into the trap of completing an entire project and then asking for feedback. Even if the person delegating the work doesn’t want to see your progress, ask for that feedback. Schedule weekly or monthly review meetings, present the work you’ve done, and ask for feedback. If you get to the end of a project or responsibility and are surprised by the reaction, you didn’t ask enough questions at the beginning and middle of the project.

People will tell you everything you need to do a good job, if you ask. Take control of your career. Ask more. Assume less.


Managing Unsolicited Advice – It’s Ok to Say “No, thank you”

If you visit family and friends this holiday season. you may receive unsolicited feedback and advice. Sometimes people who care and want what’s best for us, provide input we didn’t ask for.

Unsolicited feedback at best feels like someone is trying to help, at worst it feels like criticism. Underneath the feedback might be the message, “If you were doing this right, I wouldn’t need to give you this advice.” I put unsolicited feedback and advice in the same bucket.

If you find yourself receiving unsolicited advice, you don’t have to smile politely and take it. It’s ok to put an end to feedback and advice.

Simply smile, tell the person you appreciate them caring enough to give you that advice, and say that you’re not looking for advice on that topic at this time. And then smile again. Smiling softens most messages. Say nothing more. Most people will stop talking. What else is there to say?

This method of acknowledging the person talking is respectful and firm. To pull it off, watch your tone. If you can safely add the words, “you dummy” to anything you say, you have a tone issue. Be genuinely appreciative and enforce boundaries. You’re not the 7/11. You don’t have to be open to feedback and others’ input all the time.

If the person continues giving you advice, simply say the same thing again. “Thank you for caring enough about me to share that with me. I really appreciate your concern. And I’m not looking for advice on that at this time.” If the person keeps talking, just say, “I’m going to get a drink.” Then get up and go get a drink.

If stopping unsolicited feedback feels uncomfortable, prevent it. Tell people before you see them, “I don’t want to talk about _____________ (fill in the blank). Please don’t bring it up over Thanksgiving.” You can soften that request any way you like.

Most difficult conversation are preventable. And preventing a difficult conversation is always easier than having one.

Setting boundaries might be feel uncomfortable. But it’s likely not as uncomfortable as having a conversation you don’t want to have and then feeling like you need to avoid someone for the rest of the evening and possibly year. It’s ok to say, “No, thank you. Please pass the pie.”

 


Strengthen Your Organization’s Culture Quickly and Cheaply

Leaders with virtual and hybrid workforces are worried about losing their organization’s culture. Some organizations are calling employees back into the office to retain culture. Others are hosting in-person social events, retreats, and meetings to help employees reconnect and strengthen culture.

Getting together in person is nice but it isn’t always possible. And what happens when everyone goes home? Culture is built on a daily basis.

Organizational culture is an outcome of the decisions we make and how those decisions get made, how we treat people, and how we communicate and work together. If you want to strengthen your organization’s culture, do it every day.

To strengthen your culture, take small regular actions.

Start each meeting helping employees get to know each other better, from a work perspective.

Host town halls at least twice a year.

Host roundtable discussions between senior leaders and a diverse sample of your workforce.

Have leaders and managers leave employees a weekly voicemail. Share a recent success, challenge, or goals. Keep messages short and authentic. Set the tone for the week.

All of these actions can be done virtually or in a hybrid setting.

Give employees opportunities to talk to each other about the things that matter most at work. Do this regularly – at least a few times a year.

You don’t need to spend a lot of money to strengthen and retain your culture. Go small, go cheap – regularly.


Vent Less and Be Happier

I had a colleague at my last job, before I started Candid Culture, who was a peer and a friend. We were at a similar level and would periodically sit in one of our offices, with the door closed, talking about the bad decisions our company’s senior leaders made. One day I realized that these conversations were exhausting to me. They were negative and didn’t make me feel better. In fact, they made me feel worse.

Some people assert that venting is cathartic and makes people feel better. It doesn’t.

I’ll use an analogy I read in one of Deepak Chopra’s books. When you put a plant in the closet and don’t give it light or water, it withers and dies. When you put a plant in the sunlight and water it, it grows. And the same is true for people. What you give attention to gets bigger. What you deprive attention goes away.

Your life is made up of the people you spend time with and what you talk about. What are you talking about?

If you’re complaining, unless you’re planning a conversation to address a challenge or problem, you’re venting. And talking about what frustrates you will only make you more frustrated.

My advice:  Do something about the things you can impact and let the other stuff go.


Give Yourself A Break – You’re Not Supposed to Be Perfect

Every day I’m annoyed that I’m not perfect. I want to be a combination of Mary Poppins, Super Woman, and Kate Middleton, but I’m not. I’m a business owner, working mom, who hasn’t seen the inside of a gym since my son was born, who recommits to better self-care every day, only to break that commitment in eleven different ways by 10:00 am.

Some days are going to be bad. On those bad days, it’s easy to feel like we’re messing things up and that we are indeed a mess. Instead, give yourself a break. The thing to know and remember, in the moment, is that you’re a human being, doing the best you can.

realistic expectations

Here is a list of five ways to give yourself a break and as a result, do your best work.

    1. Set realistic deadlines so you’re not constantly running against time, and overestimate how long everything will take to do.
    2. Before agreeing to a new commitment, ask yourself, “Do I really want to do this?” Try not to commit yourself to things you know, at your core, you don’t want to do. You’ll just resent that commitment when it rolls around and aren’t likely to do your best work.
    3. Turn off the alerts on your phone and laptop when you’re working. You’ll be more focused and get more work done.
    4. Take a day off. Your company offers vacation time for a reason. People do better work when they take time to relax and rejuvenate.
    5. Say “thank you” more and “I’m sorry” less. “Thank you for letting me know” is more empowering than “I’m sorry I missed that.” I’m guilty of apologizing for everything, so much so that one of my employees and I play a game that whoever says she’s sorry first has to throw a dollar in a communal collection pot. Whatever you put attention on will improve.

Some of these things are business focused, some are personal. You bring yourself – your whole self – to work. It’s why you’re good at what you do. People want to work with real people. And real people over commit, make mistakes, and spend too much time on social media at 11:30 pm. Give yourself a break.

manage your career and reputation


Responding to Feedback – Do the Opposite of What People Expect

Most people avoid giving feedback because they’re concerned about (don’t want to deal with) the other person’s defensive response. It’s easier to say nothing than deal with someone’s defensiveness. So, we say things are fine when they’re not.

If you want people to tell you the truth, do the opposite of what they expect when responding to feedback. Rather than become defensive, say, “thank you.”

Accepting feedback

Saying “thank you for the feedback” is not intended to be a Pollyanna response, nor does it mean you agree and that the person is right. Saying “thank you” catches the other person off guard (in a good way) and buys you time to think and respond calmly, making it more likely that you’ll get feedback in the future.

Each of us wants to be thought well of and be seen as competent. Negative feedback calls both into question and the brain responds defensively. The challenge is that defensive responses scare other people into silence. And you only need to get defensive once for people to believe that you don’t deal well with feedback.

Don’t underestimate the power of your emotions and ego. You are likely to respond to feedback defensively, even if you don’t see yourself do it. A seemingly benign ‘explanation’ of why you did something as you did it, is seen as defensive and is thus off putting to others.

Here are six strategies for responding to feedback well:

  1. Have feedback conversations when you have the time to listen and are rested. If you’re tired, on a deadline, or rushing to your next meeting, the conversation will not go well.
  1. If someone catches you off guard with feedback and you know you won’t respond well, interrupt the person. Tell them that you appreciate them bringing this to your attention and you want to give the conversation the attention it deserves, but now isn’t a good time. Schedule a time to finish the conversation within a few days.
  1. Have a plan for how you’re going to respond to scheduled/planned feedback conversations before the conversations start.  Tell yourself, “I will say thank you, end the conversation, and ask for another time to talk.”
  1. If you receive feedback that doesn’t feel accurate, ask others, who you trust, what they think. Just be prepared to hear what they have to say, and, of course, respond with “thank you.”
  1. Don’t respond to negative feedback in the moment, even if the other person wants you to and you think you can do so without being defensive. Don’t underestimate the power of your emotions. You will be upset, even if you don’t feel upset, and your response will be better after you’ve had time to process. Tell the person who gave you feedback that you take their feedback seriously and want to respond thoughtfully, and thus you’re going to think about what they said before responding. People may be frustrated with this response at first, but they’ll be appreciative later.
  1. Be sure to get back to the person, who has feedback for you, within a few days. Tell them you thought about what they said and then tell them how you feel. You can speak candidly. Your words will be calmer and more thoughtful than when you received the initial feedback.

We know people are hesitant to give feedback. Make giving you feedback easier by responding calmly. No one expects to hear “thank you for the feedback.” Your unemotional response will strengthen your reputation and relationships and make it more likely that you get more feedback in the future.

Book Feedback


Manage People Who Give You ‘The Tone’ – Tone of Voice Communication

You know when someone gives you ‘the tone’, similar to when people roll their eyes at you? When you get ‘the tone’ you’re being told that the other person is exasperated.

Tone of voice is one of the hardest things to coach because we don’t hear ourselves. People who give people ‘the tone’ rarely know they’re doing it. One of the best ways I know to effectively coach tone of voice is to ask tone givers to tape themselves during phone calls. Then listen to the recording together and ask the tone giver, “If your grandmother called and someone spoke to her that way, would you be happy?” You can also read written correspondence out loud, adding the tone you ‘heard’, and ask the sender how she would have interpreted the message.

When given the tone, most people feel judged. And when people feel judged, conversations are constrained.

The way to avoid giving ‘the tone’ is to come from a place of curiosity. When you ask the question, “What were you thinking when you approached the customer that way,” you can sound curious or judgmental. Being judgmental evokes defensiveness, which shuts conversations down. Being curious creates discussion.

Consider asking questions like these to invite discussion:

• Tell me more about… • Help me understand what happened here… • What are your thoughts about… • What’s the history behind….

Any of these questions will lead to a good discussion, if you manage your tone.

If you want to get information or influence someone, ask questions and engage the person in a dialogue. We often try to persuade people by giving them information. This rarely works. Instead of overloading people with data, ask questions that evoke discussion. Through discussion, you might get to a different place. And if not, you’ll at least have learned why the other person thinks as they do, and you will have shared your point of view in a way that is inviting versus off-putting.

It’s easy to give people ‘the tone’ when we’re tired and frustrated. Try to avoid difficult conversations when you’re tired or stressed. Wait to have important conversations until you know you can manage yourself and your tone.

 


How to Respond to Negative Feedback

The 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 organization who you think are lazy, want you to think highly of them. 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 call into 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 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 they said, wait until you’re calm to have that conversation. That can be minutes or a few days later.

7. You can express a counterpoint of view, just don’t do it immediately after receiving feedback. Anything you say in the moment will likely sound defensive.

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 people are 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 relationships, and get more information than you have in the past – information you need to manage your career, reputation, and business.


Eliminate Your Business Blind Spots

You will be passed over for jobs, projects, and opportunities – personally and professionally. People will choose not to buy from you, and they’ll choose not to be your friend and romantic partner. And that’s ok. Not everyone is our right “customer.” The key isn’t to win every opportunity. Rather, it’s what we do when we don’t get what we want.

When you’re done feeling disappointed, mad, and frustrated, get curious. Find out why you were passed over. I’ll never suggest you make changes. I simply want you to know what’s standing in your way, so you have power – the power to choose.

We all have blind spots – things we do that are off-putting to others, that we’re not aware of. For the most part, people won’t tell us our business blind spots, instead, they simply pass us over. Being rejected is feedback, it’s just not specific enough to help us make different choices. If you want to be able to change your behavior, you need to know what behaviors are standing in your way. Then you can choose what, if anything, to do about those behaviors.

When you get turned down for an opportunity, practice these strategies to eliminate your business blind spots:

  1. Allow yourself to have an emotional reaction, to feel disappointed, and to grieve the loss.
  1. When your emotions dissipate, call people who can tell you why you were turned down, and ask for feedback. The goal of the conversation: Eliminate your business blind spots.
  1. Be humble and open.

Consider saying something like, “Thank you so much for considering me/us to support your needs. We were disappointed not to win your business. Would you be willing to share what had you choose a different provider and what we could have done differently to be a stronger candidate? I’ll be grateful for anything you’re willing to tell me.”

Depending on the circumstances, you could also say something like, “I wasn’t put on the _______ project. I wonder if you have any information as to why.  I appreciate anything you’re able to tell me. Your input will help me grow and eliminate my business blind spots.”

  1. Regardless of what you hear, thank the person for the feedback. You can ask for additional information and ask who else you can talk with, but don’t become defensive. The less defensive you get, the more feedback you’ll get. Make it easy to tell you the truth.

Remember, information is power, and power is control. Many people don’t give direct feedback because they’re afraid of the other person’s reaction. Surprise people by being open to feedback and eliminate your business blind spots.

  1. Validate feedback that doesn’t feel right to you. If you’re not sure what someone told you is accurate, vet the feedback with other people you trust. Simply ask other people who are aware of your performance, “I received this feedback. Does that resonate with you?”
  1. Sit with the feedback for a few days before taking any action.
  1. When your emotions have passed, decide what – if anything – you want to do with the input you’ve received. Perhaps you want to make changes. Perhaps you don’t. Either way, you have more power than you did before you received any input.

You won’t win them all. The key isn’t avoiding rejection, it’s what you do when you don’t get what you want. Be brave. Be open. Ask for feedback. And you’ll have the power to make different choices next time, if you want to.


Manage Your Professional Reputation

You’ve heard countless times that you never get a second chance to make a first impression. So when something not-so-positive happens – a customer is upset, you missed a deadline, or made an error – don’t let your boss find out about it from someone else. Manage your professional reputation and get there first to create the first impression of what happened.

Managers don’t like surprises. If your manager is going to get a call about something that isn’t positive, let them know before the call comes in. You will create your manager’s perception of the situation, and perceptions are hard to change.  Don’t wait for the s*** to hit the fan. Get ahead of the problem by coming forward and giving your manager and other stakeholders a heads up.

Boss Phone CallIt could sound something like this, “I just had a tough conversation with John in IT. You may get a call.  Here’s what happened… I didn’t want you to be surprised.”

Or “I told Brian at Intellitec that we’re raising our prices in the second quarter. He wasn’t happy. You may get a call.”

Or let’s say you’re going to work on a strained relationship. Tell your manager before you take action.  It could sound something like this, “I want to work on my relationship with Julie. Our relationship has been strained since we worked together on the software project last year. I’d like to approach her, tell her that I know our relationship is strained, and that I’d like a good working relationship with her. Then I’d like to ask if You Create the first Impressionshe’s willing to have lunch with me, talk about what’s happened, and see if we can start again in a more positive way.  What do you think of me doing that?  Would you approach the conversation differently? I don’t know how it’s going to go, so I wanted you to know what I’m planning to do, just in case it backfires, and you get a call.”

Manage your professional reputation assertively by taking responsibility for mistakes, working on damaged relationships, and telling your manager before someone else does!


Sign Up

Career tips
you won't get
elsewhere. Sign up
to get a free
tip card.