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Leadership

Improve Your Communication for Career Success

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Excellent communication is essential if you want a successful career in C-level support. Communication shapes the relationships you have with colleagues, managers, and clients. Ineffective communication can lead to misunderstandings and workplace conflict. The key to excellent communication is being flexible and understanding your audience. Below are some tips to improve your communication for career success.

Communicating with Go-getters

Your coworkers will consist of different personalities. Some have a leadership mindset and are solely focused on work. These types of coworkers expect interaction to be fast, to-the-point, and goal-oriented. Know your talking points before you initiate the conversation and have a specific goal in mind. Generally, limit your interaction to business, as these professionals don’t want unnecessary distractions. Active listening is also important. Make sure you maintain eye contact and keep track of everything the speaker says.

Communicating with Social Butterflies

Your more social colleagues crave more personal interaction. They want to build a friendly relationship with you. With more social coworkers, don’t be all business all the time or act any way that could come across as standoffish. These professionals want to know you are interested in their life beyond work and want people to share their enthusiasm with. That said, keep interactions fairly short because these personality types tend to distract more easily.

Communicating with Introverts and Analysts

Introverted and analytical personality types tend to prefer business-oriented communication over personal conversations. They favor communication that is clear and organized. When interacting with these personality types, avoid being overly loud. Analysts in particular are often focused on facts and data, so they expect reliable, evidence-based information. Generally, when you communicate with introverts, be thorough and on topic. Pay attention and listen. Avoid interrupting your quieter coworkers when they talk and if they seem confused at any point, slow down and try to convey the information in a different way.

Communicating with Nurturers

Communicating with professionals who are highly empathetic and nurturing requires patience and warmth. This personality type can intimidate easily, so communicate in a manner that is friendly and relatively quiet. Avoid being pushy or demanding. Mindful listening is critical in dealing with this type of communicator. Nurturers often have great ideas, but they aren’t hesitant to share them. Take your time to be encouraging and ask them for their opinions.

Good communication requires empathy, adaptability, and active listening. Different coworkers will have different communication preferences. Some will be business-oriented, while others crave more socialization. Once you understand how your colleagues communicate, you can significantly improve your communication and leverage this improvement to facilitate achievement in your career.

 

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The Culpability of Free Speech

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A turning point could perhaps be pinpointed to the launch of CNN in June of 1980. Prior to CNN, news programming delivered relatively factual information for an hour or two a day. After CNN, although it was an amazing accomplishment to cover events live as they happened and to have an endless stream of information, it created a demand for opinion. How else could 24 hours of news for 365 days per year be filled? A little over a decade later, the abundance of the accessibility for opinions skyrocketed with the growth of easy-to-use web browsers in the mid 1990’s. We have always had the right to free speech, but never before has the freedom of opinion been accessible to so many. As an employer, what is your culpability for the free speech of your employees?

The Issue

Most hiring managers are quite savvy when it comes to researching potential new hires: they check out pictures on social media, judge extracurricular activities, and may even choose to end the interviewing process based on things discovered online.
What happens when instead of judging, we end up being judged?

Consider the ramifications of an A-Player researching whether or not to interview with your organization and seeing what to them is a controversial article shared from an employee within the firm. Consider one of your key accounts, who has done business with your organization for years, distancing themselves based on a persistent string of what they perceive to be annoying comments online. This is not limited purely to social media: consider the consequences of a potential client reviewing your firm and viewing information on your website that makes them feel like their business may not be welcomed because of differing beliefs.

Rereading the prior paragraph, notice phrases like “seeing what to them is,” “what they perceive to be,” and “makes them feel like.” We are not required to take responsibility for the feelings and reactions of others, but we should take responsibility for being the catalyst for those feelings and actions.

Many people might think this only refers to extreme examples, and we can probably all think of several that have gone viral for their irreverence. However, there is no such thing as a true safe zone when it comes to common opinion.

The Regulation

This does not mean that individuals should not have the ability to express freedom of speech, and of course great things have come from it. The challenge that remains is one of authority. Who is to say what is appropriate and what is not? Is that really the responsibility of senior leadership and human resources to balance the potential damage to a company’s image and reputation against their desire to foster a supportive workforce that doesn’t micromanage the actions of every employee? In some extreme examples, termination over controversial behavior could be easily rationalized. In others, it does not require malice of forethought to make prospective candidates, clients or other employees feel uncomfortable.

If guidelines should be established, ask the following questions:

  • Is what I am about to share positive in nature or negative?
  • If negative, what is my desired outcome?
  • If positive, what audience might still have a differing opinion and am I okay with that audience feeling alienated?
  • When entering into an online debate, ask yourself how often has your opinion been changed by a similar form of communication. It is likely it has not.
  • Would I be comfortable voicing this opinion to someone in person, or would I adjust my message or tone if I was discussing this face-to-face with an individual?
  • Insert the opposite perspective or belief: how would you feel if you read it online from a vendor? Would you question if you would want to continue to work with that client?
  • Is it worth it?

The Education

In many organizations, focused training on understanding multiple perspectives is limited. This skill is about authentically learning about others and better understanding their point of view on a specific topic or situation. When we avoid personalizing other people’s opinions, we can have a more objective perspective. Widening our perspective can increase awareness and social sensitivity.

The ultimate goal with free speech is to consciously and genuinely listen to the perspective of others and see it simply as a perspective. Instead, people tend to judge perspectives or opinions as “good” or “bad.” Train individuals not to judge but view opinions exactly for what they are: the point of view of a single person based on their life experiences and values.

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Clean Up Your Inbox! Tips for Better Email Management

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If you’re like most professionals in the C-Suite, you receive a high volume of emails every day, which makes it challenging to stay organized. No one wants to filter out dozens of messages every time they need to find an important email. These tips will help you clean up your inbox and improve email management going forward.

Set a Goal and Stick to It

To have an organized email account, it’s important to be selective. In many cases, if an email isn’t urgent enough for you to respond immediately, it isn’t important enough to keep. Setting a goal can make it easier to prioritize the emails you receive. For example, a goal could be to have fewer than 30 emails in your inbox at any point in time. Keeping your inbox mostly empty makes it much more difficult to overlook high-priority messages.

Take Advantage of Filters

Depending on the email provider you use, the service may have rules or filters you can set to automate an organizational system. Some filters allow you to categorize emails received by sender, priority, and topic. You can also use filters to color code your messages to improve the visual organization of your email account. Filters are a great way to reduce clutter with minimal effort.

Make Use of Folders

Of course, you can’t just delete all your email messages. Folders and subfolders allow you to save emails without overwhelming your primary inbox. One folder that can be helpful is a waiting folder where you store emails you need to respond to at a later time. Subfolders are a great way to organize emails that contain important information and reference materials as long as you label the folders clearly and accurately. You can also use subfolders to keep track of email chains.

Keep Templates for Emails

While personalized messages are necessary at times, you likely also send many messages/responses that are repetitive and tedious. Creating templates can make your life much easier. You just have to tweak a few names and key words and click send. There are also a few plugins you can use to create stock email responses. Whether you create your own templates or use a plugin, the amount of time you’ll save on a daily basis is worth it.

If you’re in C-level support, you receive tons of emails each week. It’s doesn’t take long for your inbox to become cluttered and difficult to manage. Setting limits on your inbox, using folders and subfolders, color-coding and prioritizing messages, setting filters, and using templates can save you time and improve email management in your account.

 

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How to Improve Performance Reviews

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In C-level support, performance reviews are often seen as a necessary evil. On the one hand, most employees want feedback about their work performance. On the other hand, they are also a source of stress for both employees and employers. And they don’t always lead to improvements in performance as expected. These tips will help you improve performance reviews in your organization.

Set Clear Expectations

The best way to minimize anxiety around performance reviews is to communicate expectations clearly in advance. Share with your employees what the performance criteria are and ask them how they feel about them. With the pandemic still ongoing, communication is more important than ever. It is a good idea to have weekly check-ins with employees in addition to end-of-the-year reviews. Schedule dedicated time for the check-ins and communicate in advance what the goal will be. That way employees can have time to prepare and won’t feel like they’re being put on the spot.

Take an Empathetic Approach

Many people are going through a tough time right now, so it is critical that you talk to your team members and identify their individual situation in light of the pandemic. Your employees may have responsibilities in their life they didn’t have a year ago. It is a good idea to ask them what has changed for them. You also want to know how they are handling these changes so you can understand what additional support you can provide them to make their job less stressful. Asking these questions can help you give more effective performance evaluations and give employees more accurate feedback.

Give Goal-Oriented Feedback

One reason employees often dislike performance feedback is because they are used to reviews focusing on negatives. Employees want to know what they are doing well. They also want to learn exactly what skills they need work on to improve their performance. Your team members want to succeed, but they need to know what adjustments they can make to be more effective in their role. Once employees understand where they excel and where they need improvement, they can set specific goals to help them get where they need to be.

Most professionals dread annual performance reviews, but feedback in general is necessary for growth. You can make performance reviews more valuable by providing regular, consistent feedback, taking the time to comprehend what your team members are going through and what support they need to succeed. Focus on communicating clear expectations and pinpointing goal development.

 

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Improving Business Etiquette to Advance Your Career

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Business etiquette helps you build stronger relationships with colleagues and clients, while allowing you to present yourself in a professional, authoritative manner. Having the ability to consistently create a great first impression can help you get ahead in the world of executive support. Below are some tips for improving business etiquette to advance your career.

Treat People Respectfully

The most personal aspect of business etiquette is the way you treat others. For example, it’s important to learn the names of new clients and colleagues quickly. It’s also essential to show respect to everyone in the workplace regardless of their position and be aware of people’s boundaries. Learn to acknowledge any personal biases you have and make sure you don’t let them influence the way you speak to and act towards clients and coworkers.

Communicate Professionally

The way you communicate affects how other people in the workplace view you. You want to show others that you are serious about your work. This is why it is important to communicate in a professional manner. For example, you shouldn’t go longer than a day before returning a work call or email. Emails and other written communication should be free of spelling and grammatical errors. Also avoid overusing all caps, italics, and other style choices that can come across as rude.

Meeting Etiquette

While many people dread meetings, it is imperative you continue to show respect during meetings and conferences. Meeting etiquette means arriving on time, keeping your phone out of sight unless you specifically need it for the purpose of the meeting, and actively participating in conversations. Even if you’re bored, you should do your best to always stay engaged and take notes when necessary.

Think About How You Represent the Company

The way you present yourself in person and online reflects on your employer. No matter the dress code at your office, you should dress professionally, especially if you are meeting with a client. Also keep your social media pages fairly professional. You certainly don’t want to say anything negative about the company, its employees, or its clients. You should also avoid controversial posts, posts that reference illicit activities, or anything else that could put into question your values or the values of your company.

Improving business etiquette can advance your career by helping to improve your network, as well as your reputation. It is important to treat everyone with respect and always present yourself in the best light possible.

 

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Be the Diamond

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“Change is inevitable. Growth is optional.” – John Maxwell

There are times in life, both personally and professionally, in which circumstances can change at such a rapid speed that our opinions, perspectives, and course of action can change by the day, if not by the hour. When faced with such circumstances, there are generally three groups of people:

  • Those who take reflective but action-oriented responses to do whatever can be done to mitigate the challenges and seize opportunities
  • Those who simply panic and overload themselves and others with reactions that may be reasonable but tend only to exacerbate the challenges
  • Those who are simply bystanders; the proverbial “deer in the headlights”

As leaders, we have an obligation to do all we can to put ourselves in the first group. When there is so much we cannot control, we can control is being the loudest voice in the room.

How can we capitalize on chaos and emerge stronger, both as a leader and as an organization?

Embrace the Gray

With all that seems to divide the world today, we might not be as far apart as it seems. The news feeds on extremes and is no longer just a 30-minute daily segment or a newspaper on your doorstep. Now social media is the source of news for many. With this shift, it also means now that news is a commodity. Media outlets fight for clicks and viewership. Headlines are now competing for your business, and extremes get more viewership.

Seeing things as a polarity to manage versus a right/wrong approach shifts our paradigm and allows all to better understand each other’s perspective. It is possible to hold two opposing views simultaneously in a world that needs optimization over perfection.

Imposter Syndrome

It’s only natural, when faced with a new crisis, to harbor a dirty little secret – that deep down inside, you have no idea what you are doing. Many high achievers can at times feel like complete frauds, as if their accomplishments are just the result of serendipitous luck. Although you’ve been told many times that one of the secrets to success is “fake it until you make it,” this can also lead to what many label as imposter syndrome: a feeling of inadequacy despite evidence that indicates that you’re skilled and quite successful.

Although you might be leading a team through uncharted waters and not sure of your footing, you are completely in control of where you choose to step. You decide your voice, your message to others, and your attitude. Recognize that perfectionism and imposter syndrome are often a related pair. Many high performing individuals set excessively high goals for themselves and tend to have a twinge of control-freak woven in. They think if they want something done right, they have to do it themselves. In times of uncertainty and change, it may feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders, so distribute the weight. Find other leaders who are also leading through uncharted waters and learn from them. Create opportunities by delegating responsibilities, and don’t expect immediate perfection from others. Remember that you are better than you think you are, smarter than you think you are, and more worthy than you believe.

Ultimately, imposter syndrome might not be something from which you suffer, but it may be for those you lead. Look for signs around you just as much as you look for signs within.

Your Choice

Protect your mind. In times of unknown, whether it be an acquisition, new leadership, economic uncertainty, or global turmoil, people tend to experience greater anxiety when they feel like they don’t have access to the information that they need. On the other hand, a sense of panic can stem from being immersed 24/7 in reports that focus on inaccurate or overly negative information. “Why is this happening?” is a question of despair. “What can we do?” is a question of possibilities and hope.

The quest for certainty is a quest for comfort. Ultimately, it might be that the support we seek comes from a “who” rather than a “what.” People in our lives are what truly shape us. When times are good, our families, friends, work associates, and clients know us, but in times of adversity, we truly know them. Choose to be the kind of person you would want in your life when you face personal adversity. Choose empathy over judgment. Choose optimism over pessimism. Choose to give instead of take. Choose to be the person that makes others feel better after they interact with you. Choose to be with people who make you a better you.

Many people spend as much time with work associates as they do with even the closest family or friends. What if all of us made a concerted effort to be the best version of ourselves with each other? What if we all treated each other the way that s/he want to be treated? What if the “who” we are collectively provides much of the comfort we all seek? What if we then did our best to take this way of being to our family, friends, and community?

Times of change and adversity shape who you will become, but also expose who you are now. Diamonds are just chunks of coal that did well under pressure. In times of chaos, be the diamond.

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Best Practices for Managing Virtual Meetings

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Managing virtual meetings in the C-suite can come with some unexpected obstacles, especially if you are managing a team that isn’t used to working remotely. However, when done properly virtual meetings are an effective way for companies to encourage communication and collaboration. Here are some tips for managing virtual meetings.

Find the Right Platform

First, be sure to find the right platform that suits your needs to host your virtual meeting. Popular platforms include Skype, GoToMeeting, and Zoom. Consider the size of your team, cost, and the functionality that each platform provides. For example, some platforms allow for polls, screensharing, and captions. Depending on the needs of your company, you may choose to have more than one platform at your disposal, or you can find one platform that meets all your requirements.

Test the Technology in Advance

Before the start of each meeting, test all of your technology 15-30 minutes before the start of the meeting. If you have to spend the beginning of a meeting dealing with technical difficulties, your team members will likely feel frustrated and like their time has been wasted. Make sure the team all has the proper software installed and has fully functional microphones. Talk to your employees and make sure they understand how the platform works. You want everyone to feel comfortable with the technology during the meeting.

Provide Your Team with an Agenda

One way to ensure a virtual meeting is effective is to set clear expectations from the beginning. Send each participant a detailed agenda for the meeting. Everyone should know in advance what topics will be discussed and what the objective of the meeting is. This way everyone can come to the meeting prepared with talking points. When you have a set agenda, it becomes easier for team members to participate and the meeting will have more engagement.

Include an Icebreaker

Not everyone is going to be as comfortable in a virtual meeting as they would be in a face-to-face meeting. Using an icebreaker or other social activity can help ease people into the meeting’s agenda. In addition, many people are feeling alienated right now. Allowing a short period of time for some basic social interaction can help employees feel more connected.

Virtual meetings are becoming more and more common in the field of C-suite support. While it takes time to adjust to virtual meetings, communication and preparation can make a big difference. Setting clear expectations, making sure everyone is on the same page with technology, and encouraging social engagement can help virtual meetings run smoothly.

 

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How to Increase LGBTQ Inclusivity in the Workplace

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With the recent historic Supreme Court ruling that protects LGBTQ members in the workplace, many companies are reexamining LGBTQ inclusivity. Many strides have been made in recent years in improving the experience of LGBTQ individuals employed in C-level support, but there is still more work that needs to be done to create an environment where everyone feels safe and accepted. Below are some ways you can increase LGBTQ inclusivity in the workplace.

Remove Bias from Hiring Practices

Even the most open-minded employers often have unconscious biases. If you can make sure the language you use in job descriptions, interview questions, etc. are neutral in regard to sexual orientation, you will not only attract more LGBTQ candidates, you will make your employees feel more accepted as well. It is also a good idea to highlight inclusivity as a value in your mission statement and throughout your hiring process.

Take a Serious Approach to LGBTQ Discrimination

You should issue a clear anti-discrimination policy for sexual orientation and gender identity. This policy should address hiring practices, promotion practices, and the day-to-day work experience. The policy should also communicate that bullying based on orientation is unacceptable and detail the repercussions for LGBTQ harassment and discrimination. Employees in the LGBTQ community need to know that they have the support of management behind them and that the company wants them to feel safe and accepted.

Consider the LGBTQ Community in Developing Benefits

Company benefits often unintentionally exclude LGBTQ. As a company, make sure that members of the LGBTQ community have the same rights as other employees, including parental leave and adoption leave. As with job descriptions, the language used in talking about benefits should be neutral in terms of both gender and orientation.

It is important to create a work environment where everyone feels valued and equal. Fair hiring practices, LGBTQ safe spaces, and a clear anti-discrimination stance can help everyone on your team to feel welcomed.

 

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How Remote Work Is Improving Diversity

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The events of the year have shone a light on the importance of remote work. As we move forward, remote work has the potential to increase diversity in the C-suite. What companies need now more than ever are talented teams that have the ability to swiftly adapt to changes. Below we’ll explore how remote work is improving diversity.

Significance of Remote Work

In the aftermath of COVID-19, remote work is likely to gain in prominence. More companies now have the technology, resources, and policies necessary to support remote work as part of their culture. Companies have also had the opportunity to experience firsthand some of the advantages of remote work, such as improved flexibility, work-life balance, and access to a larger talent pool.

Remote Work and Diversity

One of the best aspects of remote jobs is they can be performed anywhere. As a company, having the infrastructure to support remote work gives you the opportunity to hire better talent because you are no longer limited by geographic restrictions. You have access to a more diverse candidate pool in terms of gender, age, ethnicity, and ability. There are also talented individuals out there who struggle in an office setting but excel in a remote environment.

At the end of the day, your company needs the best talent possible on its team. Having a compatible, high-performing team allows your company to grow. In the realm of the C-suite, this is even more important. When you have the ability to hire employees from anywhere in the world, it is easier to recruit a team that has the right balance of skills and personalities.

Benefits of Diversity in the Workplace

Diversity and inclusion in the workplace come with proven benefits. When your team members have a wide variety of experiences, they can approach problems from many different angles. Diversity on a team improves creativity, innovation, and problem-solving. Diversity also allows for increased flexibility. Teams can adapt to changes and challenges more readily when they have a wider range of skills and backgrounds. Diversity also helps contribute to a company culture that encourages people to feel accepted for their differences.

The pandemic has forced many companies to switch to working remotely. While this has caused some confusion, it also presents an opportunity for businesses to double down on their inclusivity initiatives and to continue to build teams that have diverse backgrounds and perspectives.

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The Illusive Work-Life Balance

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As we approach the mid-year point, hours of daylight increase, outdoor activities and vacations are abundant, yet the demands at the office do not wane. The subject of providing an environment for work-life balance often resurfaces during the summer, but the topic is one that should be addressed on an ongoing basis within an organization.

Numerous management consulting companies have performed exhaustive research in this area and have found that over 40% of employees claim they do not have suitable work/life balance, and more than one in four dissatisfied employees plans to leave their employer within the next two years.

The Definition of Balance

There are many articles and books written about finding work-life balance in life, but while many discuss the need to find balance, most do not define exactly what this means or how each of us can find the right combination. In order to figure out our perfect balance, we must start with the definition of what areas make up the various facets of life. Possible domains include:

  • Family
  • Friends
  • Spirituality
  • Self-Development
  • Self-Indulgence
  • Physical
  • Work
  • Charity

Having a balanced life means ensuring that life itself is multi-faceted and those facets are defined. We need to apportion the correct amount of attention to each area. Prioritization is then determined by attention allocation rather than intention of attention allocation. In each area there are activities with varying degrees of urgency and importance; if urgency always rules decisions, one will easily feel out of balance. Important activities, while not immediately urgent, are frequently better uses of time than urgent ones. These eight areas compete for the one commodity we can offer, which is time.

Analyzing the Allocation of Time

There are 168 hours in a week. Removing the amount of time an average person sleeps leaves roughly 120 hours per week to allocate attention and focus. Think about your last week and ask yourself, “Where did the time go?” Did it go there because you planned it that way, or was it simply the result of going through the motions? If we can learn to plan the allocation of our most precious resource (our time), then we may value it more. Therefore, we must learn to become focused and productive while in one dimension, and still allow for enough time in other dimensions.

The following is an eight-step formula for implementing this process:

  1. Determine if and why you care about each of the eight domains. What does it mean to you and how important is it? What are the consequences of the lack of quality time and what are the benefits of proper attention allocation?
  2. Determine and quantify the gap between desire and achievement.
  3. Create a specific action plan to close the gap.
  4. Determine the amount of time needed in each area to achieve your desired balance.
  5. Create an “attention plan” that details this time.
  6. Identify potential hijackers and distractions of the plan and create solutions to minimize them.
  7. Track and review periodically (once per week, perhaps).
  8. Periodically re-assess, re-prioritize, and repeat.

Time and attention allocation are not the sole determinants, though, of work-life balance. Focus in that time is equally important. Multi-tasking is the curse of focus. We are most productive and fulfilled when we give our undivided attention to the domain we are in.

With 120 hours each week, plenty of time exists for quality in each domain. Life may go through periods where a short-term imbalance serves a long-term balance, but this is sacrifice. Some individuals consciously choose to dedicate all their life to one or two domains, while others do not want to be the world’s best sprinter or hurdler but want to be a decathlete. Start first with what you want, which is based on your “why.” When you know your “why,” you can begin building the bridges to close the gaps between desire and achievement.

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